As summer winds down to a slow, hot, steamy grind, I am reminded that the inevitable is around the corner. No, I’m not talking about the start of school, even though I can feel it breathing it’s stinky, garlic breath down the back my neck, and I’m not talking about the cooler temperatures of autumn, which frankly, I love and welcome. I’m talking about the start of the football season.
My first memories of football are good ones, although at times they were somewhat startling as well. My very first memories of football are of my father watching the Green Bay Packers on the television set. That’s what it was back in the 60’s and 70’s. It was a television set. And no, there weren’t two of them, just one. One television would, in fact, be a set on its own, because they were that important. Nowadays, people don’t have television sets; they don’t even have TVs. They have flat screens. “Honey, wanna rent a movie on the flat screen?” “What on-demand show are you watching on the flat screen?” (We are so spoiled it is horrid.) And frankly, cool people don’t even have those flat screens. Cool people watch television on their computers, because they have the technology and know-how. I don’t have those.
My father would watch the Packers on “the set” on Sundays while he polished his shoes. He would sit in his Lazyboy with a Miller High Life, the champagne of beers. Newspapers would be placed on the floor, and tins of polish and brushes would surround him. (Side note, the smell of shoe polish always brings me instantly and magically back to Sunday afternoons. It’s too bad people don’t polish shoes anymore. Now, if shoes get scuffed, we throw them away. Our generation sucks.) During these afternoons, it would be inevitable that we Woodworth children would be startled out our game of Operation not from that freakishly annoying buzzer (the wishbone…always the wishbone!!!) but rather from my father either cheering/clapping, or stomping his feet/cursing. This would happen throughout the game. From, “Go! Run! Yeah!!!!” to, “Goddamn it! Come on Ref!” his emotions would run the gamut. I understand this is not necessarily that uncommon in most households of television sports fans, especially homes that followed the Packers during the past five decades. (Lots of cheering in the 60’s, then swearing in the 70’s, then more swearing in the 80’s and more cheering in the 90’s etc.)
Currently my home is one of a television sports fan, so my daughter is used to her father cheering and/or cursing at the television. (She has figured out to not play Operation during these times. She’s smarter than I am.) It is always fun to watch her friend’s reactions however. Yesterday her buddy Meghan was over; the girls were painting fingernails on the deck and Kriner was watching the Brewers on the flat screen. Meg was startled (and most likely had to redo that particular nail) when Kriner started clapping loudly and shouting “YA! YA! GO!” and then, 8 minutes later “BOO!!!!! BOO!!!!! Why did you DO that? WHAT were you THINKING?!!!” It’s clear that Meghan doesn’t come from a sports television home. Her face, full of astonishment and amusement, was adorable, as if she couldn’t believe that a grown-man could care that much about something on TV.
My first real football game I ever went to was a Badger game, which kind of set me up for a lifetime of football disappointment because it was so incredibly awesome and fun! No other football game can live up to a Badger game, especially if you aren’t a big fan of football. Why? Because it isn’t just a football game – it’s a spectacle. Marching bands, student rituals, stadium chants, booze getting passed around, tubas walking through the stadium, there are sing-alongs for Pete’s sake! Seriously, I could write a blog post just on Badger Football games, they are so fun, this coming from a gal who doesn’t really love football. So yeah, for a 12 year old girl, sitting dangerously close to the student section, it was mind-blowing. I don’t remember anything about the football game itself, but my big take away was that Section O sucks. I know this because it was chanted throughout the game. I won’t fill you in on what O had to say to section Q. It would be too rude to type, but for a pre-pubescent girl trying desperately to be cool, it was heaven.
I went through a phase in the late 90’s when I too jumped on the Packer bandwagon and watched them religiously with my husband who was insane and cared WAY TOO MUCH about the Favre era. He was known as a die-hard Packer fan. In fact, after a particularly painful and heart-breaking loss, a reporter from the local newspaper called him to get a reaction. Seriously. He was quoted in the paper. “’Well, that was a tough defeat, but you know what? I’m already looking forward to a good draft pick.’ said Packer Fan Jeff Kriner.” He was identified in the paper as a Packer Fan. Seriously.
Kriner isn’t an insane Packer fan anymore. Mike McCarthy ruined that. He ruined it good. See, the one thing about Kriner is that he is (to a fault) ridiculously loyal to those he loves. If you make your way into his inner circle, it’s for life. He doesn’t have a lot of people in his circle. There are just a handful of us: me, Emily, Jeremy O., a few band mates and Brett Favre. That’s it. So you can imagine how Kriner felt when Favre wasn’t allowed back into the Packers. Remember, Favre retired, then admitted he made a mistake, and wanted to come back. He wasn’t allowed to. Kriner was torn. He loved the Packers, but Favre was in the circle. It nearly broke him. To make matters worse, the Packers organization hired Ari Fleischer (White house Press Secretary for George Bush) as a “PR consultant” (a.k.a. spin doctor) to make Favre look evil with a nasty smear campaign that unfortunately worked really well. Kriner also loves an underdog, so this move just sealed the deal. Don’t get me wrong, I adore Aaron Rogers, in fact I have a mighty crush on that young man, but Ari Fleischer? Really? Was that necessary?
Since then, Kriner has cared a bit less about football and the Packers. It’s a bit sad to tell you the truth. It’s as if Mike McCarthy spat in his beer. If a game is blacked out, he’ll shrug. He might go to Jeremy O’s to watch a game in the “Packershack” but he might not. (And yes, Jeremy O. has a separate building on his property devoted to the Packers. It’s decorated in yellow and green, full of Packer memorabilia and even has AstroTurf instead of carpet.)
Recently, the Packers announced they would be retiring Favre’s number. At least that’s a bit of closure. Who knows, maybe one day Kriner might buy a Rodger’s jersey. But I can tell you one thing for sure, Mike McCarthy will never be invited over for dinner, and if, by some miracle he is and shows up, Kriner might spit in his beer.