Back before I was an austere and objective professional sports writer bound by the Official Sports Media Code of Conduct not to cheer for particular teams or players but rather only for a good and compelling journalism story, I was just a regular old super-homer fan who cheered maniacally for his favorite Wisconsin sports teams. (Ed. note: He still does this.)
When the Packers were making their title run in 2010-11, I was a fresh-faced recent college graduate and fledgling newspaper scribe, working down in Texas on the sports desk for The Dallas Morning News. With Dallas hosting Super Bowl XLV, a massive civic event and celebration that transcends the football game and has a significant economic impact on the city, the entire newspaper had been gearing up for months to be the media leader – locally and nationally – for Super Bowl coverage, with huge amounts of supplemental content, extra sections, and longer days and later nights for the paper’s award-winning staff.
During the playoffs, as sixth-seeded Green Bay, an unlikely Wild Card entrant into the postseason, kept winning games – first against Philadelphia, then Atlanta, then Chicago – behind emerging superstars Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews, I got more and more excited about the prospect of my beloved home-state team playing in the Super Bowl in the city where I was living. I also got more and more shifts, along with the rest of the sports desk, working 17 days in a row in the weeks before the Super Bowl. But after the Packers beat the Bears in the NFC Championship Game to secure their appearance in Dallas, my boss generously gave me the day off for the big game.
I used some of that overtime money to buy an authentic Aaron Rodgers Super Bowl XLV jersey, painted my face (poorly) green and gold and went to a friend’s house to watch the Packers play the Steelers. Simultaneously a nervous wreck and hard-partying 22-year-old, I cheered harder, shouted louder and drank more Shiner Bock than I ever had before. When Nick Collins returned that interception for a touchdown, I let out a no-doubt incoherent, joyously jubilant string of swear words. When Charles Woodson left the game with a broken collarbone, I had a similarly explicit reaction, though that time it was unhappy. When quarterback Ben Roethlisberger found receiver Mike Wallace for a 25-yard touchdown that pulled Pittsburgh to within 28-25 with less than eight minutes remaining, I left the party and went to the bathroom to look at myself in the mirror in sad silence. But I soon came back.
And when the Steelers turned the ball over on downs late in the fourth quarter and the Packers ran out the rest of the clock to win the game, I jumped up, spiked the football I’d been holding and sprinted around the house, yelling "Go Pack, go! Go Pack, go! Go Pack, go!" I dashed outside, where a rare and severe winter storm had blanketed the Dallas-Fort Worth area in snow and ice, and demanded my friend "throw me a touchdown pass!"
Running a drunk go route down the middle of the frozen street, feeling as fast as Jordy Nelson but probably not looking quite as coordinated, my friend unleashed a long, nearly perfect pass, just slightly in front of me. Overcome by the exhilarating (and dangerous) feelings of victory and invincibility, I fully laid out for the ball in the street, diving and stretching and reaching and – of course – not catching it at all. Covered in snow and dirt, with my jeans ripped at the knee but my Rodgers jersey-clad heart full of pride and excitement, I jogged back inside laughing deliriously to celebrate some more.
That’s my Dallas Packers experience and my favorite sports fan memory. Since then, I’ve mostly covered the team – first for a Wisconsin magazine that no longer exists, then as a beat reporter for CBSSports.com, then as a digital producer for FOX Sports Wisconsin and now as OnMilwaukee’s sports writer – so I usually have job responsibilities for games and can’t cheer quite as passionately. Plus, after a certain number of Mike McCarthy press conferences, you just naturally lose a bit of the fervent favoritism of being a fan.
After Green Bay defeated Dallas on Sunday in that same huge, dumb, Jerry World stadium where they won Super Bowl XLV, I simply pumped my fist, texted a few buddies and then started writing the game story. My coworker, Matt Mueller, marked the momentous occasion by trolling sports pundit blowhard Skip Bayless on Twitter.
So, yeah, those may not have been the exuberant responses expressed by other Cheeseheads.
My blood still pumps green and gold (even if the colors are no longer painted on my face) and, like I discussed in The Postgame Tailgate podcast a few weeks ago, I still believe this team – with all the injuries, midseason adversity, late run to gain momentum and peerless play of the quarterback – feels a lot like that championship-winning squad from six years ago.
Since I can’t celebrate this current playoff run like I used to – which is for the best – I want to cheer vicariously and hear from you, Packers fans, about how you reveled and rejoiced after Sunday’s win against the Cowboys. Were you at a house party or a sports bar? Watching anxiously by yourself in the living room, listening on the car radio or somewhere else? Did you high-five friends or strangers? Did you jump up and run around or slip on ice in the middle of the street trying to catch a football? What did you say, what did you hear? How did you experience Mason Crosby’s game-winning field goal as time expired? What was your favorite memory?
Let us know in the comments, and – heck, I’m just going to say it, objectivity be damned – go Pack, go!
Born in Milwaukee but a product of Shorewood High School (go ‘Hounds!) and Northwestern University (go ‘Cats!), Jimmy never knew the schoolboy bliss of cheering for a winning football, basketball or baseball team. So he ditched being a fan in order to cover sports professionally - occasionally objectively, always passionately. He's lived in Chicago, New York and Dallas, but now resides again in his beloved Brew City and is an ardent attacker of the notorious Milwaukee Inferiority Complex.
After interning at print publications like Birds and Blooms (official motto: "America's #1 backyard birding and gardening magazine!"), Sports Illustrated (unofficial motto: "Subscribe and save up to 90% off the cover price!") and The Dallas Morning News (a newspaper!), Jimmy worked for web outlets like CBSSports.com, where he was a Packers beat reporter, and FOX Sports Wisconsin, where he managed digital content. He's a proponent and frequent user of em dashes, parenthetical asides, descriptive appositives and, really, anything that makes his sentences longer and more needlessly complex.
Jimmy appreciates references to late '90s Brewers and Bucks players and is the curator of the unofficial John Jaha Hall of Fame. He also enjoys running, biking and soccer, but isn't too annoying about them. He writes about sports - both mainstream and unconventional - and non-sports, including history, music, food, art and even golf (just kidding!), and welcomes reader suggestions for off-the-beaten-path story ideas.