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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Country Cousin

Issue Date: December 9, 2021

Jane Thibodeau Martin

Bye Week

**********

Last weekend was a bit strange, with no Packer football game to anticipate and schedule around. The team was more than ready for this break, with a chance to heal up some of the "walking wounded" on the squad, and especially Aaron's sore toe. And I'd admit that I, too, was in need of a week off football.

This season has had a lot of ups and downs, many more than usual. All summer was the drama of "will he, or won't he, be back?" So many speculating, so few hard facts. And then the agony of the week when the Chiefs and Covid combined to beat the Packers, a loss I found maddening and excruciating, for several reasons. Watching our backup quarterback was certainly".absorbing. I am envisioning the Packer fan's future, and found the vision underwhelming. After that I lost patience with people who like to complain about Aaron Roger's long hair. Really? That bothers you? Go ask a fan from hapless Detroit, whose Lions have won exactly one game. See if they brag on the nice short haircut their QB sports. And now I find myself studying x-rays of Aaron's broken toe and pictures of his bare foot. It's all very stressful.

But I did spend some time while on a drive to Marinette thinking about some critically important parts of any NFL game besides the coaches and the players. I reference the announcers and the officials.

When a game is scheduled there are two things Mike does immediately. He scopes out if the Packers will be broadcast in Seattle and in the Tulsa area, to determine if our kids will be able to watch along with us. He sends the kids a "news bulletin" with this information. Then he determines who will be doing the play by play and color announcing. There is only one "bad" answer and that is, of course, Troy Aikman and Joe Buck. I don't need to belabor this, there are entire groups on line composed of fans of many different football teams, who dislike this combination intensely. In fact, it is one thing that seems to united the fans of nearly every NFL team with the possible exception of Dallas. The online commentary in the anti-Aikman/Buck forums makes for some comical reading. There is a separate forum of baseball fans who also don't like Joe Buck, as he does a lot of broadcasting in baseball as well.

Now, on to the officials. It is hard to think of an occupation that would subject you to more undeserved abuse than being an NFL official. (Although recently some election board members and school board members can probably identify.)

I was "sort of" watching a game the weekend before last while I cleaned. It was the Lions and Bears. The game was a veritable blizzard of yellow flags. It seemed at one point that every play had a flag and some had two. And every time a flag is thrown, someone has an issue with it. The players involved, players not involved, the coaches, and of course, the fans. It helps that instant replay usually shows the call was correct, and that helps cool the temperature, but there are also outbursts over calls NOT made. Sometimes, if enough beer is consumed, even the photographic evidence will not convince an angry fan that the call was correct.

If you tune in to national sports radio channels on "overreaction Mondays," fans of various teams are still livid and griping on air about various calls made, not made or blown 24 hours later. If I am doing a long drive on Monday I am sure to listen because the wound-up fans are so amusing.

It helps to step back and think about this job. There are seven officials on the field, with a total of 22 players. Those seven have to watch all 22 of the players, often moving at very high speed, struggling in big piles of humanity, and with action occurring in different parts of the large field all at once. It's a miracle they see as much as they do! I myself often have trouble figuring out who has the ball watching on TV, much less who has the ball under a ten body scrum after a fumble. Those football officials get one heck of a workout running the field during a game. You'll notice they all look pretty athletic; unlike some of the officiants in other sports who I will not call out here.

How would you like to have a job this difficult where you get critiqued by a few million people after every game? Where no one talks about the fifteen calls you got right under very challenging conditions, and drills in on the single one you blew? Indeed, you still hear fans complaining about calls that were made in games played many years ago!

While I cringe at the violence and injuries of the game, I am a Packer fan by birth, culture, and marriage. But one of the things I most love about the Packers is their function as social glue in our fractured society. You can talk about the Packers with almost any fellow Wisconsonite, and are unlikely to get crossways veering into political venom, vaccination angst or any of the rest of the widely-spread nastiness that has become so distressingly common. If you run into fans of other teams, you will likely have some good-natured exchanges, each sticking up for their own but without bitterness, anger or violence. I have had a lot of fun with strangers I met while traveling in Packer attire. Coast to coast, I enjoyed conversations with people who wouldn't ever have talked to me otherwise.

So after this respite week I'll be ready for more football. The drama that comes with football is gentle compared to what you may witness on other topics these days.

You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: JanieTMartin@gmail.com.


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