I know; it was extremely disappointing – indeed, wrenching – for many of those that follow these pages to watch the Green Bay Packers lose to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a game that the Packers should have won. I doubt many, if told before the game that the Green and Gold, playing in Lambeau Field, would intercept Buccaneer Tom Brady three times, would have predicted a Packer defeat. Since I consider the officiating mistakes and the two teams’ physical miscues to have about evened out, I would place the loss at the feet of the Packer coaching staff: it was inexcusable not to impress upon the Packer secondary, with seconds left in the first half, what any sixth grader would realize – Don’t let a receiver get behind you; in going for two points after a touchdown with a lot of time left in the game, rather than taking the almost certain PAT, Head Coach Matt LaFleur was oblivious to what the late Marquette Coach Al McGuire called the “rhythm of the game” – that more points were certain to be scored by both teams and what was needed at that point was to maintain momentum – i.e., avoid the risk of emotional deflation that would necessarily occur if the two-point attempt failed (as it did); and Mr. LaFleur’s coaching malpractice involved in kicking a field goal rather than going for the tying touchdown in the waning minutes.
Fine. I’m not sure that this would have as readily occurred to me 20 years ago, certainly not 30 or 40: it is only a game. Speaking as someone who our nieces and nephews used to say was as entertaining to watch, watching the Packers play, as the game itself – someone who has recorded the vast majority of Packer games for decades rather than watch them live, since his wife didn’t like putting up with the disgruntlement on Sunday nights that invariably accompanied a loss – Packer fortunes, or indeed those of any team, while providing a pleasant distraction from the many cares we face, are indeed that – a distraction. On the macro level, even if Packer Quarterback Aaron Rodgers never plays another game, Packer fans can look back on the last 29 seasons – since then-Packer Quarterback Brett Favre threw his first touchdown pass to Kitrick Taylor in September of 1992 – and truly say that while the team has at times been an underdog in a given contest, there hasn’t been a game in almost the last 30 years, with Messrs. Favre and Rodgers at the helm, that at the beginning, the team had no chance of winning. I doubt another pro football franchise can say the same. We Packer fans have no kick [so to speak ;)] coming. Was it disappointing for Mr. Rodgers that he didn’t win last night? Sure. Given his salary in the tens of millions of dollars – or the fact that every Green Bay player earned at a rate of over $500,000 this season — does his or their disappointment rank with the millions upon millions of afflicted we have around the world? Obviously not. Regrets devoted to sport today might better be centered on the passing of Henry Aaron, a giant of a man who I submit remains baseball’s true home run king.
So let us reflect on what I consider the brightest national note of 2020 – that by the virtue of a relatively few votes in the states of Arizona, Georgia, and Wisconsin, we avoided becoming prey to a leader I truly consider deranged, and subject to fascist tendencies. At the same time, we remember the arguably hundreds of thousands of avoidable American deaths and millions of lives needlessly and terribly disrupted by his twisted malfeasance in dealing with the Coronavirus. Let us look forward with hopes of doing better in this still-new calendar year. We are led by a good man who truly means well. The vaccine, despite distribution hiccups, is in the offing. Most economists cited in the Wall Street Journal believe that our economy will strongly and quickly rebound. While we cannot bring back those we have needlessly lost, or repair all of the economic loss so many have suffered, as we remember them we can hopefully be part of a renewal that will make the lives of at least some of us, here and around the world, at least a little better.
I recognize that this note sounds less like the vehement lament of a dedicated Packer backer than the ruminations of an aging citizen; I confess that my thoughts didn’t cover as wide an expanse in the moments after the Packer game as they do as I type this; but age does have its benefits.