Sunday, November 18, 2007

I'm a Believer

SAN FRANCISCO, CA — Remember the old Neil Diamond song, originally performed by The Monkees, "I'm a Believer?" Yes, I know, I am dating myself, and lots of readers are probably saying "You mean the song by Smash Mouth and Eddie Murphy in Shrek?" The truth is, I didn't realize it was written by Neil Diamond until I looked it up, but in my mind, it is definitely a Monkees song. Anyway, I am getting to be a believer in the Green Bay Packers. It was only a few weeks ago that I called them the worst 5-1 team in the league. But since my last column, they finished off their road trip by winning at Kansas City, even if the game was closer than the score, and then they absolutely whacked the Minnesota Vikings, 34-0.

Now everybody knows that a game can get out of hand, and that the Packers are not 34 points better than the Vikings. But that was a pretty dominating win, on both sides of the ball, from the start to the finish. When the Packers control the ball for 41 minutes, when they become the first team all year to run for over 100 yards against the Vikings, and when Favre completes passes to 10 different receivers, you know they must be doing something right. And to see the Packers being aggressive well into the 4th quarter, in fact throwing the final touchdown pass with 6 minutes left in the game, is gratifying after watching them let the game slip away against the Bears in week 5.

So now is when things get interesting. The Packers are heavy favorites over the Panthers, raising the specter of a possible "trap" game for the Packers, what with huge games against the Lions and the Cowboys coming up in the next 11 days. Even though Brad Hoover is still with the Panthers, and is evidently the starting fullback, I still think the Packers will be OK. The novelty factor of the game is that there are 82 years' worth of starting quarterbacks on the field, what with Vinny Testaverde starting for the injured David Carr. When Favre was asked why Vinny would come back to play at his age, Favre said "must be the love of the game, or he's broke, one of the two." And for Favre, this is one of the rare instances in recent years when he is not the oldest starting quarterback in the game.

It seems like a lot to ask for the Packers to win today against
Carolina, and then to complete another 2-game road sweep against the Lions and the Cowboys. If I had to guess, I would guess that they will lose one of those games (probably, unfortunately, against the Cowboys). But, as the cliché goes, they just have to play them one game at a time.

* * * * * * * * * * *

After mentioning in my last column that my recording of the Monday night Denver game got messed up, three readers volunteered to send me a copy. Wisconsin reader Tim Shea was the first to volunteer, followed quickly by another Wisconsin reader, John Daley, and, get this, a reader in
Brazil, Bruno Siqueira. Bruno is not a transplant from Wisconsin, in fact he has never been to the U.S., but he is still a Packers fan. Que homem! Vão Os Packers! Anyway, I took Tim up on his offer to send a DVD, since he was first, but I want to thank Tim, John, and Bruno for their prompt and generous offers.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Bombs Away

SAN FRANCISCO — The combination of a business trip and a visit to our college student daughter brought us to New York last weekend. I spent parts of Sunday getting ready for my business meeting, with the Giants-Dolphins snoozer in , and then parts of the Jets game on in the background. This reminded me how thankful I am for my satellite dish, since I would otherwise spend my time at home watching 49ers and Raiders games. The New York and Bay Area markets are, without doubt, the worst places to watch NFL games on broadcast TV, because of the two home teams monopolizing the airwaves.

While we could watch the Monday night Packer game anywhere, including our hotel room, we decided to look for a Packer bar in or near Greenwich Village, so that our daughter, with her crazy schedule, could watch at least part of the game with us. At some point, I remembered that Scott Crevier's web site actually has a list of Packer bars on it, so I checked it out there: [note: no longer available as of October, 2009]

Sure enough, this led us to the Kettle of Fish bar, on Christopher Street in the Village, close to the West 4th Street subway stop. I am not being compensated for this plug in any way, but I highly recommend this place. It has two rooms, and (I think) 5 decent-sized TVs. They obviously must have a satellite dish, since they show the Packer game every week, but I am told that even for a Sunday game, EVERY TV shows the Packer game. No ambivalence here - no attempt to please everyone, just all Packers, all the time. If you didn't come to watch the Packers, you are in the wrong place. We arrived about 20 minutes before the game, and the place was already pretty full. Since we were probably the oldest people in the bar, some of the young Packer fans helped to find extra chairs for us so we could sit down during the game. The owner eventually declared the place full and refused to let late-arrivals in, except for our daughter, since I had pre-arranged this with the tough looking door monitor.

When game time arrived, they turned the ESPN audio up loud, although it is still tough to follow what the announcers are saying in a bar full of 200 or so Packer fans. But the special audio feature in this bar is that when the Packers score, they turn off the TV audio, and instead play the song "I Love My Green Bay Packers" as people celebrate. During halftime, they play nothing but Packer music, including the infamous "The Bears Still Suck" song. They don't serve any food, but they have a thick envelope full of delivery menus, so all throughout the game delivery guys are bringing in everything from Chinese food to Pizzas to sandwiches.

Because I had been busy in the week leading up to the game, I had not really followed the extent to which Favre had been criticized in the press for some of his underthrown balls in the Redskins game. Does he still have the arm strength? Has he finally gone over the hill? That sort of thing. I really only became aware of this criticism in listening to Favre's post-game interview Monday night, where he (tongue-in-cheek) thanked the media for challenging him prior to the game. Anyway, a game-tying perfect 79 yard bomb in the first quarter, and then a game-winning picture-perfect 82 yard bomb in overtime seem like pretty good answers to the criticism. I guess the old guy still has a little gas left in the tank. I have never considered accuracy of long passes to be one of Favre's strengths. Lynn Dickey, for all his other weaknesses, was far more accurate with his long balls. But those two passes of Favre's on Monday night could not possibly have been any better. A couple of those a week and this team will win a lot of games.

As you might imagine, the place went completely bonkers when the winning touchdown was scored. Several minutes earlier, the Packers had been one play away from losing the game, but the defense managed to stop Cutler's run and force the tying field goal instead. Still, the Packers had not scored since the first half, the defense was getting tired, and the Broncos had tied the game in fairly dramatic fashion. All the momentum was going the Broncos' way, and all they had to do was get the ball back and continue doing what they were doing. I would have felt pretty good if I were rooting for the Broncos. Then, one play and ten seconds later, the game was over. Back at the Kettle of Fish, people were screaming, hugging and high-fiving. One guy tripped over a chair in his excitement (and inebriation) and people started piling on top of him on the floor. Then, when the Packer music started playing, people (including yours truly) started dancing the polka in the bar. It was great fun, and I would go there again if I am ever in on a Packer game day again.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The only bad part about the game is the fact that my DVD recorder flaked out on me while I was out of town, and so I don't have a copy of the Denver game. If there is anyone out there who recorded it and is willing to make a copy for me, or better yet let me borrow and return your copy, please contact me at .