The legend lives on
There’s an old Green Bay Packer story and it goes like this:
A man dies, goes to heaven and upon arrival has his interview with St. Peter.
“What do you like to do?” St. Pete inquires.
The new arrival thinks about it. “Well, I’m a huge football fan and I like to watch it every chance I get.”
“You’re in luck.” St. Peter tells him. “There’s a game going on right now, let’s go have a look.”
They get to the playing field and the players are just starting to warm up. There’s a bunch of guys on one side wearing red uniforms with horns on their helmets, and a bunch of guys on the other side in white uniforms with halos on their helmets. After a time, St. Peter asks the man, “Well how do you like it so far?”
“I like it just great, I can see that the team in red represents the devils, while the team in white represents the angels. Just one question though. Who’s the bearded guy in the white sweatshirt and clipboard, the one with the large VL printed on his sweatshirt?”
St. Peter laughs. “Oh, that’s just Jesus Christ. He thinks he’s Vince Lombardi.”
Not just a legend… a “Storied” Legend!
Being a lifelong Wisconsin resident, I like most other Wisconsin residents am a loyal fan of our beloved Green Bay Packers. The legendary franchise, though located in the smallest population center in the league, has had one of the most knowledgeable and loyal fan bases throughout its history.
During the football season endless debate and chatter regarding their beloved “Pack” can be heard at any Wisconsin tavern, social club, ice fishing hole or dinner table. Dads, moms and kids, from early on, learn about the players, coaches, positions and habits of those who make up the “green and gold”. To many women an “edge rusher” may sound like an accessory to a dinette, but many Wisconsin women understand this term for a particular specialist on defense. These people take their football seriously.
And Packer fans are by no means limited to Wisconsin. Go to any “away” game at any NFL stadium and you are likely to see as many fans wearing the “green and gold” as those wearing the colors of the home team. Moreover, the Green Bay Packers have an international following as well, with huge numbers of fans all around the world. Lambeau Field’s magic is worldwide.
An Off year
This (2018) has been a tough year for the Packers and their fans. Starting out with a new General Manager and defensive coordinator, it seemed the Packers had a good chance to make another run to the top. However, the season quickly turned to mush, with injuries to Rodgers and poor performance on both sides of the ball. In one dismal game the veteran kicker, Mason Crosby, missed four field goals.
By the end of the season many of the green and gold faithful were calling for heads to roll, and roll they did. The first two to go were players who botched critical assignments. But the losses kept piling up and many people felt that Mike McCarthy, the long time Packer head coach, needed to go. Sure enough, after an embarrassing loss to another subpar team in the Arizona Cardinals, McCarthy was given the axe.
More than a few have come and gone
Now those of us who’ve been around awhile have seen the comings and goings of more than a few head coaches in Green Bay. After Vince Lombardi left, several head coaches held the job, rather unsuccessfully until Bart Star, (Lombardi’s own quarterback) stepped in. Bart did a fair job and held the position for several years until he too was replaced.
Some of the head coaches brought in were colorful, others dull. Forest Gregg, one of the legendary offensive linemen from the Lombardi era, wore the cap for a time. He was notable for his famous “snarling” demeanor along the sidelines, as well as his long feud with the equally temperamental Chicago Bear legend and coach, Mike Ditka.
Not until Mike Holmgren took over in 1992, would the Packers see any semblance of success similar to the Lombardi years. And success they did see, with a hot young quarterback in Brett Favre, a great defense led by Reggie White, the Packers went right back to the top playing in two more Super Bowls, one of which they won.
After Holmgren left the Packers, they went through a few more coaches with poor to moderate success until the arrival of Mike McCarthy. With another hot young quarterback in Arron Rodgers, McCarthy and staff went right back to the top, winning another Super Bowl and many divisional championships. But with Rodgers ailing, and some questionable game calling decisions these past few years, things went sour and McCarthy found himself on the outside looking in. A new search is underway and the rumor mill is in full throttle speculating on just who that may be.
At the game…
I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve been able to attend many Green Bay Packer games over the years. Back in the day, my (much) older brother John always had tickets to the Green Bay Packers Shrine game. At that time the Packers split their home games between Lambeau Field in Green Bay and County Stadium in Milwaukee. Being a baseball park, County Stadium was not optimal for a football game but it was still a good time for those of us who could go.
Later, working in engineering and procurement for various industries in the area, I received many complimentary tickets to sporting events. Packer games were always at the top of the list and I went every chance I had. I was often able to include friends and family members on these outings.
My son Billy surprised me with tickets to the Green Bay/Detroit game in Detroit when the newly opened Ford Field made its debut. We had a great time, but walking back to our car several blocks away in a bad section of town was a bit tense, to say the least.
My brother John treated Billy and I to a Dallas Cowboy/Green Bay Packer game down in Dallas where he lives, on two occasions. Another time he came up to Wisconsin and a bunch of us went to a Packer/Cowboy game at Lambeau Field in a stretch limo.
In one memorable game, when unfortunately, the Packers lost to the Minnesota Vikings, Randy Moss mooned Packer fans in the end zone, rubbing salt in the wound. My daughter and I attended a Packer/Viking playoff game several years later and the Packers beat the pants off the Vikings……sweet revenge!
In another game I fondly recall we were tailgating in the Lambeau parking lot and happened to be near the spot where the old Lombardi years Packer great Fuzzy Thurston regularly parked his car. Sure enough, in comes Fuzzy, who parks his car and banters with us for a time before heading into the stadium. Great dude. (RIP)
My lifelong friend George was with us at one of the County Stadium games in Milwaukee many years ago. George was a great athlete in his time and very knowledgeable in all sports. I don’t remember who the Packers were playing, but I distinctly remember the incident and the Packer player involved. One thing about County Stadium, you could be very close to the action on the field, depending on where the play was at any given time. The player involved, Dave Pureifory was a defensive lineman for the Packers who played through most of the 1970’s and very early 1980’s.
Dave was a player, that Lombardi would never have tolerated. He had tremendous physical skills and talent, but he also had a reputation for being lazy. On this particular day, Dave was getting killed. The receivers were blowing him off like popcorn, making big plays all day. My buddy George steamed and yelled and finally had enough. He stood up, cupped his hands over his mouth and yelled at the top of his lungs, “Play em tighter Pureifory, they’re killing you.” Well, old Pureifory actually turned and looked up at George. And from then on out, he tightened up his game and got burned not once. Everyone around us couldn’t get over that happening and George never paid for another beer that day. We still joke about that now and again.
The search continues….
The Packers have had several people in to interview in the past week or so. The front office is playing things pretty close to the vest as always, but the internet chat boards are buzzing away, and will do so until the next “Saint Vince” is signed and brought on board. Let’s hope he’s a chip off the old block!
NOTE: On Jan 7, 2019 the Packers announced the hiring of Matt LeFleur as their next head coach. Good luck Matt!
Update: Matt LaFleur has proven to be a very good coach. The Packers had a great 2020 season and post season, tomorrow’s game against Tampa Bay determines if they will go on to another Superbowl. GO PACK!!
2022 Update: The Pack had another good year, made the playoffs, but not quite good enough to go all the way. Rodgers has a new contract, making him the highest paid QB in the NFL. Should have a couple more good years with him.
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