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December 30, 2013

12 Assorted Exultant Thoughts About the Packers Beating the Bears

Green Bay Packers v Chicago Bears

Gonna keep this a bit more concise than the last time, but wanted to collect some thoughts about another gutty win by the Packers.

1. It’s so nice to have Aaron Rodgers back in my life. The separation anxiety was a bit much to handle. I know he was a little bit rusty in the first half, but 75% of him is still far greater than 100% Wallace/Tolzien/Flynn. Fitting the ball in amidst tight coverage, recognizing when the rush is coming (as opposed to learning about it only after getting trucked like Flynn would do), and simply having demonstrably assertive command of the offense were things that I missed terribly over the past couple months.

2. Randall Cobb’s nice to have back, too.

3. The most important play of the game was obviously Rodgers-to-Cobb, but the second most significant moment came when the Green Bay offense shooed the punting unit off the field and convinced Mike McCarthy to go for it on 4th-and-inches from their own 22. The Packers picked up three 4th downs on that drive. Rodgers had the exact right word for it: “character”.

4. The block that John Kuhn made on Julius Peppers saved the season (for now, at least). Kuuuuuuuhhhhhhnnnn got jussssssssst enough of him to allow Rodgers to slide to his left and hit Cobb for the 48-yard touchdown. It’s the little things.

5. Speaking of little things, it’s silly to gripe right now but I can’t remember the last time the Packers picked up a two-point conversion attempt. They should try running the ball on those — nothing else ever works.

6. James Starks has been an unsung hero this year. He may not have even made the team if DuJuan Harris hadn’t suffered a season-ending injury in training camp, but he’s been solid. Starks averaged 5.5 yards per carry on the season, and ran 11 times for 88 yards yesterday. It’s huge that his performance makes it easier on the coaching staff to give Eddie Lacy some rest.

7. Soldier Field was more benign than I thought it would be yesterday. My girlfriend had gotten us tickets for my birthday back in September, and I admittedly had an ominous feeling about the game for the past two months. The two other times I’d been there, I swore I’d never go back after too many fans were drunken neanderthals. There were a lot more Packers fans than I expected — and they were around our seats in every direction — so even a loss would not have been as horrific as I envisioned. (Don’t get me wrong — it still would’ve been fucking terrible. Just a bit less so.)

8. The last few weeks could be the beginnings of a storybook run, and they might not. But, by and large, they’ve been really fun. I can’t wait to jet up to Lambeau this weekend. I really hope our momentum continues into Sunday’s game against San Francisco. They’ve terrorized us for the past 18 months, and it’d be fantastic if this group can figure out some way to exorcise those demons.

9. Either way, though, the season’s a lot better than it looked a month ago and I feel affirmed that it’s all been worth it. Like, just imagine being a Browns fan.

10. Go!

11. PACK!!!!!

12. GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

December 15, 2013

19 Assorted Exultant Thoughts About the Packers Beating the Cowboys

Green Bay Packers v Dallas Cowboys

Gutty win. This is more of a personal therapy to collect my thoughts and feelings than anything else, but if you happen to enjoy it I suppose that’s wonderful too. A fair warning that I’m not even really going to proofread it, and there will be swearing. Let’s fucking go.

1. What a motherfucking win. The season is alive headed into Week 16 — you cannot say that Packers will not win the Super Bowl and definitely be correct. That is a privilege, not a right.

2. For the second straight week, the fact in no. 1 has appeared to definitely not be true heading into halftime. Last week the Falcons had a pick-six to go up 21-10, and Green Bay was coming off a Thanksgiving drubbing and it didn’t seem like there was any earthly possibility that they would figure out a way to score points and figure out a way to make Atlanta stop scoring them. Today, the Packers were down 26-3 and the only reason my friends didn’t leave Will’s (the wonderful Wisconsin bar) was that they give away (really outstanding, actually) free stuff at halftime, and then we scored really quickly.

3. That I was planning to sit there at a table by myself for the duration of a 51-3 outcome doesn’t make that the right decision for my personal wellbeing, but it is also the decision I made and make. Oh, and I won two bitching Packers coffee mugs in the aforementioned halftime raffle. I don’t want to take full credit for the ultimate outcome, but that was assuredly the turning point. I had no. 552, and the only reason I awakened from my compulsive Twitter refreshing to claim it was that no. 556 had been called two prizes prior. I had lamented that I was only four off (which was exacerbated by having the first two digits spot on), and my friend Matt recognized my mannerisms and poked me to tell me I had won.

4. I know that at that moment those coffee mugs, which I’m sure I could buy for like 10 bucks after seven seconds of Googling, could have gone on to be an insufficient consolation prize on a shitty afternoon but hindsight has rendered them special.

Continue reading 19 Assorted Exultant Thoughts About the…

November 11, 2013

Red Meat and Cheese: A Wonderful Wisconsin Football Weekend With My Dad


The above picture shows a white brat/ribeye combo sandwich and a basket of cheese curds at State Street Brats, which were on my table with a pitcher of Spotted Cow within 15 minutes of getting off the bus in Madison, WI on Friday. These things happen immediately.

Despite what would happen to the Packers at the end, it was an incredible weekend in God’s country. I have a lot to be thankful for.


3:00 – The journey begins as all my journeys do: Hastily stuffing my belongings into a suitcase as I’m running out the door, praying that I don’t forget something important. The day where I leave myself ample time, or God forbid pack everything in an organized manner the night before, is the one where I’ll know I’m actually a legitimate adult.

Hustling to get to O’Hare for my 4pm bus, I get on the CTA and realize that my Ventra pass is out of money. I have no cash on me and beg the bus driver to take pity on me. He obliges, motioning for me to take my seat. This is a good omen.

At the blue line stop, the person in front of me is struggling trying to figure out how to use a credit card to add money to her Ventra account. The voice inside my head is cursing her for being so daft when I have a tight schedule to keep. She gives up trying. I fumble my first attempt at the Ventra machine as the people behind me in line give disapproving glares. My second attempt is successful and I make the first el towards O’Hare.

4:00 – I make the bus to Madison with about six minutes to spare. A missed connection in either of my two CTA stops would’ve cost me 90 minutes and untold emotional distress.

7:05 – Arrive in Madison.

7:20 – See up-top.

9:00 – Head to Ivory Room, a dueling piano bar near Madison’s capitol for a couple hours. There were three rotating pianists — two were OK, and one was incredible. The latter was pounding Red Bull, water, and a mystery third beverage inside a coffee mug (coffee, perhaps?) and belting along every song request put in front of him.

Dueling piano bars >>>>> karaoke, especially when the performers are good ones.


12:00 - Because of the road trips I do with my friends, it feels a little weird to spend the time before the game doing anything other than outright raging, but I gotta admit it is pretty enjoyable to be taking it slowly. We’re at Jordan’s Big 10 Pub on Regent Street for a little bit before I break off with my friend Max for lunch.

You meet the most interesting people on football trips. I asked a guy where he got his sewn JJ Watt jersey from (from a bootleg Chinese site because of course he did) and he ended up being with a crew of people from Quebec City who came to Madison, and later Green Bay, just for an awesome football trip. This was basically what my Dad and I did last year when we went to Baton Rouge for Alabama-LSU.

1:00 – Found a little tent right behind Camp Randall on Regent Street that was selling grilled brats, ribs, hot dogs, burgers, and BBQ pulled pork sandwiches. Here’s what their grill looked like:


Had a brat and split a pulled pork sandwich. So exquisite. Wisconsin is the greatest.

2:30 - I am sitting with Max inside the Wisconsin student section, which still feels like home. I think I’ve got at least five more years of preferring that over regular seats. Even though I have my issues with many students’ late arrivals and early exits, it is a substantially more active cheering environment, which is ideal for me.

camp randall

(#ViewFromYourSeats not in chronological order)

4:00 - It’s not fair that the Ohio State band does Michael Jackson moonwalks and incredible Jurassic Park choreographies while Wisconsin’s half-time shows are always 1920′s swing music medleys or show tunes. Today’s offering is a series of songs from the Phantom of the Opera because nothing riles up football fans quite like a somber musical. Half-time feels like a funeral. This is egregious.

4:15 - Overheard in the bathroom: Dude, my friend passed out in the bathroom, but I don’t know which one it was so I have to look through all of them and hope I find him before he gets an underage ticket. College.

4:25 - Third brat in 18 hours. I swear I’ve read a study that says you should only eat two per year if you don’t want to degrade your health, but I can’t find it in 30 seconds and you wouldn’t have bothered clicking through anyway.

5:30 – Wisconsin is completely controlling the tempo of the game. For some reason, BYU decides to punt twice down 17 points in the fourth quarter. You guys know that you need three scores, right? I mean, I’m cool with their surrendering, but it means the last 12 minutes of the game are just a formality.

5:40 – They keep showing out-of-town scores — there is particular schadenfreude when Michigan goes down to Nebraska — but they miss a major opportunity by not telling everyone that Piggly Wiggly and his Arkansas Razorbacks just lost their 7th in a row #karma


10:00 – Meet at friend Kevin’s tailgate behind Brett Favre’s Steakhouse, whose silent partners must be indescribably anticipatory of a reconciliation. Eat fourth brat of the trip. And a cheeseburger. (No pictures because I’ve already shown you enough red meat.) Drink a 10% ABV beer. At some point, someone comes by and hands us all whiskey-infused pudding shots. I’d say is the Sconniest thing ever except for the fact that this tailgate also had a cornhole set that was adorned with old Brewers baseball cards:


11:15 – Due to a variety of syndicates and assorted inheritances, our family friend Rob has eight season tickets at Lambeau. This is no small feat for a team with a wait list of over 80,000 people and about 30 years. We are very lucky he is so generous with them, although they are not necessarily an asset for him today. The initial asking price from some scalpers is as low as $50. It would appear as though some people are not profoundly psyched for the Seneca Wallace experience.

Directly related to that, it is pretty agreed upon in our group that we would prefer if Brett Favre were starting today. Like, not even with a week of practice. The sort of situation where some sad soul refreshing notices a private jet charted from Hattiesburg, MS to Green Bay, Favre hops off, scribbles his name on a 10-day contract, starts 90 minutes later, and Jim Ross goes crazy. Even if he didn’t end up playing well (an overwhelming probability), he Lambeau might break the sound barrier if it happened.

Obviously, this hypothetical scenario is completely implausible. But what if it weren’t?

12:30 - All of a sudden Scott Tolzien is in for Seneca Wallace and nobody can figure out what’s going on. Wallace couldn’t possible be benched already when he didn’t throw any incompletions — when T F did he get hurt? All we’re told by the stadium PA is that Tolzein’s in, nobody’s phone is picking up data to check Twitter, and finally someone behinds us gets a signal and finds out that Wallace injured his groin.

I spoke to the head of stadium technology for the new 49ers stadium about stuff like this a few months ago and it’s pretty necessary for NFL teams to catch up on technology sooner than later. It is not a sustainable business practice for the biggest fans to remain the least informed on game days.


1:30 - It must be noted that the discussion inside football stadiums is nothing like the ones I read and write in the media. Throughout the weekend, there are no references to Richie Incognito or concussions. People are just super-stoked to be consuming copious amounts of red meat and beer and not be at work. Until another sport can even come close to engendering this mass jolly community, football’s not going anywhere.

1:45 – Is Lambeau the only stadium in the world where the beer vendors also carry 18-inch beef sticks?

2:15 - A punt that was downed inside the Eagles’ 5 is somehow spotted on the 16-yard line with zero explanation from the refs. LeSean McCoy busts a long run and then Nick Foles underthrows a double-covered Riley Cooper, who adjusts to the ball while both defensive backs lose it in the sun, for a touchdown in a sequence that embodies the entire game.

Green Bay would later come within a bobbled Jordy Nelson reception of being down just a touchdown with nine minutes to play, but the breaks just wouldn’t their way. With Detroit and Carolina now surging, the Packers find themselves with a tremendous uphill battle to make the playoffs with their gutted roster.

It’s difficult to put my finger on the reason why, but I’m less stung by this series of events than I would normally be. It might be because I’m a generally happier person than I’ve been in the past, and that I’ve somehow become conditioned to put the relative unimportance of sporting outcomes into perspective, but I don’t think that’s the primary explanation.

I think the biggest reason that I’m comparatively OK with everything is that it’s hard to pinpoint anything the Packers organization should’ve done differently to avoid the dark place they now find themselves in. The roster was well-assembled at opening day, there haven’t been any glaringly erroneous coaching decisions, and the players are discernibly giving it their all.

You could gripe about the lack of an adequate back-up quarterback, but those don’t exactly grow on trees. Some teams don’t even have adequate starters — there’s not this well of men who are physically capable of this immensely challenging job. Furthermore, we don’t know how Seneca Wallace would’ve done if he finished the game after his full week of practice and Scott Tolzien was pretty serviceable considering his lack of preparation in both practice and the offseason.

And, yeah, I’d certainly prefer if the secondary were better but two of the three big plays they gave up yesterday were a fluky ricochet and a ball that got lost in the sun. I’m not quite sure how you can guard against stuff like that from happening.

To a pretty reasonable extent, therefore, the Packers have controlled the things they’re able to. They’ve had some enormously bad luck, and getting devastated about those sorts of things doesn’t seem like a very smart way to go through life.

All in all, it was an outstanding weekend with my Dad and our friends Rob, Max, Kevin, Kevin, Blake, Ryan, Patrick, and Ryan. To the extent that it was in our control, it was perfect.

April 17, 2013

Thoughts on Clay Matthews’ Extension With The Packers

Earlier today, Clay Matthews signed a five-year contract extension worth $66 million. Already due to make $3.7 million this year, he’s signed for a total of $69.7 million through 2018. Adam Schefter reports that about $31 million is guaranteed while Darren Rovell tweets that Matthews will make $22 million this season and a total of $27 million over the next 12 months.

Ultimately, the Packers are rewarding Matthews for good behavior by finalizing this deal now. With Charles Woodson gone, the team is paying a premium for Clay to be an outspoken leader. With one year left on his current deal and the franchise tag somewhere near this year’s linebacker total of $9.6 million, the Packers would be on the hook for just over $13 million over two years. (After that, they’d really risk losing him.)

As with all high profile NFL contracts, however, the announced terms aren’t exactly real. We’ll find more about the specific structure of the deal in a couple days, but I’d bet against his actually completing all six years before restructure or release. At this point, we know that the Packers are paying big for the next three seasons. As such, they probably have little risk beyond that. If Matthews stays healthy and performs at an elite level, he’ll be around longer. If not, he won’t. Seems fair. In Ted I trust.

It’s worth reiterating that health is a major factor for how long this deal actually lasts. Matthews missed four games this past year with a hamstring injury. Though he only missed one game in each of the previous two seasons before that, nagging injuries have now had an impact on his late-season for performance for three years in a row. In 2011, he had just six sacks in the entire season. In both 2010 and 2012, he had six sacks total after two games, but finished the years with 13.5 and 13, respectively. (He would, however, rebound in those two seasons’ playoffs with 6.5 sacks in six total games.)

Admittedly, part of the issue the past two years has been double, and sometimes triple, teams. The Packers have still not yet found a consistent pass rush threat to replace Cullen Jenkins. This has enabled opposing offenses to key in on stopping Matthews. Hopefully, Nick Perry or someone(s) from this upcoming draft class will step up to provide help.

More than anything, I’m happy for Matthews. He’s truly been a model citizen. He gives 110% on every play; you’re never cheated by his effort. When he makes big plays, it energizes the entire team–they’re infectious.

It’s not going to be September for a little while, but I want it to be. Go Pack Go.

March 15, 2013

It’s Not The End Of The World That Greg Jennings Left, But Damn

So Greg Jennings is a Viking…



This makes me sad, but I understand.

Let’s first look at this from the Packers’ perspective. There are salary cap constraints and you have to allocate your resources toward fielding the best possible 53-man roster. With Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, and James Jones, is wide receiver a position of need? $18 million guaranteed is a lot for a luxury purchase, especially as the team must extend BJ Raji, Clay Matthews, and Aaron Rodgers. After that, there are much more pressing needs–the team could get stand to improve everywhere besides QB and punter.

(And I’m more than aware that Ted Thompson has not signed any of those other positions up to this point. I would like to make a ‘splash’ as much as the next guy, but do still trust this front office to do the job as well as any other in the League. It’s easier to think this way than to micromanage every single decision as if we are actually better at evaluating tape and workouts.)

But now put yourself in Greg Jennings’ shoes. You contribute mightily to an organization for seven seasons. You listen to the coaches, run precise routes, and lead by example on and off the field. You were a crucial part of an unforgettable Super Bowl run.

Wouldn’t it personally bother you that this organization doesn’t view you core player? Wouldn’t you feel disrespected and undervalued? Wouldn’t you want to prove them wrong and capitalize most financially? Where you’re wanted?

It sucks for us as Packers fans–it always sucks to get stuck in the crossfire of these disputes. Obviously, this doesn’t hurt anywhere near as much as Favre as a Viking did, but I shudder to think what it would be like to lose a game where Jennings torches the Green Bay secondary. Ugh.

I feel better already though:


Go Pack Go.

February 16, 2013

Some Quick Thoughts About Charles Woodson

I’m in Israel and only have about an hour to put this together, but I wanted to get some quick thoughts out there about Charles Woodson’s release.

1. Woodson is bigger than his body gives him credit for.

I have never seen another cornerback play football like Charles Woodson. While he may not have been the best pure shutdown corner in coverage, he made plays all over the field that are very rare for those at his position. When sent on blitzes, he’d get to the quarterback. He filled rushing lanes, stepping up and stuffing running backs at or beyond the line of scrimmage. It wasn’t like he would just slow them down for long enough to get help from other defenders–he’d stand them up and knock them backwards.

Another special aspect about his game was the way that he forced fumbles (he forced 29 in his career). He had this move where he was able to knock the ball out with a quick punch during his natural tackling motion. Running backs and receivers would have no idea what hit them as the ball bounced around for the taking. It was all very fluid.

See what I mean about two minutes into this video:

2. When he had the ball in his hands, there was always a chance he could score.

During his seven years in Green Bay, Woodson scored 10 defensive touchdowns (Nine interception returns, one fumble return), the most in Packers history. When he had a clear path to the endzone, nobody was catching him. He was adept at evading tacklers.

3. The Packers will of course miss his toughness and leadership.


4. That being said…

Woodson, who is now 37 years old, lost some of his explosiveness over the past three seasons. He missed tackles he used to make easily. He forced less and less turnovers. He never really adjusted to the safety position. It became substantially less likely that he could stay healthy.

The Packers are in a tough position with the salary cap right now. They need to get younger, but they also have to extend BJ Raji and Clay Matthews, whose contracts are up this year, and Aaron Rodgers, who is signed at a relative discount for two more seasons. If they get his new deal done sooner, they can spread the massive cap hit over more seasons.Woodson would have counted $10 million against the cap this season. While he might not make that much from someone else, there are almost certainly other teams that will pay him more than Green Bay can reasonably afford.

5. Quick story: when Charles Woodson was a free agent in 2006, he only signed with Green Bay because nobody else wanted him. 

About two years ago, Mike Silver wrote:

“It was time to go,” Woodson says of his departure from the Raiders. “Green Bay – I was there because no one else wanted to take a shot on [me]. I had a bad rap. I was a little bit of a wild child. I enjoyed myself as a young man. I guess they were tired of it. That is one of the reasons why I was out of Oakland and why nobody wanted to take a shot on me.

“There was talk about my game declining and not being the player that I was and that I had lost a step – all of that came into play when it came to finding another team.”

Woodson continues: “It was kind of decided for me. Nobody wanted me coming out of Oakland. I tried to go to a few other places and tried calling a few other places to see if they wanted my services. Some teams returned calls, some didn’t. Green Bay was the only team that was calling my agent and trying to set up a time for us to go there and visit Green Bay and that’s how it worked out. The decision was pretty much made for me.”

Packers fans are very thankful that Ted Thompson was the only NFL GM willing to take a chance on Charles Woodson. We will look back on Woodson’s era with utmost fondness. Our best defensive player since Reggie White, he was a model citizen, on and off the field. His leadership was an invaluable part of Green Bay’s Super Bowl XLV run in 2010-11.

Even though we understand that players come in and out of our lives for inevitably finite time horizons, it is always difficult when it is one of our favorites’ turn as it was two weeks ago with Donald Driver and yesterday with Charles Woodson. As my camp director says at the end of every summer: if it hurts, it means that it was done right.

While Woodson had a very productive tenure with the Oakland Raiders, he will be remembered first and foremost as a Green Bay Packer. Wherever I am and whatever I am doing in my life at the time, I will make a point to be in Canton when he inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.


January 24, 2013

It’s Pretty Absurd to Question Aaron Rodgers’ Leadership at This Point

I don’t usually like to attack other writers. You never know whether the muse will be kind or merciless. There are things you can do to nudge it in the write direction, but good luck with all that if it’s just not there. As such, there are periods in which you have nothing to write about or are unable to make your point lucidly when pen meets paper. Sometimes, columns just don’t come together. When this happens, there’s not too much you can do about it. You just have to chalk it up as an L, keep your head held high, and move on to the next one. Every once in awhile, though, something so absurd and/or intellectually dishonest comes along that it must be pointed out.

Like I said, I can empathize with bad. Insincere pageview trolling is an entirely different subject. Yesterday, Rob Reischel wrote a column in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel entitled, “Aaron Rodgers’ reputation as a leader took some hits this season.” Let’s go through this piece-by-piece:

Their season had been done approximately 14 hours. Aaron Rodgers, one of the leaders of the Green Bay Packers, sat alone at his locker, staring aimlessly around the room. Rodgers was asked if he’d talk about the season that just ended.

“Nope,” Rodgers said.

Instead, Rodgers began eavesdropping on an interview linebacker Desmond Bishop was conducting. After each question, Rodgers made a snide remark about the queries loud enough for anyone within earshot to hear.

“I can’t believe they’d ask that,” Rodgers said.

“Nice question,” he said another time.

Finally, doing his best Drew Rosenhaus, Rodgers bellowed, “Next question.”

Instead of preparing for the NFC Championship Game, Rodgers was now critiquing reporters.

This lede is completely worthless without proper context. We have no idea what questions the media were asking Desmond Bishop, but we are just supposed to assume they were ENLIGHTENING and that Rodgers was being a dick? I’m very sorry that Rodgers was, at this time, unwilling to provide canned quotes that Reischel could use to color in his preconceived agenda, but don’t know if I can blame him. Would you want to answer dumb questions from entitled reporters in the immediate aftermath of your professional shortcomings? “You lost that big account today, Ryan, can you give me any insight into how that feels or what you would do differently the next time?”

Rodgers does not owe the media any more access than the League mandates. Despite that, he graciously does an hour radio spot for ESPN Milwaukee every Tuesday during the season with Jason Wilde. On it, he’s funny, candid, and interesting. He displays an uncanny recall for individual plays – these can be from last week or go as far back as high school – and breaks them down meticulously to give common fans unique insight into what caused them to succeed or fail. Fans who are really interested in access to Rodgers can find it here. We don’t need two-sentence clippings that fit into newspaper narratives.

It’s this type of leadership that had some taking shots at the 2011 most valuable player this season.

This type of leadership – the type that makes it harder for ME to write MY story – must be why the Packers lost to the 49ers. Nevermind the fact that the Packers defense gave up 579 yards and enabled Colin Kaepernick to look like the third coming of Jesus.

Continue reading It’s Pretty Absurd to Question Aaron…

January 14, 2013

Greg Jennings Should Absolutely Seek As Much Money As He Can Get

I love Greg Jennings. If he’s leaving Green Bay — which seems more and more like a forgone conclusion — I’ll hate to see him go. I’d really hate to see him on in a Bears or Vikings uniform. But, even if it’s one of those teams offering the most money, he should take it. This is probably be his last chance at a big contract. He should definitely go get paid right now.

Jennings has been nothing short of a model citizen on and off the field during his seven years in Green Bay. During that time, he caught 425 balls for 6,537 yards and 53 touchdowns during the regular season. In his 10 playoff games, he had 50 receptions for 673 yards and six touchdowns. Whether or not he remains with the team, his signature game and green and gold will likely be his performance in Super Bowl XLV. That night, he caught two touchdowns, including this one which is one of the best throw-and-catches I’ve ever seen. I have no idea how Aaron Rodgers got this ball in here or how Greg Jennings held on:

Continue reading Greg Jennings Should Absolutely Seek As…

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