Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Optimism or ...

Green Bay Packer fans seem to be equally divided about their team’s prospects for the upcoming season, with the optimists and pessimists equally passionate about their point of view. The carryover of enthusiasm from the great finish to the 2006 season is tempered by the reality of the quiet offseason the team had in terms of signing free agents to fill some of the holes in the roster. With these conflicting factors in mind, it’s pretty easy to make a strong case for the Packers returning to the playoffs this season. And an equally solid case for not returning as well.

Some Good Reasons Why the Packers Will Make the Playoffs in 2007

An Electric Atmosphere. Sometime early in the season, probably around game 4 or 5, Brett Favre will break Dan Marino’s record for career touchdown passes. The anticipation leading up to this monumental achievement will be tremendous. It could certainly give an extra jolt of energy to the team, an additional competitive edge. And with the parity in the NFL, any edge helps.

Fresh Legs. Ahman Green was obviously a tremendous performer for the Packers. But age and injuries do take their toll, and he seemed to lose that amazing knack he once had of picking up the tough 1, 2 or 3 yards to make a first down. Maybe the new guys with fresh legs will have that knack, too.

Coaching Continuity. Last year, the Packers had to work a number of first year players into the lineup, were coming off a disastrous 2005 season and had an untested Head Coach. Given all that, an 8-8 finish was certainly satisfactory. All coaches face a learning curve, and Mike McCarthy’s performance in his second year will be better than in his first.

A Defense on the Rise. For the first time in a number of years, the Packers look to have a defense that can shut down opponents and allow Brett and the offense to get back on the field. A tough defense is just what the team needs to re-establish home field advantage.

Tough Opponents Adjusting to New Coaches. Dallas and San Diego have good teams and both of those games will be difficult for the Packers to win. But, they have new Head Coaches. Who knows whether changing coaches will help or hinder those teams?

More to the Difficult Schedule Than Meets the Eye. A football season has many ups and downs, and most teams have to deal with injuries to key players sometime over the course of the season. You don’t know in August whether the team you will be facing in October will be at full strength. Or whether that team might have a letdown after a hard-fought victory the previous week. Or which teams in December will already be looking ahead to next year.

We’re Overdue for a Fast Start. How many years in a row have the Packers started the season 1-4? It seems like forever. One constant in the NFL is that nothing remains constant. Perhaps 2007 is the year the Packers reverse this negative trend of stumbling out of the gate—and losing games at home.

Not Much to Fear in the NFC North. One of the brightest spots last season was the team winning 5 of 6 games in the division. And arguably the brightest spot was hammering the Bears at their home field the last game of the season.

The Grass is Greener Effect. Free agency usually looks better when observed from a distance. When another team signs a marquee name, we all say, “We shoulda signed that guy!!!” But, we tend not to notice a year or two down the line when that signing turned out to be a bust and a serious waste of money. The teams that actively shuttle free agents in and out do not necessarily improve themselves over the course of time.

Time for a Little Trust in Ted. During a game in 2005 in which the Packers were beaten badly, John Madden’s comment about their talent level was: the cupboard is bare. That was accurate. The Packers’ talent pool had been slowly drying up, probably since the 2002 season. We can’t say for sure, but it certainly appears that Ted Thompson has revitalized the Packers with a number of bright young stars. Just to be clear, I’m not advocating that we schedule a “Ted Thompson Appreciation Day” at the stadium just yet.

Friday, July 20, 2007


But Then Again, Maybe the Playoffs Are Wishful Thinking

Unproven running backs + young offensive line = mediocre running game (at best). If this equation turns out to be the case, then Brett is in for a long season of flinging the ball downfield and hoping someone (in our uniform) runs under it.

The Finish to 2006 Was A Mirage. The only truly impressive performance in the four wins was the last one, versus the Bears. The others were against lackluster opponents to say the least.

Whatever Became of the Tight End Position? When the Packers had their great run in the mid-1990’s the tight end position was a critical part of the offense. Lately, it’s been difficult to tell there actually is a tight end on the field. Oh, wait, he’s the guy who just dropped the pass.

Defense…What’s That? Before we get too excited about the defense, we might recall New England scoring 35 points against us and the Jets putting up 38—both games at Lambeau Field. And if you don’t recall, it’s because you got mad and turned both of those games off before halftime.

No More Lemons Out of Detroit. Similar to the notion that even the visually challenged arboreal rodent occasionally locates nutty nourishment, many experts are predicting that the Detroit Lions are due for a breakout season. Since the Bears are likely to be playoff bound again, there is at most only one other playoff spot open for another NFC North team. The Lions? What a strange world in which we live.

Buried Before the First Autumn Chill. Even the most optimistic Green Bay fans, myself included in that group, have to look at the first five games on the schedule with a certain amount of trepidation. And unfortunately, 1-4 has a familiar ring to it.

Hmmm…10 reasons why the Pack will make the playoffs, and 6 reasons they won’t. The crystal ball appears to be predicting a 10-6 season in 2007.

Sounds good to me.

Monday, July 09, 2007

A Stripped Down Blog

I saw this item posted July 8 on on’s “Truth & Rumors” page. It was culled from an article by Mark J. Konkol of the Chicago Sun-Times:

Tyna Robertson claims Brian Urlacher, the father of her 2-year-old son, has sent her more than 30 nasty text messages since January. In those messages, he allegedly called her a "hooker" and "jealous b----," among other things, and once made this suggestion: "make one of your pimps drive you around," according to court papers filed Friday in their child custody case. Robertson, a former exotic dancer who has been accused of shaking down men for money, has had court trouble with another famous man she once dated -- "Lord of the Dance" star Michael Flatley.

So, aspiring writers in Packer Nation, sometimes no embellishment is required of us. In this case, the news story itself provides all the comedy we need to nourish the spirit and bring a smile to the faces or our readers. Packers Literary Corner can take this beautiful summer morning off and head for the golf course.

Y’all enjoy your day. See you at the 19th hole.

I just can’t do it.

I can’t leave without at least a few comments, or my hands will shake uncontrollably while I’m lining up three-foot putts.

Here’s a text message the Bears celebrated linebacker is alleged to have sent to his ex-stripper ex-sweetie on February 24 at 2:40 PM:

“Beat it no more of my time will be wasted on your skanky ass”

He seems to have reached a state of at least partial enlightenment precisely at 2:40 PM that brisk winter afternoon, though as someone who pens romantic screenplays, I hate to see unpleasantness break out so soon after Valentine’s Day.

Perhaps he just needs some advice on the subtleties of romance. I might suggest Mr. Urlacher read my novel Over Time. In that thrilling tale, the football star falls in love with a very lovely, very sexy—though excessively talkative—cheerleader. This is, as you of course know, the natural order of things in football. And in Over Time, the outcome of the affair is much more felicitous.

Or perhaps it’s just fortunate my novel’s characters from the Green Bay Packers Glory Years of the 1960’s did not have text messaging capability.

Can you imagine the text messages Lombardi would have sent to players who were fumble-prone or missed their blocking assignments?

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Say No to Thugs! (a three-part blog series)

“What the heck is going on out there???” the Great Man would say if he were here today commenting on the numerous incidents of National Football League players getting arrested—for all sort of crimes, from DUI, to physical violence to weapons charges. It’s really depressing when you look at the NFL headlines on Web sites like and most of what you find involves reports of players getting in trouble with the law. Sports are supposed to be a pleasant diversion from the ugliness we see in the international news headlines, or the forecasts for the real estate market.

The bright new NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, obviously wants to solve this problem, and he seems to be trying to get the message across that thug-like behavior won’t be tolerated. But the question is, are the players listening? Clearly, he has a tough task ahead.

Several sportswriters have observed that in reality, all that matters in professional sports is winning, and if you are a talented enough player to help your team win, it doesn’t matter what kind of citizen you are. The teams are willing to give the players any number of second, third or fourth chances, much more than an employee of a company in the “real world” would be allowed. Many corporations, in fact, don’t allow second chances whatsoever.

Packers Literary Corner wants to lend a hand toward making sure the NFL doesn’t end up being the Naughty Felons League. Maybe Mr. Goodell needs a catchy slogan that could be run in advertisements, to remind the owners and coaches (and fans) that integrity in professional sports should be as important as winning. How about:


One big city newspaper took a look at the incidence of NFL players being arrested and compared it to that of the general population—and found the numbers very similar, almost as though the problem has been blown out of proportion. This is fuzzy logic at best, because NFL players are not part of the “general population.” The correct peer group to compare them to would be:

--Pampered millionaire celebrities who only have to work a few months per year.

And among this group, football players have had a higher incidence of running afoul of the law in the last several years, even if we count every single encounter Paris Hilton has had with the police, and give Mel Gibson double penalty points because of the foul-mouthed things he said to the police officer who arrested him in Malibu.

It’s time the fans let the league know that they want them to get rid of the players who can’t behave like decent citizens.