Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Green Bay Packers: A Celebration of Persistence and Resilience

January...time to recover from the holidays, clean the house, watch the days get longer, play in the snow, and watch playoff football. I love football! What's not to love? It's all about trying to reach the goal, overcoming obstacles, sometimes getting pushed back, changing strategy, and, with practice, skill, and a bit of luck, sometimes bursting ahead with everyone cheering you on. It's life. It's who we are. Moving forward. Never giving up.

Let me be very clear; I'm a Packers fan. I was born in Milwaukee, German and Polish heritage, third generation, I believe. I didn't live there long—we moved to California when I was six—but it stayed with me nonetheless. Gimbals department store, Quality Candy Easter cream eggs, Pabst beer (the only kind my father drank), a family bar on every corner, Friday fish fries, cheese, sausage, cold weather, piles of snow...and the Green Bay Packers, Vince Lombardi, Bart Starr, and Paul Hornung. I grew up hearing those names over and over. My father watched the games in his "man cave," which was also our garage. He'd sit there in front of his tiny black-and-white TV set with his Pabst; our boxer, Heidi, by his side, occasionally licking his empty beer glass; and I'd be running in and out, riding my bike, playing hopscotch or four-square with my friends. My father would call out, "they ran it in for a touchdown," "only two minutes left," "come, watch!"

Once I left home, I didn't think much about football, but when life settled down to an easy, comfortable rhythm, I started watching games again. By that time, Brett Favre was the quarterback. You had to love him; he made it look so easy and always looked like he was having so much fun. This Mississippi boy was known for never losing when the temperature was below 32 degrees, and when isn't it below 32 in Green Bay? Fog pouring out of the players' mouths; snow falling; fans  bundled up in parkas and scarves and mittens, hunks of fake cheese on their heads; players standing on the sideline wearing those enormous football-player capes to stay warm. It all hit a very tender spot inside me, the part of me that is still so much about Milwaukee, and I was hooked. I live in Maine now, and when the Packers game is televised here, it's a great day. My husband makes a great big pizza with lots of onions and sausage, chills the beer glasses, and we settle in to enjoy a cozy afternoon.

These days it's Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, Clay Matthews, Randall Cobb, Mike McCarthy. Sunday's game against the Cowboys couldn't have been better. Packers took a big lead early in the game, the Cowboys fought back to tie the score (twice) in the last few minutes, and Rodgers, always looking cool and calm as if he just got up off the massage table, drove the Packers down the field in the last thirty seconds, Jared Cook made the catch of his life, and Mason Crosby kicked a 51-yard field goal (twice because the Cowboys decided to ice him at the last second) to win it. Utter perfection!

We like the tough games better, the wins that require some hard work. The same is true of life. We're told to set lofty goals, have big dreams, be prepared to work hard. You don't know what you're made of unless you reach for the stars. You'll get pushed back. You'll begin to think it'll never happen. But, with lots of practice, skill, and a bit of luck, we really can find the end zone. It's who we are. Moving forward. Never giving up. That's what we celebrate when we watch football...our resilience, our persistence, our willingness to fight in the face of so much opposition. Thanks Aaron and all the guys. It means so much.

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