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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Fan's Voice: Packer Family

This is the third installment of the Fan's Voice series of guest posts on Banshee Sports.  It's a series that allows folks who aren't nerdy enough to run a sports blog to have a public forum where they can proclaim their love of their favorite NFL team.  This post comes to us from Nick Tarasovitch.

Years back, before being married and having kids, a good friend randomly gave me a Green Bay Packers nightlight.   He, as well, thought it was random and somewhat humorous, but he knew how much I loved Packers football.  Fast-forward seven years, and that five-dollar nightlight provides a comforting light in my young daughter’s bedroom.  In fact, it’s part of her nightly routine that she turns on the Packer nightlight before she turns off her reading light and hops into bed.

When thinking about this writing this article, it was one of those nighttime routines that made me realize that being a Green Bay Packers fan is truly a big part of my life. I actually then took a mental inventory of my Packer apparel and counted more shirts, sweatshirts, shorts, jerseys, memorabilia than I even remembered owning.  Then I thought about all the fan gear I’ve bought the kids and my wife.

And then there’s my “Packer” football. During my first visit to Lambeau Field, I bought a Wilson NFL football from a Kmart that was in walking distance from the stadium.  My brother and I threw that ball for hours under the parking lot lights of Lambeau Field the night before the game.  It’s amazing how the sentiment of being at Lambeau with that ball has made me care for it like it was an authentic signed piece of history.  It’s the feeling you get from being in Green Bay that never leaves you.

My History

The Packers have been a part of my family since the Bart Starr era, which is when my grandfather began following the team. Although I never had the privilege of meeting my grandfather, his passion for the Packers carried onto my Dad and two uncles, and then to me and my brother.  Growing up, we’d watch every Packers game that was on TV and it was always a big deal.  Pizza, special snacks, and all the stuff we weren’t allowed any other time.  It was something we all gathered around to watch and cheer on together.

I remember Brett Favre’s first season, when he replaced Don Majkowski, in the early 1990’s.  He was young and gutsy and had a cannon for an arm.  He was my favorite player for the seventeen seasons that he was with the Pack.  I own three #4 jerseys that I rarely bring out of the closet after all the turmoil his return to the NFL had caused in 2008.  But he’ll always be my favorite player, the player I cheered for religiously season after season.  There’s rumor that he and the Packers front office have reconciled and that his number will officially be retired in an upcoming season.  I’d be delighted to see that happen, along with his nomination into the Hall of Fame.

Lambeau Field

Imagine an amazing NFL stadium sitting in the middle of a small town, with a gas station and shopping plaza on one side, a practice facility on the other, and your grandparents’ small house surrounding the other two sides. That’s Lambeau Field.  I’ve never seen a stadium like it.  If you walk across the street, you’re walking on the front sidewalk of small, modest row homes.  On one side there are a few hotels and lots of shops and restaurants.  There is no stadium like it because it’s not placed in downtown of a big city surrounded by parking lots and then the big city.  It’s surrounded by a small town.  No skyscrapers, no parking decks, just a small town with a lot of love for its football team.

I’ve seen the Packers play in Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Carolina.  Packer fans travel well.  Outside of Steelers followers, Packer fans may arguably be the next most well-traveled fan base.  But watching them on the road isn’t comparable to watching them play at Lambeau.  The tailgating, the parties, the fans, the stadium, everything is different.  I’ve never seen such a family friendly atmosphere as well.  There are always punks and folks out of line no matter where you go, but overall, seeing two games at Lambeau, there hasn’t been a friendlier, more fun environment to watch a game. I can’t wait to go back.

Rodgers and the 2013 Season

Training camp has officially started, and preseason games are only a few weeks away.  The Packers should be solid once again, but I’m not sure they’re experienced enough to be a Superbowl-bound team.  It’s hard to belief Aaron Rodgers is their most seasoned player.  He still seems like a kid to me.  The offensive line has been shuffled around, so hopefully they’re improved from last few seasons as they given up close to league-leading sacks.  Rodgers could use a few extra seconds to get the ball out. I’m very excited about the new running backs, particularly Eddie Lacy, the rookie out of Alabama.  The Pack hasn’t had a solid, go-to back since Ahman Green, and even he wasn’t spectacular given his fumbling issues.  I think most people would agree that if the running game improves it will logically open up the passing game for Rodgers and his stellar group of receivers.  It was disappointing to see Greg Jennings leave, especially since he went to the Vikings. But Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb have been consistently strong performers, while the speedy James Jones has been up and down with his butterfingers.

I will proudly wear my #52 Matthews jersey every Sunday this season.  The guy is a beast and so much fun to watch.  The addition of rookie DE Datone Jone out of UCLA will hopefully help the rush defense which was 26th in the league last year.  In addition, most teams have adjusted well to doubling up on Matthews, and the lack of another high-quality DE prevented him from getting as much pressure on QBs as he had in prior seasons.  2012 first-round pick LB Nick Perry out of USC is making a return after a rookie season plagued with injury.  I’m hopeful his presence will have a positive impact.  But there’s a lot of inexperience in the secondary which continues to frighten me.  Morgan Burnnett out of Georgia Tech needs to be ready for prime time after the Pack cut Charles Woodson last season.  There are quite a few unfamiliar names in that defensive backfield, hopefully some or all of which are about to shine and improve another area of weakness on the Packer’s defense.

It’s terrible I need to even mention this, but hopefully Mason Crosby (K) shows up this season after a sub-par performance in 2012.  He had been solid in prior years, but was pretty bad last year.  It’s important to have a reliable kicker.

I’m anxiously awaiting the Packers vs. 49ers rematch in SF on September 8th.  Hopefully the outcome is better than when they met in the playoffs last season and Colin Kaepernick ran around everyone like it was nothing.  Regardless, it should be another exciting year of Green Bay Packer football.  I look forward to pulling out the #52 jersey and getting my kids in their #12 t-shirts.  It’s time for the passion to pass on to the next generation.

Go Pack Go!

I'd like to express a huge thank you to Nick Tarasovitch for contributing.  This is where I usually out plugs and shout-outs.  But, Nick keeps a pretty low profile on the Internet.  He's too busy raising a family, earning a living and rooting for his Packers to get involved in a lot of online shenanigans.

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