Three Cups Deep: The Pack Continues to Go; Go

>> 1.24.2011

Green Bay Packers helmet with George S. Halas NFC Championship Trophy.Two weeks ago, I wrote that I’d decided to root for the Packers during these playoffs. That got an interesting mix of comments, with several proclaiming they’d never root for the Packers, or any division rival. This morning, the talk radio airwaves were burning up with people saying they’d never root for the Packers (and/or totally would have gutted out Jay Cutler’s MCL sprain, because they’d have won States if Coach had put them in in the fourth).

I’ve often ranted in this space about how I prefer pro football to college.  Here, though, is where college football wins out. First, rivals are rivals, regardless of record. I detest the Vikings  for a variety of reasons, but I’ve always had a begrudging respect for the Packers—fan owned, outdoor stadium, Titletown, Lombardi, Starr, Favre, etc. I love that in a league of teams in big cities, a tiny Wisconsin town can still build a perennial winner out of pure will. The Bears were flatly the coolest team in the world when I was a little kid, and just as steeped in history as Green Bay. I don’t particularly like the Bears now, especially with Martz and Marinelli calling the plays--but I have a hard time mustering real venom.

Rivalries, in professional sports, are either handed down through the generations (like Cubs/Cardinals), spring up when multiple coaches and players leave from one team to the other (Patriots/Jets), or blossom out of repeated contests with something big on the line (Red Wings/Avalanche).  Unfortunately, unless it’s the first type, the rivalry fades away.  Players move on, teams’ fortunes wax and wane, and meaningless games become hard for even the fans to get up for.  The Lions haven’t played the Packers with anything on the line since the early Nineties, and the games have been mostly uncontested since then . . . until this year.

One of the reasons I'm rooting Pack this season, is that the rivalry is about to rekindle.  The Lions took them to the final minutes in Lambeau this year, and beat them at home this year.  The Lions’ time is beginning, and this rivalry is going to mean something again, soon. As I’ve said, I want the cool players (like Aaron Rodgers and Greg Jennings and Donald Driver and Charles Woodson and . . .) and cool fans to get to the mountaintop before the Lions knock them down.  Think of it this way: if the Packers are the reigning Super Bowl champions next season, taking the division crown from them will mean that much more.

8 comments:

telemakhos,  January 24, 2011 at 10:26 AM  

And it'd be so sweet to be able to say that the lions beat the super bowl champions

jacoblrussell January 24, 2011 at 10:26 AM  

It's all common sense. Rooting for the Packers is ok, because they're a respectable team. Rooting for the bears is not, because they're bastards. Rooting for the vikings... well... if I have to explain that on then you're not a lions fan.

Egret January 24, 2011 at 10:29 AM  

Watching the Pack yesterday it was hard to dislike them like I did years ago. Without Favre and the memory of his javelin style throw to Sterling Sharpe in the Silverdome during the playoffs, they're not the same team I used to loathe. The Lions' losing over the past decade has really dampened lots of rivalries. With Favre out of the league (for now), there aren't many reasons for Lions fans to dislike other teams as strongly.

Andrew January 24, 2011 at 11:08 AM  

I think I commented on your original blog post that I agreed completely about the Packers. I've got nothing but respect for their team and the year they've had. Aaron Rodgers is excellent on the field and really funny off it (his photobombing skills are unparalleled).

I'd root for any NFC team since I'm sick of hearing how the AFC is so much better. It's kind of like how as a Michigan fan I still root for Big Ten teams come bowl season in the face of all of the annoying SEC worshiping. In college it makes more sense though, because the conference gains when individual programs win big games.

The Bears, however, suck and I'm glad they're done. I'm also somewhat pleased they had the year they did because it insured that Lovie Smith and Tweedledee and Tweedledum are going to be on the sidelines in Chicago for another year.

A Lion in ViQueen Territory,  January 24, 2011 at 11:36 AM  

Look at my name: I live in Minneapolis, but all my friends here are Packer fans. And I must say that I enjoy the Packers and have been cheering for them this post-season. Packer fans are just plain better than Bears or ViQueen fans - more knowledgeable, more respectful, less condescending, more desirous of Lions success.

I hate the Bears. I hate the ViQueens. I like the Packers. I love the Lions.

Alvin2112,  January 24, 2011 at 10:59 PM  

I don't know about the Packer fans being more respectful. They were nasty to the Lions during the last game of the 0-16 season. I live in Packerland and started to root for them alittle because my girl is a packer fan and because of the Favre debacle. But no more, I just don't like em. I do have to admit, I still want them to win because of my Packer friends, and because, yes it will feel good to beat the super bowl champs next year,lol.
Egret-I'll never forget that bomb from Favre to Sharpe to lose that playoff game. I still can't believe we let him get behind the D, especially with Favre throwing it.

T in AZ,  January 25, 2011 at 12:02 PM  

Ty,

Are you going to do a reanalysis of your statistics on how a dominant defensive line affects secondary play? I would love to read your opinion on how much pass defense was improvement of the secondary and how much was covered by the line.

Matt,  January 26, 2011 at 2:55 PM  

I generally like both the Packers and Bears because I love tradition in my sports (other favorite teams include Tigers, Cubs, Red Wings, and other Original 6 teams). The NFL doesn't get much more traditional than Lions, Packers, and Bears (I hate the Vikings largely because they are interlopers on the otherwise fine tradition of the NFC North). That being said, in individual seasons, my support of those other teams might wax or wane.

I am/was a huge Favre fan (before all the BS, I was one of those people smitten with his "love of the game" attitude on the field), so rooted for those Packers when they weren't playing the Lions. I also dig Rodgers, Jennings, Driver, etc., so I'm with the Packers this season (like the Steelers really need another ring, anyway :-).

As for the Bears, I loved them in the '80s with Sweetness, Samurai Mike, the Fridge, etc. With their QB & HC carousel in the '90s and '00s, I wasn't so much about them, though there were moments and players (the Super Bowl run, Urlacher, Marcus Robinson, Hester - as a returner - Forte's rookie year, etc.). This season, I was NOT a Bears fan. First of all, I don't like Cutler, Martz, or Marinelli. Second, Week 1 ('nuff said). But mostly, I just didn't think they were that good this season. I was surprised they won the division and made the play-offs and STUNNED that they actually won a game. I was glad to see them lose, not because I hate the Bears, but because I didn't think this particular Bears team "deserved" it. Not as much as the Pack, anyway.

Overall, I think Ty's right about rivalries. It is different in the pro's than it is in college. One thing I've noticed is that fantasy football gives fans reasons to root for other teams (I always want the Lions to beat the Packers, but I don't mind if Greg Jennings scores 2 TDs in the losing effort). This diminishes the hatred a little bit. Then, of course, there's the fact that the Lions haven't been very competitive the last decade. Ty's absolutely right that this is about to change in a big way and I look forward to once again playing meaningful games against our division rivals (and anyone else, for that matter).

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