THE PACK IS BACK – SIGH.
Last night in my house life began anew. The Green Bay Packers were back on tv. Peter sat down to watch his beloved team, and I tried, really I did, to watch with him – I could tell that he wanted to talk about the plays, the players, the emotional intensity of seeing “his” Packers again, after many football-less months. But I just don’t get it. Saying this as a member of Peter’s family is punishable by banishment from Christmas morning – they are a deeply committed group of Green Bay fans, having grown up in Milwaukee. Vince Lombardi is their hero, Bret Favre has deeply disappointed them, and they have attended 2 of the last 3 Superbowls the Packers played in – they only missed the third because they thought they would buy scalped tickets at the San Diego stadium, and that didn’t work out so well for them.
I have never really understood the intensity with which people connect to certain teams. I get the love of the game, the thrill of the great pass, the heroic interception – but watching my normally even-tempered husband completely lose it if the Packers don’t play well is a mystery to me. And, of course, he’s passed this on to our kids, especially my son, who is a huge Packers fan, though he’s never stepped foot in Wisconsin.
I am not completely immune to the excitement of a great football game – I loved every minute of watching my son play in high school, seeing him and his teammates working together. There was nothing quite as exciting for us as seeing his face after winning a hard-fought competition. But for me, it was about knowing the players, how hard they worked, how much time and energy it took for them to be ready to go on the field and succeed. It was personal. This connection to a team filled with players I don’t know, in a place I’ve never been – I just don’t get it.
Competition has never held much interest for me – I don’t know why. When my kids were young and played sports in the community leagues – Adam played baseball, Katie played softball – I would cringe at the parents yelling and criticizing the players, as if their children’s lives depended on winning of losing. For some, I suppose it did, as the parents pinned their hopes on college scholarships based on their children’s athletic skills. I just wanted to see the kids have fun and feel good about being part of a team, but that inevitably was the last thing a lot of the parents – and kids – cared about. Winning was great, and losing was awful.
Of course there’s a lot more riding on the Packers winning their games than there was on the 10 and under all-star softball team winning theirs. Football is big business, and keeping the fans engaged and excited is what drives the economics of sports – I can’t even count how many Packers t-shirts, mugs, jerseys and, yes, cheesehead hats we’ve bought over the years. And ultimately, watching football is a communal experience best shared with other fans – and that’s where I feel like I’ve let MY teammate down. Because try as I might, I just can’t find it in me to get passionate about much about the Packers – except of course for our dog Lambeau, named after the Packers home stadium. Now there’s something for me to love!