Boxing legend Muhammad Ali once said “It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out, it’s the pebble in your shoe”. Boy was he ever right.
For years NFL fans have been trying to overcome that imaginable pebble. Commissioner Roger Goodell’s footwear may cost a little more than it did during the irreplaceable Vince Lombardi days, but nonetheless, the Green Bay Packers have never been concerned with financial issues.
It’s been a debate that has waged on for decades -- who is “America’s Team?” Like the series finale of “Seinfeld”, folks across America have dilly-dallied in reaching an answer to this discussion for years, only to come to three delicate options that sometimes lack substance and ingenuity.
The Pittsburgh Steelers, the Dallas Cowboys, and of course, the Packers.
Those are the three options you are all left with nowadays. Whether you’re a firm believer in the Terrible Towel, or Jerry Jones’ leather wallet that appears to be bottomless, chances are you have your own opinion on this matter, and aren’t willing to let it go.
I’m here to change that, because “America’s Team” is the Green Bay Packers.
What makes me extend such a broad and seemingly unplanned statement?
Sitting in front of a computer all the way from Australia, I feel confident that Mike McCarthy’s team is the perfect choice for this nickname. Nowhere else in the world can a person fly from miles away, and be treated like an average blue-collar Joe like you can at Lambeau Field.
That’s just it, though; Green Bay fans really make this argument easy.
It’s been brewing since the dawn of time. Packer fans show up loud and proud week in and week out to root for the home team, and if the 73,128 seats of Lambeau Field are sold out, expect a record gathering beneath Curly Lambeau’s statue for a full three hours.
Then the beer flows, and the barbeques begin to sizzle.
For the record, I won’t sit here and attempt to put down the Steelers of Cowboys way of life. After all, there is a reason that Dallas devours the media’s attention 12 months a year, while at the same time Heinz Field isn’t overly loud due to a few over-priced towels in a stadium that is on the peak of the Ohio Rivers.
But none of these factors can outmuscle Green Bay.
If the fans don’t sell you at first, then the history surely will. The Packers have 21 members in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and trail the Chicago Bears for second most in the league. The illustrious montage includes the well-known names like quarterback Bart Starr and defensive end Reggie White, but it is also the players that some fans don’t recognize that adds even more character to the team.
Linebacker Ray Nitschke is one of them.
Okay, so most NFL fans would be able to tell you a thing or two about Nistchke. Would they be able to offer up a solid argument as to why he is often overlooked as one of the most dominating linebackers in league history? Probably not.
This is another reason why Packer fans are great.
To some, argumentative supporters are often deemed arrogant. Talk to any true Packer fan however, and you will automatically realize the time spent in analyzing, criticizing and memorizing each and every snap the Packers have undertaken.
Maybe that’s why tight end Jermichael Finley and linebacker Nick Barnett were so disappointed when being left out of the Packers scheduled Super Bowl photo. As exclusion from such a tight-knit team seems unforgiveable.
Still, the Packers have always chosen to keep it simple.
Speaking of simplicity, the Packers have never amounted to the glitz and glamour that comes with being a Cowboys fan. A Jessica Simpson – Aaron Rodgers romance? Never in your wildest dreams. Even more to the point, Green Bay are one of few teams to have stuck with their trademark end zone font, which is primarily a bright shade of yellow.
Then there are the quirky sides that come with being a Packer backer. Cheeseheads, shares in the teams stock and of course a local knowledge of bars and restaurants is key to becoming a part of G-Force.
None of that is hard to become an expert on, either.
Recently, people have become fond of saying “Even if the Packers went 0-16, Lambeau Field would still be sold out”. This if of course true. Needless to say, though, don’t ever expect to see a wave of paper-bags and verbally abusive signs appear, similar to the sight seen in Cowboys Stadium during November.
The Packers have won three Super Bowls; they’ve also won 12 league championships. Pittsburgh matches Green Bay word for word in this department, and realistically has the upper hands as far as hardware is concerned.
With that aside, the Packers are “America’s Team”. Nowhere else in the league will you find fans as passionate, players as devoted and most of all, money a non-issue.
Green Bay may not sell the most merchandise, heck; they may not even have the biggest stadium. In a fast-paced, cash-hungry society, maybe that’s what makes the Packers unique at the end of the day.
Want an example of a true Packer fan?
Research a guy named “St. Vince”. Basically his whole life has been dedicated to Green Bay football and dressing as some kind of Pope like figure. Not that this is anything unusual in one of America’s most devoted football cities.
14 years of this man’s life have been dedicated to his beloved team. Along with money, and an outfit that he once thought of as controversial when originally portraying the idea.
To quote Ali once again,
“Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even”
Packer players ride children's bikes too and from preseason practice. The Cowboys simply head back to the locker room and proceed to sit in front of a voice recorder.
Green Bay lost in the Wild Card round to the Arizona Cardinals in 2009, 51-45. Defeat was crushing, but it may turn out to be the best medicine for a team looking to strive in Jerry Jones’ playground in a weeks’ time.
Ryan Cook is an Australian author for Acme Packing Company, and a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He is also a guest writer on PackerChatters, and a contributing writer to Detroit Lions Talk, Gack Sports and Sports Haze.