Commentary

Pack mentality

Originally Published: February 2, 2011
By Rick Reilly | ESPN.com

Packers FanLeon Halip/Getty ImagesHow can you hate on the Green Bay Packers? Their fans, despite being cheeseheads, are loyal.

You root for the Green Bay Packers in this Super Bowl because Steelers fans want their team to win but Packers fans need their team to win. They need it like air.

The football stadium can fit 72 percent of the town inside of it. One in every 54,000 Chicagoans is a Bear, but one in 1,900 Green Bay residents is a Packer. It says "Titletown" on the city seal. The Packers are Green Bay and vice versa. Their very souls are dimpled pigskin.

You root for the Packers in this Super Bowl because Green Bay is the last little town to keep its team. It's right.

You root for the Packers in this Super Bowl because most of the hotels in Green Bay are sold out for the game. Yes, hotels in Green Bay are sold out for a game in Dallas. "I got people from all over the country coming to watch the game at my bar," says Jerry Watson, who owns Stadium View, the biggest tavern in town. "Packers fans just have to watch with other Packers fans. ... Last time we were in a Super Bowl, I came to open up in the morning and I had 1,000 people waiting to get in. At 8 a.m. I turned the lock and ran for it."

You root for the Packers in this Super Bowl because karma owes Brett Favre a very terrible Sunday for what he did to Packers fans; for what he did to the front office; for all the fake retirement press conferences and fake tears and fake posturing; for dragging Aaron Rodgers' career around through his own muddy whims. Rodgers deserved better and now he deserves this.

You root for the Packers in this Super Bowl because Green Bay is the last little town to keep its team. You want it for Decatur, Ill., which lost its team to Chicago, and Portsmouth, Ohio, which lost its to Detroit, and Pottsville. Pa., which lost its to Boston. You root for the Packers for the same reason you root for Roberto Benigni to win the Oscar or Buster Douglas to win the fight. It's right.

You root for the Packers in this Super Bowl because it's more than just Green Bay's football team. It's the blood in their veins and the asphalt under their tires. They drive down Lombardi Avenue. They speed down Holmgren Way. They park on Reggie White Way. They learn at Vince Lombardi Elementary and daydream of starring at Lambeau Field. And if they lose Sunday, there will be a line to jump off Ray Nitschke Bridge.

You root for the Packers in this Super Bowl for guys like the one on PackerForum.com writing about hearing his mom shriek downstairs and thinking she's in trouble and running down to find her in her robe and slippers shrieking in delight at the man standing in the doorway, Packers god Bart Starr, who had stopped by to drop off some gifts as thanks for the guy cutting Starr's lawn and shoveling his sidewalk this year.

You root for the Packers in this Super Bowl because being a Steelers fan is a sickness but being a Packers fan is incurable. In Green Bay, Packers gas up where you gas up, pray where you pray, eat where you eat. The players are like family, which means they get yelled at a lot. "That's the thing that's a little different here," says All-Pro Packers linebacker Clay Matthews. "If you mess up here, the lady at the grocery store will let you know."

You root for the Packers in this Super Bowl because, at the end of it, they're not giving out the Noll Trophy, they're giving out the Lombardi Trophy. Nobody on Broadway is rushing to see the hit play Cowher, but they are rushing to see the hit play Lombardi. (Over the years, though, many have gone to the one about Troy Polamalu: Hair.)

You root for the Packers in this Super Bowl because Packers fans took a taunt -- "You cheesehead!" -- and turned it into a gouda thing. In 1987, Ralph Bruno, while upholstering his mother's couch in Milwaukee, burned holes into one of the cushions, carved a hole for his head and painted it yellow. Thus, the Cheesehead product line was born. In Green Bay, you can also buy cheese top hats, cheese sombreros, cheese ties, cheese earrings, cheese footballs, cheese bricks, cheese beer cozies, cheese sunglasses, cheese flying discs and, naturally, cheese fezzes.

Do they wear steel beams in Pittsburgh?

You root for the Packers in this Super Bowl because if the Steelers left Pittsburgh there would still be the Penguins, who won the Stanley Cup in 2009, and the Pirates. True, they stink, but Albert Pujols visits all the time. If the Packers left, Green Bay's major attraction would be the L.H. Barkhausen Waterfowl Preserve. But some people would still take Packerland Drive to get there.

You root for the Packers in this Super Bowl because every now and then the game needs to have on top the little team nobody can seem to hate.

You root for the Packers in this Super Bowl because of Ouida Wright and her boyfriend, who never dreamed being homeless in Green Bay would be lucky. They were on the street when the Dallas Convention and Visitor's Bureau sent a "mystery" man out, waiting for someone to address him with the secret phrase: "Have you been to Dallas lately?" Wright heard about it, said it to the right guy and now she's going to the Big Bowl with her boyfriend. Hotel, tickets, flights--everything paid.

Yes, when they come back to Green Bay from watching the Packers play in the Super Bowl, they still won't have anywhere to live.

What's your point?


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