By Kevin Gibson
As I stood alone, staring into the television at the aftermath of the Green Bay Packers’ Super Bowl victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, I was 9 again, just for a few moments.
It was age 9 when I became a Packers fan; my youth league team was called the Packers so, hey, I had to root for the “big” team, right? After all, I was now part of the family. I was invested instantly, and even though I would later play for teams called the Cowboys and the Colts, those allegiances never stuck. It was always the Packers for me. I took ridicule from classmates, rarely saw the team play on television (this was the ’70s, mind you), and was left to keep up with the players through newspaper clippings and Topps football cards. But I stayed the course.
Yes, it’s an emotional investment to be a fan (especially after 35 years of ups and downs with your team), but I think as I watched the scene unfold this past Sunday night, I was just as happy for the players who celebrated on the field. So much went into the journey and the ultimate destination: multiple injuries to key players; possible final chances for guys like Donald Driver, Charles Woodson and Chad Clifton; media perception about Aaron Rodgers getting a monkey off his back.
A tear trickled down my cheek, and my friend Rob walked over and put his arm around me. He said something like, “Enjoy this moment. You’ve earned it.” I was indeed enjoying the moment … which is why I don’t remember exactly what he said.
But whatever he said, he was right. The fans deserved it, and more than anything, the team deserved it. The Packers are a unique team, in part because of the fact they are the only publicly-owned team in the NFL, in part because they are in by far the smallest market in the league. But what I felt, especially coming down the stretch during the improbable late-season and playoff run, was that this was simply a group of guys who were bonded by all that aforementioned adversity and effort. It was heart and guts for six straight games.
When asked if the team won the game for Charles Woodson, who had to leave in the first half due to a broken collarbone, I believe it was safety Nick Collins who said to Chris Berman, “Really, I think we won it for each other.”
What struck me in the aftermath of that legendary run to the championship, the Packers just seem like a good group of human beings. I understand now that there’s a good reason Ted Thompson ignored Brett Favre’s pleas four years ago to sign free agent wide receiver Randy Moss – it’s because a me-first player such as Moss would never have fit on a team like the 2010 Green Bay Packers.
For that matter, neither would Favre. But I promised myself I wouldn’t go there.
Regardless, this is a season I remember as one in which I really came to understand what I’m rooting for and why I have always loved sports. It’s more than the competition, the action and the game itself which I love so much. It’s really about the people involved, and how a common goal can bond those people so powerfully.
And it’s pretty amazing how a group of grown men in green and gold uniforms, playing a simple game, can make a grown man like myself shed a tear. Like a 9-year-old.