Wednesday, February 9, 2011

My Take -> Super Bowl XLV Champions!

Greetings, G-Force.

I went to my 1st game in December of 1982. I remember it vividly. My Mom & Dad took my brother, Chad, & I to Lambeau Field to take on the Detroit Lions. The Packers were in the thick of the NFC Central race. I remember my Dad telling us about the Lions RB, Billy Sims, & their best WR, Freddie Scott. Not knowing any better, I thought it was cool that I shared a name with Freddie Scott. Foolishly, I asked if I should cheer for him if he scored. My Dad promptly educated me that we never cheer for the rival at Lambeau Field. I remember Freddie Scott scoring a TD & thinking that it would have been nice if I could have cheered for him. We were sitting in Section 22. The Packers got crushed by the Lions.

Later that year, I went to my first playoff game. The Wild Card game against the St. Louis Cardinals. James Lofton & John Jefferson had legendary performances. I remember going to McDonald's during the week after the game with the Flanagan's. Sean & I fell in love with Jefferson. When we'd play backyard football, we'd pretend to be him. Chad had fallen in love with Lofton & Paul Coffman. Chad loved Coffman so much that he mastered the down-and-out & the down-and-in routes. When we played backyard football, Sean & I couldn't stop those routes.

By 1983, I was regularly attending home games with my Mom, Dad, & Chad. When the Packers beat the Redskins in the famed MNF game, Chad & I were unable to attend due to my parents school curfew. We were supposed to be in bed at halftime. Instead, we simply shut the door to the bedroom & turned the volume down low. I remember Chad jumping up out of bed & pumping his fist after Mark Moseley missed the chip-shot FG.

By this time, every Sunday morning, Chad & I would sit outside the bathroom as my Dad would get ready in the morning. The three of us would have a weekly Fantasy Football Draft. We'd only select Green Bay Packers. Mixing Eddie Lee Ivery, Jessie Clark, Gerry Ellis, & Harlan Huckleby, we all got a RB. Combining WR & TE, we'd mix Lofton, Jefferson, Coffman & Philip Epps. Chad would normally win because he'd select Coffman first.

By 1984, we'd occasionally attend my Uncle Tim's tailgate parties. My cousin, Danny, Chad, & I would whip a football around Lambeau's parking lot. The Packers were our religion. We lived for the Bears game & the "F@ck Chicago!" shirts that were sold. We were constantly belting out "the Bears Still Suck!"

In 1985, Chad & I sat through the Snow Bowl. I was 8 years old. Today, that game would be canceled.

Fast forward to 1996. By now, I quit my summer job so I could attend the Packers practice. I went to everyone practice that was open to the public. I went to 10 regular season games. I went to the two playoff games. I went to the Super Bowl with my Uncle Pat, Aunt Kathy & Aunt Mary. Sitting next to my Uncle Pat, he famously suggested, "now, we'll find out what Champions are made of." The next play Desmond Howard returned the KO 99 yards for a TD.

In 1997, the Super Bowl was played on my 21st Birthday. I was in SD for the game with my Mom & my Dad. After the loss, beer didn't taste good.

In 1998, my Grandpa bought me stock in the Green Bay Packers. My share allows me to lay claim to franchise ownership!

Speeding ahead to 2005, I was pissed the Packers drafted Aaron Rodgers. I wanted Odell Thurman.

In 2007, after the NFC Championship, I remember sitting in the parking lot with my Mom, PatRad & Vargas. Total buzzkill. We were listening to the post-game show. When I heard Mike McCarthy speak, I was convinced that he'd bring the Packers the Super Bowl Championship. In my blog, I compared the '07 vibe to the devastation of '03. And on January 27, 2008, I wrote:

"The major difference between '03 and '07 is that I trust Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy. While in Green Bay, prior to the game, I read a terrific quote from Ted Thompson:

'The difference between winning and losing in the NFL is so small. But the emotions that are attached to them - winning and losing - are so different. When you lose, it feels as though something inside of you has died. When you win, you've never felt more alive.'

Post the loss, during Mike McCarthy's interview, Larry McCarren asked McCarthy if he'd look at this season as a successful one after the dust has settled...

And McCarthy responded, 'I will look at this year as a season of exceptional progress, but we had our eyes on the target. And today, we missed a terrific opportunity to win the NFC Championship at Lambeau Field.'

In light of these two statements, I feel that our franchise is in good hands. I trust McCarthy and Thompson. I'm happy that both are going to be locked up for 5 more years."

Which brings me to 2010. Aaron Rodgers, I apologize. I was wrong. Today, you are a Super Bowl MVP. And I wear YOUR NAME on MY BACK every time that you step onto the football field. You've become an idol of mine, Aaron. I admire you. So do your competitors.

To Mike McCarthy & Ted Thompson, I'm glad that I have stood by your side. It should be noted that during this stretch, McCarthy beat Tom Coughlin, Lovie Smith (twice), Andy Reid, Mike Smith & Mike Tomlin. I wonder if anyone questions whether he can out-smart a good coach in a big game anymore?

The 2010 NFL Season goes down as the most emotional season that I've endured. Coming into the season, we had heightened expectations. Injuries seemed to have derailed those aspirations. Sparked by an elite defense & the Aaron Rodgers to Greg Jennings combination, once again the Packers had life. At times, they looked invincible. Then, came the "Disaster at Detroit." I declared it as "the day the music died." I felt the season was over.

And then, irony occurred.

While I have always stood in Thompson's corner, I wished he had made two decisions. I wanted Randy Moss in 2007. And I wanted DeSean Jackson in the 2008 NFL Draft. He passed on Jackson for Jordy Nelson. The irony: The Packers should fit Jackson for a Super Bowl ring. Without him, we would not have made the playoffs. His Miracle in the Meadowlands gave the Packers life & proved that God is a Packers fan. Then, in the Super Bowl, Nelson came up HUGE with 9 receptions and the game's 1st TD. Say what you will about the drops & yes, Nelson dropped 4 balls, but Jordy Nelson was a match-up nightmare for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The 6 game playoff season for the Packers goes down as the most legendary performance in my lifetime. Undoubtedly. 6 games. All against quality opponents. In each game, we were clearly the better team. In fact, we were Super!

The playoff game in Atlanta with my brother, Bob, is the most celebratory I've ever been during a Packers game. My throat hurt for 2 weeks. Seriously. Zero exaggeration. My wife even suggested that I see a Doctor.

My trip to Dallas began with a special surprise. I was late to board a plane. Scrambling to find a seat, I grabbed a middle seat. I asked this young lady if the middle seat was open. She responded, "you're just lucky you're a Packers fan. Otherwise, I'd have kicked you to the back."

Her name was Catherine Lundy. She was an ultimate Packer fan. She knew the history. And all the details. The Packers were as much her life as they were mine. Instantly, we were best friends. Sharing stories, the flight flew by. She told me that she wrote her thesis analyzing the media's response to Brett Favre's back-to-back retirements. Further, she coined the term "TRAMONDOUS!" From here on out, I'll use it as my own.

Walking thru the NFL Experience on Saturday, we saw Kevin Greene. Yes, the same Kevin Greene that struck fear in offenses while he wore the Black & Yellow of Pittsburgh in the '90's. Well, on this day, he was decked out with a Packers shirt, a Packers coat, and a Packers visor. I couldn't help myself. I patted him on the back as he walked by. His loyalties were with us. No doubt about it. It was clear for all to see.

After a 2-hour wait to get into the Stadium, we were in our seats. 21 rows from the field. Beauty!

Small Observations from the game:

The Packers showed up with a playful business approach. The Steelers looked lackadaisical. I commented to my Dad that the two teams warmed up similarly to the way the Packers & Broncos warmed up in '97. The Steelers looked like the '97 Packers, while the Packers looked like the '97 Broncos. Small reminder, the final of the '97 contest: 31-24. Super Bowl XLV final score: 31-25.

This was the 5th time I've been around a Super Bowl. This was the 3rd I've attended & the '06 & '09 Super Bowls were in my backyard. For each, I attended pre-game festivities and for all but the '96 Bowl, I went to the NFL Experience. I caught the vibe. This game was unique. Both teams fans were full of class. It was total respect. I give the Steelers fans mighty props. They were louder than Packers fans. They had more fans in attendance than us. In the 3rd Quarter, they helped change the tide of the game.

It was the first time I'd ever studied James Starks' pre-game movements. He's excitable. A leader. He & Edgar Bennett had great camaraderie. A treat to witness.

It was evident early in the game that McCarthy & Rodgers liked the Jordy Nelson vs. Bryant McFadden match-up.

The 3rd & 10 Rodgers to Jennings strike on the final possession was simply sublime. A play for the ages. Vintage, Aaron Rodgers. One of those moments where prior to the play, you say to yourself, "I like the Steelers defense. But, I love my QB!"

The best pre-game shirt that I saw read: Hey Ben! Everyone loves a BJ! Beneath that slogan was a picture of Raji. Yes, that was true brilliance.

Tom Crabtree with the diving catch!

I give "Z" huge props for his performance. Big spin move sack to knock the Steelers out of reasonable FG range. And the miss that ensued on the following play was one of the biggest plays of the game.

The Claymaker causes the fumble! And Des Bishop scoops it up.

Quite fitting that T-Mon made the final play of the post-season. He was the most dominant Defensive Player of the Postseason & the runner-up MVP of the Playoffs. TRAMONDOUS!

I give Sammy Swagga massive props for fighting thru pain & giving it all he had.

Howard Green with the pressure leading to Nintendo Nick grabbing the pick-6! Thanks to Nintendo Nick for accurately proving the laws of probability. With the interception for a TD, Nick Collins joins Willie Wood & Herb Adderley as the players with big-time interceptions in the Super Bowl for the Packers. Only Adderley & Collins have had Super Bowl interceptions that were returned to paydirt. It should be noted that both Adderley & Wood are Hall of Famers. I'm not sayin'. I'm just sayin'. Collins has been to 3 straight Pro Bowls. Again, I'm just sayin'. I love Collins' heart & determination. Battling dehydration. Selling his soul. He's a champion. A Super Bowl Champion.

Desmond Bishop is a beast. A leader on our defense. A staple in the heart of the 3-4 for years to come.

While Charlie Peprah didn't make the tackle as often as I'd have liked, it was good to see him in position.

AJ Hawk viciously finishing plays.

Thought Clifton & Bulaga did a solid job on Harrison & Woodley.

My apologies to J-Bush. You came thru. After rightfully cursing you in '07, now, I'll remember you for stepping in front of Big Ben's pass, which led to 7 points for the Packers.

Jennings grabs the TD! Absorbs the Polamalu hit! Gives the ring motion & in essence, he "cut Troy Polamalu's hair off!"

Aaron Rodgers = MVP. Get used to it.

Sir Charles has a full trophy mantle! In some way, I hope the City of Green Bay permanently acknowledges him as a Knight. Forever, his presence shall remain.

Double-D has his ring!

Dom Capers > Dick LeBeau. No disrespect. It's truth.

The relationship between Aaron Rodgers & Mike McCarthy is unmatched in the NFL today. True admiration.

Watching Kevin Greene on the sidelines is an absolute treat. Capers provides the brains from the booth. Greene provides the energy from the sidelines. Great design. A winning combination.

It'd be great if we could keep our coaching staff together through at least the 2011 NFL Season.

When Clay popped the Championship belt over Aaron Rodgers, while Rodgers was holding the Lombardi Trophy, it was the greatest sports moment my eyes have witnessed.

For this trip to Dallas, I was with my Dad, my Mom, & my brother, Chad. Just as it all began for me. My brother, Bob, and my wife, A*, were severely missed. So was my nephew, Chai. In the 2011 Super Bowl, in Indy, I hope we'll all be together. With the Packers as our religion. And the Super Bowl as our tradition.

As I walked out of my final bar of the trip to Dallas, it was semi-quiet. Near 1:00 am. In full throat, I belted out "Hey Packers fans!" I had EVERYONE in the bars attention. To paraphrase, I followed with, "If you're a part of the G-Force, raise your index finger! We've earned this. And the Lombardi Trophy is coming home. Go Pack Go!"

2010 is the year of revenge. Buh-bye to Favre with a sweep. Time to come home, Brett! The Giants grabbed '07, but we got '10 from them. The Bears took the Division title, but we repaid with the NFC Championship in their house! Vick got us in '02. So did the Falcons. Hasta la vista to both. The Eagles in '03. We took care of them as well. The Steelers have tried to steal our City's nickname, Titletown. They've also tried to claim that the real home of the Lombardi Trophy is in Pittsburgh. Well, not so fast. They have the Terrible Towel. We have the Title Towel. And, for today, we'll hoist the Title!

Today marked the Return to Titletown. Also on today's agenda - for Ted Thompson - was his 1st tune up for the NFL Draft. Yes, his 1st NFL Draft meeting was today. Just as he did after the NFC Championship game, he took one day off. After the NFC Championship game, he headed to the Senior Bowl. So much for savoring the title. He wants another. So, soon, I'll analyze what I'd like for the off-season. But, for now, you'll have to pardon me, I'm off to smoke my victory Cuban Cohiba. I've been saving it for nearly a month. The Lombardi Trophy is coming home! And, in the words of Lil Wayne, we'll remember the 2010 Season as "Pop Tarts!"

But, before I go I want to remind everyone of one thing: Nutler gets mysterious injury to knee. Followed by Halas Trophy at Soldier Field. Visitors Locker Room. "White House on Three!" Bears fans burning Nutler jerseys in the parking lot. Equals TRUMP CARD FOREVER!!! The Bears still suck! "Pop Tarts!"

In Thompson, McCarthy, Capers & Rodgers We Trust. The Green Bay Packers are Super Bowl XLV Champions! We rule the football world. Raise your index finger! "Pop Tarts!"

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.

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