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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014

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Readers Blog: Dobie Maxwell's 'Dented Can' Diary

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Monday August 6th, 2012 – Green Bay, WI  

   Life took an unexpected but pleasant detour today. My friend Mark Gumbinger called to ask if I wanted to ride up to Green Bay and watch the Packers practice. His world has been extra hectic lately, and he was looking to take a mini vacation that didn’t cost a lot to relax for a day or two.

   He knew I’m as big of a Packer fan as anybody, and thought I’d want to go. In a way I did, but in another I didn’t. I have a lot to get done on a lot of projects, and everything seems to be falling way behind the schedule I projected years ago. Distractions like this pop up out of thin air – fun as they are - and it throws me off schedule even more. I should have politely said no, but I didn’t.

   Mark is a good guy, and we both love the Packers – just like the countless hoards of other dolts who have been brainwashed by the giant ‘G’ and blindly worship at the church of Lambeau from August on every year. I’ve said it before, and I still think it’s true – NFL football is an addiction.

   Sports in general can be that way, but in America the NFL has shot to the number one spot like nothing else. If baseball was the American pastime, it’s gone with the other obsolete iconic idols of the American experience like the Edsel and free speech. It’s a whole new world now and NFL football is what gets people’s juices flowing. In Wisconsin it’s the Packers. They are our drug.

   Why else would two relatively intelligent adults get in a car and drive 150 miles one way to see large sweaty men in shorts run around on a field for an hour and a half – and LIKE it? This is not normal behavior, but I’d never seen a practice before and it sounded like fun so we got in the car and drove. The weather was absolutely perfect, and if we had to pick the ideal day today was it.

   Mark has a friend in the Green Bay area, and he joined us for a steak dinner at The Texas Road House. Our steaks were cooked perfectly, even mine. Most restaurants never come close to what I consider rare, but tonight the cook was on the ball and everything was delicious. What could be better in life than red meat and football - especially when it’s bloody rare steak and the Packers?

   We finished dinner barely in time to make it to Ray Nitschke Field to watch the practice. It was packed to the point of standing room, which is what we did for the first half hour or so. We stood behind a chain link fence and watched as the offense ran some plays which looked like they were extremely basic. There were no long bombs or exciting plays - just a bunch of guys doing drills.

   What is it that allures people on such a deep and personal level they’re willing to sit outside for several hours and watch a group of people train for a job? Is there a fan base that shows up to see plumbers learn how to snake a pipe? I doubt it, but there was a full house and then some tonight.

   I must admit, it was kind of fun to sit around and watch the players do their drills. We watched the big stars like Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews, but I couldn’t help but identify with all the nameless faceless players who wore numbers that weren’t familiar to 99% of the zombies in the stands who would show up for anything that had the Packer logo on it. I can’t attract 100 people to see my comedy on a regular basis, but a training camp practice draws thousands. Go figure.

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