May 23, 2019

Bleeding green and gold

When the Chicago Bears’ third-string quarterback Caleb Hanie, trying to engineer an historic comeback against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC championship game, tossed the football toward the middle of the field on 4th-and-5 with less than a minute to go in the game, a torrent of thoughts ran through my head.

He can’t possibly complete this pass, can he? Not even a movie script writer would be audacious enough to try to sell this story. He’s a third-stringer for God’s sakes! What the heck is a Caleb Hanie anyways? A person with a name like that cannot possibly lead a comeback against the Pack. Oh well, at least it wouldn’t be that pansy Jay Cutler engineering victory.

Your thoughts tend to become quite petty when the team you’ve rooted for since your youth becomes involved.

Fortunately for my sanity, Packer rookie cornerback Sam Shields caught his second interception of the game, securing the win and the NFC championship for the Green Bay Packers.

How on earth did this writer, someone who was born and bred in Fresno/Clovis, Calif., become a Green Bay Packer fan? Glad you asked.
The first NFL moment I remember is Super Bowl XXXI, Packers vs. Patriots. The Packers, of course, won. I, being seven years old, became intrigued.

I loved the swagger that Brett Favre carried himself with. My dad waxed eloquently about the history of the Pack — Lombardi, Starr, Nitschke, Hornung, Taylor and the rest of the Packer legends — and that drew me even more toward the team.

When a family member bought me a Cheesehead, I was hooked.

The next year, when the Packers played the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl, I sat in front of my grandma’s television and cried as Favre’s 4th-down pass fell incomplete and John Elway celebrated his first Super Bowl.

Once you cry for a team, you know you are hooked. In 2004, I got to go to Lambeau Field in Green Bay, and met Hall-of-Fame linebacker Dave Robinson, who played for the ‘60s Packers. I got his autograph and I got to wear his Super Bowl ring. It was one of the coolest experiences ever.

One of my favorite stories about Robinson comes from the famed Ice Bowl game in 1967 where the Packers played the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL championship game.

It was freezing out there, so Vince Lombardi, the Packer coach, ordered his players not to wear gloves to keep their hands warm, because they might cause them to drop a pass. Robinson, who is African-American, told the trainer to give him brown gloves, because Lombardi would never tell the difference.

There are many funny stories from the Lombardi era. Lombardi was a great coach, but he was also a master disciplinarian. Thus, his players went to great lengths to evade the wrath of Lombardi.

Lombardi did not like his players eating sweets during the season. One player was eating ice cream when he saw Lombardi. He quickly shoved the ice cream into his pocket rather than having his fiery coach see him with it.

On Feb. 6, 2011, when the Packers take on the Pittsburgh Steelers to see who will win the aptly-named Vince Lombardi trophy, you can bet I will be watching. But for my sanity, let’s hope that it isn’t Charlie Batch, the Steelers’ third-string quarterback, who’s engineering a comeback against the Pack.

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