Thursday, October 25, 2007

Bye Week Blues

NFL Players and fans alike approach the bye week with mixed emotions. If your team is on a roll, like the Packers are this season, during the week you miss the adrenaline rush of anticipation for the upcoming game. There’s a void in your life. Your rhythm and routine seem disrupted. You might even feel a bit depressed.

On the other hand, since all the games so far have been nail-biters, full of stress and worry that the opposition was going to score late in the game and beat us, there’s something to be said for giving the old nervous system a week off to knit the frayed wires back together.

And the Packer players have more than frayed nerves: their bodies are starting to get seriously bruised and battered by this time of the season. They definitely can use a rest, and a break from the mental strain of preparing for each game (those that actually do prepare, that is).

Instead of moping around the house lamenting the fact there’s no Packer game, maybe we should get out and do new things this Sunday.

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 2003 playoff game and ran it back for a touchdown to seal the victory).

Getting out and exercising, then, is one way to rid the mind of Bye Week Blues. 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.

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.

A pleasant surprise is that many churches serve delicious food between services. When you go, be aware that some terminology and customs may not be familiar to you. Be careful to not commit a faux pas such as asking why there aren’t any cheerleaders.

House Cleaning. I have a friend who, when the Packer games get too tense for her nerves to handle, 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 finds that she is at least able to hold down her lunch. Her vacuum cleaner is so loud she can’t hear the inane commentary of the announcers, which is an added bonus. After our first six games this season, her house is pretty much spotless. A surgeon could set up shop in her kitchen and build up a successful practice. In fact, you can walk in her front door on a Sunday evening and immediately tell the how close the score was in the Packer game, by the overpowering scent of Pine-Sol wafting through her house.

Read a good book. If you enjoy non-fiction, I’d recommend a book titled The Making of a Bestseller. And reading a suspenseful novel about Green Bay Packer fans might be the next best thing to watching a game. In that case, I’d try a book titled Over Time.

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 check the scores of other games on the car radio. And never, ever, stop at a sports bar for lunch. You trying to take a break from the tension of football, remember. 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 An Imaginary World. I have a video collection of 50 or so Packer games I have taped over the last ten years. We usually play these during the long offseason, but it might also be fun to put one of these in the VCR this Sunday, and pretend that game is "live". This is analogous to a nicotine patch for the smoker who just can’t seem to quit even for a week. And, in the glorious little world of my VCR, the Packers always finish the season 16-0. Strange, but I can’t ever find the tapes of the games we lost. Except the tape of the playoff loss to
Philadelphia that featured the gruesome Fourth-and-26 play. One morning I found that tape crushed to little bits on the driveway.

Admittedly, pretending an old game is new requires a certain suspension of disbelief, because you will see taped 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.

Watch Other Teams and Poke Fun at Them. If you simply can’t spend an Autumn weekend without the NFL, watch the Packers’ rivals play and laugh at their miscues and foibles. You’ll quickly see that ours is not the only team that has suspect play calling from time to time, or inexplicably fumbles the ball at the absolute worst moment. We sometimes take the Packers, and their tradition of excellence, for granted—especially in the last 15 years of almost uninterrupted winning. Put yourself in the other teams’ cleats for a while. For instance, pretend to be Vikings fans for a day, and then you will truly appreciate how lucky you are to root for the Green and Gold, kind of like when your mom urged you to eat those yucky lima beans or the broccoli on your plate—and appreciate that you have food at all—because there are starving children in other lands.

And cheer up! It’s not that long ‘til the 29th.

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