I can never remember not being creative. I can also never remember not being a Green Bay Packer fan. In fact, these two traits are somehow intrinsically linked. Some of my earliest formative memories from age three or four, are the joy and freedom of drawing scenes from Packer games. Piles of stick figure bodies with a stick figure ball carrier jumping over the top. These crayon drawings would adorn the Westinghouse refrigerator in our home at 2304 Lawn St., Racine, Wisconsin during the 1960s.
In those days—before North Face and Mountain Hardware clothing—my mother and father would layer up with bulky long underwear before making the pilgrimage to attend a Packer game at Lambeau Field in December. They’d go to the games in Green Bay with friends of our family, the Maritatto’s, who just happened to live two blocks from another Italian household by the name of Lombardi. During a weekend visit to their home, I tagged along with my older brother on a walk to the Lombardi house. He rang the back doorbell and asked for an autograph. We were ushered into the house, and Marie Lombardi led my brother to the den where Vince was reading. I stayed in the back hall entry way, peering down the darkened basement at a Packer rug at the foot of the stairs. Over forty years later, this encounter of me merely watching Marie Lombardi cook Vince some scrambled eggs for dinner somehow has taken on mythic proportions.
We had these before Wii
Long before there was Madden NFL 11, I had a collection of mini plastic football helmets that you’d buy from a gum ball machine. We had sand colored tight pile wool carpeting in our tiny living room, and I drew a football field with white chalk on the carpet in order to stage a football game with the aforementioned helmets. My makeshift field pretty much looked like the frozen tundra. Oddly, I don’t remember my mother complaining much about having a gridiron sketched on the living room floor. What I do remember is there was a Detroit Lion helmet with a pencil sharpener in it. Man, that little helmet could bust tackles.
For two seemingly never-ending decades, Dan Devine was followed by Bart Starr was followed by Forrest Gregg was followed by Lindy Infante. I held out hope and never wavered. I passed the years by hating the Bears, because the Vikings had not quite reached that level of hatred. Yet.
Then there was the moment. If you are a true Packer fan, you remember where you were when Brett Favre hit Kitrick Taylor for a touchdown to beat the Bengals in Week 3 of the 1992 season. Because it was then and there we had a flash forward that took us all the way to a victory in Super Bowl XXXI. If you’re like me, you just knew it in that instant.
I am a Packer fan. I watched year after year of stinging playoff defeats in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, and finally in 2007. I watched our flawed hero think he had actually become bigger than the team we loved. Horrified, I watched Hector willfully climb into the Trojan horse. In an epic story that demands an ending worthy of the great Greek dramas, Aaron Rodgers must defeat the Men of Steel, whose best player Troy Polamalu is suffering from a bad achilles. Pinch me, although I may never want to wake up.
I am a Packer fan, even though I own only one piece of licensed clothing which I won’t even wear today. Instead, I will watch Super Bowl XLV in a black Nike knit hat, a navy fleece Red Cross pullover, with a brown scarf my mother knitted wrapped around my neck. I wear this because it is what I wore when we destroyed the Giants 45-17 which began the current winning streak. If I do not wear this, somehow the gyroscope in the universe that connects my every move to the outcome of the Packer’s fortunes will become unbalanced and we stand the threat of defeat. I cannot allow this to happen.
A few weeks ago, @deziner asked me what the obsession with football is about. I answered the speed of the game, the violence, the fact that there’s so much hand-to-hand combat, quite unlike any other sport. But if I was asked what my obsession with the Packers is, I don’t know that I’d be able to answer. Certainly, geography and lineage play a role. (I mean, we can be brand loyal to detergents our parents purchased). Although despite my fanaticism, my two boys have zero interest in football, let alone the Packers. They’ll probably be drawing comics during the game, so they have the creativity gene, but not the Packer gene.
I am a Packer fan. In fact, I love the Packers. It’s a weird behavioral thing that certainly needs some user research. I find it to be completely irrational. I yell and scream at the TV. I read about the team incessantly. I will text 6 other Packer fans just like me throughout today’s game. I am blindly brand loyal, even though I have never once—ever—seen an ad for the team that states its features and benefits.
I am a Packer fan. It’s been a lifelong experience that continues to build on experiences.
Packers 31 Steelers 17.