Friday, December 28, 2007

Packer Punter Penance Will Appease Cheese

After nearly a week of agony, turmoil and deliberation, the greater Green Bay Packer nation has arrived at conditions and terms for punter Jon Ryan's due penance.

Partly to pay for his participation in last Sunday's da-Bear da-bacle in Chicago, and partly to prepare for future encounters with extreme weather conditions at Lambeau, the following description outlines the steps necessary for Mr. Ryan to get off the Cheeseheads' dip-list. (Please note: no part of this may be altered or substituted; and full completion of all requirements of this penance is mandatory.)

Mr. Ryan will arrive at the Don Hutson training field across the street from Lambeau Field at o-dark-thirty. He may not be late. Mr. Ryan will be allowed to wear shorts and a t-shirt--regardless of how many degrees below zero it happens to be--and socks, and his football cleats. He will be forced to bear the ultimate symbol of shame--he must wear a Chicago Bear helmet, since he played for the Bears last Sunday.

He will walk out onto the practice field in the snow. If the field has been plowed, he must get a snow-shovel and cover the field with snow again. He will then engage the power of the sixteen ultra-high-velocity wind machines that he had delivered from NASA's wind-tunnel, to the field; one for each point he gave the Bears, one for the mis-handled punt, and one for the pooch-kick off his shin. The wind machines will be set on high and will be aimed directly at him. He may not turn his back to them at any time.

Situated in a line, multiple lines, or a mob behind Ryan will be 70,000 Green Bay Packer fans, who may, at each one's discretion, hurl snowballs at Ryan to simulate the possibility of playing in a driving snowstorm. Beers may also be hurled at the punter, as an expression of scorn, because they were hurled at Terrell Owens when he tried to do an unauthorized Lambeau Leap at Lambeau Field a few years ago, so that Ryan understands the social category that his play has landed him in.

To simulate flying objects in the wind and the necessity and importance for Ryan to concentrate on the vital single objective, the football, Packer fans will also be allowed to chuck cheeseheads at the punter at any time.

Mr. Ryan will then receive snaps from the Packers long-snapper and punt the ball. But there's a kicker... actually, there's thousands of them. When the ball is snapped to Ryan and he catches it, he must then pause in a somewhat slouching position, so that Cheesehead #1, who is situated behind him, can apply a robust kick to Ryan's rear. Once Ryan has absorbed the kick, he will then execute his punt steps and then will actually punt the ball.

If Ryan drops the snap, that is, if the ball falls out of his hands, he will walk over and bend down to pick up the football, where he will say one 'Hail Vince', but will remain in that position until Cheesehead #1 walks over and gives Ryan a bonus robust kick in the rear.

When punter Ryan has sufficiently finished this task with Cheesehead #1, he then can move on to Cheesehead #2. He will continue on, repetitiously, with this process with all the Packer fans in line until Cheesehead #70,000 has applied sufficient boot-leather to Mr. Ryan's behind.

Furthermore, Packer coach Mike McCarthy will supply side-line heaters for Packer fans, warm drinks, and his nice, fluffy, down-filled green Packer jacket if anyone needs it. All team members of the Green Bay Packers must stay outside in the frigid weather for the duration of this act of penance so that they get used to adverse weather again and can eventually re-claim such an environment as their own domain, instead of reeling in shock in such climates.

When Mr. Ryan has received his due diligence, he must then apologize to Canada, his home country, where they groomed him to be a bad-weather punter. He must then throw the Bears helmet in the trash, where it belongs.

When this penance is fully completed, Jon Ryan may resume his duties as the punter for the Green Bay Packers. The wrath of the Cheese will have been appeased.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Ride to Glory

Brett Favre's horse is ready. The saddle is polished and cinched, the stirrups are fixed. His chaps are drawn up and tightened, and he is beginning to slap the 17 years of field dust from his hat.

His gun-belt still rides menacingly on his hips. Inside his holsters rides a deadly pair of chrome six-shooters, their chambers packed with custom-made precision cartridges. When they are in his hands, every outlaw knows, they are true; they are money. And you don't bet against them.

It is getting to be afternoon; late afternoon. Many figured that he would not have made it this far, that like all the others, he would have been worn down, shot down, or just laid down to rest. But there ain't no lay-down in this one. There is just grit, desire and determination. And, oh yeah, those blazing guns.

For it is these things that have brought him to a place further than any other gun-slinger has ever been, deeper into the badlands. And it has been a shoot-out the whole way. Many he has fought with have fallen, been turned-aside, have been side-lined. He himself has been hit countless times, but has somehow kept his footing, standing on one leg, iron-will and the other leg, kiss-of-fate.

Those who ride with him now are all replacements. But when the camp-fire is dwindling on some nights, there are whispers among them of names from long ago, there are questions about how one can ride and shoot for so long, and wide-eyes wonder if maybe this man is really just a mist.

And all are amazed not only that this legend showed up to bust through these final miles, but that he did so in such spectacular fashion; mythical fashion. He has led the charge with a type of cunning, precision and skill that only a craft-master, a wizard, can wield.

They all ride together, on even footing; but secretly, when the legend speaks, each one tries to burn his words and his lessons into their minds. For they know that those words are coming from a very rare, unprecedented greatness; and they all know, also, that it is very late in the afternoon.

Brett Favre puts a foot in the stirrup, a hand on the saddle horn, and pulls himself atop the horse like he has done a million times; since he was a kid. He gets himself comfortable in the saddle; adjusts his hat. Then he takes a look around.

So many things are different now. The view has changed so much since his father first set him on top of his very first horse and taught him how to ride. He feels the toll of wounds from battles-gone by. He feels the loss of some of those with whom he started this journey.

He looks back on every mile, every trail. He cannot remember every shootout, but he knows that together, they all make up part of who he is and where he is. And he is, once again, grateful. He knows that he has dodged some bullets, but he also knows that he has never taken his good fortune for granted.

Then, for the first time, Brett Favre lifts his head and looks directly in to the sinking sun. He knows that one more mile, perhaps his final gauntlet, remains in front of him. He knows that it is a dangerous road, that there are shootouts ahead and that they could be more costly than ever.

He's heard that there are a few young, hot-shot gunslingers out there. But that doesn't bother him. For he quietly knows that he was already a blaze-busting veteran, at home in his saddle when they were wearing pajamas bearing his name.

He reaches for a six-shooter, to double-check, again, that it is ready for the gauntlet. His guns, Gutsy and Brazen, have ridden with him every mile. They were his friends when he first learned to shoot. They were his weapons when he rose to prominence. They were his slayers when he came to own such gauntlets three times. And now, on perhaps a final run, there is not a speck of rust, they look to be as fine as they ever were.

Brett Favre grabs the reigns and wraps them firmly around his gloved hand. The sun is touching the tip of the mountain in the horizon. He peers ahead looking at what will be in his path. He knows they're waiting. He knows more are coming. He is not sure if he will make it through to the end, but he knows that he is still Kiln enough to try.

He understands that very shortly the air will be filled with smoke and lead. But experience has taught him, and others, that much of that will be his own.

Brett Favre sets his chin. Then he nudges his horse with his spurs.


What a glorious sunset lies ahead.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Why We Hate the Bears

It's Bears Week again. Every Packer fan in the Cheesehead Nation is fully aware of this. Which means that it won't be a necessarily good week. I mean, it's not like the week will be intolerable for cheeseheads, or anything, just uncomfortable. You probably don't want to cut one off in traffic this week.

It's not like the cheesehead will go postal on anyone, no, cheeseheads are content with shooting just deer; it's more like how you would feel if you had to eat celery all week. Just celery. And nothing else. For every meal. All week. You'd do it, but you wouldn't be happy about it.

It will be on every cheesehead's mind all week just how much we hate the Bears. This is a fact. So I thought I'd put together a few of the countless reasons why we hate the Bears to relieve some of the gnawing angst we all feel this week. Here are five reasons we Packer fans hate the Chicago Bears:

1. They are from Chicago

Nothing good comes out of Chicago. Never has. In fact the only good things to come out of the entire state of Illinois were Abraham Lincoln and Ray Nitschke. Even Santa Claus hates Chicago. He hasn't been there since 1947. And if you are on Santa's bad side, and you live outside of the state, you will get Chicago Bear jerseys and paraphanalia for Christmas. It is worse than getting coal.

2. Dick Butkus

Some of this isn't necessarily Dick Butkus' fault. It is the media's. Because somewhere down the line, the media decided that Dick Butkus was a better linebacker than Ray Nitschke. It certainly wasn't the NFL. For when both Butkus and Nitschke were playing ball, concurrently, it was not Butkus who was named by the NFL as the best linebacker in the NFL's first 50 years, but it was Ray Nitschke.

Butkus was just a monster. Because a man possesses inhuman bestial qualities, however, does not make him a better linebacker. The main differences between Nitschke and Butkus, are that Nitschke would tear your head off; Butkus would tear your head off and then eat it. Nitschke would knock you silly with a broken leg; Butkus would knock you silly with his mother's broken (off) leg. Nitschke played with his heart; Butkus played with his teeth. Vince Lombardi could speak English to Ray Nitschke and Ray would follow orders. George Halas would have to speak in grunts and gutteral noises to Butkus because Butkus could not speak human language, and then Butkus would follow the smell of meat.

Sure it might be true that Butkus ate some five or six players from opposing teams, but he certainly was no Ray Nitschke.

3. Al Capone/Geraldo

It is common knowledge in Wisconsin that Chicago people come up north to Wisconsin for vacations. I FIB you not. It's not that I blame them for wanting to get out of Illinois, any human- rights group would support such an exodus, but why do these people have to come to Wisconsin? They come up and start trying to boss everyone around, rubbing everybody the wrong way, acting like they own the place and try telling everyone what to do. But the cheeseheads just laugh at these clowns.

Well, this practice has been going on for quite some time; probably for as long as Chicago has been unbearable for even Chicago people and they have needed an escape. Such was true back in the day when Chicago's most famous gangster, who wasn't named Daley, used to come up north for some r&r. Yes, Al Capone used to head to Wisconsin for some time away from violin parties and Tommy-guns.

Now this was common knowledge to the locals. But then some time in the 1980's the reporter Geraldo Rivera had to bring his entire production crew into the state so that he could open Al Capone's secret vault. It was a nationally-televised event complete with all the extravaganza and promotion.

And what did the event produce? What was in Al Capone's secret vault? NOTHING. Nada. Zilch.
So Al Capone and Geraldo made us cheeseheads sit through an entire broadcast of false promises, thus completely wasting our time. Unacceptable. Unforgiveable.

4. Refrigerator Perry

During the Bears championship years in the 1980's, the Packers were not intimidated. In the first game of our yearly series back then, we in fact had the Bears. We had the lead. It was late in the game. We were stopping them at the goal line. But then, in true desperation, and needing a touchdown to win, Mike Ditka pulled out The Refrigerator card. He moved 800-lb. tackle William 'The Refrigerator' Perry into the backfield. Nobody could believe it. They called signals; the ball was snapped, and sure enough they gave the ball to The Fridge. All he did was lean forward which tilted the earth just enough for him to get into the end zone and the Bears dodged a bullet. Packer fans had to swallow a very bitter pill.

Well, the next time we met later in that season, the teams faced an identical situation in the final moments of the game. We had the lead. They had the ball on our 1-inch line. But they couldn't get it in; they couldn't score. So what does Ditka do? Well, the huddle breaks, and there he is lined up in the backfield again - Refrigerator Perry. So the Packers tighten up, figuring they are not going to get burned twice on this. Everybody knows who the ball will be handed to, right? Sure enough the ball is snapped, McMahon goes over to hand the ball to Fridge, but instead of handing him the ball, he FAKES it to him! And then he passes the ball into the end zone for an easy score, a win and another bitter pill for cheeseheads to swallow.

Well, that pill is still there.

5. The '85 Bears

Granted the 1985 Bears were a good football team. In fact I would bet Dick Butkus' mother's leg that there hasn't been a better team suited up since then; and that includes any team Emmit Smith played on or anything the Nor-Easter blow-hards up in New England misinterpret as the Second-Coming.

The 85 Bears had it all. And they had Walter Peyton. There were no weaknesses on that team. McMahon had as fine and impactful of a season that a quarterback can have. He looked like Terry Bradshaw and John Elway rolled into one. The offense was unstoppable and the defense was unrelenting. Certainly one of the best teams ever.

BUT, they were still the Chicago Bears.

The Bears were so good that they even put out a music video about how good they were. Wisconsin responded and put out their own song. About the Bears. A polka, no less. It is called, "The Bears Still Suck." Some of it goes like this: "The Bears still suck. The Bears still suck. They really, really, really, really, really, really, really suck."

No matter if they get to a Super Bowl and fall on their faces to the Colts, or they just plain fall on their faces during the season, all Packer fans know this sentiment as a constant.

Indeed, the song remains forever true in that, no matter what, "The Bears still Suck."


Friday, December 14, 2007

Packers Can Stand Tall in St. Louis

The most painful thing about playing against a dominant team is that you are helpless. They just do what they want and you can’t stop them. Not too many years ago, St. Louis used to just ram it down our throats, and everybody’s throats, and there was nothing we could do. I hated it!

Do you remember those games? Do you remember wondering why we couldn’t stop Marshall Faulk? Do you remember when Isaac Bruce and that other gazelle they had would just own our defensive backs? And of course our own Adam Timmerman had to go and defect to the Rams, and suddenly he was protecting Kurt Warner, who was already more dangerous than a cat in a canary cage. And they used to start marching down the field, a little running, a little passing, one first down, and then another. And then another. We used to sit and chew what was left of our nails hoping that somebody on defense had an answer. But nobody did.

And that is part of what the pain was all about. Nobody in Green Bay had any answers for the Rams. The Rams, with their Greatest Show on Turf, came in and did what the Rams wanted to do. We all just had to sit back and take it.

Well, guess what? This isn’t 1999 anymore. And not only has the Greatest Show on Turf left the arena, but Green Bay has acquired a few answers since then. In fact, barring uncharacteristic play, it will be the Packers who will be asking the questions on Sunday, no longer the Rams.

It’s kind of like a guy I grew up with. His name was Mike H. He was kind of tall but pretty shy. Some guys picked on him a bit. He didn’t have the means to fight back. The last time I saw him was at a high school baseball game. Then I heard he went into the Marines.

Some years passed. And then one day, maybe in the mid-1980’s, I saw a picture of President Reagan. But it wasn’t King Ronald who caught my eye; it was the guy standing in front of the President, the guy who was guarding the President.

My jaw hit my chest. For there, standing in immaculate Marine blues, staring a hole through the very air in front of him, and with a scowl you would hide your children from, was Marine Captain Mike H! He was a giant. He looked like he belonged on Mt. Rushmore. No sane human being would ever want to threaten him or tick this Marine off.

I was partly in disbelief. The rest of me was amazed, I was in complete awe. The guy who suffered others’ sticking gum stuck in his hair, who was kicked around a little, here he was all grown up, standing tall and proud, and was guarding the President of the United States.

Now I’m no genius, but I would think that they do not let just anybody actually guard the President, do they? I am not sure of the qualifications to be able to do that, but at 6′6″ and plenty of beef over 250 lbs., it was apparent that Mike had come a long way from the school yard back home. I felt proud to know him. I felt good for his family and for how proud Mike’s assignment to Marines’ Presidential Escort duty must make them feel. I also doubted that some of the hometown fellas would be putting any more gum in Mike’s hair.

And this coming Sunday, I think the Packers can stand tall in St. Louis against the Rams as well. Yes, there was a day when the Pack did not have the ability to defend itself. Yes, the Rams indeed picked on us a little. But those days are no more. Our perpetual agony at the hands of the Rams is over, for now.

And I am proud of our Packers for how they’ve come together, how they are doing, and for what kind of a team they have become. This late in the season there is less disbelief, and more simple amazement. I am also happy for the Packer family, for I know how proud the Packer’s success has made us all.

Now I am not saying the Rams cannot beat us on Sunday — they are still in the NFL and have our respect. But I do like some of the answers that Green Bay has come up with that keeps many others from dictating terms and conditions to us on the football field. We are solid where we need to be solid. We are poised. We are unafraid of a fight.

And I think when we go to St. Louis that the Rams will be keeping their gum in their pockets.

Tom Brady Can NOT Be NFL MVP

Give it to Favre. Give it to Romo. Give it to Peterson. Heck, even give it to the guy who turned Michael Vick in. But Tom Brady cannnot win the NFL MVP.

Why? Well, let’s say that this was a marathon, say, the Boston Marathon. You are running. You take off at the starting gun like everybody else. But then, you notice that a runner next to you has hurried over to the side of the road. A cab pulls up and the cabbie, a guy named, oh, I don’t know, let’s say, Bill, opens the door. That other runner jumps inside the cab and off they go down the road ahead of all the runners, following the race course.

Some four or five miles later, racing officials pull the cab over, slap the driver on the wrist, scold him and tell him that he is in big trouble next year. They do not, however, take his cab from him. Then they make the runner jump out of the cab and resume the race. But by now, however, this runner is miles ahead of the runners who were abiding by the rules and did not cheat to get ahead.

So the runners complete the course, and who do you suppose wins the race? Why, it is the one who got the unfair lift, of course.

How would you feel if this happened to you? Would you say that it would be fair to declare as the winner the runner that benefited by Bill’s cab ride?

Of course not! For we all know that this is blatant cheating. And so is New England’s deliberate and blatant actions, of which they already stand convicted of by the NFL. Yet, how can an individual who benefited greatly by the cheating actions of his superiors still be named league MVP? It is ridiculous! It cannot be allowed to happen. There can be no good fruit from a poison tree.

Hey, I’m a Packer fan. But I don’t need Bret Favre to win the MVP this year. This isn’t about that. Favre’s place in the hearts of the Green Bay Packer family is secure. His place in the Packer Hall of Fame is secure. His place in Canton, Ohio is secure. Favre’s season this year is already enough for him to go out on his terms, in a hail of down-range bullets, and a blaze of glory.

But every time Favre actually won the league’s MVP, he deserved it. He didn’t get his stats padded by rigging cameras in the opposing team’s locker room, or hacking into their defensive coordinator’s computer to spy out a game plan. And every other player who has won the MVP (New England Patriot players, excepted) got the award not by achievement and underhandedness, but just by achievement.

So if Tom Brady wins the league’s MVP this year, who wins it next year? A guy from the team who starts paying off opposing players for game plan information? How about a guy from the team that sends in a mole? Maybe a guy from the team who plants tiny microphones in the opposing coach’s jacket?

If Tom Brady wins the NFL MVP, the NFL is, thusly, sanctioning and rewarding cheating. Such a move would be telling the NFL community that it is ultimately acceptable to take underhanded advantage in an NFL contest, regardless of a wrist slap. Perhaps next year the Patriots will then be bringing some former CIA operatives on staff so that New England can get really good at the craft. Where does this all end? I thought this new NFL Commissioner was going to be tough, set high standards, and enforce them.

If Tom Brady wins the NFL MVP, then the world should apologize to Pete Rose, should retroactively give Rose several MLB MVP awards, and should induct him into the baseball Hall of Fame immediately. And then Tom Brady should give his NFL MVP trophy to Pete Rose, for Rose’s violations were misdemeanors compared to the Bill Belichick’s egregious felonies.

Heck, just give the NFL MVP to Pete Rose. He deserves it more than any player from an NFL team convicted of cheating.


Green Bay Packer Receivers and General Favre

The Packers receiving corp is absolutely outstanding. I mean we got Driver, Jennings and Jones, throw in a few productive tight ends, enter Korin Robinson, and then, just for fun, let’s bring in this new guy from the injured list and let him return a punt. My goodness, we are thick with talent. Really, with Favre or without him, we might be solid enough to be serious contenders for a good three to four years. I really like where we are now, as far as that kind of talent.

I think Favre really set the bar high when he said to the media, and to his guys, that it was the most talented football team he had ever been on. Quite a strategic motivational statement to an aspiring but not convinced or proven group of young guys. We would not be where we are without the old field general and leader himself actually shaping these guys by his leadership and example whether they realized it at the time or not. He has been part player and part coach for these guys and this team. Sure McCarthy has done a great job, but Favre has been critically instrumental in the development of these young offensive players into a performing unit.

None of them are Chad Johnsons, they are all hungry, professional, extremely hard-working and an inspirational reflection of Packer tradition. I mean, what are they gonna do, smart off to Bret Favre? Let Bret Favre down by not playing hard or not giving 100%? I mean if you are a young guy out there in the same huddle with a qb who has started 250 games in a row, how is it going to make you look if you sluff off and don’t take your opportunity seriously? Do you want the frown of this legend? Heck no, you’re gonna bring everything you got on every play.

Just look at the efforts these stallions give AFTER they catch the ball. It’s like they are driven machines, yet they twist and turn like cats. They are all extremely tough, extremely agile and fearless. They usually give you a move after they catch the ball that you didn’t expect and that you haven’t seen before to try to get loose toward the end zone. I attribute some of that to talent, some of that to wanting to be part of the Favre offensive machine.

They are playing with Favre-heart. Favre has passed on his extreme drive to win and his lethal determination to the next generation of Green Bay Packers.

Love it!