Monday, March 5, 2007

How To Polarize Your Fan Base (Step One: Sign Randy Moss)

Well, the rumor mill is churning out the impending Randy Moss Apocolypse to happen any day now, and the reaction among the Packer faithful is certainly powerful.

Certainly, the size of a thread entitled "Randy Moss" is already a significant sign that, if he does don the Green and the Gold, that his name will probably end up in its own seperate forum.

But, let's get to the aftershock, and more specifically, how it will affect the other Most Talked About Guy At PackerChatters, Ted Thompson. You see, the title of this thread isn't about whether or not bringing in Moss would affect our support for the Packers. If we lived through Charles Martin, we're going to continue being Packers fans, no matter what (there might be a few exceptions, of course, but you get my drift).

No, this is about the support system for Ted Thompson, the general manager, and how the aquisition of Randy Moss is going to affect how people view him. And, it will.

Right now, it is relatively evident that Packer Mundo is becoming more and more polarized on Thompson as it is. His eschewing of free agency, his quiet, passive-appearing approach, and the idea of a slow rebuild while Brett Favre is in potentially his last season has certainly divided the fan base into two sides: those that voraciously attack Thompson, and those that voraciously defend him.

Let's take a closer look, though. Who tends to make up these groups? I will avoid political terms to avoid any intellectual dishonest minimalization of the concept I'm trying to get across.

The Thompson Supporters tend to be what I'll call the "traditionalists". These are the folks who have bought into the idea of a methodical rebuild, who are willing to take the growing pains that come along with it. They don't get too worked up, even if a desired free agent slips by. They celebrate trading down in the draft and pride themselves on being able to say, someday, "see, told you I was right."

But most of all, these "traditionalists" don't want to see us make any stupid, impulsive mistakes that would plunge us back into the 70's and 80's.

The Thompson Critics tend to be what I'll call the "revolutionaries". These are the folks who look at the immediate success of other teams and want to see action made with our team now. They grow frustrated when players they feel could help the team slip by, even though we have room to spend on them. They fear losing now will create a habit of losing in the future, and that being passive is worse than making an aggressive mistake.

But most of all, these "revolutionaries" don't want us want to see us make any stupid, hesitant mistakes that would plunge us back into the 70's and 80's.

Now, of couse, there are the invisible middle-ground people who are objective, balanced, and thoughtful. As a result, they are completely ignored and scorned by both sides of the debate. We will call them "daywalkers".

This ongoing "Less Filling, Tastes Great" free-for-all would probably last all offseason long, until the draft, with both sides digging in and developing their stances. But something is going to come along in the next few days that is going to turn this particular debate on its ear.

And that, of course, is Randy Moss.

How Moss will affect the Packers team, the authority of young coach McCarthy, aging quarterback Brett Favre, young receiver Greg Jennings, and the salary cap are all items that will be up for heavy debate.

But I want to thoughtfully think how this will affect Ted Thompson, and the opinions of those who both support and criticize him.

First of all, whether you agree with the move or not, it is clear and obvious that trading away draft picks for an aging and oft-injured wide receiver that will take up a huge chunk of salary cap space is way out of character for what we have grown to expect from Ted Thompson. Ted has built his reputation, like it or not, on eschewing the risks of free agency, not taking expensive chances on second-tier players, and regarding his draft choices as gold.

You can throw all that out the window when he trades what is rumored to be at least a first-day pick for the honor of taking on both Randy Moss's contract and attitude.

Now, if Randy Moss comes in, has a 90-catch, 1500 yard, 15 TD season, Thompson will be hailed by both sides as a hero and a legend, and that third statue will finally be erected next to Curly and Vince.

However, the risk for Thompson, who is often praised for not doing things just to please fans, may end up being much greater. In the end, we are all Packer fans, and that takes precendence over being a Thompson fan, or a fan of any player or figure in the organization.

At risk of oversimplifying matters, how would it affect our three groups?

My prediction with the "traditionalists" is that many will be uncomfortable with the move. They are probably less likely to forgive and forget Moss's rap sheet, and will be even more uncomfortable with what appears to be a complete break from the strategy they all bought into and have been defending. The "traditionalists" have been waiting for that slow, methodical build, and now not only see the big, risky leap with a potentially locker room-destabilizing player, but a destabilizing of the salary cap structure they've so proudly admired for the last two season.

In other words, Thompson may see a lot of his supporters move from "I'm behind TT all the way" to "I'm cautiously optimistic". Or, in some cases, because of their particular feelings about Moss or their feelings about such a break in strategy, may go even further.

On the other side of the coin, the "revolutionaries" will be more likely to be happy with the move. They've been screaming for Thompson to "do something", and this would certainly qualify as a big splash. Moss is a playmaker, and a star, and a weapon. Even one of our board's biggest "revolutionaries" already admitted he would have to rethink his opinion on Thompson if he acquired Moss.

The problem in the long run? Well, "revolutionaries" are bit more impulsive, and a bit more desiring of immediate gratification. If Moss ends up have a season like he did in Oakland the past two seasons, it would follow that the "revolutionaries" would be more likely to become more critical of the move. This would then have both sides of the coin starting to move to a more critical stance of the guy calling the shots.

And the "daywalkers"? Well, I would definately say that bringing in Moss will get plenty of them off the fence, and we'll probably see less and less people being in the middle on Thompson.

Now, this is all a bit premature, as nothing has been officially announced yet, and there's always the possibility that we may have to wait until summer to find out if Moss is a Packer or not.

But, now, that is even an issue. Thompson may acquire him, and upset the people that have been backing his rebuilding process. Thompson could also end up not acquiring him, and after all the promise and excitement, end up upsetting the people that have been demanding a playmaker...or at least something.

Let it be said, however, that if Thompson does pull the trigger, this will be the most defining move of his career. And, we'll all be here to debate it.

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