Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Football is a Wicked Mistress

She's heartless and cruel. She's cold. But you will do anything to have her glance your way.

Men will pay high prices to be able to dance with her. They will give every ounce of their effort, they will train, run, strain, sweat, battle, spend, sacrifice; they will forsake all. Some will cheat. They want just to be in that dance.

Men will surround their lives around her beauty. They will talk about her, they will write about her, they will stand up for her, they will stop at nothing, they will defend her honor. Except that she will not defend theirs; no, she will ruthlessly use theirs up, and when they are fallen on the battlefield, she will cast it aside, and then stoically move on to another.

Though you see that she has done such a thing in the past, yet with every new year, you get your hopes up again, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.

You think that you are not a fool. You see great reasons for hope. You are charmed by this ray of light, by that glimmer of sunshine and stare willingly into it until you have blinded yourself and have conveniently forgotten the shattering pain from last year.

And then you start convincing yourself all over again, as you watch her move, that this is the year, this is the season that it will all come true. You see things about her that justify your belief. You are surprised and delighted when things go well, for they confirm what you now know to be true about her, that she loves you and that this time, she will be faithful to you.

You start to see the stars lining up, things are falling in place, yes, she loves you indeed and you will dance together a dance that will be written up for the ages. You are smitten.

This certainly is the year; you know it. You begin investing your heart into her. You hand her your emotions and she rewards you with a wink. You tell her how you believe in her and she takes a step your way. You show her your loyalty, your faithfulness, your fealty and she lets you stand in her shadow.

You share with others how it is real and true, and then she lets you see her smile. Indeed it is the most beautiful of smiles; there are none others that compare. You know that she is smiling at you, that she will reward your loyalty and admiration.

And then she promises you the dance. Or did she? Perhaps she did not speak it, perhaps it was only inside your head. Perhaps you only thought it, but it must have passed from her lips; you are not sure. But however it occurred, you somehow knew that you would be that most fortunate one, that of all the other guys, you alone would be the one that she would be dancing with forever.

You walk on the clouds over toward her, closer to her promising, out-stretched hand. You are beaming with pride, knowing that you are the envy of all the rest, some who have fallen, others who have been eliminated and still others who have all but given up.

You reach for her hand and it is then in your grasp, at last! It is softer than you had imagined, lighter than you had dreamed. You are thrilled like never before. You have believed, you have been faithful and it is all about to happen, this beautiful mistress will finally be yours and yours alone!

The music begins to play, you reach to draw her closer, to draw her to yourself, to begin the dance. But she doesn't budge, she doesn't let herself be pulled into toward you. It is only then that you see that she also has, in her other hand, the hand of another pursuer! You are in disbelief! You cannot understand how she could give in to your wooings and yet be attached to another.

With the next beat of the music, and painful beat of your heart, she rips her hand out of yours, spins away and begins dancing with the other suitor.

You see her out there with him, fully engaged, throwing her head back in laughter, thrilled to be in his arms but she never even glances back your way.

You are crushed; again. How could you be such a fool, you ask yourself. It is terrible, you are in agony. You are sick to your stomach, much worse than last year.

As for him, you don't even give him a look; he's nobody, he doesn't matter. It was her you were after, it was she you believed in, it was you both together that you wanted and it would have happened, if only....

Yes, football is a wicked mistress. She's heartless, and cruel. She's so very, very cold.

Friday, January 25, 2008

You Don't Want to See This

Packer fans, this will hurt. I wish you didn't have to see this, but I know that you do.

Shoulda............................ Woulda....................... Coulda................Did.(for a clearer and bigger picture, I've also posted the picture here.)

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Voice of Fate

Well, that stinks.

The only people at Lambeau field who didn't know that the Packers would win the NFC Championship and go to the Super Bowl were the New York Giants.

The frozen chosen who attended the game knew it. The greater Cheesehead nation knew it. The media knew it. Why, Fate, herself, also seemingly knew it; for what always happens in NFC Championship games at Lambeau?

It was a dream season, a done deal.

But the Giants tried telling us something different; only nobody was listening. They mentioned it when Plaxico Burress started making cornerback Al Harris look like Charlie Brown. Of course, Burris was getting all the right help from Payton Manning; or was that actually Eli?

The Giants were also hinting when they announced that the Packer running game would be closed for the season. That was early on. Their defensive line sealed it up, closed it off, and put up detour signs.

We weren't reading much, either.

The Giants were happy to tell us about it while pointing at the hail-storm of yellow penalty flags that Green Bay foolery caused to rain upon the field in critical times. (Note to self: All times are critical times in the NFC Championship.)

But instead, we believed something else when we saw Donald Driver racing 90 yards down the sideline. And again, when we saw two Giants' field goals sail wide. An interception? No problem, we'll just strip the ball and have Mark Tauscher fall on it. Surely, we thought, this all was fate's smile on a Cinderella season, a Cinderella capstone on an advancing career.

Why, it was the NFC Championship. At home. In bitterly-cold January. Vince Lombardi himself had likely orchestrated the whole thing and was was probably somewhere nearby pulling stings. All the pieces were in place, all the traditions had lined up. We all knew it.

So it was in disbelief that we watched a different fumble slip through our fingers. We were confused when we saw that our second-half offensive strategy was to dabble for three plays and then go sit back down by the sideline heaters. We were horrified when more penalty flags landed on the frozen turf. Yet, we refused to listen.

But then New York's kicker stepped up to the microphone. He cleared his throat; then with one swift movement, and with the voice of fate, he spoke loud and clear.

We finally heard.

And do you know what he said? He said, "Green Bay isn't Cinderella; the New York Giants are."

And so it is. As sad and difficult as it is to hear, it will be the Giants going to the Tom Brady ball this year, and not the Green Bay Packers.

So after a tremendous season, one filled with hope, but not expectation (unlike in Dallas where they are whining like babies now, pointing fingers and and barbecuing Tony Romo), where every win was a surprise and a delight, where magic happened and lightening struck repeatedly, there is some consolation in finding out we're not Cinderella, but just her ugly step-sister...

And that is this: at least we're not the Bears!

Thank you, Coach McCarthy and the Green Bay Packers.

It's been a great ride.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Welcome to Lambeau, New York Giants!

Congratulations to the New York Giants! After playing gutsy football against the Patriots, dominating in Tampa, and then going into Dallas and making T.O. cry, you Giants are red hot and for real; and Manning the Younger has found his genetics.

The greater Cheesehead nation was all pulling for you, for a day, in Dallas. We kind of think our overall support might have been what tipped the balance in favor of the Giants, but that is just speculation; albeit highly dependable. And now our arms are open and we heartily welcome you to the frozen tundra. By the way, did anybody mention to you it was January here?

So in the spirit of hospitality and full-disclosure, we thought it might be a good idea to tell you what to expect up here in this foreboding climate, how to prepare, and share with you what things all the NY Giants players and coaches will need to bring with them to be able to survive.

First of all, let's talk about Lambeau Field in January. You've heard all the terrible stories about how cold and nasty it is; well, unfortunately, they're true. All of them. Did you know that it is actually warmer in Siberia? Be warned, in last weekend's snow-storm game against the Seahawks, there was an unconfirmed report that a polar bear was actually over by Seattle's sideline heater trying to warm himself up. Another witness claims that it was just a grumpy, snow-covered Mike Holmgren, but either way this place is not fit for man nor beast. You might want to pick up some bear repellent.

As a matter of fact, there are still about eighty-five Packer fans who are still at Lambeau from that game who accidentally spilled beers on their laps and are frozen solid to their seats. Several hundred have already been freed as rescue workers are working around the clock. (We have our crisis' here too.)

Now as far as the things that you will need to go get to be able to endure here, you can easily fill this shopping list out at any Shopko or Farm & Fleet, if you happen to have any there in downtown New York.

1. The first thing you will have to get is a parka, some nice warm hunting clothes, or even a snowmobile-suit. If you get a parka, make sure it is large enough to fit over your shoulder pads; a 4XL ought to do it. Also, check to see to it that the lined hood is big enough for your helmets to fit into. Don't worry about your jersey numbers, we'll paint those on the outside of the jacket so that you don't have to take it off when you go onto the playing field.

If you go for the hunting clothes, unfortunately, you cannot just wear the cammo by itself; you must also display blaze orange (state law) on 50% of your body. We can't have you disappearing back there in the secondary; that would be cheating (and we know that the cheaters live north of you, not in New York). We will go ahead and paint your number right on top of that blaze-orange.

Now the snowmobile-suit might be your best option. After all, you can move around in it pretty well (until you have to go to the bathroom) and you will likely be needing one anyway to get from the airport to Lambeau field since you will all be taking snowmobiles. You see, the roads are too slippery for buses, so a fleet of Polaris's will be shuttling you from right outside the baggage claim directly to the Lambeau parking lot. Unfortunately, you cannot drive snowmobiles into motel parking lots, so you will all be staying in RV's outside the stadium for the night; eight men to an RV. Then in the morning, the snowmobiles will be shuttling you from the RV's right up to the entrance of Lambeau. Again, we can paint your numbers on the snowmobile-suit so you can wear it the whole game and try to stay warm.

2. Boots are not an option, they are simply essential. The big, thick insulated ones are the only way to go. Try the Sorel's first and see how they feel. Your linemen will love 'em. Though you might lose a tiny bit of speed out there on the field in them, you could make up for that with added traction if you can get your equipment guy to attach cleats to the bottoms of those boots. Also, get a package or two of some chemically-activated foot-warmers. Heck get a few dozen; during the game you might need them. If you get out there and can't figure out how to activate them, the referees will probably be glad to help you between plays.

3. Gloves and mittens will also be required if you want to go home with all your fingers. The best way to get 'er done is to wear a pair of knit gloves and then over the top of those you put on some heavy insulated over-sized mittens. If you want, you can get the kind with those little rubber-grippy things on the outside of the finger and the thumb areas for added ball control. Some of the insulated mittens even have little trigger-finger slits used for hunting. You could poke one of your gloved fingers out and use it to chip away your iced-up nostril holes so that you can breathe again. Rumor has it that that is the only reason that Green Bay Packer Jerry Kramer was able to push Dallas' Jethro Pugh out of the way - allowing Bart Starr to get in for the winning score - in the Ice Bowl. Pugh had not chipped the ice out of his nose in a play or two and was only breathing through his mouth. Might have made all the difference. So get a pair with the trigger-finger slit.

And if it gets really, really cold, you might need some hand warmers too. They work like the feet warmers. Might be a little bulky for your receivers under those gloves and mittens, but if they practice with them before the game a little, they should get used to it by game time.

4. Don't forget the stocking cap and scarf. Oh, you probably don't know what stocking cap means; so how about this - get a beanie and a scarf. But not just a skull-cap, get the whole full-blown, bank-robber face mask. With wind-chills expected to be way, wayyy below zero, here's a good reminder: only cover those parts of your face you want to keep.

5. Long-johns. You may know these as thermals. Get a pair or two. Wear both pairs under your uniform. They will save your life. And maybe your career and reputation as well. Jethro Pugh wasn't wearing two pairs of long-johns that day, either.

6. Hot-Seats. These are insulated seat-cushion-type gizmos that you sit on and they react to your own body heat and warm up real nice. Feels real good unless you're out there on the cold, cold field. Your offense might get the most use out of these, as they will be sitting idly, doing nothing, except rapidly losing precious body heat, while Brett Favre is leading the Green Bay Packers downfield long scoring drives.

7. As an optional purchase, you could pick up some ice-fishing gear. This way, while Favre and crew are on offense, your offensive guys can sneak out to one of the local ponds and get a little ice-fishing in to pass some time. Fortunately for you, most of the citizens of Green Bay will be inside the stadium cheering, so there should be plenty of room on the ice. Your kicker gets the best deal of all; after his opening kickoff, you guys probably won't need him the rest of the day, so he has time to catch a bunch of fish. Just make sure he keeps his worms warm so they don't freeze. Best way to do that is to keep them in your mouth.

And, finally, we all know that the guys who wear yellow hats in New York are the FDNY fellas. We appreciate all they have done and all, and respect them as we do you, but for the record, such guys won't be allowed to wear their fireman's hats in Lambeau. The only yellow hats allowed on the frozen tundra are Cheeseheads. You may want to bring them along, however, so they can be helping with the resuscitation of your players when some of your players' bodies start going into shock because of the weather. We will only have about a dozen EMT's here and they might be a little busy.

So good luck Giants!

And don't think about the bitter, frigid cold. Just put all that out of your minds.


Saturday, January 12, 2008

Packer Kids Play Well in the Snow

Nobody is having more fun than those who are on this wild ride here in Lambeau Field during a blizzard in Green Bay. Never has it been louder here, never has it been rowdier. This is the wildest place in the country on the NFL's Divisional Playoff weekend. It's snowing like crazy and nobody cares, it's all about what Brett Favre and all the other kids on his team are doing down there. I wonder if so much fun has ever been had in this stadium.

It is nearly the fourth quarter and our punter hasn't even taken off his warm-up jacket yet. Running back Ryan Grant has redeemed himself from two critical fumbles early in the game by pounding out massive yards and then scoring yet another touchdown. And the Packers are playing good, old-fashioned playground football in the snow.

The white stuff just keeps falling. I am wiping my computer screen and keyboard every few seconds; and I'll tell you right now, there is no easy way to type with gloves on. The guy next to me has a cheesehead on and there is a good two inches of snow on top of it. There are snowballs flying around and this crowd is lit up. The guy in front of me, his half-time beer froze solid, so now he's licking it like a Popsicle. Everywhere people are basking in this incredible experience.

Dang, Brett Favre just threw a snowball at another player. How great is that in the middle of a playoff game?

Those who doubted the Packers because of their youth, forgot to consider that with some early successes by Favre and the team and then the snow, this whole thing turned into a kid's game. And who better to play in the snow than a bunch of kids?

Of course Seattle coach Mike Holmgren doesn't look like he's having a lot of fun over on the sideline. He's old; not a kid. He's probably kicking himself for ever leaving Green Bay. But aside from him and all the guys in the Seahawk uniforms, there's not another old person in this place; everybody's having fun, everybody's a kid tonight.

Gbaja-Biamila and Jenkins just sacked Matt Hassleback. Fun for them; not so fun for Hassleback. Matt's team's got the ball, but I doubt that they're going to score. He's probably thinking he would rather still be sitting on the bench on the Packer's sideline waiting for Brett Favre to get hurt than on his back in the snow under Cullen Jenkins and about a thousand points behind.

Things are starting to wind down. The Packers will be going to the NFC Championship game next Sunday! This place is just going crazy. I doubt these cheeseheads will be going home any time soon, they'll probably have to turn the lights out to get any of us out of here.

And why would anyone want to leave? We just experienced what we all love and dream about. A great playoff game; in the snow; in January; in Lambeau. It has been a blast. It has been everything we all had hoped it would be; and a bunch of touchdowns more. Favre pulled some stumbling magic, Grant hurdled tacklers, Jennings caught big passers, Driver eluded the defense for some big yards...this place is going nuts.

No matter where you were today, you didn't have as much fun as Packer fans did.

And nope, I don't think anyone will be going home for quite awhile.

Go Giants!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Belichick No Coach of the Year in Lombardi's NFL

So some people think that New England Patriot coach, Bill Belicheat, is the NFL Coach of the Year, huh? Awards here, honors there, recognition, accolades, adulation.

Oh, OK; I see how it is.

I also see how it isn't.

For posterity's sake, let's review a bit here, how Mr. Belicheat had his pathetic lackeys go into stadium after stadium, season after season, and video tape the opposing team's defensive coordinator's signals. Then they would go home and study them at length so that when those signals were given during a game, the cheating coaches would have them memorized and know what the defense was doing and could counter-act it with a strategic offensive play. The whole league knew about it. Belicheat's chumps were even escorted out of Lambeau Field the last time the Cheatriots came to Green Bay for this very thing. It was common knowledge, and such despicable, low-life behavior, that eventually somebody dropped a dime on them to the NFL front offices.

And sure enough, it didn't take long for investigating NFL officials to catch Belicheat with his pants down; he was at it again the very first game. Or did you think the NFL just sort of stumbled upon a rare, erroneous decision, that the Cheatriot coaching staff just happened to barely, and almost accidentally, just step out of bounds a tad? Nope, it wasn't like that. The NFL was there to see if Belicheat would indeed sink so low as to actually cheat to try to win an NFL contest, and he proved who he was on the NFL's first observation in his very first opportunity.

So the Cheatriots had an amazing year. And why not? They should have! If your coaches had studied, over and over again, the video images of every signal of every opponent's defensive calls, regardless of when some copies might have eventually been confiscated, don't you think your coaches would be successful in calling offensive plays against those teams?

It's pretty sad considering that guys like Randy Moss and Tom Brady are talented enough to compete without daddys-little-helpers, but there is no way their accomplishments will stand alone, outside of Belicheat's tarnished shadow.

Go ahead and try to convince yourself that they only got caught cheating for one game, that it was early on and that there was no benefit for the team for the rest of the year. While you are at that, then go ahead and explain how Belicheat and his lackeys are going to forget overnight all they learned from their years of unethically studying their opponent's signals. Ya, they are going to forget it right after the Jets game when they got caught. Sure they are. Sure they did. Their vast and intimate understanding of their opponent's signals in no way benefited the Cheatriots at all this year. Right.

Only someone with an extreme case of cranial-rectal inversion syndrome will believe that. Of course any region that would elect a whack like Ted Kennedy to the Senate two-hundred elections in a row, probably suffers from an epidemic of this syndrome. How else would one say that the Cheatriots in no way benefited this year from all the studied information its coaches gathered over the years?

So Bill Belicheat demonstrated what type of character he has: he is a common cheat. I'm wondering, if he were married, would he also cheat on his wife? And if he did, should he then be named Husband of the Year, too? When Bill Clinton cheated on his wife, did all those who support Belicheat as Coach of the Year now, cast their votes, then, for Clinton to be named Husband of the Year? Because what both Bills have in common is that according to their actions, both individuals are integrity-challenged human beings, regardless of how either one manipulated or cajoled their way to apparent 'success'.

So what, you say? Who cares? What, after all, is integrity? What does that have to do with football? If integrity is not already in your vocabulary, and if you have to wonder what it has to do with football, it's no wonder guys like the above-mentioned Mr. Chappaquaddick continually get re-elected to Washington. And you never heard of a man named Vince Lombardi.

Why don't you do this...why don't you consider if Vince Lombardi cheated on other teams like Belicheat has. Then consider how many times you think Lombardi taught his Green Bay Packer players to cheat like Belicheat has, by his own example.

Do you think Lombardi instructed and taught his players how to cheat? Do you think Lombardi endorsed cheating? Is that how Lombardi teams became successful? Or was it because he emphasized hard work, discipline, dedication, effort, will, and doing the right thing perfectly all the time?

And now consider what Vince Lombardi would say to Bill Belicheat if Lombardi found out that Belicheat was cheating, like he does, against the Packers... think about that one for a long time. For Belicheat certainly would have spied on Lombardi if he would have had the chance.

In Vince Lombardi, Jr.'s, What It Takes to be #1, some of Coach Lombardi's football philosophy is outlined. In one standard, Run to Win, Lombardi says, "Set a high standard for your team and keep that standard out in front where all can see it." What kind of standard has Belicheat set for his team? Should Belicheat come up with his own standard, Cheat to Win and post it for everyone to see?

Another says, Try to Win Them All -- But Play By the Rules: "Games are fun only because there are rules and referees. Football without rules would be an athletic riot; the stock exchange without rules would be an entrepreneurial riot." That's what Lombardi understood and stood for. That's what he did and what he taught his players. Nowhere in there does Lombardi endorse cheating the way Belicheat does by his own under-handed actions.

So what is it in Bill Belicheat that is lacking that makes him think it is fair to the other teams that he does something that they all, by rule, are not allowed to do? What is lacking is a moral compass, an inner guide that tells him to choose the right instead of the wrong. He knew that he was taking unfair advantage of all those other teams but he did it anyway. And then he looked each coach in the eye after the contest and shook hands, all the while knowing he had ripped off the other coach and taken unfair advantage over him.

I don't know what they call such a snake where you live, but where I live they call such lowlifes 'scumbags'.

So what are we to do with this? How should the league respond? How should the media respond? How should Americans respond? Oh, I know, how about naming this man Coach of the Year!?

Yup, I see how it is.

And I see how it isn't.

It isn't about integrity, effort, discipline, or character or right and wrong. It isn't about all the positive social values and good things that guys like Lombardi and Landry and Shula and Stram stood for. It isn't about being upright or responsible. It's about being outlaw-punk; like being a slippery, slimy, underhanded thief, and getting away with whatever you can until some authority can manage to stop you. And then have them hand you a crown.

This kind of garbage has no place in the National Football League. In the early 1960's Green Bay Packer Paul Horning was suspended for a season because he bet on NFL games, although not on his team or in games he was involved in. His actions had no effect on the outcome of a contest.

How much more severe is Belicheat's absolutely flagrant actions where the outcome of games WAS in the balance!! This cheat should have been banned from the league for life! He stabbed every coach in the NFL directly in the back, but NOBODY SEEMS TO CARE.

If this is what football has become, and it is acceptable to Americans, and they don't see that imps should not be made heroes; if they can reward cheating by giving honors to quarterbacks, receivers or coaches who all benefitted for years by a cheating system, then the NFL Championship trophy should no longer bear the name of Vince Lombardi, because it has become shameful to his name and everything Lombardi represented.

Maybe they should start calling the Super Bowl trophy the Vegas trophy, or the Paris Hilton trophy, where shame is not an issue or a problem.

Maybe they should start calling the Coach of the Year the Gangsta of the Year, whoever gets away with the most wins.

Because if the league, the media or New England fans think that fans from the rest of the country have overlooked Bill Belicheat's cheating ways and swept it under the carpet as they themselves have, they are dead, dead wrong.

The league should have axed him. The New England Cheatriot organization should have fired him. There's nothing that resembles patriotism about keeping a traitor. Belicheat should have at least resigned had he a single molecule of self-respect. But as long as he is around, unrepentant, lacking integrity, and still prospering from his cheating program, the rest of the country despises him, his New England Cheatriots, and everybody associated with the team.



Friday, January 4, 2008

13-3 = Not-So-Frozen Tundra

Four and twelve; there goes the coach. Eight and eight; OK, we broke even, but we've got to make some changes. Ten and six; wow, we have a shot at making the playoffs, depending on who beats who. Such are January expressions from years-past heard throughout the frozen tundra of the Green Bay Packer nation.

We could drop some names and go back a little further. We could mention people's names that are associated with extremely painful times, like David Whitehurst, Randy Wright, Eddie Lee Ivory, Rich Campbell. And how about this one: Tony Mandrich! Such memories almost bring to life the haunting chills of what post-season Januarys once were to cheeseheads; their team as cold, lifeless and dormant as a frozen Hayward, WI. resort.

You know what that is like, how things are outside, in the dead of winter. Everything is unmoving and still; there is no visible evidence of life; you are left just to endure the conditions at hand, with little or no hope that anything will change any time soon.

The deep-freeze before you is a howling mockery of memories of sunshine and glory; and you know that such times are gone. You know that rather than to hope for good things to happen, all you can do is settle for how things are. Maybe you'll go punch a hole in the lake and go ice-fishing, for you've got no choice but to adapt. Yes, a lifeless team is like the dead of winter in the frozen tundra: bitter, cold, unrelenting, and hopeless.

But did someone say thirteen and three? For real? The Green Bay Packers are thirteen and three? Well, the mercury just rose throughout the land of cheese. A lot. In fact it is almost a heat-wave, regardless of the hard-working snow-plows that pass by your house.

And names like Driver, Jennings, Jones, Grant and Robinson create unusual images for a domain normally locked in an Arctic-chill; they are almost palm-tree like icons growing on the Lambeau turf in the heart of January -- a most un-ordinary spectacle. For not only do they significantly bite back at the chill, but they are inspiring reminders that something green and thriving not only grows now, but will continue to grow in just a few short months ahead.

And for the first time in a decade, perhaps only the second or third time in a generation, Green Bay Packer fans can actually be comfortably optimistic about the current status of the team, as well as its position for the future -- and this is with or without Brett Favre.

Thirteen and three means that the frozen tundra will not be as frozen this year. The winter will not be as long. Regardless of how the Packers fare in the upcoming playoffs, it has been a great year and the status is that things are good. Very good.

And rather than shuffling through the snow out onto a frozen lake to help get through a cold, dreary weekend, there are probably quite a few cheeseheads who might be found out in their back yards on some Sunday afternoons this January - grilling brats instead. Albeit, while wearing mittens.