Fabled Packers reporter goes after Lambeau fans in his post-season critique
"Packers Too Soft To Join NFL's Elite" reads the headline atop Journal/Sentinel Packers scribe Bob McGinn's analysis of the 2012 season.
But it's what comes at the end of his column that raised my eyebrows. After he takes the team and front office to task for bringing in players who aren't as nasty as those found on the rosters of other contenders, he drops this bomb.
"And the crowds at Lambeau Field have started to remind me of those staid assemblages at the University of Michigan," McGinn writes. "It's the place to be seen and all that, but it has been a long time since a visiting coach or player went on and on about how it difficult it was to hear and play in Green Bay.
Nowhere is it written that the Packers shall contend for if not win the Super Bowl every year, but some fans sure seem to think it is."
A great, big fat Bah-ZITCH to the heretofore untouchable members of Cheddarhead Nation.
Last weekend's playoff loss to the Niners exposed the Packers as a team that's good, but not good enough to contend for the Super Bowl. They miss key ingredients at several positions, and McGinn maintains they lack the toughness of teams like San Francisco and New England, two teams playing for their conference crowns. No argument there: even Seattle, in the disputed "Fail Mary" win over the Packers early in the '12 slate, seemed to run faster and hit far harder than anyone wearing green and gold. The Packers seem capable of winning their division against decent, familiar but not necessarily fierce foes. Get out among the league's best, though, and it's another story. Think of the last few playoff losses--those are occasions where you see how you measure up against the best and you can see where the Pack is lacking.
But the fans?
I went to the Saints game on a beautiful autumn day. Lambeau never looked better, and the atmosphere was what we've come to expect, but I have to admit I don't remember ever thinking that the joint was intimidatingly loud. And, this was on a day when there weren't that many New Orleans fans in the seats. Think what happened later on when the Vikings came to town--lots of fans beefed about the prevalence of purple, thanks to "loyal" Green Bay fans who opted to peddle their tickets.
Packers Nation loves to hear about how well we travel, how Green Bay can "take over" someone else's home field. How cool is it to hear "Go Pack Go" resonating through the stadium when Green Bay plays away? Remember how Tampa used to become Lambeau South?
The Buccaneers took steps to stop that from happening once they moved into their new stadium, and other teams are having to cope with the issue, too. The Packers brass can't really do much to keep local fans from selling out, but maybe it's time for the season-ticket holders themselves to do something about it. It's tough to turn down easy money--one can put a hefty dent in a bill by selling a single pair of hot tickets--but if this team is to maintain its home field edge, maybe it's time to take the obligation that comes with ownership a little more seriously. Sell your tickets to make some cash? Fine. How about finding someone local who'll wear our colors in your place? It's a little more involved that going to EBay and taking the best offer, but isn't it worth it?
And are the fans who go getting "soft"? Is Lambeau becoming like Wrigley Field, where the party in the bleachers or the bar across the street is more important that the game between the lines? Are too many of us going there to tweet pictures, to do a big "dig-me-I'm-at-the-Packers-game" social media dance while dialing out of the action? Are you one of those people in the seats whose face is constantly in their phone, ignoring what's happening right in front of you? Do you have to consult McGinn's column the next day to find out what you missed because you were too busy yakking/texting/drinking?
Mike McCarthy is big on game-day culture. The fact he considers it so important tells us he believes it makes a difference on the scoreboard. The team is doing what it can to make the in-game experience more enjoyable--more highlights and out-of-town scores for the legions of fantasy fans, for one thing, along with bigger scoreboards and more replays (how many times do you hear other fans say they see more of the game at home than they do in the seats?).
McGinn may be right--maybe Lambeau's legions aren't doing their job in collectively creating a hostile environment, giving the Pack the home field edge. Perhaps we've become entitled, thinking our team is ALWAYS a Super Bowl contender and that today's game--win or lose--is merely a social occasion that will culminate in a trip to a larger, more festive clash, one titled in Roman numerals with a trophy that bears the name of a former Packers coach. Win? Lose? Who cares? The brats at that tailgate were AWESOME! And how many shots of RumChata did I down?
Fans don't tackle. They don't fling a single pass, throw any blocks, return any kicks. No single fan in the seats can change the course of what's happening on the gridiron, but collectively they can create an atmosphere that makes it tougher for the visiting team to execute. We see it at other NFL venues. We had it at Lambeau. McGinn, who's been to a few pro football rodeos and who knows the Green Bay culture better than anyone, seems to think those sitting on those cold metal bleachers each game day are getting "soft", feeling entitled.
Some will take that as an insult, a slap in the face, a challenge to your individual Packers-fan bona fides. Anyone who's been to a game recently should take it for what it is--McGinn holding up a giant mirror, asking you to take a cold, hard look at yourself because Lambeau atmosphere, indeed, makes a difference.
At least it used to.