A Will To Win

I have been a Packers fan since birth, thanks to my father’s deep Wisconsin roots and raising. I’m damn proud to be not only a fan of my team, but part of the rich history and tradition of the team that is deeply rooted throughout the state of Wisconsin. It truly is a tradition and experience unlike any other that I’ve seen, felt, heard about or otherwise experienced.

When I was younger, I would sneak a radio into my room to listen to the Monday night games because I was supposed to be sleeping (sorry mom and dad, but I think you’ll forgive me). One of the times that I remember my dad swearing (and he rarely did – I can count how many times on one hand, growing up) was in the basement of our last home in Iowa because he was watching a Packers game and was… well, he was upset. So upset that my mom wouldn’t let me go downstairs to join him. I would beg my dad to take me to a sports bar after church (when I lived in Buffalo) just so I could see my Green and Gold. I would move my work schedule around as much as I could growing up so I made sure I could see the Pack play, if at all possible. I would attend church, but make sure I could still see or hear my Packers. After all, Vince Lombardi even put the Packers after God and family. My first game at Lambeau was when I was 18 and we won 10-0 against the Buffalo Bills. That was a high school graduation gift from my dad. Since that game, I’ve been blessed enough to attend so many games, both home and away, that I have honestly lost count. Hell, I got to attend a preseason game in another country. Okay, it was Canada, but I digress. Just this 2014 season, I finally got to attend my first game with my dad and both siblings. The Packers lost, but it was an incredible time with incredible memories.

In short, being a Packers fan is truly a way of life. While we have been blessed to have two incredible quarterbacks back-to-back, we have had lean years even within those years. We have absolutely embarrassed ourselves at times. 4th and 26, anyone? The playoff loss at home to the Falcons? An over-confident group in Super Bowl 32 that thought they had won the game before it started? The entire year we thought Ray Rhodes could coach an NFL team? I could go on, but I’ll spare you more negative memories.

Well, yesterday topped all of that – at least for me. It was absolutely gut-wrenching. Why? For me it’s pretty simple and something that I have been saying for years under the Mike McCarthy regime. I usually get flack for saying it, even from my dad, but I call a spade and spade and rarely apologize for doing so. That game was one that virtually no one other than Packers fans gave us a chance to win. And rightfully so. The Seattle Seahawks were no joke. Well, are no joke. But, dammit, the Packers came in with some fight and what appeared to be a will to win. Except, McCarthy came in as he always does – playing scared and spineless. I absolutely loathe Bill Belichick, but the one thing that I have always loved about him was his fierce competitive nature. His relentless will to win the game, at all costs and no matter the score. Bill Belichick would stomp on that gas at 15:00 and wouldn’t let off until the clock reached 00:00 at the end of the second half. Mike McCarthy has proven he is incapable of doing that. Yesterday was a prime example – a huge lack of will to get into the end zone in the first two offensive possessions. And how do you start to show how comfortable you feel after a 16-0 lead, away and against the Seahawks defense? That is absolutely unacceptable and it all starts at the top. The players will play as good as their coach leads them into battle and it was clear to me yesterday that McCarthy was not playing to win, but rather playing not to lose. Unfortunately, that attitude does not usually equal a win.

The sting of this loss will probably linger deep into another cold and dreary Wisconsin winter for many Packers fans. While I’ve become better at recovering from losses than my 18 year-old self, I also had improved at keeping pretty calm during games, but I think all that bottled up energy came out yesterday. Thankfully, I have a pretty patient girlfriend that witnessed it. By her own admission, she’s fairly new to being a football fan so she could not quite understand why I was so upset, but did her best to comfort me. For me, this game will be what I look back to as the bar of what needs to change if we’re going to get back to our winning ways in the playoffs and bring back another Lombardi trophy. The Packers are not a team that can accept losing like the way we did yesterday. The fans are not your average NFL fans that are just happy to get a couple wins out of a season. The Packers are too rich and proud in their history to accept what happened yesterday at face value. Hopefully.

The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will. – Vince Lombardi