BY Dobie Maxwell
We’ve all seen the scenario more times than we can count. The aging star athlete calls a press conference to announce the inevitable – the time has come to hang ‘em up. They all use the same tired old clichés to the crowd of reporters that hangs on their every word and eventually the tears start flowing. Then they’ll say “I swore I wasn’t going to cry when I got up here…but I am.”
And then it’s over, and the world keeps spinning. Each of these giants in their field walks on to that podium a living legend but walks off just another elschmucko. If they’re lucky they might be able to land a job as a broadcaster, but how many of those jobs exist? To most, the ride has ended.
But what about us fans? We don’t get signed to any long term no cut guaranteed contracts, and for the most part we are stuck with our particular team in a given sport until death do us part. It’s a sweet deal for the team and the league and they know it. We keep coming back no matter what because we have been programmed to “wait ‘til next year” in hopes of winning the whole thing.
Well, only ONE team wins it all in a given year and everybody else is disappointed. Those are not good odds, so championship seasons are to be cherished. Fans of a given team all know their glory years, and it becomes ingrained in their psyches. In Chicago, all the ’85 Bears are royalty.
So are the ’69 Cubs, and they didn’t even win anything. They almost went to the World Series and there’s no guarantee they would have won that, but even the lowliest scrub player from that team can get a free beer on the north side of Chicago to this day. Sports fans are human sheep.
I am ashamed to admit that I have fallen into this embarrassing category like millions of others, and I have done it numerous times in multiple sports. Growing up in Milwaukee in the 1970’s, the choices were pretty bleak as far as football and baseball went. The Packers were beyond horrible, and the Brewers made the Cubs looks like the Yankees. Losing sports became a lasting tradition.
To make it worse, I loved listening to baseball on the radio when I was a kid. Chicago stations come in crystal clear in Milwaukee, so I suffered through bad Cubs and White Sox teams as well as having to endure the torture of the Brewers after they were out of it on June 1st of every year.
This stupidly didn’t stop me from continuing to be a fan though, and every year I would have my hopes and dreams violently dashed to the pavement by a subpar squad of sports stooges that cared about it a whole lot less than I did. They were getting paid win or lose, so my emotions did not play into the mix. A winning team to cheer for was Roadrunner, and I was Wile E. Coyote.
Still, I continued to buy into the program – much to the delight of each team. I spent chunks of my hard earned money on anything and everything I could get my hands on from game tickets to programs to year books to bubble gum cards right down to my wardrobe. What loyal fan of any team anywhere doesn’t own a big stash of swag with a logo and team colors? I fell for it as well.
I’ve got enough green and gold clothing to outfit my own team, and I paid full price for all of it – including the underwear and socks. I’ve got a winter coat, a fall jacket, a lanyard to keep an ID around my neck, t-shirts, sweat shirts, pajamas, a stocking cap and even fuzzy bedroom slippers.
Baseball is nice, but in Wisconsin the Packers are a religion. I have some baseball clothing too, but it doesn’t come close to the volume of my Packer-phernalia. I have several jerseys, and when I happen to wear one in public I get compliments from people who would not know I was alive if I wasn’t wearing it. It has become a major thread of my identity, and all who know me know it.
And then there was that pesky little NFC Championship game in Seattle in January. Like all of my Packer brethren and sistren, I sat on my couch decked out in full Packer gear while I watched my beloved heroes turn into The Three Stooges during the last five minutes of what should have been the cherry on the sundae before going to the Super Bowl. Instead, it was a pit to choke on.
Stephen King couldn’t have written a more graphic horror story, and I saw my childhood come flooding back as the Packers went down in the most flaming defeat I can ever remember – and I can remember a lot. It would be like asking General Custer to offer up an opinion on which one of the arrows was the worst. If I had to make an educated guess, I would say it was the final one.
Well, that was the final arrow for me as a Packer fan. I’ve had several weeks to think it over, and I have made up my mind. I am officially retiring as a Packer fan. I’m hanging up my lucky sweat pants – which didn’t turn out to be lucky at all. In fact, I thought I was going to soil them when Brandon Bostick dropped that onside kick. I just don’t need that kind of stress in my life.
Don’t get me wrong, it has been a terrific run. I have pleasant memories of going to Lambeau Field with my grandfather several times as a kid, even though they lost every time. Having that memory of Gramps is still sweet even today, but I don’t have that kind of time to devote now.
By my best calculations, I have watched almost every Packer game – preseason included – since 1975. That’s forty years, and at 20 games a year that’s sixty hours a year not counting the playoffs and Super Bowls. Who’s got that kind of time to spend on something that doesn’t pay a penny in return? I suppose I could start betting on the games, but that’s a whole other discussion.
It might have been a rough start, but there have been some unbelievable high’s since 1992 when that hillbilly took over as quarterback. Yes he was great in his day, and then crapped all over all of us when he went to play for the Vi-queens. That would be like a guy’s wife going to live with his best friend for two years, then wondering why he was a bit miffed. That puke is dead to me.
But now that I am officially retired, I could not care less that they’re having a ceremony up in Green Bay this summer to retire his number and rub it in even more. I won’t be attending, and it doesn’t mean a thing to me. I will also have most of my Sunday afternoon’s and occasional Monday night’s free in the fall, so I can find something else to do for those sixty hours I have been giving to the NFL since before puberty hit.
Like Keith Richards putting down the pipe, I am a new man!
I am going to have to find some new clothes, but that’s okay. Whatever I choose will surely cost less than all the Packer wear I’ve been buying all these years. It sure will put an end to all of the impromptu arguments I’ve had to endure living in the Chicago area while remaining loyal to my boys for so long. Wearing a Packer jacket on Michigan Avenue is not something I recommend to anybody that isn’t a quick wit. I have defended myself for the last time. I feel safer already!
Watching that Seattle game really squeezed the life out of me for being a sports fan in general. As a kid it’s fueled with hope that everything good will prevail and years of loyalty will someday pay off in championships. Ha! Ask any Cubs fan how that works out. It’s not fair and that’s life.
I saw my team win the Super Bowl just a few years ago. Maybe I should have seen it again this year but instead of being upset I’ll choose to walk away happy. How much good can I do in three hours on a Sunday afternoon in October? I’m going to find out. Maybe I’ll work on writing that book I’ve been meaning to get to. Maybe I can go visit somebody in a hospital that doesn’t have anybody that cares. I’m not going to miss the NFL, and they’re surely not going to miss me.
Dobie Maxwell is a stand up comedian, and writer. Find where he’ll be performing his next hell-gig at dobiemaxwell.com