Sailing the Seas of Cheese: Once More Unto the Breach
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more; Or close up the wall with our [Packer] dead! In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man As modest stillness and humility: But when the blast of war blows in our ears, Then imitate the action of a tiger. –Henry V by William Shakespeare
Good god, the football world is a fickle bitch. Last week pundits with names like King, Dungy, Irwin and Berman had all but crowned the 2011 Green Bay Packers the World Champions and their leader Aaron Rodgers as MVP in a contest of one. Wow, one loss and you’d think this team was Sucking for Luck. I mean, c’mon man, NFL.com currently has some flowery headline about Tebow losing yesterday and the sun still rising yet a heaping dose of schadenfreude over the Packers loss.
Really, gentlemen? One clunker game and suddenly Drew Brees is the Heir Apparent for the MVP? You do realize we beat him and he’s lost a few after that, right? Same goes for Brady (only we haven’t play the Patriots, but you get the idea.)
We all knew this day would come. Reminds me of my eighth grade basketball team. We went undefeated until the second-to-last game of the season and then we were pounded into to the ground by some podunk parochial school across the river whose point guard, I swear to god, had a mustasche. We were supposed to beat them handily. Only we didn’t.
But you know what the only thing more pathetic than a bunch of thirteen-year-old girls sobbing in a locker room after losing to St. Boniface? That would be the current rending of garments and teeth gnashing over a team currently 13-1. Just remember a 10-6 team won the Super Bowl last year and a 16-0 team did not in 2008.
Part of me is actually glad the Packers lost yesterday (and not against the Bears or the Lions.) It brings things back into focus. For starters, that stupid Perfect Season Monkey is off their backs and with it the media circus that followed it. A perfect season–unless it is perfect through February–is just a paper victory. I’m sure the 2007 Patriots would have traded their one loss that season for something in December if given the choice.
Losing to what was supposed to be a cake team (and for the record, teams with a freshly canned head coach usually play that first game without him so very, very well) deflates egos and brings things down to earth. In the long run, I think it helps the Packers because it reminds them not to believe their own hype. We only need to look to December 12 of last year to show that history tends to repeat itself.
After all, it was after that game when Jimmy Johnson dismissed the Packers as all but done and told the football world to Stick a Fork in ‘Em. That team looked a lot like the one playing yesterday. Yes, the Packers had Rodgers for all of the game yesterday unlike that game against the Lions. But the Chiefs accomplished the same goal minus the game-day amnesia and blinding headached: they kept Aaron Rodgers off the field and the Packers were hard-pressed to find the endzone. Meanwhile yesterday’s defense looked a lot like the December 12, 2010 version as well: out matched, flatfooted and generally not that effective.
We can believe the new hype that the Packers are nothing more than a propped up team, that they are the same dead-in-the-water hot mess that Jimmy Johnson condemned last year. If that’s the case, then we should close the walls and bury our dead like Bill said so eloquently above.
Or the Green Bay Packers can prove they are still the team to beat and prove the fair-weather pundits wrong. Gut check time wasn’t yesterday when they were on the wrong end of a victory. Gut check time is now. It’s time to refocus and stop looking for towards paper records and remember that the ultimate goal is on February 5. The need to find that spark, that conhesion that they did last year and reset a course that doesn’t no longer includes the perfect season.
It resents priorities and reminds the team that any team–even the Indianapolis Colts–can win on Any Given Sunday.
It reminds them that each member of the 46 active plays an integral role in each game, no matter how big or small that role may be. And if that one player doesn’t play up to his fullest potential it will effect the results of a game.
It means digging deep to find that cohesion and men of character that Rodgers has praised. It means putting a moratorium on asinine celebrations after a single catch that is nothing more than a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
No doubt, you need a certain level of narcissism and self-confidence to play in the NFL, but in situations like this that gut check involves remembering that you aren’t helping your team if you are a distraction. Like Tom Crabtree eloquently tweeted yesterday: You win as a team, you lose as a team. The focus needs to remain team victories not individual accolades. You didn’t see the Belt getting tossed around after Rodgers passed Brett Favre’s single-season touchdown record nor did you see it when he ran a TD in as well. Does that mean I’m making Jermichael Finley a scapegoat this loss? Hardly (though four drops isn’t an anomaly, it’s a problem.) But you sure as hell don’t do a Look At Me! celebration when your team is on the receiving end of a giant dose of hurt. There’s a right time to celebrate and yesterday wasn’t one of those moments.
That said, and you may not believe me after this column, the sky is not falling. The sun rose this morning like it always does while I was driving to work. The Packers are, like last year, the ones solely in control of their own destiny, only this year they don’t have to worry about being elimintated from the playoffs. This year, they control their own destiny when it comes to home field advantage. All things considered, that’s a pretty good destiny to be controlling.
I would like to think that an embarassing loss is exactly what this team needs. That bullseye that seemed to vanish the past few weeks is back where it needs to be: on the middle of the Packers’ back. They perform so much better when they are the hunted and not the Chosen Ones.
It is time. Time to wake the sleeping giant that seemed to fall asleep at the wheel this past week. Time to act like the tigers Shakespeare’s Henry V demanded.
And if last year is any indication, I’m not worried about the Packers rising to that challenge. A public butt-kicking helped them last year, and I’m pretty sure that compass has been reset. The Green Bay Packers are still the reigning Super Bowl Champions and still have the best record in the league. Let the rest of the NFL think they are done. That’s exactly the fuel they need to jumpstart the post season.
Here endeth the rant.