Back the Pack
by Ted Rueter
For decades, the Dallas Cowboys have billed themselves as "America's Team." They could be
right-if you think that America is typified by drug use, drunken escapades at strip joints,
The Cowboy's owner, Jerry Jones, has thumbed his nose at league rules governing profit-sharing from
corporate endorsements. The coach, Barry Switzer, says he can't be bothered with his players'
criminal behavior. (His former players at the University of Oklahoma were prosecuted for rape,
assault, and robbery.)
America's Team? They're more like the Misogynists' Team. The Cowboys are a team of bravado and
But I have another NFL franchise to nominate as America's Team: the Green Bay Packers. Many lessons
for American society can be learned from "the Pack."
An initial disclaimer: I used to live in Wisconsin. I spent 10 long winters as a student at the
University of Wisconsin-Madison. I used to be a fan of the Minnesota Vikings (my native state), but
I switched loyalties after their coach, Dennis Green, was accused of sexual harassment and their
starting quarterback, Warren Moon, was accused of sexual assault.
So why do I adore the Packers? First, Wisconsin is Middle America. The four food groups in Packerland
are beer, pizza, bratwursts, and ice cream. Wisconsin is consistently the nation's most overweight
state. In Wisconsin, you can spend Friday night filling up on cheese at a "supper club," then spend
Saturday night polka dancing at a bowling alley.
And these Middle Americans are intensely loyal to their team, for better or worse, 'til death do
they part. For years, when the Packers were languishing in the basement of their division, Cheeseheads
proclaimed, "The Pack will be back." During losing seasons, there was a waiting list for season
tickets that stretched from Monterey to Point Conception. Fair-weather fans they're not.
Sometimes Packermania takes some amusing turns. An undertaker in Green Bay sells coffins with Packers
insignia. Fans in the stands wear cheesehead hats with green ornaments hanging from the top-or show
off their beer bellies in sub-freezing temperatures.
Dan Barreiro, a columnist for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, sneers that since the Packers have
reached the Super Bowl, we'll have to hear "the inside story of some 52-year-old Beloit plumber
who figured out a way to get the Packer polka to play every time he flushes the toilet. An
exclusive report on a 75-year-old Oshkosh woman who swears that when she turns off the light and
looks in her cracked bathroom mirror at just the right angle, she can see the ghost of Vince
Lombardi yelling at Fuzzy Thurston." After Barreiro wrote his column, he received this response
from a Packer fan: "Aren't there any more criminal or civil litigations from the Vikings
organization to write about?"
The Packers and their fans have a special bond. One of the main drags in town is Lombardi Drive.
There's an elementary school named after former quarterback Bart Starr. Many ex-players live in Green
Bay long after they've hung up their cleats. After each Lambeau Field touchdown, Packer receivers
launch the "Lambeau Leap" into the wild crowd.
Perhaps one reason for the special relationship between Green Bay and the Packers is the fact that
the community actually owns the team. Fans know that the Packers will never load up trucks in
the middle of the night to take off to other pastures. No Packer executive is going to blackmail
the Green Bay City Council.
The Packers also deserve respect because their central figures are men of admirable character.
Quarterback Brett Favre, a good ol' boy from Mississippi who hates the cold, checked himself into
the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kan., to overcome his addiction to pain killers. Defensive lineman
Reggie White, an ordained minister, raised money from his fellow players to rebuild scorched black
churches. Coach Mike Holmgren, a former 48ers assistant, said after the Carolina victory, "Maybe if
we keep going for another 10 years, there will be a little alley Green Bay can name in my honor."
There are other reasons to appreciate the Packers:
- They're located in an old industrial town of 90,000, while the teeming masses in La-La Land
have exactly zero pro football teams. (I'll take Titletown over Tinseltown any day!)
- The Packers play outdoors, on natural grass.
- None of their players have landed on police blotters.
- The team appears to be a model of racial harmony.
In closing, I suggest that we all stand, place our right hands over our hearts, and recite the Packer
Pledge of Allegiance: I pledge Allegiance to the Packers/ of Green Bay, Wisconsin/ of Green Bay,
Wisconsin/ And to the Field on which they play/ Frozen tundra/ Under Lambeau/ With winning and
victory for all!
Published in New Times, January 23, 1997