OK, I admit it. On the eve of the NFC Championship game featuring the Packers and Bears, my passion, nervousness, and anticipation is irrational. I know that there are those who would never understand it. I even admit to this particular neurosis. I don’t expect people to accept it. As they say, “It is what it is.”
For the past few weeks I have been living and dying with every play of each Packer game. When injuries decimated the team early in the season I felt as though I could relax and simply enjoy any victory that they might achieve the rest of the season. But as the team stepped up, as they began to win, as they made their way into the playoffs, my irrational passion rose to the surface once again.
For the last two games of the regular season and the first two games of the playoffs I have worn a path in our living room rug. I have been spitting and fuming; I have been lamenting and rejoicing; I have leaped off the couch at the very high highs, and pounded my fist at the very low lows.
At the start of the playoffs I stated that it didn’t matter how far the Packers made it in the playoffs. It would all be icing on the cake. I lied. Now anything less than a win is going to be far more than a huge disappointment. It won’t only ruin my day. It will take me months or even years to get over it. I know. It’s just a game. It’s irrational.
Everything changed when it turned out that the Packers would be playing the Bears. You see, Green and Gold literally runs in my blood. My maternal grandmother and grandfather lived in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, just miles down the road from Lambeau Field. They followed the Packers most of their lives. They read everything they could read about their beloved team. My great aunt had season tickets for more years than I could count. My parents are both rabid fans. My mom won’t even stay in the room if the game is close (just in case you wonder where I get it). My son and daughter, nieces and nephews bleed green and gold, too.
I grew up pretending to be Bart Starr scoring the winning touchdown with just seconds left in the game. When I wasn’t Bart Starr, I dreamt I was my favorite player, running back John Brockington, sweeping around the corner for a 40-yard run. I suffered through the Lynn Dickey years, the Forrest Gregg and Lindy Infante years, and more recently the Ray Rhodes year. I still shed a tear and get chills when I watch Brett Favre and Reggie White winning the 1997 Super Bowl, and can’t even bear to think about the 1998 Super Bowl. To this day I can’t stand the Denver Broncos.
Now it comes down to a game with the Chicago Bears in order to proceed to the Green Bay Packers’ first Super Bowl appearance since 1998. Really? Did it have to be the Bears? Did it have to be that team from south of the border that has been the arch rival since time immemorial? Did it have to be the team so appropriately dressed in villain’s black? Did it have to be the team from the city that produces more obnoxious fans per capita than any other? (OK. They probably feel the same way about the fans to their north; but, still….)
So if you listen closely tomorrow, you might hear my screams, cries, or shouts. I’ll be lunging my body forward with James Starks on the Packers running plays, and oomphing along with Clay Matthews as he makes a tackle. I’ll be wincing when Aaron Rodgers gets hit, and putting a little bit of my leg into Mason Crosby’s kicks. I’ll be cheering each fumble and interception given up by the dreaded black and orange, and hoping against all hope that my beloved Green Bay Packers will pull out an improbable run to the Super Bowl.
But if they lose, please give me my space. And if they lose, I don’t want to hear from any of you Bears fans. I know, it’s just a game. It’s irrational passion. But I am who I am. I can’t help it.
Go Packers! Please win. Please?