The following will appear in the next edition of Vermillion, SD’s The Equalizer.
Remember how important sports were when you were an adolescent? You idolized the best athletes and put their posters on your bedroom wall. You dressed up for the big games like you were going trick-or-treating, assuming, of course, that your eccentricity would lead to your team’s victory. You wore your emotions on your sleeve, flying high when times were good and wallowing in sorrow after defeats.
Over the course of your youth, there would be a figure—maybe a parent or teacher—who would frustrate you with a seemingly ignorant and agonizingly simple reality check. “It’s just a game,” they’d say, usually at the most insensitive time possible.
To an over-zealous teenager, it’s never just a game. It’s so much more than that. The source of your joy or sadness is no more and no less than the outcome of a sporting event. Proper perspective comes with age…
…except with Packer fans.
Last weekend I took in the Vikings-Packers playoff game at Lambeau Field and observed what “over-zealous” really means. Let me tell you: The phrase “It’s just a game” doesn’t have a place in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Think of the most obnoxious kid in your high school class and multiply him or her by 70,000. That’s what you’re up against as a Vikings fan at Lambeau. From the second my buddy and I got out of our vehicle wearing Adrian Peterson jerseys, we were met with jeers from the locals who were tailgating from their lawn: “Hey, Peterson! Nine yards! Nine yards!” (referencing the nine yards that Green Bay held Peterson short of the all-time rushing record in Week 17).
Never mind that Adrian gashed Green Bay for 199 yards, two touchdowns, and carried the Vikings to a last-second victory; those Packer fans were going to let us know that our boy Adrian was nine yards shy. In fact, a Green Bay bar hung a 27-foot long sign in their establishment last week that read, “Hey Adrian. This is What 9 Yards Looks Like.” Classy, Green Bay. Classy.
Seeking the complete tailgating experience, my friend and I decided to enter the belly of the beast and weave through the intense Packer tailgate parties in the stadium lot—turns out Alcatraz might have been friendlier.
The claustrophobic pit is buzzing like a hive, “Packer backers” milling about in every direction. In this mass of humanity you’ll find the following: beer, pregame buffets, beer, fan busses with built-in big screen TVs, beer, and music. Loud, loud music. And not your average pre-game pump-up tunes either—Packers music. They actually have Green Bay Packers musical collections that all go something like this: “Green Bay rocks, the Packers are the best, Green Bay is great, and we’re gonna win today…… hey!” Order your own CD from packers.com; they actually sell them.
Did I mention that Vikings fans are about as welcomed as the Swine Flu? Some of the razzing we received was civil, such as, “We’ll have tissues for you after the game!” Some heckles brought me back to middle school gym class, “OUR team is better than YOUR team!” And some taunts were communicated by hand gestures.
Once in the stadium, we found two Packer fans who permitted themselves to be seen speaking to their purple-clad enemies. We met because my friend and I had to prove to them that we were not sitting in their seats, and that they were, in fact, sitting a row further down, despite their emphatic claims to the contrary.
They were men probably in their 50s, and they wore animals on their head that may have been dead or alive—I couldn’t tell. One donned a baboon fur, and the other a mountain lion. As Mr. Baboon Fur repeatedly offered us pinches of his chewing tobacco (which we declined), I asked him about the gaudy-looking ring he wore that was emblazoned with the Green Bay “G” logo.
He went on to describe how, after Green Bay’s Super Bowl XLV win (which he attended), the team offered to make season ticket-holders a faux Super Bowl ring. Mr. Baboon took his and got 13 diamonds engraved on each side (for Green Bay’s 13 world championships) and four diamonds on top (for their four Super Bowls). The total cost for his memento? $5,700. Did I mention this is a grown man wearing green and yellow striped pants?
As the game progressed, one thing was clear: Packer fans have an unhealthy obsession with Aaron Rodgers. With each completion the quarterback made, fans around me would urgently yell, “Rodgers! Rodgers!” as if they expected him to stop playing, point to them personally, and flash the “discount double check” move.
I also heard the completely irrational argument that Rodgers would have played through the injury that kept Christian Ponder on the sidelines. Never mind that Ponder couldn’t even put his own shirt on after the game, Aaron Rodgers is immune to injury and immune to flaw in Packer Nation’s mind. Can’t wait until he switches teams in the twilight of his career and gets treated like Benedict Arnold. Brett Favre knows what I mean.
The bottom line? Packer fans never grow up. From ages one to 92, they all have the sense of entitlement that their team deserves deification and all others are inferior. They do the most trash-talking of any fans I’ve ever seen, but are too oblivious to realize that it’s impossible to take them seriously with cheese on their head.
Green Bay fans were never weaned from their dependency on Packers football, so now it’s part of their DNA. Unfortunately, their fanhood defines them.
As a group of Packer fans lambasted the two of us for singing the Vikings’ touchdown song following our lone score, a lady turned back to us and said, “Not all Green Bay fans are like this.” Must be a lonely minority, ma’am.