I’ve often been asked why I put the Packers on a such a pedestal. Why I feel there is no other team like them. Over the course of nearly a century, the Green Bay Packers have consistently given us much in which we can take immense pride.
We have so many world championships that we need a gallery, just to display our 13 trophies. Our players actions, on and off the field, reflect our midwestern values, which have little tolerance for turning our beloved team into a 3-ring circus; even a short-term sideshow is more than we tend to bear.
That’s not to say that there have never been scandals in Green Bay; there have, from Hornung’s gambling to Mossy Cade’s assault. However, over 100 years, one can count the number of embarrassing infractions on one hand. That’s something of which one can take pride, with or without 13 trophies. And it matters to us; every bit as much as winning.
Lombardi and Lambeau would jump out of their graves and choke anyone doing an end zone dance and other such foolishness; being arrogant; acting the monkey. That is, if the fans don’t get to them first. We find such behaviors shameful and embarrassing. It is immature. It is unprofessional. It is beneath the uniform and disrespectful to the legacy. Our players know this and those who forget get an earful. Men don’t act that way; boys do.
Neither do we admire prima donnas. No man is a great solo artist; not in football. Rodgers is the first to acknowledge that he is what he is only because the men who surround him enable him to be. Whatever greatness any player may achieve is wholly dependent upon his ability to mesh with his team; to work and move as one orchestrated mind and body. As such, modesty and humility – genuine, not feigned – are admired. Not because they make one look good in interviews, but because such expressions indicate that one truly understands the interdependent nature of The Team. We are one team, with many parts. Player, coach, manager, director and fan alike, we work as one… each with his own job to do and role to play. When we all do that and support one another, we win. A lot. When we neglect to do so – should any part become out of synch with the rest – we have already failed and that failure will cause us to lose plenty until it is bak in synch. Should we stray from the rightful path, we often look to Lombardi for wisdom. A man who, contrary to legend, had immense faith and placed great trust in his players, encouraging them to call all their own plays. Sure, he yelled a lot. That was his job: head cheerleader.
It’s not going to come easy. This is a club that’s going to hit you… and they are going to try and hit you. You’re going to take it out of them. Just hit; just run; just block and just tackle. You do that and there is no question what the answer is going to be in this ball game. Keep your poise. There’s nothing they can show you out there that you haven’t faced a number of times. – Coach Lombardi (Super Bowl I)
The Green Bay Packers were without question the better, more talented team in Seattle. However, they played 56 minutes of Packer football rather than 60. This, of course, is the worst of all sins; the greatest of risks.
Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all-the-time thing. You don’t win ‘once in a while’; you don’t do things right ‘once in a while’; you do them right all of the time. Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.
There is no room for second place. There is only one place in my game, and that’s first place. I have finished second twice in my time at Green Bay, and I don’t ever want to finish second again. There is a second place bowl game, but it is a game for losers played by losers. It is and always has been an American zeal to be first in anything we do, and to win, and to win, and to win.
Every time a football player goes to ply his trade he’s got to play from the ground up – from the soles of his feet right up to his head. Every inch of him has to play. Some guys play with their heads. That’s O.K. You’ve got to be smart to be number one in any business. But more importantly, you’ve got to play with your heart, with every fiber of your body. If you’re lucky enough to find a guy with a lot of head and a lot of heart, he’s never going to come off the field second.
Running a football team is no different than running any other kind of organization – an army, a political party or a business. The principles are the same. The object is to win – to beat the other guy. Maybe that sounds hard or cruel. I don’t think it is.
It is a reality of life that men are competitive and the most competitive games draw the most competitive men. That’s why they are there – to compete. The object is to win fairly, squarely, by the rules – but to win.
And in truth, I’ve never known a man worth his salt who in the long run, deep down in his heart, didn’t appreciate the grind, the discipline. There is something in good men that really yearns for discipline and the harsh reality of head to head combat.
I don’t say these things because I believe in the ‘brute’ nature of men or that men must be brutalized to be combative. I believe in God, and I believe in human decency. But I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour — his greatest fulfillment to all he holds dear — is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle, victorious.
By “winning is the only thing”, what Lombardi meant to say is that it is the will to win that is the only thing that truly matters; the determining factor. Without that will, we will lose. Had it been possible, TWO teams would have proven that in Seattle. However, with mere minutes left, one suddenly found that will to win, while the other had allowed theirs to wane.
The Packers lost on Sunday because they failed to heed those words above; apparently many players and staff figured dominating the field for 56 minutes would be sufficient. It took but 4 minutes for a lesser team – one which had just made an enormous and painful demonstration of such foolish arrogance – to undo everything that Green Bay had done. One cannot imagine such an experienced club – the most storied football team in history – making such a rookie mistake, especially after witnessing its impact for nearly an hour. And yet, there it was… and they surely did.
People didn’t do their jobs for 60 minutes; they did them for 56… and that is all it takes to fail. Even Curly surely shed a tear on Sunday.
There was one play, however, of which he would be very proud and it didn’t happen on the field. The highlight of the day, for Vincent Lomardi would have been this 53 seconds.
This is what makes a player great. What differentiates a Green Bay Packer from many of his rivals. Yes, Brandon Bostick made a mistake. He did not do his job. In a moment of immense pressure and excitement – with the ball coming toward him – he tried to do Jordy Nelson’s job. The problem is, Brandon Bostick isn’t Jordy Nelson. He learned that the hard way on Sunday. When we each stick to our own job, things turn out much better.
Although he made a mistake, he learned. He took responsibility. He placed no blame, dodged no questions and ducked no punches. He didn’t have to do that. He did that because he’s already got inside him what this club is truly all about. Character.
There are a dozen reasons why the Packers aren’t going to the Super Bowl. Anyone could have pointed to any of them and many in the NFL surely would have in such a position or skipped interviews altogether. However, Brandon Bostick isn’t just anyone; he’s what a Green Bay Packer out to be, so he stood there, admitted his mistake and took it on the chin. Not just the blame for his share in the loss, but the entire loss, which anyone should know is quite unjust. He fell upon his sword and sought not to dishonor his team. They all do.
Who would Lombardi have lambasted on Monday morning? The fans. It is we – or many of us, at least – who failed to do our jobs; every bit as much as the 4 minutes of folly on the field; perhaps more so, for much longer and with much greater offense to our legacy.
We have a job to do, too: support. There is not one among us who would not have been thrilled with a win. However, our team didn’t play the entire game. The fact that they didn’t, though, does not change our role from supporter to executioner. Much of our job comes after the game. Our job is to heal; to make stronger; to give faith. To convince our players that anything is possible; that there is nothing they cannot accomplish or overcome.
Nobody in the organization is perfect. Nobody on the team is infallible. When a member falters, you raise him up. When he admits an error, you encourage him. When he is heartbroken, you show him love. This is our job. Anyone throwing stones at Brandon Bostick is failing us all; our team, our legacy and quite possibly jeopardizing our future success. What next? Break Rodger’s arm for throwing an interception? Will that make him play better, too? Crushing our player’s spirits? Kicking them when they’re down? Is that our grand plan for sustaining the best football team in history?
Of course not. It’s idiotic. It’s shameful and embarrassing. It is immature. It is unprofessional. It is beneath the club and disrespectful to the legacy. Fans are failing worse than Brandon Bostick did. Neither did their job, but at least he owned it, faced the music and took the lesson.
Sunday afternoon, Brandon Bostick exhibited exactly why he’ll make a fantastic Green Bay Packer. He’ll screw up, own up, stand fast and absorb the lesson, becoming ever better. I’ve no doubt Lombardi is quite proud of him. Proud of the fans, though? Not so much.
A play is a play; a game is a game; a season is a season; only our Packer legacy lasts forever. We ALL failed our club on Sunday. Afterward, however, Brandon Bostick gave us every reason to be proud. We should follow his lead and do the same.
That, after all, is what has made our team so exceptional.
Read another bloggerDan O’Donnell’s open letter, Dear Brandon Bostick.