Bill Simmons put forward, in Page 2 on ESPN’s website, a very interesting series of propositions about losing, how bad it can be, and who deserves to feel the worst about it. I have to wonder, given my early conflict between which NFL teams I was going to cheer for, if I have suffered some of the worst defeats in the history of the upper Midwest.
Upper Midwest football has had some bad moments. I have to acknowledge, first of all, that Brett Favre was a very good QB. But since he switched allegiances, I have to put a couple of other things about his past in perspective. Firstly, he was not as big a clutch performer as he is often remembered. He choked away the last chance he had at a Super Bowl with the Packers. He lost one Super Bowl to a QB who was undoubtedly one of the most clutch players in the game’s history. And let’s take a look at the other one, which the Packers came away victorious in.
I have heard it said that Favre wants individual glory wrapped in team success. His individual glory (the MVP that year) was wrapped, for the one and only time in his career, in the ultimate team success. And that would normally be enough to say he led the Pack to the ‘ship, but I’m not going to go there just yet. Look at the rest of the team- probably one of the best teams in Packer history, if not NFL history- yea, I said it. (First choice, of course, would have to go to the ’85 Bears. Indisputably.) Anyway, this team had the No. 2 offense that season, and the No. 1 defense. How many teams can say they did that? They had a ridiculous kicker in Chris Jacke, the Minister of Defense, Reggie White, an All-Pro Safety in Leroy Butler and an ungodly receiving corps which included Antonio Freeman, Andre Rison and Robert Brooks. I could go on and on about the regular season, but the final nail in the coffin for the case against this being just Favre’s team goes by the name of Desmond Howard. Yup, that cocky, showboating speed-demon of a kick returner- the one who invented the Heisman pose before winning it at Michigan, and the one you’ll see now on College Game-day on ESPN, as chatty as ever. Also, the only Special Teams player to ever win Super Bowl MVP. SI Cover, everything- you can practically credit him with that win. So I will.
Quite honestly, it’s been a relief having him on the other team. And besides ’96, let’s just say I’m never on the right side of the border at the right time. I am currently, and in my re-written, Big Brother-esque version of history, always have been, a die-hard Packer fan. Have been since 1995 when I realized the Pack was just more fun to root for. So all of what I’m about to say is completely off the record.
In retrospect, I guess I would say I was a Packer fan from 1995 til midway through the 1998 season. From then til about the last game of 2003 I was probably more of a Vikings fan most of the time. Since then- Packer fan. And I would guess that covers most of high school. So I would guess that from about 2001, the endish, to the end of 2003 was kind of a gray area. But anyway, I have been around for most of the terrible stuff. For the record, Antonio Freeman’s Improbable Bobble (as Chris Berman has called it) was one of the greatest catches I have ever seen. Off the record, I bawled my eyes out that night after yelling at my Mom that I hated her. I have learned my lesson- never, ever, ever switch allegiances again.
So the role call for the events that I’ve witnessed goes something like this: The Packers lose Super Bowl XXXII to Denver. Me: sad. Next season, Vikes get Moss, become good. I trade in the Cheese for the Horns. The Vikes choke on Falcon meat. I, however stay with the team. At some point The ‘Queens go back to the Championship game and are smoked by the Gmen. That loosens my grip on the Viqueens, and I let go completely just in time to see them lose their all-but-clinched playoff spot to the Cards on fourth and never, while the Pack waltzed in. The Pack then gave Matt Hasselbeck a lesson in karma, but got the favor returned the next week when Philly defined the phrase “Fourth-and-26.” Despite that being my lucky number, in that context it haunts me. It would be a couple years before either team played a meaningful playoff game after that. Then came 2007, which I won’t even mention. Then last year, I thought I would be a Vikings-fan-for-a-day. Did anyone else know that in the last three postseasons that Favre has played in, his last pass each time has been an interception?
As Bill Simmons himself says, “The reason we watch sports is for the losses, not the wins.” That would make me one of the better football fans around.