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The Green Bay Packers…and the pursuit of perfection.

December 12, 2011

I had been perusing the sports papers recently, and saw that the Green Bay Packers are beginning to build “culture buzz”. They are still undefeated. The sports writers are starting to say the big clichés. That the packers are “focused”, “elite”, possibly “dynastic”. And everyone loves that they are playing perfect football out in the back fields of farm country. The Packers, and Green Bay, Wisconsin, were on top of the world. And everyone was feeling good.

 The Packers organization even released some stock to much acclaim this week in an effort to raise money to pay for stadium improvements at Lambeau Field. The stocks cost $250 each, and have no real value as “stock”. The stock will make no dividends. They cannot be re-sold. 

The media loved that there was an avalanche of applications to buy them. Even CBC-Radio’s six o’clock newscast got in on the action. The female newscaster who had absolutely no idea about anything related to football tried awfully hard to sound delighted when she interviewed some Packer fan by phone.  But he called the staock for what it was: a “participant tax”. The sale will directly raise anywhere from $150-400 million, depending on how much of the worthless stock are ultimately sold. The team needs $150 million for stadium repairs. The team doesn’t ask the government to financially support them. They have already sold 188,000 of the first 250,000 stock released last Tuesday. (that’s $47 mil).

 (“What? No sports team government bailout? No corporate blackmail on city council to shill for a new stadium, with the owners threatening to move the team elsewhere?” Think about that when it comes time to re-build the Skydome – oops, I mean the Rogers Centre.)

The Packers football team – one of the most treasured in the NFL – is actually run as a non-profit co-operative. It’s run like any business. It’s just not designed to make a profit. It’s a non-profit. Nor is it designed, by the way, to lose money either.

I didn’t know such types of businesses were still allowed in the States.

I thought the country had gone “all-or-nothing” a long time ago.

“So,” I said to myself, “let’s see these Packers.”

And as luck would have it (as I don’t have cable), CITY-TV was carrying the Packers-Raiders game at 4.

If the Packers win and go to 13-o, they begin their ascent of Mount Olympus. Many teams in the past have made it to 13-0, but have never been heard from since. They then go out and lose one of their final three and the streak is immediately forgotten. Some coaches even try to throw on of the final three games to take the pressure off the team. Everyone then turns their head to the playoffs.

In the papers the players are all saying the right things. That to go undefeated is not their first mission. They just want to sin today and gain home field advantage for the playoffs. Blah, blah, blah.

It’s the Green Bay Packers. You know they are going to go for it. Today, that quest begins.

And who better to start out against. The Oakland Raiders are also a storied team. A ’70’s dynasty that fell on hard times for many years, but is now on the rise as well. But with a record of 7-5, they are still a year or two away from doing much of anything.

Sidebar: As luck would have it, I ran into my neighbour on the street who is a sports’ writer for the Toronto Star; and so we stopped and talked Bills, Patriots, Packers, and Tim Tebow.

As Canadians (me 7th generation Anglo; my neighbour 1st generation South Asian) we were both baffled at all the God talk now following Tebow around. The media is excitedly covering him like he was the first born-again Christian ever to play pro football. I read in the paper this morning that people actually think – truly believe – that God is directly helping him – and the Broncos – win football games. As if God actually picks favorites. For He must be, as every other NFL team has many practicing Christians playing for them.

 Watch any game and you’ll see straight away the Christians who kneel and pray after any big play. They like to look up to the heavens and bring their fingers to their lips. They especially like to huddle in their little Christian circles in the end zone, and kneel, and pray, after touchdowns.

Anyway, I nuke some Orval Redenbacker, spritz open a Mill Street and sit down and watch the Packers completely dismantle the Raiders in less than 15 minutes of football.  Bam! Game over.

The Packers are a totally “greased” team.  They are focused and skilled and move like a machine in the way that you only saw in the eyes of the Patriots when they went on their run of near-perfection back in 2007. Back when they won every game except the one that mattered most. The last one. The Super Bowl.

The Packers are like that machine. They moved with such ease and precision that I’m sure any General watching the game would have a hard-on.

 On this day they make the Raiders look like a little league team of 10th graders. As if they were a PAC-3 college team visiting from the west coast.

It was 31-zip Packers by the 5 minute mark of the second quarter. I’d barely touched my popcorn. The Packers were a tsunami.

The only question remaining would be to see if the Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rogers would be allowed to stay in the game long enough to break Bret Favre’s single-season passing TD record, which he had just tied on his second thrown touchdown of the day? Or would he have to wait until next week? There was still 40 minutes of football to go.

Sidebar #2: I had just caught the last couple of minutes of the Tennessee-New Orleans game being played earlier in the day and watched the Titans get defeated by their own coaching team. With the Titans down by five, with possession of the ball in the last minute of the game, having marched down the field to inside the Saints 40, with an unflappable rookie quarterback who has had to step in because the first stringer got injured, and who has brought the team back from down by 12, and the team needing a win to stay in the playoff hunt, the offensive coach calls for a Hail Mary pass on third and inches. There is still 50 seconds on the clock. The pass fails and on fourth and inches they are stopped by the Saints. There is no second tries. Game over.

If I was the owner of the Titans, the offensive coach would be sacked for being so stupid as to call for a Hail Mary. It was a third-rate call. And it cost the team the playoffs (and the millions that come with it). I was amazed that Troy Aikman, former Dallas Cowboys quarterback superhero and Superbowl champ, and today’s play-by-play announcer for Fox Football, didn’t blow a gasket at the decision to go for a Hail Mary. Rather, he coolly called it “poor play selection, which just cost them the game. And the playoffs.”

Anyway, who cares about the Titans or the Saints? Neither play in the same league as the Packers. They simply fill time; were one of many undercard games today leading up to the main event: the team that is playing at Perfection.

Watching Rogers tie and now hopefully beat Favre’s TD record would be nice. Favre may have been a great quarterback, but he’s also an asshole by all accounts. And Rogers got stuck behind him after he was drafted by the Packers in the “Favre” years. It’s always nice when asses get moved to #2 on the stat chart. 

If you don’t know, in sports, superior stats are always the sweetest of revenge of the nice guys on the assholes.

You can strut around and pretend to be whoever you want to be in pro sports, but the stats will always reveal what you actually did. And of those who did better.

That’s why Lebron James is no Michael Jordon. (Show us the rings, Lebron.) Or why Tiger is not yet Jack.

And why the Packers – for all their current perfection – aren’t yet the ’72 Dolphins. 

True Perfection, after all, remains the sweetest stat of all…

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