Chad Comello

Librarian, cinephile, et al

Tag: Aaron Rodgers

Here, Rodgers & Pencils

 

1) Here by Richard McGuire
hereI was not a comic-book kid and I don’t know why. I had tailor-made qualities for it—tendency toward nerdery, introversion, being in band—yet I’ve only recently scratched the surface of recent popular graphic novels. One I heard about from the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast was Richard McGuire’s Here, which plants itself in the space of one living room and hops into a time machine. It’s almost entirely visual and plotless; life and death play out through time, forward and backward, by inches and by millennia—yet all within the contained space of one living room. Moments from 1995, 1879, 2113, or 110,000 BC come and go, overlap, talk to each other. Ingenious, profound, and peppered with soupçons of sly meta-wit (in one frame overlaying 1941 a character from 1990 says, “I took a nap. And when I woke I didn’t know where I was.”), Here is like McGuire’s cover version of The Tree of Life, or if someone hit shuffle in the Interstellar tesseract.

2) Aaron Rodgers winning MVP again
Though if he only wins for seasons when the Packers lose heartbreakers in the playoffs, then I hope he never wins one again.

3) Sharpening pencils
I’m a mechanical pencil man myself, but I get a strange thrill out of sharpening pencils to see their dull tips become pointed again.

Getting Bretter

brett

There’s new quarterback drama in Green Bay this season that will likely quicken the blood flow through the cheese-clogged arteries of Packers fans like me. We are lucky that it does not involve the health status of Aaron Rodgers, who looks yet again ready to conquer the league. Rather, it involves whether Brett Favre will be booed when he returns to Lambeau Field for the first time as a retired player.

He won’t be.

The man himself acknowledges this (or at least hopes for it), saying he’s not worried about being booed for leaving and playing for the Vikings because “I’m well aware that you can’t please everyone. Not everyone’s going to like you regardless, and you know what, so be it. But I think the 16 years that I had in Green Bay speaks for itself.” Of course, Favre was booed when he returned to Lambeau as a Viking in 2009, and under the circumstances understandably so. But those hard feelings have softened considerably since then. Why?

Because absence makes Packers fans’ hearts grow Favrer. Since the Man of Mississippi left in 2008, the team has enjoyed a Super Bowl victory, an all-star quarterback with a strong backing crew, and a long string of successful seasons; how can Packers fans not be happy? And now that Favre has been away from the game for three full seasons after a checkered post-Packers denouement, reuniting feels all the more desirable. It’s also inevitable, given the unanimous consent for Favre’s entrance into the Hall of Fame in 2016.

I think all parties involved in 2008’s acrimonious split–Favre, the Packers organization, and especially the fans—long for restoration. When I think of Favre I want to think about the 2008 divisional playoff game against the Seahawks, the audible to Andre Rison in Super Bowl XXXI, the Oakland game, and the prankster. Sure, he also brings with him the interceptions, the occasional scuzziness, and 4th-and-26. But when the prodigal son returns home, you don’t demand a confession or rehash grievances. You celebrate. You remember that football is just a game, and that players are people too.

And you, if you’re like me, eagerly anticipate Bart Starr, Brett Favre, and Aaron Rodgers standing together for the first time for a long-overdue photo-op. Packers Nation, let’s hope this happens soon.

Last Day At Lambeau

And I thought Wisconsin’s long, state-wide nightmare was over.

A new documentary called Last Day At Lambeau, which chronicles the Brett Favre “retirement” saga of 2008, is set to be released in Madison next week and is sure to re-trigger some dormant emotions among Packers fans about the Ol’ Gunslinger himself. I haven’t see the film yet, but as I watched the above clip on the film’s website my first reaction was to laugh. Seeing footage of Cheeseheads rallying behind the bearded Mississippian, crying “Bring Brett Back!” as they picketed Lambeau Field, made me realize how silly that whole melodrama was at the time and how foolish it is in retrospect.

Tony Mars, the cofounder of SaveBrett.net, talks in the clip about a petition effort he spearheaded in an attempt to convince Packers brass to keep Favre. “Despite how much press coverage the effort got,” he says, “never at any point did the Packers organization acknowledge us in a formal way. And you would think that an organization would want to hear from its fans. That was one of the most disappointing things to me as a Packers fan.”

Let me say this: never at any point in my life do I want a professional sports organization – let alone the Packers, a team I adore and own fake stock in – to consult me about business decisions. I have enough self-awareness to know that I know nothing about how to run a successful football team, so to think that these Packers fans expected to be consulted by the team before making a decision about what to do with Favre is preposterous to me.

Listen, I get it. I loved Favre too. There’s proof of that on the Internet. I still stand by those words because they represented how I felt at the time. But you know that Super Bowl the Packers won in 2010, and the 15-1 team and league MVP they had in 2011? If the rabid Cheeseheads of ’08 got their way, say goodbye to all that. Ted Thompson, Mike McCarthy, and Mike Murphy were smart enough then, in the midst of a tumultuous offseason, to make a very tough but very smart decision.

I don’t buy the argument that Thompson & Co. should have let Favre come back after retiring just because of what Favre had done for the organization. Indeed, he did a great many things that I got to witness first-hand, but he retired. He made that decision, not Ted Thompson. The organization decided to move on and invest in its future with Aaron Rodgers, which I’m sure many of the fans who picketed Lambeau and booed Rodgers at training camp are pretty OK with now.

As I haven’t seen the full film yet, I won’t make any grand judgments about it. As a lover of all things Packers, I’m excited to see an in-depth look at the organization’s defining moment. But if it’s ninety minutes of pointless pontificating and Packers fans bellyaching in news clips about trading away The Legend, then count me out.

Enough ranting about Brett. Time to watch some Aaron Rodgers highlights.

My Packers: The Emotional Tribalism Of Fandom

[Article republished from January 2010]

I can’t sit still when it’s down to the wire.

Four minutes to go in the fourth, the Packers are driving for the game-tying score and I’m on my feet, pacing around my room. It’s been a wild shootout at the NFC Wild Card game: Green Bay’s young gun Aaron Rodgers and Arizona’s grizzled gunslinger Kurt Warner were taking turns tearing up the turf with laser-precision touchdown throws, the defense on both teams nonexistent. In the third quarter, the Packers were down by 21 and gasping for air; now, they’re knocking on the door.

This is the second time in three years the Packers have been in the playoffs. In 2007, we—in Green Bay, Packers fans own the team—had quite the playoff run. We demolished the Seahawks at Lambeau Field in the divisional round on a snow-covered turf. The next week, with the field temperature at or around arctic, the Giants come to Lambeau for the NFC Championship game. In the fourth we tie it up 20-20. The Giants have a chance to win with a field goal, but Tynes sends it wide left. Overtime. I’m on my feet, pacing nervously around the room. Favre throws an interception, and the Giants win it with a field goal. It’s all over.

Today, the Packers are sweating in the Arizona dome. Rodgers connects with Havner, tying the game 45-45. Less than two minutes left, the Cardinals drive and set up for a field goal. Wide left. Overtime. I’m on my feet, pacing nervously around my room. Not again, I think. We win the coin toss. The lob to Jennings downfield – the game winner – is overthrown. Then Rodgers is hit, fumbles, a Cardinal picks it up and runs it in for the score. The game. It’s all over.

The heartbreak hangover. Every sports fan has gone through it: the empty feeling after a devastating loss. The aimlessness. The Packers were on such a roll coming into the playoffs—the loss doesn’t seem real. Its suddenness makes it harder to accept. We were playing, then suddenly the ball came loose, it was in the end zone, and we were done. A bad dream, really.

In the days after I joked with friends that I was going through the stages of grief. The denial came quickly: No, it’ll be called back. There was a penalty. Once it settled in, the anger showed up: What the hell? Why didn’t someone pick up that block? Then the bargaining took place: If we could just do the last play over again… The depression stuck for longer. Seeing the highlights from the game on TV the next few days made it worse. It wasn’t until about four days later when I was finally able to accept the loss and look forward to next year.

This is all very melodramatic, is it not? Applying such a serious paradigm to what is ultimately just a game seems belittling to those suffering the loss of something more than a game. But it is a process many sports fan goes through—consciously or not—with teams and games they invest so much of themselves into; surely these emotions cannot be entirely frivolous.

According to some research, avid fandom and a deep commitment to one sports team are anything but frivolous. A 2000 New York Times article explored the psychology of hardcore sports fans—what their investment means and why it is important. “Our sports heroes are our warriors,” Robert Cialdini, a professor of psychology at Arizona State University, said in the article about sports fans. “This is not some light diversion to be enjoyed for its inherent grace and harmony. The self is centrally involved in the outcome of the event. Whoever you root for represents you.”

Often fanatics of any sport are looked down upon as obsessed, depressed loners in search of diversion and self-identity. But one theory the New York Times floats suggests fan psychology has its roots in “a primitive time when human beings lived in small tribes, and warriors fighting to protect tribes were true genetic representatives of their people.” Every team in its own way is a culture of people who share similar beliefs and customs. In sports those customs – unique chants, specialized uniforms, shared investment in the team’s history – allow spectators to form bonds with their “warriors.” Dr. James Dabbs, a psychologist at George State University, said in an interview that “fans empathize with the competitors to such a degree that they mentally project themselves into the game and experience the same hormonal surges athletes do,” especially in important contests, like a playoff game. “We really are tribal creatures,” he said.

We wear jerseys and decorate our homes with the colors and faces of our favorite athletes – our warriors – and follow them into the field of battle, though our battle happens in the living room or in the stadium seats and instead of using our bodies to fight like the athletes do we use our voices and emotional support. So when our favorite team loses an important game, the effect is not just mental and emotional; it is common to feel physically depressed or even ill.

Which brings us back to the Wild Card weekend. I watch my team – my tribe – fall as the others smile victoriously on the field of battle. I don’t feel ill, but I’m not happy. I commiserate with my fellow Cheeseheads online. I call my dad to make sense of the game.

“That throw to Jennings,” I say. “That was the game.”

“I know,” he says. We were so close. We rehash everything that went wrong, but then turn to everything we did right. Everything that gives us hope for next year. And there is a lot of hope for next year.

I think my tribe will be just fine.

What Is Aaron Rodgers?

A point of pride here: Jason Wilde is the Packers beat writer for ESPNMilwaukee.com and a Twitter fiend and also hosts “The Aaron Rodgers Show” on Tuesdays. He solicits questions for Aaron on Twitter and today on a whim I submitted one.

Turns out, he asked the future 2011 league MVP my question. What was the question? and what was his answer? Listen to the whole show below, or skip right to my question at the 37-minute mark.

Update (April 2015): The audio from the show is no longer available. I asked which Jeopardy category, besides football, would he most excel at, and he said history or religion.

Happy First Win, Aaron – Here’s To Many More

I loved Brett, but he’s not the Packers’ quarterback any more.

Congrats, Aaron Rodgers. I know you’ll do well.

On Brett Favre’s Retirement

My first memory of Brett Favre was watching him win Super Bowl XXXI. My family hosted a huge party in our basement. I watched as he threw a long shot down the middle on an audible to Andre Rison for the first score, then to Antonio Freeman down the right sideline for a score. I saw him dive into the near left corner of the endzone for a touchdown. And I saw him thrust his helmet into the air in celebration with that bright smile on.

Brett has been with me since that time. I’ve watched him win a Super Bowl, then lose one, then go into the deepest of ruts. I watched him battle back to the playoffs–making heroic last-second plays to win, and tragic mistakes to lose. He was a gunslinger. No apologies. The plays he made were impossibly reckless, yet he still made them.

He loved to play. Everyone knew this. He got into the habit of hoisting his receivers in the air after they caught another one of his zingers for a score. Every time he attempted a run or made a block, we couldn’t help but laugh, then make sure he was okay. Of all of the records he recently broke, none is as special to Brett as the consecutive games started. As a quarterback, the player that gets hit the most and hardest, he managed to take the hits and keep on ticking. Even when he did get injured, he was back the next week lobbing Hail Marys and tossing the ball underhanded.

He was so close last year to getting back to the Super Bowl. But he was right when he said that it is much worse to get to the Super Bowl and lose than to not get there at all. That’s why I figured he was coming back this year–the team is so talented and motivated to win. But it will never be. He won’t get to add another ring to his fingers.

He’s still a Super Bowl winner, a Pro Bowler, a record holder, a 3-time MVP, and a favorite among fans–even Bears’ fans.

A part of me is leaving with Brett. I mean that sincerely. He’s the kind of icon that inspires kids to play sports and to have fun while they do it. I never went into football, but every time I play a pick up game with my friends, I call the play-by-play for him. Favre drops back, scrambles, evades another defender, sees Driver streaking down the sideline, zips a rocket downfield, Driver’s got it! Touchdown!

As much as it pains me to say, Brett needs to stay retired. He can’t pull a Michael Jordan and come back and play for a half-rate team just because the money is right or he feels better about playing. He will retire as a Packer and stay one forever. I don’t know how my fellow Packer fans will take this. Brett Favre is seriously is a huge part of my life, and that part is now gone. Sunday afternoons and Monday nights will never be the same.

I have faith in Aaron Rodgers, Mike McCarthy, and the entire team. Brett may have led them here, but they can finish it themselves. I have always been and will remain a Packer fan, though the spark that we Cheeseheads love seeing every fall is gone.

Thanks Brett. For the memories, for your dumbass plays, for your constant scrambling, for your enthusiasm, for supporting your family when they’ve supported you, and for giving football fans everywhere something to cherish forever.

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