If you're like most Green Bay Packers fans, you've always loved the Green and Gold. You grew up watching the Pack with your family, spending too much money on memorabilia, poring over the sports page and making occasional pilgrimages to Lambeau whenever a ticket became available. You're number 2534 (Ryan Grant, Edgar Bennett) on the season ticket waiting list, with no preference given to your status as a team owner.
You've never even considered cheering for another team.
And you've already scheduled a day off for Monday, Feb. 6, the day after the Super Bowl. Won't make that mistake again. You're a Packer-backer through and through, even in the down years. Especially in the down years! There are a million reasons why...here are 20.
We're compelled by our ancestors and the weight of history
UW-Madison Scandinavian Studies professor James Leary believes our sense of place in Wisconsin has a lot to do with it.
"The root-for-the-home-team stance is a ubiquitous sports phenomenon," says Leary. "So like fans everywhere, we love the Pack because they're ours. But because we're from Wisconsin we have a special relationship with our state and, by extension with our state's team."
Leary's specialty is folklore, and because there's so much about the Packers mystique that lines up with storytelling, social customs and even the state's European heritage, it's easy to get him talking about the importance of the team in Wisconsin life. And as a former player on a conference championship high school football team in Rice Lake, he's also a huge Packers fan himself.
"When I was a kid going to Catholic school, our playground was the parish parking lot," Leary recalls. "Our blacktop school playground was never plowed in the winter. We trampled it with our feet, and it was packed down further by cars on Sundays. We boys weren't supervised much at recess and we played a lot of tackle football on that frozen playground. This was before the Ice Bowl and the coining of 'frozen tundra' to describe Lambeau Field, of course, but that game and the phrase articulated what we already knew: The Packers play in really cold weather and all around harsh winter conditions. They're tough and gritty, unlike city guys, surfers, snowbirds, mushmouths, dome teams and assorted wimps. We in Wisconsin are tough and gritty, too, since we live here year-round."
And that strong, tough identity we have stamped on our team can be traced back to the peasant traditions of Wisconsin's immigrants.
"The puritanical Yankees never got a stranglehold on the institutions, so there is this old-world peasant, work-hard-play-hard, gemütlichkeit in Wisconsin," Leary says, invoking a German term that connotes a friendly, accepting and social feeling. "Sunday has always been a day of rest and day of worship, but it's also been a day of play. I think that having church for those who go and then having food and drink and some kind of leisure activity with contests involving the local heroes and the bad guys from another place, that's something that's really old."
And that, says Leary, lines up pretty neatly with the colder-weather peasant tradition of rural and neighborhood taverns serving as working-class social clubs where families would gather to eat traditional food, tell stories and, well, drink.
"There were attempts to outlaw them through temperance and blue laws on Sunday," says Leary. "But they've endured."
The introduction of football on television didn't necessarily keep people at home; it just augmented the bar-as-gathering-place. Taverns are generally where Wisconsin expats gather in other parts of the globe to watch the games, including, famously, the Kettle of Fish tavern in Greenwich Village. It's not a sports bar by any means, but each Sunday it's taken over by Packers fans, and the owner distributes paper plates with cheese, sausage and crackers to homesick Sconnies.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel football guru Bob McGinn pointed out recently that general manager Ted Thompson has drafted 68 players in his seven years in Green Bay. Thirty-two are still with the team and 16 are on other NFL rosters. That's an indication of how strong Thompson is at talent evaluation, particularly when you consider how many solid contributors were drafted late or signed as undrafted free agents: center Scott Wells (seventh round), quarterback Matt Flynn (seventh), running back Brandon Saine (undrafted).
As we all know, the Packers are owned by the fans. Literally. Thousands have purchased stock at various points in the team's history when it needed to raise funds. Most recently, nearly 200,000 fans have bought shares for $250 each to finance a Lambeau Field expansion. The stock can't be traded or resold, but the certificates are suitable for framing or, in the instance of a guy I once met at the Plaza, carrying around in a wallet.
Packers tight ends Christmas card
"From our tight ends to yours," reads the card featuring a photo of D.J. Williams, Tom Crabtree, Jermichael Finley, Andrew Quarless and Ryan Taylor in festive sweaters, white turtlenecks and khakis.
Acme Packers throwback unis
Most NFL teams have embraced the throwback uniform craze and play a couple games a year in retro garb. But few have the opportunity to go all the way back to the 1920s, as the Packers do, when the team was sponsored by the Acme Packing Company. Most fans love the blue and gold jerseys and brown helmets, meant to mimic the old leather headgear - though some refuse to embrace the old-school style.
Donald Driver McDonald's commercials
The goofy spots featuring the veteran wide receiver and a committed fan/stalker who feeds French fries to a tattoo of Driver's likeness on his bicep are great; even better are the outtakes, which can be found online.
Reading the veteran Milwaukee Journal Sentinel sportswriter's in-depth weekly analysis will make you a smarter football watcher, guaranteed. McGinn, whose Rolodex must be huge, gets coaches, scouts and general managers to tell it like it is, protecting their anonymity while giving readers real insight into how the game works.
'The Bears Still Suck'
Grieving Badgers fans at the Harmony Bar were serenaded by this number, courtesy of the Happy Schnapps Combo, within moments of the Rose Bowl's tragic ending. The polka reminds one and all of a universal truth. Regardless of how bad things seem at the moment.... "They really really really really really really suck! The Bears! Still! Suck!"
The 1997 Heisman Trophy winner, Woodson was a starting cornerback for eight years in Oakland, where he earned a reputation as a talented, but toxic, teammate. When the Packers were the only team to express serious interest in him as a free agent in 2006, he was less than thrilled to land in rural Green Bay and tangled with coaches, as he did in Oakland.
But in just a few years, Woodson has become the conscience of the team. He baits opposing quarterbacks into throwing interceptions, blitzes with wild abandon and looks like a linebacker when he tackles running backs. His foundation supports breast cancer research, and he has donated millions to the University of Michigan for pediatric research.
Ashwaubenon Public Safety Building
The jail for the town that abuts Green Bay and borders Lambeau Field on three sides is just a few blocks from the stadium, on Holmgren Way. It's just one of several hometown parking spots fans can choose on game day, but likely the safest.
Green Bay's reserve tight end is an avid tweeter (@tcrabtree83), updating his followers on which videogames he's playing ("Just pwned some n00bs in MW3. Might dust off the plastic geetar tomorrow for some Guitar Hero. #nerdtweet") or letting them know that he's at the mall if they want to ogle his Super Bowl ring.
Aaron Rodgers' touchdown dance was conceived while he was a backup to Brett Favre, as a way to generate some excitement among his fellow scrubs on the scout team. It's taken on a life of its own and plays a feature role in one of the season's great commercials for State Farm Insurance.
As a backup, Rodgers often found himself in the background of the official captain's photo, taken before each game's coin toss. So he started posing and introducing props. Before the New Year's Day game against Detroit, he was spotted blowing a party horn, so the tradition clearly lives on.
It's the best scoring celebration in all of sport, combining an athlete's joy at a touchdown with the fans' delirious desire to celebrate the moment with their hero. It was born during a frigid 1993 game after Reggie White scooped up a fumble against Oakland and handed the ball off to safety Leroy Butler, who sprinted to the end zone and jumped into the welcoming arms of the waiting fans. Receiver Robert Brooks perfected the move in subsequent seasons, but now it's a staple.
Frank Zombo Dance
An undrafted free agent out of Central Michigan, Zombo ended up starting eight regular-season games and Super Bowl XLV as a rookie outside linebacker last season. When he collects a rare sack, he traces a mask on his face, like Travolta dancing in Pulp Fiction, produces an imaginary sword, and draws a "Z," à la Zorro.
James Jones wearing 89
When former Packers tight end Mark Chmura was accused of sexual assault at a post-prom high school hot tub party in 2000, those Packers fans who didn't trash their #89 jerseys buried them in a drawer somewhere. The likable Jones, a serviceable fourth receiver, was drafted in 2007, instantly allowing crafty fans to repurpose their old Chmura jerseys with the addition of a new nameplate.
Before New Year's Day, Green Bay's backup quarterback had completed 51 of 88 passes over his four-year NFL career. But with Rodgers sitting out a meaningless game against Detroit, Flynn exploded, completing 31 passes, setting team records for passing yards (480) and touchdown passes (six), and earning NFC offensive player of the week honors. The free-agent-to-be isn't long for Lambeau, unfortunately.
Hating on Skip Bayless
ESPN's morning show yodeler has maintained all year that Tom Brady is the NFL's top passer and MVP, despite Rodgers' inhuman 122.5 passer rating (Brady's is 110.6), 45 touchdowns (39) and six interceptions (12). Will it take a second consecutive Super Bowl title to shut Bayless up? Who cares? Most of us stopped listening to him weeks ago.
Dom Capers' comb-over
A two-time NFL head coach (Carolina, Houston), Capers is the architect of the Packers' 3-4 defensive scheme. While it's true that the Packers rank dead last in the NFL for team defense (they give up over 400 yards per game), they're first in takeaways (38 for the season). Capers does his job from the press box, which means cameras typically find him sitting in the dark, his improbably dark hair combed impeccably over the top of his dome.
Brett Favre's attraction to microphones
It's hard to cast the reigning Super Bowl MVP as an underdog, but that's exactly what Favre did when he chirped earlier this season that he was surprised it took Aaron Rodgers three years to lead the Packers to a Super Bowl title and that Rodgers "just kind of fell into a good situation" in Green Bay. We all loved watching Favre play in Green Bay, and we can't help but pay attention every time he hops off his tractor down in Mississippi to share his, um, wisdom.