“And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children
But there is no joy in Mudville—mighty Casey has struck out.”
The infamous finale to the classic poem “Casey at the Bat” succinctly summarizes the human condition of the common sports fan perhaps better than anything else. All of us cling to the hope that our hero, our idols, can put our team over the edge. More often than not, they prove all too human. And yet we always come back clamoring for more, for surely our team will be triumphant next time. But would this poem have the same beauty if Casey had been on the DL? “But there is no joy in Mudville–mighty Casey was on AAA rehab”. Surely not the same. Unfortunately, this is the predicament Green Bay Packer fans currently find themselves in.
Even if 60 yards away from the end zone with 0 seconds on the clock, there always was hope in tundraland with Aaron Rodgers behind center. The Magic Man seemed to have limitless tricks, whether a beautiful out-of-bounds pass or a perfectly placed Hail Mary. Rodgers has the swagger of Joe Montana, the brilliance of Peyton Manning, and the stoicism of Tom Brady. But Brett Favre, he is not. Two weeks ago a borderline dirty hit by a Vikings lineman broke Rodgers’ collarbone, probably finishing his 2017 season. Backup Brett Hundley looked awful in relief, but assuredly would improve with a week’s preparation. Sunday afternoon, 70,000 crazed fans packed Lambeau to cheer the Pack on to victory. Would the team’s fortune continue with a different man chucking the pigskin?
While Lambeau is a beautiful stadium, the ballpark is most famous thanks to 25 years of strong Packer teams. And that’s the proper working of things. Something pretty on the outside, but rotten at the core, is nothing more than a clockwork orange winding down to certain demise. While the Pack spent millions on property purchases and stadium improvements, the Saints perhaps provided a glimpse into a somber future: a gorgeous property housing a bad team. Green Bay fans cheered emphatically after an early touchdown, and howled vociferously after a questionably called Pack penalty. Yet there would be no man of charity, Christian or otherwise, to appease the mob.
As the Colts and Browns have so horrifically proved, an NFL team without an established quarterback is a power vacuum. Defense wins championships, yes, but Quarterbacks sell tickets. Without the thrill of the quick strike offense, football would revert to a 1920’s bore. Drew Brees didn’t seem to feel any sympathy for Wisconsinite fanatics. The rest of the year, neither will Matthew Stafford and the long-maligned rival Lions. Yet even cold-blooded NFL superfans ought to feel some stirring of emotion in favor of the quieted fans of tundraland. Because there’s only so many times we can say “wait ’till next year”, until the sands of time are swept out of our grasp. As the fans filed out after a final Hundley pick, it became clear: what the home fans didn’t know they had, was now suddenly another year closer to being gone for good.