THE MOST UNLIKELY PLACE TO BE WEARING THE GREEN AND GOLD
Hopes had been high with many prognosticators giving the Pack a nod to being potential Super Bowl candidates but after ten games with only four wins the swirling whirlpool of enthusiasm that had greeted the beginning of the 2016 season was quickly and painfully being sucked into the vortex of despair. As much as most of us Packer fans kept repeating the mantra of Relax, Relax, Relax there was really only one who truly believed in those five remarkable letters that formed his mantra, Aaron Rogers. By now we should all know never to discount the magic of Aaron the magnificent?
I have to confess that I’m not good when the Pack is losing or when the game is close. I’m not made for this kind of excitement. A heart attack may only be a fumble or an interception away. I’ve gotten so nervous over a game I’ve had to turn the TV set off or suffer the indignity of having my family come in to find me dead on the floor and night games are the worst: win or lose. My heart rate gets so elevated it can take hours of incantations to sooth the pain and a whole new set of pacts with God to bargain for an hour of sleep.
So last Sunday as the sky was fading from a soft gray to an inky black it was the comeback Pack that had made it all the way into the play-offs and we were facing a 4:30pm kick-off against the number one seed, Dallas Cowboys. The Pack had come back from a four-six season mid-season slump to an eleven-six record with seven straight wins. Remarkable, although completely nail-biting.
Madison was gearing up with bar space at a premium and theaters making their screens available for a standing room only crowd viewing of the game. Unfortunately, I wasn’t in Madison. No, I was in New York. Even though this was going to be a nationally televised game and I could sit at home, alone, in front of my own TV I figured I’d need more moral support than I could find there on my couch.
I got there at two-thirty. I forgot how popular the Packers are in a city the size of New York. What I hadn’t planned on was that tickets to get in had sold out weeks ago. There was apparently much more I needed to learn about the popularity of the Kettle of Fish and the Packers. There were maybe another thirty people in the same sinking boat I was in hoping to persuade the lady at the front door to let them in. She was tough and no one was getting past her without a prepaid ticket for an opportunity to be serenaded with a horsy rendition of “The Bears Still Suck” by the Packer faithful.
Festooned with green and gold helium filled balloons was another packed crowd ready to guzzle real beers and root, root, root for the Packers. There wasn’t a Cowboy in sight, well not a Dallas Cowboy.
I found a stool in a corner right off the entrance where I could watch swarms of dykes in spiked hair, boys in muscle shirts, drag queens in theatrical makeup and Packer fans in Rogers and Matthews jerseys most all of them coming in to watch the big screen and cheer for the Packers. It was a tough crowd and as it turned out the bar was just as tough. I’m not a drinker so in here I wasn’t initially feeling too self-conscience about swaggering up to the bar and asking for a sarsaparilla. The bartender in a tight tee and manicured three-day beard on his youthful face looked at me and said I wasn’t going to find much in the way of drinks that don’t involve alcohol. He did manage to dig up a five-dollar can of pineapple juice. I tipped him an extra five thanking him for disguising my drink with enough garnish to make it look as if it had alcohol in it.
There were about five small screens spread out through the bar and two mega screens on the back wall that had probably been there for a decade or more. The resolution and color quality were about what you’d expect to be seeing after a half dozen shots with a dozen beer chasers. It really didn’t matter. The crowd was totally pro Pack and even though none of us sang the Chicago stinks song there was a brother and sissyhood that bound us all. We watched as the Pack rose and fell and rose again until the last second field goal that sealed the deal. We cheered and waved our arms and spilled beer over each other. I could barely walk out. I was shaking with an adrenalin rush verging on my demise but the thrill of the win was worth the cost of a few less years on earth. I’m already preparing my bargaining chips with the football god to give us one more win.
On Sunday it’ll be Atlanta. I’ll be back in Madison. Go Pack Go!