Wednesday, February 09, 2011
Wisconsin 101: The Pack is back in Titletown
I never understood sports excitement. We lived abroad for most of my childhood. I went to a college with a crummy football team: we didn't win one game after my freshman year. Or maybe we won one or two. Then I worked in Houston, which had a pro team, I guess, but nobody I knew ever talked about it. I moved to Austin - they talked about the Longhorns but who cared? Then I was in the Peace Corps and some people talked about soccer, but again, who cares?
In Miami, they had pro teams, but I was working until 9 p.m. almost every day and busy hating hating hating my job. The VP gave out pro tickets occasionally but we wouldn't take them because sheesh who wanted to go to a baseball game at 7 p.m. if we could go home instead for a change?
Memphis - nothing. Then I was forced as a taxpayer to pay for a new arena for a pro basketball team and let me ask you, is there anything more dull than pro basketball? WHO CARES?
Then I was tricked into moving to Milwaukee. I heard rumblings about the Packers. And the whole Brett saga. Vince Lombardi. Smallest city to have a football team. Community-owned. Packers rosaries.
There was history here. Drama. Who wouldn't be interested in the Brett soap opera? I didn't know the scores of the games, but I knew what was going on with Will He Or Won't He Brett because it was a great story with an apparent villain - Ted Thompson! wait! It's Brett who's the villain! - and some good guys and lots of suspense.
And then - the Chicago game. Oh man the drama there. An admission that maybe Ted hadn't been a villain after all. Charlie Sykes, a local radio talk-show host, devoted 15 minutes of one show for listeners to call and say they were Wrong About Ted.
I watched Aaron Rodgers and couldn't decide whether I had a crush on him or wanted to be his mother. What a cutie. We are all crossing our fingers that he stays nice and doesn't send photos of his stuff to anyone's cellphone.
And then the Superbowl.
My grocery store draped green and yellow streamers by the registers. Stores and the Y closed early Sunday evening. Theatres canceled Sunday play performances. The librarians were wearing Packer jerseys. Churches canceled their Sunday evening services. The plow came through at 2 p.m., even though it hadn't stopped snowing yet. They wanted to be home by kickoff.
I watched the game with my heart racing until the last nail-biting seconds, threatening more than once to go upstairs to read my book because I just couldn't stand it.
And then the giddiness of victory. The victory is all anyone here can talk about. Packer flags hanging from houses and mounted on cars. At the store, at the Y - Did you see that game? OMIGOSH! More than one person has said, "I don't usually watch football but I watched this."
Fifty thousand people went to the victory party at Lambeau Field yesterday afternoon. Outdoors. It was cold. Three degrees. Fifty thousand people in a town with a population of about 100,000.
I get it now. I get it.