As a kid I wanted to grow up to be either Vince Lombardi or one of those chimps shot off into outer space. Before Lombardi arrived in Green Bay in 1959, the town was so depressed about its professional football team (in 1958, the team went 2-10) that city plans were in the works to move the entire community to the Navarino State Wildlife area and sell all its beachfront property to Michigan. Lombardi shows up, Green Bay becomes Titletown, and Michigan, well Michigan is never heard from again. The closest I ever came to becoming Vince Lombardi was walking around the campus of Fordham University. As for the chimp, well I still drink my milk out of straws.
This Sunday I will be wearing a cheesehead on my natural cheesehead. I will be half naked, my concave chest painted with shiny green and gold lacquer. My man breasts will be exposed for the entire world to see, and I will care not a whit whether or not I have a clothing malfunction. I will lock the doors, shut the windows, disconnect the landlines, and turn off the cell.
The last time Green Bay went to the Big Dance (January 25, 1998), I developed so many depressive looks as the clock ticked down to its inevitable end that the people around me thought I was auditioning for a Bergmann movie. The officers arresting me for my funereal chest wailing were bemused Broncos fans, of that I am certain. I still remember them holding me down while they tore up my betting slips from the Bellagio.
I was taught a lesson that day. Never ever watch a Super Bowl at a Chuck E. Cheese. The management becomes very suspicious about random hysterical outbursts from an adult not associated with any particular barbarian children around him. The kids started screaming at the thought that their single moms were once more bringing home a chemically dependent male with anger management issues.
I have always loved Super Bowl Sunday. It’s the one day out of the year where I remodel my man cave from French provincial to Paleolithic Rustic and kick back with a cigar in one hand and an electric cattle prod in the other. The prod is not for any S & M usage (at least not on that day). It's mere presence keeps me awake long enough to remember to munch piles of Doritos and to lap down cases of Ensure. Most games become so dull within minutes of kick-off, I'm half asleep by the start of the second quarter. Select programmed prod jolts wake me up to view the commercials and witness any planned half time nudity involving body parts owned by 50% of the world’s population and coveted by most of the other 50%. Otherwise it's a typical Sunday afternoon: an old man dozing off in his recliner, Doritos flecks around the lips.
I no longer am allowed to drink during any sporting events -- even when watching in the comfort of my apartment. A judge’s orders and that pesky electronic bracelet that shoots 50,000 volts up my backside when I even think of a case of Coronas is a clear enough deterrent. How a sequoia found itself riding my grill in Yosemite I’ll never know, but I pleaded no contest after I saw the seated jury. I swear they all resembled out of work conifers.
This year, the Green Bay Packers will play some team, the name of which thankfully escapes me at the moment. As is the case with any Packer broadcast, I will eagle-eye the game alone as most of my remaining friends find my preparations leading up to any Packer kickoff both creepy and unsettling. I’m from Wisconsin: So sue me. Those of us born and bred in America’s Dairyland care only about dairy consumption, affordable cholesterol medication, the availability of Indian casinos, stopping the Commie-Socialist-Pinko lefties in Madison, and The Green Bay Packers.
Somewhere in this black hole I call an apartment are autographed pictures of Bart Starr, Max McGee and Fuzzy Thurston. I haven’t seen the photos in years; but I know they are carefully snuggled in the pages of my grade school dictionary, the one I used to flatten maple, oak, and elm leaves as a science experiment. I don’t remember how I got the autographs, but back then sports legends didn’t ask 25 bucks for their John Hancocks. You marched up to them and they signed. Of course it was deer season at the time and I was carrying a rifle. Only in Wisconsin could a pickup line boasting of your presence at Lambeau Field on December 31st, 1967 get you some action. Out here in Los Angeles, an Ice Bowl is something you purchase at William Sonoma.
I’m not a superstitious individual: I pet black cats; I walk under ladders; I have no problem with elevators that let me off on the thirteenth floor -- unless the structure only has twelve stories. On occasion, I have even dated women with cloven hoofs and the mark of the beast on their foreheads. Desperate times call for desperate measures. But when it comes to Packer games, I’m a different person. I devolve into rituals that would scare away Celtic high priests at Stonehenge.
On most Sundays I can keep my ceremonial prayers to a minimum, especially as Los Angeles stations criminally fail to broadcast all Packer games (as if I can afford a six thousand dollar a year complete sports package). My antics no longer cause panic among my neighbors or visits from either the police or fire departments. Sometimes alley cats chime in, but that usually only occurs when the Packers play away games.
HOW I PREPARE TO WATCH THE PACKERS THIS SUNDAYThis Saturday night I will drive to an Indian casino. I will find one in California rather than make my normal trek into Arizona. I no longer go to any casino believing I will win anything other than the gratitude of the casino managers and quarterly scorn from the State Franchise board. I will simply continue a tradition first begun many years ago when I had the good fortune to secure a couple of tickets late on a Saturday night playing an illegal game of poker at the University of Wisconsin student union. Poker that night was good to me.
Exactly 5 hours before kickoff, I will bathe in a wash of micro breweries imported from Milwaukee and Black River Falls. I’ve tried beers from Rhinelander and Oconto Falls, but find the suds mix poorly with the day-old bath water and the wash and wear laundry I usually bathe in. I have no idea why I do this, since I cannot drink any of the contents and the water plays havoc with my electronic bracelet. My therapist believes as a child I was frightened by the Hamm's Bear.
Chanting to the gods of victory will come next. I used to recite every French or Algonquin city name in the state, but so many existed I never got around to watching the games. I moved from those prayers to enumerating only the counties with Native Indian names. I stopped when I realized I was also including names found in both Iowa and Minnesota. Now I will only repeat the State motto, FORWARD, and drink down a quart of buttermilk. To truly insure a Packer victory, I will mumble in a sing song fashion the words Chequamegon, Wausaukee, Neenah Menasha and Oconomowoc. I hope I need not go as far as to utter the term, Sheboygan.
Painting myself in the colors of green and gold has now taken on a life of its own especially since I currently use an oil based mixture. Granted, the post-game stripping of the paint from certain sensitive masculine parts feels as if I’m having an internal Brazilian wax, but the pain is worth it… especially after a hard fought Packer victory. In a Packer defeat, well, I will suffer along with the team, though sniffing paint thinner long enough will allow me to forget whether the team won or lost, what country I'm in, and whether I am now of a different gender.
I then will offer up a faux burnt sacrifice. In previous years, this procedure in the middle of my apartment, using charcoal and lighter fluid, has cost me precious time away from my television set whilst I explained myself down at the West Los Angeles Police Station. Also, I’ve discovered that none of the fire departments who get the call are Packer backers; instead the members appear to be surly, mean-spirited followers of the Bears, Vikings, or Giants. Now I will simply mime my way through the ceremony on Sunday, although I probably will still burn dust bunnies, lint, and used Downey fabric softener in my ex-girlfriend's Tupperware containers. She never used them anyway when she was around.
I will not try to drive my new station wagon up three flights of stairs to approximate a Lambeau Field tailgating party. I already have several hernias, rotator cuff problems and a suspicious looking DMV license. What happened to my last car during the Philadelphia game of several weeks ago was an accident; at least that’s how I plan on pleading next week. I never realized that grease leaking from an indoor hibachi could consume cloth seats so quickly.
During any play that moves the ball, I will high five anyone of a number of blow up dolls that all look like Vince Lombardi.
For a Packer field goal, the sound of deflated tom-toms as I pat my stomach will ring out. For a touchdown, I will pat down other areas. I have yet to figure out what to do for a touchback.
During half time, I will run to a roof a half a mile away and view the rest of the game through high-powered binoculars. This will approximate the Lambeau Field experience of my youth. Back then, my seats were so high and far away I was actually watching the game from Manitoba.
I will be using my “We Will Never Forget You Brent" tee shirt as a coaster.
GO PACKERS! GO PACKERS! GO PACKERS!