Packers fans move on - unlike Philly fans

Packers fans may have looked glum after the loss to the Giants, but it apparently didn't last. That's very unlike Philadelphia.
Packers fans may have looked glum after the loss to the Giants, but it apparently didn't last. That's very unlike Philadelphia. (JEFFREY PHELPS / Associated Press)
Posted: January 22, 2012

I still can't get over the fact that the No. 1-seeded Green Bay Packers got smoked at home by the New York Giants in the NFC semifinals, and I have no stake in the Packers nor do I even care about the city of Green Bay or the state of Wisconsin.

I really can't get over the fact that Packers fans seem to have already gotten over the loss.

See, I come from a city that takes defeats hard.

If the Eagles had been the No. 1 seed in the conference playoffs with a sparkling 15-1 record and then gotten whupped by a team that just barely made the tournament, I don't think many fans here would have been sane enough to pass so much as a driving test.

Philly fans would have been sick to their stomachs and in such a deep mourning that they may have sat shiva until training camp or invited into their homes 50 Italian grandmothers as "designated wailers" like they used to do at all those old-school South Philly funeral homes while the body was laid out.

We're talking about fans who still can't get over the Eagles' 2002 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC title game.

Just as it was in Green Bay last week, it was bone-cold that day at Veterans Stadium - the last time football would ever be played there.

The Eagles were a prohibitive favorite that day and a Super Bowl in sunny San Diego became close enough to touch, especially after Duce Staley punched in a touchdown on the Eagles' first drive.

And then it became Nightmare on Pattison Avenue, the names and the images burning gaping gut holes, even today: Joe Jurevicius running away from pursuers, with Blaine Bishop flailing helplessly; Barry Gardner at middle linebacker instead of Jeremiah Trotter; Donovan McNabb getting intercepted.

Don't even remind me of the following year, when Carolina's Ricky Manning Jr. punked Eagles receivers.

And I especially don't want to hear about the Birds losing to the Arizona Cardinals a couple of years later, with Kevin Curtis falling to the earth juggling a football he couldn't snatch on a fourth down, the last desperate Donovan McNabb play on a final drive he once again couldn't complete.

Had the Eagles lost to the Giants last week with a No. 1 seed and a 15-1 record, with a quarterback as accomplished as Aaron Rodgers . . . dios mio!

But in Green Bay, life moves on.

I started paying attention this past week to the sports media there. The day after the game, there were several newspaper stories in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel detailing the disappointing Packers loss. And there was one story on the reaction of Green Bay fans. A few were devastated.

But in that same story, a fan actually made the case that it had been a good season for the Packers and that they would get 'em next year.

I swear, if an Eagles fan had said that about a Birds loss, he may have been served up on somebody's tailgate griddle.

Giving Packers fans the benefit of the doubt, Green Bay is about 110 miles from Milwaukee. Perhaps it was a geographical thing.

So I assigned a spy to listen to Green Bay sports-talk radio. By Tuesday, fans were talking about Prince Fielder's possibly signing in Texas.

Say what?

I've always thought that we take sports so seriously here because we don't have palm trees in our backyard and sports is more of a necessary outlet here in the Northeast corridor.

But what else do they have in Green Bay? Is it possible that Philadelphia fans are so desperate for championships, because of the dearth of titles we possess, that it fires up our rooting interests to unreasonable levels? So in essence, does that makes us totally nuts?

A guy named Bill H. wrote me last week. He told me that he had a background in sociology and then offered a sociological perspective on why Eagles fans would have fallen apart if the Birds had lost last week like the Packers did.

Here's how he broke it down. (The comments in parenthesis are how I feel about his theories.)

1. Population size. Our population is large enough to have a sizable fan base that laments a loss, while Green Bay doesn't have enough human beings to power its sports machine.

Since we have a huge metro area, the buzz stays hot and we keep the wound open by constantly talking about it. (OK, but I'm not sold yet).

2. Native population. Unlike New York and other cities or states, a large percentage of Philly fans are from the Philadelphia metro area.

Thus, a heavy percentage of transplants roots for other teams or just doesn't care as much about the home team. In 2009, when the Yankees beat the Phillies, Bill, as a Philly fan, was so devastated, he went to drown his sorrows at a hookah bar. The people there didn't know the first thing about baseball and it was as if the game never happened.

A mere 10 miles south of Yankee Stadium, New York had an enclave to escape Yankeedom. (Bill, you find me a like escape from Packer football in Green Bay, and I'll eat a Wisconsin-size block of cheese in front of City Hall.)

3. Sports are connected with our self-worth. We are the underdog. For a very long time, we've been told we are an inadequate city. National pundits like to take pot shots at us. We're rude and crass and we slather Cheez Whiz on our hoagie rolls.

Sports is the one thing we hold dearly to our hearts; it is the fabric of our being. We're a city that can take a fictional movie character such as Rocky, bronze him, and stand him as the front piece of an art museum that also houses Manet.

If it topples, what else do we have? (I agreed totally and for some reason, it doesn't make me feel that good.)

4. Validation. Since we harbor a deep resentment for places such as Boston or New York as a reflection of our insecurity, we need our sports teams to win to validate our city as a premier place to live.

In Green Bay, they have won before. They have won a lot. Losing in one year, especially in a year after which the team won the Super Bowl, doesn't have that killer sting. (Makes sense, but the Phillies lost a World Series the year after they won one and it still felt like a jagged-edged knife went through us).

So what does it all mean? Who knows. I don't know whether Packers fans will be watching the Giants take on the 49ers on national television. I know we would have all been at the mall.


Mike Missanelli hosts a show from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays on 97.5-FM The Fanatic. Contact him at mikemiss@975thefanatic.com.

 

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