In all the hubub and hyperventilation surrounding Deflate-Gate, we are ignoring a fallen comrade. Has anyone noticed that giant block of cheese that’s been run over by a 16-wheeler and left in the freezing cold on the side of the highway? That’s Packer Nation, which is psychologically damaged and wondering how to pick itself up this week.
By now you know the story. With a 19-7 lead and just 5:00 to play Sunday, the Packers intercepted Russell Wilson yet again. Morgan Burnett, the man who picked it off, slid on the turf. The game seemed so cemented Green Bay was taking a knee. The Packers would be going back to the Super Bowl. I sarcastically tweeted: “And Roger Goodell will be rewarded for his strong leadership this season w/ Aaron Rodgers vs. Luck or Brady in the SB.” Boy, I had gotten ahead of myself like Burnett.
From there it was a march of madness for Packer fans. Overly-conservative Mike McCarthy play-calling. Sieve-like Packers defense. Brandon Bostick playing “hands-team” with oven mitts on. Seahawks winning the coin toss. Rodgers never touching the football in OT. Packer Nation falls into deep state of mourning.
On my show, I got a call from Jeff in Madison, Wisconsin. Huge Packers fan. He was planning to get away from this one for awhile. “Hey D.A., I made a promise to myself I wasn’t gonna listen to sportstalk for a year. That’s how devastating it was.”
Wow, a week or a month I could understand. But a year? Take the sharp charcuterie away from the Cheese Heads.
“D.A., what do I do? Where do I go from here, man? I remember the 4th and 26 against Philadelphia. All the heartbreak with Brett Favre. But this one was just something else. Honestly, as a fan, I don’t know how to feel, where to go. Hopefully you give me some advice brother.”
People are searching for answers, and I truly appreciate they may look to me for this. Even though I’m not a Packer fan, it’s understandable. When things don’t make sense, when the Sports Gods dangle ecstasy and then snatch your soul, you need something, anything. What assurance will be the life raft?
If you’re a Packer fan the good news is there are some rubber bumpers on this. First, Green Bay won a Super Bowl just four years ago. Ask Browns, Lions or Chargers fans how their residency in sports hell is going comparatively. Second, the Packers have the best player, at the most important position, in his prime. Every time you begin the season with Rodgers healthy and under center, you are considered a title contender. I can’t imagine Rodgers isn’t kissing that Lombardi Trophy with his Discount Double Check whiskers sometime again in his career. Third, the Packers front-office always does a solid job of building competitive rosters. They’ll be good again, because they’re almost always good.
But the notion this collapse is something the Packers will inevitably grow from and be motivated by next season? I’m not necessarily buying that. The ’93 Oilers were victims of the greatest meltdown in NFL playoff history in Buffalo. That was essentially the final act of Warren Moon in Houston. In ’02 the Giants held a 38-14 with just 5:00 to play in the third quarter of their playoff game against San Francisco. New York choked it away, Jim Fassel and Kerry Collins were sacked, and the team that made the Super Bowl five years later was a completely new one. The Jets collapse in Cleveland in ’85? The Browns coughing it up against Pittsburgh in ’02? Neither of these teams was later steeled by the experience, going on to accomplish great things.
It is one of the great American tenets: What doesn’t kill you can only make you stronger. And maybe the Packers will be better for this. But just don’t expect Cheese Head Nation to be. They’ve been sliced apart and served on Ritz crackers. Give them time. They’re hearing bumps and noises in the middle of the night. And it’s not Marshawn Lynch chomping Skittles.
Getting blown out like the Colts did? That’s easy. You turn off the TV by halftime and start watching The Mentalist on demand. Losing a close, back-and-forth game like the Ravens did in Foxboro? Tough, but you can hold your head high. Giving away a two-touchdown lead in the final few minutes like the Pack? That’s the soul-crusher.
The days following Championship Weekend have been filled with speculation about more Bill Belichick line-blurring, deflating footballs, and NFL investigation. But someone should really check on our Cheesehead friends. They’ve got the butter knife, and they’re ready to use it.
D.A. hosts 6-10pm across the ever expanding universe of CBS Sports Radio Network. He has hosted The D.A. Show (aka “The Mothership”) in Boston, Miami, Kansas City and Ft. Myers, FL. You can often catch him on the NFL Network’s series “Top 10″ opining on Zubaz pants, Tecmo Bowl and Andre Reed’s HOF credentials. D.A. graduated from Syracuse University in ’01, and immediately started looking for ways to make a sports radio show more like a quirky 1970’s sci-fi television series. Follow D.A. on Twitter and become one with the Facebook page experience. D.A. lives in NYC, and is a native of Warwick, NY – a sleepy town existing somewhere between the suburbs and the sticks.