- John Anderson, SportsCenter anchor
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The city of Green Bay, Wis., is fortunate to have two prestigious nicknames attached to it -- TitleTown USA and Toilet Paper Capital of the World.
I'm certain, based on its 12 NFL championships and a nearly equal number of tissue mills lining the Fox River to supply America's bathrooms, that neither claim can be seriously challenged by another municipality. But space on Green Bay's city limit signs allows only so much room for civic pride, and thus football gets first billing.
It also gets a lot of play in the local Yellow Pages, as TitleTown is used in the name of no fewer than 27 businesses.
The business of arguing anything in sports is all about perspective.
Having held season tickets to Packers games since before I was a student at Vincent T. Lombardi Junior High School, my perspective of Green Bay comes from Section 104, Row 51, Seats 35-36 at Lambeau Field.
From this lofty perch, I can see the famous stadium's façade that lists 13 of the Packers' 21 Hall of Famers (14 and 22 when Brett Favre's time comes) as well as the years of each of those 12 championship seasons: 1929, '30, '31, '36, '39, '44, '61, '62, '65, '66, '67 and '96.
There is a mystique that goes with all that winning, as well as a windchill: The Ice Bowl; Frozen Tundra; Favre's visible breath as he shouted out signals on a December Sunday afternoon. Winter has done wonders to make Green Bay famous.
And though the sheer volume of snow, world titles, legendary players and coaches (the Super Bowl trophy is named after our coach, for goodness' sakes) in franchise history are enough to ensure Green Bay's rightful place as TitleTown USA, the case is far more complex.
The green and golden age of the Packers under Lombardi serendipitously coincided with the growth of television. A combination that both grew the National Football League into a power and changed the way this country spent its Sundays.
Under the NFL's old blackout rules that prevented showing the home team's home games in its home market, those fans instead usually got to watch the powerhouse team from the little town in northeast Wisconsin. The Packers were gaining fans from across the United States as they pummeled opponent after opponent. TV in the '60s helped reinforce Green Bay as TitleTown, and the perception continues to this day.
Recounting a conversation I've had a thousand times in my life:
Stranger: "Where are you from?"
Anderson: "Green Bay, Wisconsin."
Stranger: "You must be a big Packers fan."
It's why the smallest city to boast a professional sports franchise (pop. 100,353) doesn't suffer from a Napoleon complex or feel the insecure need to make up some sort of pseudo-sovereign state. Listen, Boston, when you have fans all over the nation, there is no need to declare yourself one -- although Red Sox Nation does sound a lot better than Beantown!
As for New York, it chose to cast its nickname lot with the Big Apple and the City that Doesn't Sleep.
Wake up, Gotham, all those baseball pennants are nice, but baseball, still archaically referred to as the national pastime, has become passé. The NFL dwarfs MLB in popularity, and the Packers continue to be one of the league's most popular teams along with it.
Besides, which team are you rooting for? Are you rooting for the Yankees, Mets, Knicks, Rangers, Islanders, Giants and Jets (and the latter two teams actually play in New Jersey)?
Same goes for Chicago and Los Angeles. Where's your allegiance?
Green Bay's has been with the Packers since 1919. To outsiders, we might be a one-horse town of cheese-wedge-wearing simpletons, but we're also simply a one-team town.
1hMichael C. Wright