Friday, December 15, 2006

How To Talk To A Vikings Fan…If You Must

If you are a football enthusiast whose career involves a significant amount of travel, one of the challenges you face is how to keep up with your favorite team while on the road. And how to enjoy the Sunday games when you are far away from those you love:

Your comfy couch
The pantry where your favorite snacks are stored
Your large capacity refrigerator located within 20 feet of said comfy couch.

You can of course sit alone in your hotel room and watch the games, but Green Bay Packers fans tend to be sociable creatures who seek out others of their own kind. And, it seems like those hotel room mini-bars can get depleted so quickly, almost as though the beverages disappear right before your eyes.

Another alternative is to find a sports bar and watch the games there. But, unless you can find one of the enlightened bars that cater specifically to Packer devotees, you may face a sticky diplomatic problem: What do you do if you encounter a Minnesota Vikings fan?

One time I found myself in just this situation. I was visiting one of America’s Great Cities on a Sunday afternoon, getting ready for a book signing event for my novel, OVER TIME, and found a wonderful sports bar with a reputation for excellent food and featuring large screen TVs. The crowd there was a mixture of many different teams’ fans, quite a few from the NFC North. I was sitting at the bar and just about to plunge into a bowl of terrific chili. It had the three necessary ingredients to all great sports bar chili:
1. Lots and lots of cheddar cheese (I always appreciate it when a restaurant tries to make me feel welcome)
2. A generous amount of spice (causes the pale Seahawks fan’s complexion to turn an amusing shade of red)
3. More meat than beans (reducing the possibility of unpleasant fourth quarter emissions from Bears’ fans)

I was just about to plunge into the aromatic bowl when I noticed a menacing purple figure next to me. I looked over and (NO!) it was a Minnesota Vikings fan.

He looked at me at precisely the same time, scrutinized the Green and Gold attire I had on and scowled. After what seemed like a long time, a thought formed in his head and he uttered in a growling voice:

“I hate the Packers and I hate Packer fans.”

Strong words, those. You don’t hear the word “hate” very often in your life—especially directed at you. For a moment, I had that incredulous look of a Malibu cop encountering a liquored-up movie star late at night on the Coast highway. I simply didn’t know what to say. Nothing snappy or clever came to mind.

If this ever happens to you, here are some strategies to defuse a potentially ugly situation:

1) Avert your eyes. Seeing the Vikings colors and garb can bring about an overwhelming urge to giggle. Put another way, if historical Viking explorer Erik the Red had been named Erik the Purple, would he have been such a feared warrior?
2) Never, ever mention the terms “NFL Champions” or “Super Bowl” to a Vikings fan. Alas, the trophy case at Vikings headquarters remains barren, and it would be bad form to remind him of that. Packer people are above such behavior.
3) Maintain the high road. Don’t come back with insults like, “How come your team’s owner’s name sounds like an ineffectual comic strip character?” This will bait him into blurting out, “Well, your owner—“ And you’ll have to interrupt with, “Is 110,000 people from all 50 states.” This will just lead to more unnecessary conflict. After all, when you’re America’s Team, there’s no need to brag.
4) Compliment his city. You might say, “The arts and culture scene in Minneapolis is amazing! You’re so lucky to live there.” He will recall the last visit he made to a downtown strip club, drift off in pleasant remembrance, and probably forget you are even in the room.
5) The ultimate olive branch: say something positive about his team. No, no, I don’t mean a snide remark like, “Way to go, guy! I see the number of your players arrested has dropped 50% this year.” I was thinking of something much friendlier such as, “You must have a helluva offensive line to be able to protect a quarterback as old and brittle as Brad Johnson.”

So, when confronted by the surly Norseman, what did I do that day? I smiled, offered to buy him a beer and said, “I completely respect your opinion.” And then he and I watched as the Packers beat the Vikings.

I’ve always believed that, in the final analysis, actions speak louder than words.

Before I left the bar that afternoon, I gave Mr. Viking Fan an autographed copy of my novel. Surprised, he thanked me and asked, “Is this book about football?”

“The best kind of football,” I replied, as I walked out into the crisp October air.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Imagine what it must be like…

Imagine what it must be like for a Head Coach in the National Football League, right before a game. Think of all the emotions that run through him, the mixture of excitement and worry, the thrill of leading a group of men into battle versus the nagging concern that, perhaps, you haven’t done everything you could to get your players ready for the game. This is precisely the situation facing the fictional hero of my novel OVER TIME, the Head Coach of the Green Bay Packers, as you will see in the excerpt below.

In this scene, the Packers are about to take the field against a powerful opponent that has beaten them many times before. Green Bay’s Head Coach, Errol “Brick” Denton, is struggling to find the right words to inspire his players to victory. He has a young team this year, untested in battle, but undeniably talented, including a promising rookie quarterback nicknamed “Wildass”.

An Excerpt from the novel, OVER TIME
© 2005 by Brian Hill and Dee Power

Seventeen minutes before kickoff, seven minutes before they had to go through the tunnel to the field. You could feel the vibrations in the massive cement and steel buttresses of the stadium, caused by the roaring crowd. It was not unlike the frighteningly exhilarating feeling the astronauts get when the giant rockets are engaged, and the tremendous forces are released, carrying them into the unknown. Seven minutes was all the time left for Brick Denton to make a difference in the game.

Suddenly, and totally unexpectedly, all of Denton's pregame uncertainty was gone; he felt completely alert, totally calm, totally in control. For the first time since he had accepted the job of Head Coach, he no longer felt alone. "Gentlemen," he began in a voice that was clear and firm.

"For too many years, we have had to take to this field and compete against two teams simultaneously. No one should have asked that of us. We had to play against the Bears some weeks, the Vikings on others. But we also had to compete against our own formidable team--every week--and all of the championships they won. We had to play a memory--one that got more grandiose over time. We were measured against them, and always fell short. We never had the toughness they did. We were paid too much. We didn't have the desire. We were spoiled, just in it for the money. We didn't try."

Now the players listened to his words. The gum was chewed more slowly. The eyes focused on Denton.

"How could we win, carrying that anvil on our shoulders? On this given Sunday, maybe it's time we threw this weight off, looked at things another way. When we take that field today, the tradition of excellence comes with us. It's our armor, our shield, not a heavy burden. We have won eleven championships: no team can match that. We don't have to exceed what those past teams did. The opponent has to try and exceed it. We already hold the titles. The titles belong to us. The nation is waiting for us to come back, they need us to come back. We play for small town America. We dare to do battle against the titans, the big cities, the rich owners. We play for the uncomplaining fellow who goes to work each day and does his damnedest. He doesn't get the recognition or the glory. He lives all that through us. When you win the championship again...and again...and again--which you are destined to do, I am absolutely certain, they won't just be dancing in the streets here....but in places all over the country that none of us has ever been to. People who couldn't find us on the map want a piece of our glory. We stand for something that people need in their lives.

"The media talk about 'America's Team' all the time. Well, what is America's Team? I will tell you. It is a team that plays natural grass, in front of fans who live and die by that team, who feel physical pain when that team loses; the games are sold out fifty years in advance, for America's Team. These games would not be a once a week amusement, they would be cornerstones of people's pride in their community, in themselves. The players, when they looked around them, would see history in all directions. I surely don’t deserve to be the Coach of America's team, I probably never will, but you damn well deserve to be its players. Harness the power of that greatness, gentlemen, of that tradition. It's here in the building. It's alive. It's not a ghost."

"I feel it, Coach," cried out Wildass, forgetting he was supposed to be a frightened rookie.

"I do, too," echoed in the room.

"Then play that way, men. Don't do it for me. Do it for yourselves. Write your names into the history books. The legends never died, gentlemen. You become the legends when you walk on that field. Our game goes on forever. Our season never ends. We never leave the field."

Denton then looked in each face, as though to impress the message permanently into their minds. Then he turned and opened the locker room door, and pointed the way.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Coping With A Losing Season

Make no mistake about it: I think the Green Bay Packers will turn their season around and end on a very positive note. But unlike some of the windbags who do sports commentary on TV, I’m willing to concede the slight, even infinitesimal possibility, that I could be wrong. What do I mean by a “windbag”? Well, here’s an example of one, a quote I pulled from and their NFL Sunday anal-yst Jimmy Johnson:

"Two years ago, Brett Favre would have been too big for Mike McCarthy to control. Now people have grown tired of all his retirement talk and of his 29 interceptions ... I know I am."

Just like the wind, gusts of nonsense like this blow away and are quickly forgotten. Let’s just hit the delete key. And Jimmy’s quote now looks like:

Much better.

Fortunately, there are some strategies fans can employ to endure--even enjoy-- losing seasons. Because Packer fans don’t have much recent experience with defeat, I researched this topic by calling friends of mine who root for perennially awful teams. They were kind enough to give me some very good ideas on how to keep Sunday suffering to a minimum when your team’s season slides down into the dumpster.

Physical Activity. Do you ever notice how NFL players seem to bounce back quickly from a bad loss, but fans of the teams remain in the dumps all week? The reason is physiological. Vigorous exercise releases chemicals in the brain that produce a feeling of bliss, even euphoria. This allows players to forget about last week’s loss and focus on the upcoming game.

(You remember euphoria…like when Al Harris picked off Hasselback in the playoff game and ran it back for a touchdown.

What a wonderful feeling that was…)

Getting out and exercising, then, is one way to rid the mind of unpleasant thoughts about a bad game. One disclaimer though: Tubby-wubbies who haven’t gotten up off the couch in, say, 25 years or so, should visit their doctor before starting any strenuous exercise. We don’t want to lose loyal fans to sudden heart attacks.

Go to the Movies. Hollywood is suffering from a drop-off in box office receipts lately. This trend is troubling because it means Hollywood studios won’t have enough money to make good movies anymore. (Bad movies are generally much less costly to produce than good ones). Even though it may be difficult to sit through some of the dreary, incomprehensible films being shown today, it’s important we support the fabulous American institution called “the movies” so they will someday be able to afford to bring us better films.

Attend Church on Sunday. Churches are those buildings you see people going in and out of while you’re on your way to the store to buy salami and cheese before kickoff. On Sundays in these buildings they put on several shows they call “services.” Churches usually have rousing music to begin the game, and a Coach who stands up and gives an inspirational message at half-time of the service. The Coach offers forgiveness to those in attendance for all the plays they messed up the previous week. And several lessons are usually read from the playbook. Prayer for the sick is always encouraged, whether you’re talking about an anemic offense, or a defense that has lost its way.

House Cleaning. One friend of mine, when the Pack falls behind by 10 points or more, immediately begins frantic house cleaning. She still pops in and out of the TV room to check on the score, but by keeping busy swinging the mop or broom, she doesn’t have to witness the football carnage in its gruesome entirety. By the end of last season, her house was pretty much spotless. A surgeon could have set up shop in her kitchen and built up a successful practice. In fact, you can walk in her front door on a Sunday evening and immediately tell the Packers went down to defeat that day, by the overpowering scent of Pine-Sol wafting through her house.

Stay Away From Dyspeptic “Chat” Forums on the Internet. I used to think a viable way of getting rid of negative emotions built up during a losing game was to visit football forums and “vent.” I’ve come to the conclusion that this does an individual more harm than good. For one thing, you encounter people on these sites who claim to be so close to the team that they know what’s going on behind the closed doors of the locker room. The information these people provide is generally unreliable, because with a losing team, not even the players themselves understand what’s going on in the locker room. And the coaches surely don’t.

Also, the solutions to the team’s woes offered by the relentlessly negative “posters” on these sites are generally not too practical, taking the form of: “Fire the Coach!” “Fire the GM” “Fire the Players!” “Fire the Groundskeeper!” The rhetoric can get nastier than a board meeting at Hewlett-Packard. And according to some of these chat folks, the only indispensable participants in the Packers' efforts are the people who sell the beer at the stadium.

Travel. Since gas prices are dropping back to reasonable levels, it might be a good idea to re-invent that old pastime, The Sunday Drive. Get in the car right before kickoff and explore our great country for three hours or so. See the vibrant Fall colors. Stop and buy a pumpkin or two. Bring plenty of music CDs so you aren’t tempted to get the game on the car radio. And never, ever, stop at a sports bar for lunch. Packing a tasty picnic lunch and a blanket to spread out in a verdant meadow is a much better idea.

But, as you venture out into nature always remember: Don’t Feed the Bears.

Use Technology to Create Your Own Imaginary World. I have a video collection of 50 or so Packer victories I have taped over the last few years. We used to play these during the long off-season, but it can also work to put one of these in the VCR on Sunday, and pretend that game is today’s game. In the glorious little world of my VCR, the Packers always finish the season 16-0.

Admittedly, this requires a certain suspension of disbelief, like when you see commercials for TV series that were cancelled a long time ago and you only have a dim memory of having seen them. But despite the passage of time, some things do remain constant, such as the remarkable breadth of John Madden’s waistline.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Nobody Knows Anything

One of my all-time favorite contemporary writers is William Goldman. He has been vastly successful as a screenwriter, winning two Academy Awards for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and All The President’s Men. But he has also written terrific novels, and two of the best non-fiction books about the screenwriting business. These latter two books have educated, inspired and influenced many aspiring screenwriters, myself included.

Mr. Goldman is credited with one of the most succinct and widely quoted statements about Hollywood, “Nobody Knows Anything.” Meaning, it’s wise to be skeptical when you encounter people who proclaim themselves “experts” about what makes a great screenplay, a great book—actually all literary activities.

Mr. Goldman’s axiom certainly applies to pro football as well. The scribes and TV chatterers who predicted gloom and doom for the Green Bay Packers are now, after the team’s weak performance against the Bears, no doubt congratulating themselves on their sagacity. They told us our team would be lousy, and those of us who disagreed with that notion should, these people believe, finally wise up and give up on our team.

Not going to happen, because it’s apparent that this new edition of the Green Bay Packers is infused with youth, speed and athleticism—ingredients that have been sorely lacking for at least four years. It’s the kind of team that can improve every week, and by the end of the season, be remembered as the group that had the will to begin the climb back up toward the top of the mountain—where they keep that trophy we all admire so much.

Packers Literary Corner believes it would be incredibly bad judgment to turn our backs on our team after Game #1.

I have a feeling there will be lots of drama and achievement before the season is done, something chronic naysayers always miss out on.

And as I recall from the early-to-mid 1990’s, as compared to the disappointment of the last four years, the upward climb can be full of thrills and surprises—and is a hell of a lot more fun.

That’s why Brett came back.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

And Finally The Season Is About to Begin…

The Packers Literary Corner is dedicated to recognizing excellence in print and broadcast football journalism.

After conducting exhaustive, statistically sound research for more than 20 years, involving sampling the opinions of countless hundreds of football fans in various states of intoxication in sports bars throughout the US, and spending thousands of hours reading and listening to everything I could find about the sport of pro football, I reached a startling--but inescapable--conclusion:


Unfortunately, a corollary conclusion from my research revealed that the people who are the most negative about the Packers tend to have seriously enfeebled minds.

Today we will present both kinds of writing to you:

KUDOS and CONGRATULATIONS GO TO a citizen/journalist named Felipe from New Canaan, Connecticut, as quoted in Peter King’s Internet column of Tuesday, September 5:

"I know the Packers did horribly last year and so expectations should be much lower. But I don't understand why we are counted out by every expert. We had the No. 7 defense last year and it improved during the offseason. We have our top two running backs back, which should lead to Brett Favre throwing less and making fewer interceptions.”

You can see the letter to Mr. King in full at:

This was fine, fine literary work.
--Polite. The writer could have begun with a personal attack such as, "Your predictions for the Packers suck." But, of course, Packer People don't behave that way. Instead, he graciously conferred the status of "expert" on Mr. King, to whom he sent the letter.

Now let’s turn our attention to a benighted lad named Adam Schein at, who attempted to write a column about predictions for the upcoming season. The attempt failed.

You can read it in its dismal entirety at:

Here’s what he predicted for the NFC North teams:

“NFC North
1. Bears 10-6
2. Lions 7-9
3. Vikings 7-9
4. Packers 3-13

Packers: I toyed with 2-14 for the Packers.
But I just like Greg Jennings and Abdul Hodge too much.
Or something like that.”


WOW. This is breathtaking in its absurdity. Packers Literary Corner has difficulty understanding how a sentient being could bring himself to publish something this foolish.

Then I noticed the picture of Mr. Schein at the top of the column. He appears to be about 12 years old. So this again shows why it can be dangerous to turn children loose on word processors.

He might take note that discerning readers generally demand more rigorous analysis than, “Or something like that,” to back up outlandish conclusions.

Luckily, writers generally gain wisdom and maturity as the years go by. To be fair, in 15 years or so we my take a look at Adam’s work again, to see if he has made progress toward lucidity. Based on his work quoted here, noticeable progress may take the full 15.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

In Praise of San Diego: My Favorite Road Game Experience

Obviously, no football experience can compare to watching the Green Bay Packers play at Lambeau Field, but I feel a moral obligation to support our team when it is playing on the road as well. This preseason, Packers Literary Corner attended a game on August 12 in San Diego. My decision to go to this game had nothing to do with the perfect weather, fabulous beaches, great restaurants and attractions like Sea World. I would have gone to Miami and watched a game as well. Sacrifices sometimes have to be made if you want to be known as a true-blue Packer backer.

When planning a trip to a road game venue, a certain amount of caution must be taken, because some of the opposing teams’ stadiums can be hostile toward visitors with foam rubber cheese as their signature fashion statement. It used to be great fun to attend a game at the resort and retirement community of Tampa Bay, for instance, and on several occasions Packer fans seemed to occupy at least half the seats in the stadium. Now, I have heard, the Buccaneers try to limit the number of tickets sold to Packer fans, and generally create a more hostile atmosphere for us should we go to a game there. And it can be quite unpleasant exiting the stadium in your Favre jersey and have hordes of cranky retirees spitting Dentu-crème and hurling epithets from the 1950’s at you.

Of course, after a few years on the job, the Buccaneers’ head coaches find that Tampa Bay is a hostile place for them as well. So I guess they treat everyone equally there.

Sometimes the problem is that road cities don’t seem to understand what it means to have thousands of Packer fans invade their town, all fired up about the game. One time I stayed in a hotel where Packer Fan Tours had booked most of the rooms. The hotel’s marketing department was not aware that Packer fans change into their game clothes immediately upon checking in—even if the game is two days away. In the hotel’s outdoor atrium, a large wedding was booked for that afternoon. One of the lasting memories the bride and groom have of the big event, preserved forever on video, is the sight of a small army of green jerseys and yellow cheese hats parading through their wedding on the way out the hotel.

Visiting San Diego is an entirely different matter. I can heartily endorse the experience of attending a Packers-Chargers game, even in the case of the preseason game I went to, a night game. (What I’m trying to politely say here is: NFL NIGHT GAMES USUSALLY = MANY, MANY OBNOXIOUS DRUNKS).

Perhaps it’s the Southern California tendency to be self-involved, but the Chargers fans didn’t seem to care Packer fans were there. They were actually, dare I say, NICE. I would say the Packer fan contingent numbered about 10% of the crowd that night. And since Packer fans are 10 times as enthusiastic as other fans, the decibel level of cheering ended up about even. Here are some highlights of my great weekend:

The Chargers management did their best to create an exciting, regular season feel to the game. For example, they charged us a robust regular season price of $79 per ticket for essentially about $12.50 worth of entertainment provided by mostly third-string players of both teams.

I did a rough count and discovered the Chargers have more cheerleaders than defensive players. They might want to consider flipping those numbers if they want stop the Denver Broncos’ offense. Unless they’ve discovered Jake Plummer has an unnatural fear of pom-poms.

There was an incredible patriotic display of America’s military might before the game including paratroopers being dropped from high above the stadium and landing on the field, one carrying an American flag. This gave Packers’ Head Coach Mike McCarthy the clever idea to ask if he could have a new offensive line parachuted in at half-time, but he found out it was against league rules.

The San Diego people are ever mindful, and protective of, the delicate marine environment of the Pacific Ocean. To keep environmentalism, and endangered species, in the forefront, they even changed the name of their stadium from Jack Murphy Stadium to qualcomm. I inquired and was told that qualcomm is the sound the protected California Golden Seal makes when it burps.

A marvelous trolley system, with clean, comfortable seats, shuttles fans right from the stadium gates all the way back into town. No nightmare of trying to exit the stadium and get onto the freeway, sitting in traffic for hours, getting lost and dangerously thirsty. From the time I left my stadium seat, it only took 20 minutes to get onto the trolley, travel to my hotel and find a seat in the bar. I believe that is a road game record.

Good job, San Diego! See you again soon.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Avoiding Noxious Negativity

After watching the Packers lose to the Bengals last Monday night, I reached the conclusion that it’s going to be a long, long season…

For Packer fans? No. The Pack will be in the playoffs of course. I mean for those of us who used to enjoy watching football on Monday nights. Because the trend toward unpleasantness in the broadcast booth has reached a new low with the new team on ESPN.

To illustrate what I’m talking about here, let’s go back in time…

When I was a boy two of the most popular sports journalists on TV were Jim McKay and Chris Schenkel. To this day, I admire the way both of these men kept in mind that they were there to provide information that the viewer could not obtain from the pictures—TV was a visual medium, not a talky one. Just as importantly, Mr. McKay and Mr. Schenkel seldom, if ever, crossed the line of behaving as though they were the stars of the program. They, and their producers, knew that the viewers tuned in to see the games, to see the athletes—not the broadcasters. And most of the broadcasters of that era, at least on camera, behaved like GENTLEMEN. What a concept…

More recently, Keith Jackson is a football announcer who employed this pleasant and informative style. But unfortunately he is now retired.

In the early 1970’s, when Monday Night Football debuted on ABC, we saw a very different style of broadcast emerge: football announcers who couldn’t wait to share their opinions with the audience, whether or not the audience was interested in these opinions, and whether or not the opinion they happened to express had anything to do with the action on the field. I tended to cut Howard Cosell, annoying though he was, some slack because at least he did teach young writers new vocabulary words such as, “veritable plethora.” Although this is the first time I have actually used “veritable plethora” in a sentence.

The incredible popularity of Monday Night Football led TV executives to believe this was the style of broadcast the audience wanted, when in fact the incredible popularity was due simply to the fact that the popularity of NFL Football was soaring, and the ABC network happened to have the only game on Monday Night. THE GAME’S THE THING!

So, this season our poor ears and minds must endure the Monday night pairing of Tony Kornheiser and Joe Theismannn.

Provide Information has now disintegrated to:

Argue, Criticize, Belittle, Distract, and Irritate—And Argue Some More.

The Packers Literary Corner has come up with a term for this style of broadcast journalism: Noxious Negativity. It involves distasteful rhetoric about nonexistent controversy and stirring up the audience with imaginary conflict.

And of course we need the announcers tell us what we should think about what we are watching. We, the dumb-dumbs in the audience, can’t be expected to form any views of our own. And shame on us if we are looking forward to watching our Green Bay Packers this season, because these “experts” have all but declared our team hopeless before the season even kicks off. And if they tell us something, it must be so.

I first noticed this Kornheiser fellow when he was on a rude little two-man debate show, “Pardon This Flatulence,” or something like that. This program apparently was patterned from the political screeching on The McLaughlin Group, except they forgot to have a McLaughlin on the program to tell them when it was time to shut the hell up. Must have been budgetary constraints.

Joe Theismann, as you know, has been one of the most irritating broadcasters for years. He obviously harbors some deep personal malice toward the Green and Gold.

At my house, we’ve tried everything to not have to listen to Theismann when he is covering Packer games. We’ve turned the sound completely off. We’ve played operatic tenor Andrea Bocelli full blast on the stereo (You might try that sometime. Bocelli’s incredible voice seems to add additional drama to the games).

We’ve even tried Turning the Game Off. But then the bad guys win and we don’t get to see our team. In desperation we’ve even tried: Encouraging our Dogs To Howl.
The problem with these strategies is, you miss something when you can’t hear the crowd noise at the games.

The season is nigh...So what do we do about this verbal pestilence?

I got an idea from watching a commercial for DIRECTV’s NFL Sunday Ticket package, the one where you can watch all the NFL Games, but apparently you have to like Peyton Manning. Anyway, they have added great new features to this package this year, new technologies allowing us to spend even more than the normal 40 hours per week watching football. Perhaps they could help us with several other bells and whistles. How about:

SELECTIVE MUTE. With our remote, we could click on a menu with these choices:
Mute Kornheiser
Mute Theismann
Mute Both

Then, we could still enjoy the stadium sounds without unnecessary noise pollution, or potential aggravation. It would sound as though genial Mike Tirico is there calling the game by himself, which is fine with me. The drawback to this is that we still have to look at their faces, and when their lips move, we just know they’re saying something nasty about the Packers. So again, technology comes to our aid:

IMAGE SUBSTITUTION. Again, with our remote, we can elect to replace the mugs of Kornheiser and Theismann with something more interesting:

Bart Starr scoring the winning touchdown in the Ice Bowl
The splendor of Autumn leaves along the Fox River
Javon Walker cleaning out his locker at Lambeau Field
Brett Favre mowing his lawn in Mississippi in the offseason

Heck, I’d settle for a picture of Dick Butkus. Anything that would spare us from a season of the sounds and images that add up to Noxious Negativity.

With these simple technical advancements, enjoyment of the Monday Night games on ESPN could be greatly enhanced. So let’s get going there, programming wizards at DIRECTV. I would cheerfully pay an additional $25 per month for these features.

And suppose you see Joe Theismann in the airport the day after a game. You can say, “Really enjoyed your broadcast last night, Joe!”—and be telling the truth. Then he’ll take out a pocket mirror, admire himself for a moment, and say, “Thanks! Keep watching.”

And we will.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Now That's More Like It!

Today I want to tell you about a wonderful article I came across in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Web site, written by D. Orlando Ledbetter.

You can read it in its entirety at:

Let me share the first part of the article with you:

How the Packers can make the playoffs
By D. Orlando Ledbetter
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 07/09/06

With Carolina, Seattle and Tampa Bay attracting early attention as the top teams in the NFC, Green Bay needs a few things to happen for them to become relevant again — the return of Brett Favre was central to any title aspirations. An injury-plagued 4-12 season led to the departure of Mike Sherman and the hiring of Mike McCarthy.

"I'm glad for Mike (McCarthy) that Brett is coming back," NFL Network analyst Steve Mariucci said. "They signed Charles Woodson. They lost some players, but anytime that you've got No. 4 taking snaps you're going to have a chance."

Here's a look at 10 things that must go right for the Green Bay Packers to reach the playoffs.

1. The return of Favre

(article continues)

The Packers Literary Corner wishes to congratulate Mr. Ledbetter for all he accomplished in just these mere 128 words. If he keeps this kind of terrific writing going throughout the 2006 season, he will certainly be one of the favorites for our Literary Award we will be presenting each month beginning in August. Let’s examine all the things he did correctly from a technical standpoint:

Begin With A Brilliant Title: Sadly, many of his less-skilled fellow journalists can’t seem to use “Packers” and “Playoffs” in the same sentence these days. But here, Mr. Ledbetter starts right out with a positive, forward looking statement that captures our imagination and causes us to want to read more.

Address a large audience: You might be asking why a writer for an Atlanta newspaper would pen an article about Green Bay. The answer is quite simple, actually. The Packers have more fans throughout the United States than any other NFL Team. And you don’t have to take my word for this. Just read the Harris Polls done each year in October that confirm this fact. The author understands this basic premise of journalism and has targeted his article to reach the largest audience possible.

Don’t Live In The Past: He spends only one sentence bringing the reader up to speed on what happened last year, the one that begins, “An injury-plagued 4-12 season.”

Why focus on the dead past when we can concentrate on the bright future instead...

Many of us have a short attention span anyway. Who was it that won the NFC North last year? I can’t seem to recall.

Include Opinions from Experts: The author asked for Steve Mariucci’s comments and put them near the top of the article. Mooch is an authority on the Packers for several key reasons. He was Quarterback Coach with Green Bay in the early years of Brett Favre’s career, and was instrumental in his development, for which Packer Fans will always be grateful. And later on, when Steve coached the 49ers and then the Lions, he got to observe Brett and the Packers up close as they regularly put a whup-ass on his teams.

I employed this same technique of interviewing experts when I co-authored a recent book about the publishing industry, THE MAKING OF A BESTSELLER. Since authors such as Dan Brown and Nicholas Sparks have sold millions of books and I haven’t, I concluded that readers were probably more interested in what authors like these had to say about the publishing industry, rather than 80,000 words about what I thought. It turned out to be a smart move on my part.

Put The Most Important Factor At The Top of Your List: Writer Ledbetter has a list of ten things necessary to propel the Packers to the playoffs, each expressed in a snappy, memorable way such as: “Put Bears in hibernation,” and “Rally around new regime.”

But, #1 on his list is THE RETURN OF FAVRE.

I would argue he could have concluded the article right there.


As you know, The Packers Literary Corner’s highest award in journalism is a
6-pack of Johnsonville Bratwurst and an autographed copy of the Green Bay Packer themed novel, OVER TIME.

For this fine work of sports journalism, Mr. D. Orlando Ledbetter receives:

4 ½ Brats, With Buns, and Gourmet Mustard

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

An Outbreak of Blogarrhea

This Weeks Packers Literary Corner Review:

“Monday Morning QB” by Peter King on

Newspaper and magazine editors have always seemed miserly when it comes to establishing the maximum number of words a writer was allowed for an article, oftentimes to the author’s chagrin. Part of this was due to printing costs (more words, more paper, more cost); part of it was the obvious necessity of making room for the advertisements that paid for the publication; and the third reason for the editor’s sharp red pencil was—to keep writers from rambling.

Many veterans of the print media now pen Internet columns for the free or subscription based sports Web sites. The Internet has unfettered writers from those burdensome word restrictions, however, and now it seems writers can go on…and on…and on…

And it brings up an interesting question: At what point does an article become a “blog”? And at what point do these blogs get completely out of hand, as though they’ve come down with a bad case of blogarrhea?

Today, the Packers Literary Corner is going to review an Internet column written by the esteemed Sports Illustrated writer, Peter King, which appears in the magazine’s Web site,

Peter was one of the first national writers to wisely foresee—and frequently write about--the rise of the Packers’ dynasty in the early 1990’s, after the team and its fans had suffered through two decades of frustration and futility. Peter became an excellent source of information about Brett Favre’s ascent to become the most popular player in the NFL, and was quite enthusiastic about the Packers when they made two Super Bowl appearances in a row. These of course, are all signs of highly skilled writing.

His “Monday Morning QB” column started out to be a concise review of the previous day’s NFL games, with the advantage of immediacy over the articles that would appear in print 5 days later or so in the print edition. Unfortunately, it seems to have become “Mundane Morning QB”, where the theme is: Whatever the hell I want to talk about. Let’s look at his Monday, July 24 column, which weighs in at a whopping:

Three Thousand Two Hundred Fifty-Six Words (and this is the offseason, mind you!) You can check it out at:

In the Packers Literary Corner’s view, Mr. King violates two important writing maxims with his column:

1) To quote F. Scott Fitzgerald “You don’t write because you want to say something; you write because you’ve got something to say.”

2) If it ain’t about the Green Bay Packers, who cares?

And these indiscretions are a shame because his column gets off to a rousing start with a discussion of the hope and optimism that abounds with fans of each and every NFL Team this time of year. This is so true. And as we’ve observed many times, July is the month when the Minnesota Vikings seem to win all of their NFL Championships.

But now, let’s look at a few specific examples of where Mr. King’s trolley gets off the track:

--An uncharacteristic mental lapse where he picks Detroit as one of his surprise teams for 2006. His logic for this curious statement is particularly flawed when he bases it on:

“The Lions' opponents in Games 3 through 10 had these win totals in 2005: 4, 6, 9, 5, 4, 8, 4 and 5.”

Game 3 is against Green Bay, which of course by that time will be on its way to a 12 win season in 2006, so actually the Lions have a tough schedule. Unlike in geology, the past is not always the key to the present in football.

--He has a section titled “Aggravating/Enjoyable Travel Note of the Week”
This should be deleted altogether. It’s not the readers’ fault he doesn’t travel first class.

--His major blunder in this column was under his “Factoid That May Interest Only Me”
His boo-boo here is in the same vein as the B-level TV stars who march out, wag their fingers at us and tells us how to run our lives, dispensing such brilliant advice as: “Spend more time with your kids,” or “Tell your kids to not do drugs” or, “Spend more time with your kids while they’re doing drugs.”

Dang, we’d never have figured that out on our own.

In this case, Peter all but orders us to the theaters to screen the al-goreical environmental film “An Incoherent Truth”. To quote Mr. King:

“This is not exactly the venue to warn the world about global warming, but all you football junkies readying for your fantasy drafts should do one real-world thing in the next couple of weeks: take two hours to see this movie. I'm not saying you'll be glad you did, because it's going to slap you around mentally a bit. But it's something you need to see.”

Isn’t that a just a tad condescending here, the presumption that all we’re doing out there in the non-Eastern seaboard US is “readying for our fantasy drafts?” How absurd. I, for one, am:

a) Leafing through all the NFL logo merchandise catalogs and picking out a predominantly green and gold fall wardrobe.
b) Maintaining a hawk-like focus on the E-bay screen to find the best deals on tickets to games at Lambeau Field.
c) Renewing my subscription to NFL Sunday Ticket.

If Mr. King is really desirous of hopping aboard the Global Warming bandwagon, then he should express the issue in terms that we all can relate to:


That’s enough to give all of us pause, and eventually mend our ways. The only fuel we’d be burning after that is from the Kingsford when we fire up the backyard grill.

So, there’s no need to foul the environment with the thousands of pounds of carbon emissions it would take for all of us to drive our cars to the Cineplex to see a politician’s movie.

--Then, he follows this with a potpourri of trivia called “Ten Things I Think I Think.”
In this edition, these observations include something about an old, old singer named Bruce Springsteen, someone named A-Rod who apparently plays some other sport than football (why?), and some kind of coffee beans from a country we’ve never heard of.


Although most of his column wasn’t that helpful, Peter did have a gem that redeems most of the other stuff, concerning his upcoming tour of training camps:

“A month and 22 team visits later, I hope to be educated enough to tell you who to take in your fantasy drafts. If you're lucky, I won't advise you to bypass Favre for Wuerffel again.”

Way to go, Peter!

As you know, The Packers Literary Corner’s highest award in journalism is a 6-pack of Johnsonville Bratwurst and an autographed copy of the Green Bay Packer themed novel,

“Monday Morning QB” by Peter King earns 3 Brats.

(without the buns)

Thursday, July 13, 2006

When Lindy Gets Windy

This is the time of year when Pro Football preview magazines hit the newsstands. For ten years or so my favorite of these has been Lindy’s Pro Football magazine. This has so much valuable information that I keep referring to it throughout the NFL season and right up to the playoffs. It even has team rosters with comments about each and every player’s performance last season and outlook for the coming year.

Reading Lindy’s is a great way to learn about your favorite team’s opponents and division rivals.

Packers Literary Corner would recommend cutting out two pages from the 2006 edition of Lindy’s, however. Page 101, where editor Howard Balzer gazes into his crystal ball-zer and comes out with some very curious predictions, and page 217, where the magazine attempts to create a numerical score for each team’s component parts—receiving corps, linebackers, etc.—and then an overall ranking for the team’s strength. In other words, a row of little arbitrary numbers is added together create The Big Arbitrary Number. And one is left with the question: How Does This Relate to Winning Games?

If a team shows up at Lambeau Field with a bigger Arbitrary Number than Green Bay’s, should the Packers be frightened? Probably not.

So take these pages with you on vacation in case you need wrappers for freshly caught game fish, and then enjoy the rest of the magazine.

At least they are honest enough to subtitle their Prediction page “Another Chance to Look Foolish.” Well spoken, Howard, as shown below.

Here are Lindy’s predictions for the NFC North:

(First Place) Chicago – If Rex Grossman stays healthy, this could be a special team.

(Second) Minnesota – Brad Johnson brings stability to a team that needs a hug.

(Third) Detroit - Can Mike Martz work wonders with Jon Kitna and Josh McCown?

(Fourth) Green Bay – It won’t be long until Brett Favre wishes he retired.


So, Packer Literary Nation, what’s wrong with this material? Other than the fact that the predicted order of finish is completely upside down from reality and the logic is non-existent, these predictions are slightly better than most I’ve seen thus far in 2006.

In this case, since the author of these predictions, Mr. Balzer, has already suggested they might be foolish, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and just tweak them a little.

Presenting: The Packers Literary Corner Predictions for the NFC North – 2006

(FIRST) Green Bay – It won’t be long (early September to be exact) until the rest of the league wishes Brett Favre had retired.

(Second) Chicago – With a defense as awesome as the Bears,’ who cares if Rex Grossman stays healthy?

(Third) Detroit - Can Mike Martz find alternative employment for Jon Kitna and Josh McCown?

(Fourth) Minnesota – Brad Johnson brings complete immobility to a team that needs to be relocated to Los Angeles.


Remember, this is only Mid-July. The Packers Literary Corner reserves the right to change our predictions somewhat as key information emerges from training camps. For example, it is entirely possible the Vikings might drop a little further in the standings. These things happen.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

A Reading List for Sportswriters

Last week I said I would graciously recommend a reading list for the sportswriters whose work I critiqued (June 28 post). Here it is:

The ‘Packers Literary Corner’ Reading List for July 2006

Voracious reading is essential to developing writing skill. Here are some books to help football writers improve their minds as they await the start of NFL Training Camps:

Because we should always hone our writing Style: The Elements of Style by Strunk & White

Because most great writers are well-grounded in Philosophy: The Packer Way by Ron Wolf

A thorough understanding of History helps us gain valuable perspective: When Pride Still Mattered by David Maraniss

Studying Ancient History helps us piece together fragments from the dim and distant past, so let’s go way, way back in time: The
Detroit Lions’ Championship Years
by Edsel Marinelli

Because we need a wholesome activity for the offseason: The Thrill of Recreational Boating by D. Culpepper (with a foreword by his attorney)

Remember what your high school English teacher said: "Don't neglect the Classics!", so we include: Verily, The Bears Still Sucketh by William Shakespeare

Now, let’s broaden our reading horizons with a moody, existential tale from an up-and-coming
New Orleans author: When Rivers Runs Backwards by Drew Brees

Because well-crafted fiction can take us on a suspenseful thrill ride to places we have never visited before: Over Time by Brian Hill and Dee Power

Finally, let’s visit the New Age/Inspiration shelf at the bookstore: Favre by Brett and Bonita Favre

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Beginning Our Football Literary Adventure

--The Packers Literary Corner—

A ‘Cheese Blog’ For Everyone Who Enjoys Great Football Teams and Great Writing

As we search for the best and worst football writing out there, let’s begin our literary adventure with something called:

Krupka's and Byrne's early NFL Preview

These fellows came up with the bizarre and twisted conclusion that the Packers are ranked 31st in the league. And, remember, that’s out of a total of only 32 teams.


Here’s what they had to say:

by Connor Byrne and Eric Krupka of

published June 15, 2006

“31.) Green Bay - Arguably the worst team in the NFL. The front office is becoming a joke, which was evident in its handling of the Javon Walker and Darren Sharper fiascos in recent years. The ridiculous treatment the Packers allow quarterback Brett Favre to put them through, and the strange hiring of Mike McCarthy as the head coach. The only reason to go to Lambeau this season will be to drink beer and see the crumbling of a legend. 27, 28, 29. How many interceptions is that, Brett?”


So, Packer Literary Nation, what’s the matter with this paragraph?

Lack of focus. Starting a statement with the word “arguably” means you are not certain of what you want to say. So why bother saying it?

Lack of clarity. They say: 27, 28, 29. How many interceptions is that, Brett?” It is not at all clear what exactly they are asking our hero. To estimate how many interceptions the less skilled quarterbacks around the league are likely to fling?

Use of confusing slang terms when more elegant words are available. How exactly can the Packers’ front office be a ‘joke’? As far as I am aware, Ted Thompson has never been particularly known for his sense of humor.

Lack of scholarship. You go to “Lambeau Field”. To “go to Lambeau” at this point would require the intercession of the lovely Ghost Whisperer on CBS.

Now, let’s re-write this paragraph for them, using these time-tested football literary principles:

--When sitting down to write, the first thing to do is establish at least a tangential connection between the word processor and your brain.



The “Over Time” NFL Preview and Power Ranking

#1) Green Bay – Without question the best team in the NFL. Under the exemplary leadership of General Manager Ted Thompson, the Packers’ front office is again becoming the envy of the league. He gets particular credit for ridding of the team of deadwood and disruptive malcontents. But no less critical to the Packers’ resurgence in 2006 was the patience the team’s vigorous new Head Coach, Mike McCarthy, showed in allowing Brett Favre sufficient time to reflect and re-energize himself in the offseason. It never pays to rush an American Legend. With the one-year aberration of a losing season behind them, Packer fans can again visit Lambeau Field with the near-certainty of seeing their team win, and enjoy an inexorable march to the playoffs.

And of course, the beer and brats will be great as always.

Now, that sounds much better, doesn’t it...

Notice how there is a cheerful, positive, non-confrontational style. And there are several words that Oakland Raiders fans will have to look up in the dictionary, so we are helping others build their vocabularies. Yes, our friends in Silver and Black, there’s no need to confine your speech to words with just four letters.

Next time, I will provide a suggested reading list for the gentlemen I quoted above, in an effort to help them rid their future literary efforts of that needlessly negative tone.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

For Everyone Who Enjoys Great Football Teams and Great Writing

I love great sports writing. The ability to observe a sporting event and turn it into vivid word pictures is truly an art. The problem today is that—what with the thousands of sports-related Internet sites and numerous Cable TV channels devoted to sports--there is more ‘stuff’ out there than even the most dedicated NFL fan can possibly keep up with. Some of it is gem-quality journalism, a lot of it is noisy, unpleasant junk.

So, how do we separate the good football writing from the bad, distinguish between the words artists and the finger painters?

I had wrestled with this question for years, without getting anywhere close to answering it. Then, earlier this week, it finally hit me! I discovered a rule we can all apply (and the rule is so simple that I am surprised I didn’t discover it before):


In fact, ‘tend to be’ might be too cautious a phrase. Actually, there is a near 100% correlation between writing talent and relentless optimism about the Packers.

My goal is to help you sift through all the football-related content out there and find the very best writing and to help you avoid the very worst.

The Packers Literary Corner will recognize and encourage excellence in football writing and broadcasting.

From time to time I will select one truly deserving writer to receive the partially prestigious:

Over Time’ Literary Achievement Award

There will be several ways a journalist or broadcaster can become eligible to win this award:

--Expressing gushing admiration for Brett Favre, to the point that Chicago Bears fans in the audience begin to get nauseous.

--Describing, at considerable length, why Lambeau Field is the best place to see an NFL game. Extra credit will be given for use of words such as magnificent, incredible, and phrases such as once-in-a-lifetime experience.

--Reminding readers that the Packers have won a league-high 12 Championships, beginning in 1929—no other team is even close to that achievement except the Chicago Bears with 9--and not misleading them with the fuzzy logic that other teams are the true “Dynasties” because they have won more Super Bowls. (An understanding of history is part of what makes a writer great).

--Demonstrating a talent for prognostication. This is the easiest way to qualify for the Over Time Literary Achievement Award. All a writer has to do is maintain Green Bay in the #1 or #2 position in their NFL Team Rankings for 5 consecutive weeks. Consideration will also be given to those writers who recommend the Packers’ entire starting lineup in their Fantasy Football leagues. Even our injured players.

Award winners receive and impressive package of prizes including an autographed copy of the novel, OVER TIME and a gift certificate for delicious Johnsonville Bratwurst.

But what do we do with the clueless, negative scribes? You know these guys. When you read the nonsense they write about the Packers, you’d think they were talking about the NFL’s perennial doormat rather than the team that’s had 12 winning seasons in the last 14 years. You really have to scratch your head when you read goofy things like ‘the Packers will be so bad in 2006 that Brett will regret having come back for another season,’ or truly brain dead predictions such as ‘Green Bay will have the #1 pick in next year’s Draft’.

You have to feel sorry for these people. They are trapped in a mental tar pit of ignorance and no one seems willing to throw them a lifeline. I feel compelled to do something to help these poor individuals get on the path to enlightenment, to help them find their ‘Inner Cheesehead’, if you will.

Let’s visit the Internet, plunge into the digital mire and dredge up some of the most foolishly negative statements about the Packers. Then, we will critique what they had to say, and try to help them become better writers. Help them sharpen their thinking. Smooth out their literary style. And, recommend books they should read to get them back on the right track. It’s the least we Packer fans can do.

That’s why we’re renowned as The Best Fans in the National Football League.