Saturday, July 30, 2011

2011 Packers Shareholders Meeting Pics and Videos

Hey gang, thanks to the illustrious Jersey Al Bracco, I was able to attend my first Packer Shareholder's Meeting this year.  I didn't get in a whole ton of pictures, but I did get in a couple.  Here you go:

We sat over in the corner, somewhat away from the staging area, but very close to the player's tunnel, which was nice as folks would come out of the tunnel and we would get glimpses of them.   Before the game, Kevin Greene was standing there, and we found out later that his wife was singing the National Anthem for the second year in a row (apparently, she was good luck last year).  Estmated, almost 12,000 people were in attendance, and I was joined by what became an unofficial tweetup with TommyKGB, AlexTallitsch, jrehor, KelKelKelKel (though I didn't actually get to see her), LambeauJoe, PeteSeroogy, Hammen, and KyleCousineau.

 
Finally, the gentlemen in suits departed the players' tunnel to make their way to the  staging area.  Check out the reception garnered when Ted Thompson makes his way onto the field.  Given the reception he got here three years ago, I don't blame him a bit for not looking out way when we shouted his name, but trust me, there wasn't a Ted Hater in the house (and if there were, I think the Hater would have been facing off against 11,999 folks who sincerely wished to issue their displeasure with him/her).



Was asked on Twitter as to the condition of the field, which was rather diveted after the concert a month or two ago.  It still has a couple of spot that are bare, but not as much as a few weeks ago.  It will be interesting to see the condition at Family Night. If you open this picture and look just to the right of the white signs in the middle of the picture, you'll see one of the divets still there.



It's always a good day when Jason Wilde joins you.  Got to meet him for the first time, thanks to Alex Tallitsch browbeating him out of the bowels of Lambeau Field.  I posted this picture on Twitter, prompting Steve to respond: "and @KyleCousineau09".

Of course, I respond: Well, yeah. But everyone knows who Kyle is."

True dat.


After the meeting, Dan Lauria came out to do the reading from "Lombardi", which was a treat. Some folks were a little disappointed it wasn't longer, but listening to Dan do the "you get a seal here, and a seal here" line sent chills down my spine.

Complete random segue, but I once joined my cousin, who was a professional actor, on his film shoot in Arizona years ago.  I was an extra in the film, and appeared in a scene with H Richard Greene, who played Winnie Cooper's father on The Wonder Years.  So, was a little "Six Degrees" for me seeing Lauria come through the tunnel.

Not the best of quality, but here's a little video snippet of Lauria's reading from a distance.

Here's a little video of Mr. Lauria leaving the field. I am really not sure who is picking the music for Lambeau Field this year, but I am not sure "Glee" should be the album they pick most of their music from.
video


And finally, as the meeting concluded, here is a pic of Uncle Ted.  For someone like myself who's been an unabashed Thompson Critic over the years (who often got lumped in with the far more vitriolic Thompson Haters), it was very nice to see the extended standing ovation Thompson received during the meeting.  Well deserved, and while I don't plan on discontinuing my criticism of Ted (or any other player or coach who has earned it), I definitely stood with all of Packer Nation in thanking Ted for putting together a team that earned another Super Bowl trophy.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Barnett and Colledge: Why One Left and One Should Stay

Yesterday, Nick Barnett ended his eight-year tenure as a Green Bay Packer, a productive and boisterous career that certainly made him a presence both on and off the field.  In the next few days, offensive lineman Daryn Colledge might follow him into the uncharted waters of free agency in this new world in the NFL.

I'm certainly sad to see Barnett go.  He was an emotional leader of the team and was one of the first accessible players on Twitter.  He was one of the first big guests on uber-fanshow CheeseheadTV, and was, overall, a class act.  He had his blemishes, too.  He disappeared for long stretches, seemingly reliant on his own emotion to be at a fever pitch to overcome dominant blocking.  He had a prolonged bout with the city of Green Bay over issues at his downtown nightclub.  And he has quit and rejoined Twitter several times over some TMI tweets, not the least of which was publicly complaining he was to be left out of the official Super Bowl team picture last February.

None of that matters, however, because the real reason he left can be summed up in two words:  Desmond Bishop.  Many in the media and the blogger fan base had called for Bishop to get his break for years, usually to try and supplant fellow MLB AJ Hawk.  Barnett's spot, however, was always safe, and he never seemed to have to compete for his position.

It what might be the premier crucible story of the 2010 Green Bay Packers:  injury-decimated team found they usually had equally, if not more competent talent waiting on the bench.  Bishop walked onto the field with solid production and far less theatrics.  While Aaron Rodgers won the Super Bowl MVP, Bishop has to be considered a close runner-up because of the heroic forced fumble to start the fourth quarter.  Without that one play, I don't know if the Packers own a Lombardi Trophy today.

So, Barnett, who entered the McCarthy era back in 2006 as the de facto starter and never once had to seriously accept a challenge to his position, found himself the odd man out.  Salary cap savings were more important than that emotional leadership, which the Packers also managed to find out they could come up without Mufasa.

Switch now to the curious case of Daryn Colledge, a guy drafted in 2006 to be the integral cog in the new Zone Blocking Scheme, and has had his ups and downs over that time.  He's gone from being the promising rookie to the underachieving veteran that was due for an upgrade, seemingly every single season.  Nearly every year he has been pencilled out of the projected starting lineup, even benched once during the regular season.

But, each and every time, Colledge has fought and earned his place back.  Every.  Time.

Look, Colledge may never reach Pro Bowl status as a guard in the NFL.  Hey...how many Packer guards have over the last forty years?  But Colledge has lived through his whole Packer career under the microscope and proven the doubters wrong...at least until the following year.

For your viewing pleasure, Ted Thompson has drafted the following offensive players in his time in Green Bay as GM:

1. Junius Coston
2. Wil Whittaker
3. Daryn Colledge
4. Jason Spitz
5. Tony Moll
6. Allen Barbre
7. Josh Sitton
8. Breno Giacomini
9. TJ Lang
10 Jamon Meredith
11. Bryan Bulaga
12. Marshall Newhouse
13. Derek Sherrod
14. Caleb Schlauderaff

Now, Thompson has drafted enough guys over his tenure to make almost three full squads of offensive lines.  And, as we enter Thompson's seventh season as general manager, 40% of the offensive line positions are still, barring injury, being manned by Mike Sherman holdovers.

That's a big deal to me, especially how after nearly every single draft, pundits and armchair quarterbacks around the Packer Blogosphere had every one of these guys, at one point or another, penciled in as a starter in the near future. 

I've made the point many times in the past how 60% of the offensive line had been unable to be "upgraded", that the threesome of Clifton, Tauscher, and Wells were still better than the talent brought in to replace them.

And now, out of fairness and common sense, I'm going to apply the same point to Daryn Colledge.  You see, unlike Barnett, the Packers were never afraid to challenge Colledge at his position.  And let's face it:  at one point or another, both Barnett and Colledge had some underwhelming games.  But Barnett kept his spot, year in and year out, and when an injury finally made him sit the sidelines, the coaches realized that Bishop was ready and willing to not only equal Mufasa's production, but exceed it.

Yet Colledge has been written off, time and time again, with one of those names on that list.   Many of the names that were the presumed heir apparent are no longer with the team, and Colledge has always taken his guard spot back.  Now, I understand the logic:  the Packers have a ton of young talent and could use the salary cap room.  Colledge has been steady-but-not-spectacular, and perhaps we have the OL version of Desmond Bishop on the roster already.

Perhaps.

And perhaps not.

Daryn Colledge might take his Super Bowl Ring and head off to some other ZBS team and cash in, finishing his career someplace other than the one where he's always had to prove himself.  Colledge himself said that he doesn't think the Packers want him back.

"The Packers have had a lot of years to re-sign me if they wanted to, so it looks like they might just let me go to free agency," Colledge said. "Whether that’s a business decision or a personal decision, I don’t know."

Sometimes, when you've had so much doubt in a player and hoped to upgrade them over and over again, there's a point where it is just best to part ways and give the player a shot with a clear slate.  Maybe Daryn is tired of always having to fight for his job, too.

But if the Packers are smart, you keep the guy whose proven himself again and again.  After all, why are Clifton and Wells still starting ahead of all those guys Thompson has picked to replace them?

Mason Crosby: Supply and Demand

Nobody should have been surprised when Mason Crosby was inked to a new 5-year deal with the Green Bay Packers.  You might have been surprised when you eyeballed the contract details.

According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Crosby's new pact will pay him $14.75 million with $3 million guaranteed.

Crosby, who will turn 27 in September, has spent each of his four NFL seasons with the Packers. He connected on 22-of-28 field goal tries and all 46 point- after attempts for 112 points last season.

The Colorado product has made 107-of-137 field goal attempts and all but one of his PATs over his career. He's also kicked at least two 50-plus yard field goals in each of his four seasons and is 10-of-21 lifetime from at least 50 yards.

Now, I realize we've moved a long ways away from the time that Ron Wolf let Craig Hentrich walk because he couldn't see paying a punter....any punter....a million dollars a year.  Hentrich left and signed a veteran's minimum contract with the Titans, had a twelve-year career post-Packers, and was respected as one of the best at his position.  And yes, he finally got paid his worth with Tennessee.

Meanwhile, the Packers went into a cesspool of punters, a revolving door of mediocrity that finally seemed to come to an end in 2007 when the Packers picked up Jon Ryan...only to cut him two years later and again have indecision at the position until present-day punter Tim Masthay established himself last season.

In other words, kickers and punters are often looked at as interchangeable, dime-a-dozen players...that is, until you don't have a good one on your roster. 

Crosby's statistics are probably best summed up as average.  For all the ballyhoo about the strength of his leg, his long-distance kicks have been below 50% for his career.  At the end of the 2009 season, special teams coach Shawn Slocum decided to, mid-season, completely break his kicking mechanics down to square one.  Last year in training camp, interventions to his kicking style began all over again.

His 2010 campaign was, at least, an improvement over the drama from the end of 2009 and the 2010 offseason.  However, he finished with a field goal percentage of 78.6%, right around his career average and has never hit that elusive 80% mark, a Mendoza Line of sorts for kickers.   That percentage placed him 30th overall in the NFL last year during the regular season.  His 50% percentage from 50+ yards ranked him in a tie for 17th overall.

In other words, when it comes to kicking field goals, we're still working on the theory that Crosby is still a work in progress and is going to eventually develop into the kicker we felt we drafted...because his stats don't back up a contract that places him in the top five kickers in the NFL.

But, we go back to the punters.  Thompson already went through this once with Jon Ryan, thinking he could find something better on the waiver wire and brought in Derrick Frost to replace him.  While this isn't the time in Thompson's career to be throwing poo towards him for his prior mistakes, you can't deny that the Frost-over-Ryan move was perhaps one of the most poorly thought-out moves Ted has ever made.

So, you have a stable kicker in Crosby, one still with a world of potential (and you get the feeling with proper coaching, he's start reaching that potential).  What are the other options out there?  Some undrafted rookie like Dan Bailey, who ended up in Cowboys training camp?  Some castoff from another team, like Kris Brown, and hope it isn't Derrick Frost all over again?

The Packers, perhaps moreso than any other team in the NFL, have learned some pretty hard lessons on letting talented specialists go and not having a decent replacement waiting in the wings.  I've been pretty hard on Mason over the past few years (although far rougher with his coach, Shaun Slocum), but recognize this is simply a case of supply and demand.  There's no one out there that you can count on to kick better than Crosby, and when you can't count on a kicker to do better than 75%, you stick with what you know.

The difference is that now we've given Crosby the kind of money that you give kickers who consistently make field goals at a clip in the mid-80's and low-90's.  It's a smart move by Thompson, who has likely learned from his own mistakes, to keep a relatively solid guy in the fold.  By not keeping him at a hometown discount, however, Crosby will have more of a microscope on him over the next few years.

It's up to Slocum and Co. to make Crosby into that kicker we hoped we'd get when we drafted him in the 6th round in 2007.

Monday, July 25, 2011

2010 Packers: Charmed?

As I watched the Women's World Cup, I was haunted by a feeling, almost like I had seen this show before.  Something eerily familiar about all this, I kept thinking.

* Strong team players, with a particularly charismatic team leader.

* Slow starters, almost needing to have their backs against the wall before waking up.

* Despite outplaying their opponents, often relied on big, heroic plays at the end to pull out a win.

Who am I talking about?  Well, sure, I'm talking about Hope Solo and the Women's National Team, but we could also easily be talking about the 2010 Green Bay Packers.  And we almost....almost....saw a complete repeat of last February's cardiac events, with near-misses and heroic finishes needed to pull out game after game.

Almost.

Yes, the margin of victory for the Women's World Cup was pretty slim, coming down to penalty kicks that never should have had to happen in the first place.  Missed opportunities came back to haunt them in the final game against Japan:   shot after shot taken on goal with nothing to show for it was the story of the first half.

But, you say, these were the Cardiac Girls, the ones who fought back against Brazil with a man down on an amazing header by Abby Wambach and penalty kicks to win.  And the ones who looked to be in trouble against France until two late-game out-of-a-hat goals by Wambach and phenom Alex Morgan prevented another overtime.

As someone who doesn't even watch soccer, both of those games took me out of my seat and cheering loudly, and the decider against Japan was no exception.  But waiting until the last minute didn't blossom for the Americans against a team with perhaps more destiny and fate on their side than themselves.

And the defeat was crushing.  While we can be proud of Team USA for making it so far, you still had a feeling that something was stolen from us, that after so many emotional, come-from-behind wins that there was nothing we couldn't do.

Notice my involuntary pronoun shift in that last paragraph?  I was about to go back and fix it, but then I realized that it was exactly those emotional climaxes that shifted ownership of the American team from "them" to "us".  "We" were going to win the World Cup, because we had fought through so much adversity together.

And why it was such a disappointment to "us" in the end.

We were saved from a similar disappointment this year when the Packers didn't fade away with Aaron Rodgers throwing the ball 20 feet above a receiver's head in overtime.  But let's be honest: the table was set for it.

The Packers went on the most amazing six-game winning streak in the history of the NFL, and you can mark that down.  But ever since the start of the Mike McCarthy Regime, I've often noted a reliance on the Big Play to pull games out at the end.  The Packers putting a team away early (or vice versa) is a pretty rare event.

Now, is that a bad thing?  I suppose not.  It certainly makes watching games more interesting and exciting when the Packers are protecting a narrow lead against a surging offense late in the fourth quarter.  Hey, anybody leaving the game early to beat traffic usually missed something big.

And that is what is the biggest difference between this team we are celebrating now and the the one that won the 1996 Lombardi Trophy.  The 1996 team was a slow, steady build, eventually evolving into a team that was expected to win, and did.  They won by building a lead in the first half, then allowing Dorsey/Edgar to grind out the second half along with the defense.  That team demoralized opponents and we expected nothing less than a Super Bowl win.

This team?  Nobody other than a couple of cocky players looking for T-Shirt slogans really predicted the Packers to win it all, and once the MASH unit of injuries hit, the playoffs looked bleak, much less making the title game.  Games were won or lost by narrow margins, often in the final moments.  Following the loss to the Lions, Packer fans were calling for the firing of Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson again, despite the fact that a mere two months later they would be Super Bowl Champions.

That is the life as a fan of the Cardiac Pack, a team that capitalized on opportunities, with perhaps a little help from destiny.

The streak started on the heels of a late-game collapse in which a win looked certain against the mighty Patriots, but the Packers defense gave in and fell behind by four points with seven minutes left to go, concluding with a Matt Flynn sack-and-fumble to end the game deep in Patriot territory.

From then on, the Cardiac Pack never put anyone away, and always seemed to come up with a way to win in spectacular fashion.

*  The Packers hosted the Giants, and held a narrow lead until the final 19 minutes, when three fourth-quarter interceptions and short-field scores sealed the game, following a lull in the offense in the second- and third-quarters.

*  In the season finale, the Packers beat the Bears in a game that might be described as a battle to see which team would lose the least.  The Packers' offense was a near no-show, and the defense had to pile on Jay Cutler to keep the Bears at bay.  Even so, Cutler led a late drive that would have knotted up the score, only to be thwarted by Nick Collins' heroic interception.

*  In what would be Aaron Rodgers' first playoff win, the Packers went to Philly and dealt the Eagles a loss, in which once again both team played sloppily.  Again, a Packer lead was once again threatened with a touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, and then Michael Vick pitched a pass into the end zone, down by only five points.  Tramon Williams made the game-sealing interception, and the Packers' advanced by the skin of their teeth.

Against the Falcons, who had beaten the Packers earlier in the year, Green Bay fell behind early after several miscues.  With their backs against the wall in a playoff game, the Packers fought back with four interceptions and 48 points, crushing the Falcons almost out of necessity to bring themselves out of the funk they were in to start the game.

*  In the NFC Championship game, the Packers went out and established themselves early against the Bears, knocking Jay Cutler out of the game and looking like they would finally cruise to a win.  Could it be that easy?  No way.  The Packers' offense once again looked rattled, with Rodgers having his worst game in recent memory.  Protecting a 21-14 lead with an exhausted defense, the Bears almost pulled off a late-game drive to tie up the score with their unknown third-string quarterback.  And, once again, Sam Shields made the critical last-second heroic interception that sealed the game against a team that probably should have been dismissed long before.

* Finally, in the Super Bowl itself, the Packers established themselves early and looked to cruise to an easy Lombardi Trophy, but a series of injuries to some key players (Driver, Woodson, Shields) took all the air out of their sails and gave the momentum back to the Steelers.  The Packers looked like zombies on both offense and defense until the end of the third quarter, seemingly in need of a wake-up call to remind them that this was the Super Bowl.  They got it, with a heroic forced fumble by Desmond Bishop at the start of the fourth quarter, that set up a set of lead-preserving drives by Rodgers (a touchdown and a field goal).  However, it was now the defense that faltered, allowing a long touchdown and two-point conversion that kept the Steelers within a touchdown with two minutes left to go.  The gassed and depleted defense reached as far down as they could and ended what could have been a game-winning drive with 49 seconds remaining...on a gut-check stop by, of all people, Jarrett Bush.

Now, before you start flooding my comments with accusations of negativity and "why can't you just be happy the Packers won", let me assure I am nothing less than thrilled that they won.  My point is that this victory was one of heart-pounding emotion, with nothing guaranteed week-to-week and requiring extraordinary efforts late in nearly every game to finish the drive to the trophy.

While the 1996 Super Bowl win was glorious, it was the end of a five-year journey marked by steady improvement.  Our present-day Packers have been nothing less than a roller coaster, taking us from season to season, and often, game to game, with ups and downs and fantastic heights and demoralizing lows.  The streak through the post-season was never an easy task, and there were doubts in each and every game.

Some of us believe that Fate and Destiny are nothing more than the names of  dancers down down at the local gentleman's club, but the Packers have been bitten by seasons of destiny gone wrong.  You only need to look back at the charmed post-season of 2003 following the death of Irv Favre to know how you thought miracles would happen every week, and how the disappointment of 4th-and-26 ripped the team apart over the following two years.

Perhaps the Packers were, like the USA Women once believed, a team of destiny.  Perhaps you believe that they were nothing more (or less) than a scrappy team that willed itself to victory.  Either way, the look on the faces of Hope Solo and Abby Wambach illustrate the impact of those emotional wins going unfulfilled at the very end, when you need it most.  Certainly, watching Brian Dawkins intercept Brett Favre's pass in overtime in 2003 was crushing for a team that thought the magical ride would go on forever.

The 2010 Packers got to ride the magic carpet all the way to the end, and certainly, it had as much to do with Ted Thompson's talent acquisitions as well as the ability of McCarthy to spit-and-wire a team together after it was decimated by injuries.

But, if you believe in magic, or fate, or destiny...the 2010 Packers were rode it all the way to the end.  In some ways, it makes this team just a little more endearing than that 1996 team, that one that was built with Hall of Fame bookends on each side of the ball and the perfect game plan every week.  This team of injury fill-ins and wondering what team would show up each week had us rooting for our underdog, and they rewarded us each week with miracle endings....and a Lombardi Trophy.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Guess Who I Used To Lift Weights With?

I read with enormous....well, ambivalence...the series of articles over at All Green Bay Packers by the esteemed Adam Czech on the Packers and Professional Wrestling.  Not, of course, because I find Adam's material normally disinteresting--on the contrary.  I just don't particularly follow professional rasslin' like I did back in the glory years of the early 1980's.

But, I must chime in with an anecdote of my own, and the reason why when Adam does bring up the old school wrestlers on Twitter that my ears perk up.

I had just moved to Green Bay in seventh grade, and that was when my obsessive passion for the Green Bay Packers took off.  Each day after school, I'd walk over to my Green Bay Press-Gazette paper route drop off point and spend 15 minutes meticulously going over the sports section before actually getting my peeps their papers.  I bought a guy's single season ticket off of him in 1983 and attended every home game by myself.

But, as I approached high school, I began to dream of my high school football career.  Now, going to a very small parochial school in Green Bay, the most contact sport we offered during my middle school years was soccer, and I had never even put on pads before my freshman year.

 During the 1982 season, I had stopped at the downtown YMCA on my way back from the Gold Mine at Port Plaza mall and saw the answer to all of my prayers:  a "Lift Weights with the Packers" brochure.  I was in heaven.  Not only could I rub shoulders with Lynn Dickey and James Lofton, but I could get myself in playing shape under their expert tutelage.

I paid my own fee with my paper route money, and walked myself down from my old house on Monroe Street to the YMCA, all ready to get ripped.  I walked in, waiting to see which superstar would be in charge of my complete physical transformation.  Mark Murphy? Johnnie Grey? Larry McCarren?

There before me sat two extremely large guys, and in later years, the irony of the television show "Newhart" would only have made me stifle a laugh at the fact that they were both named Larry.  Where's Daryl?

Yes, Larry Rubens, a backup center behind McCarren, and Larry Phohl, a former CFL offensive lineman on injured reserve, were the two lucky guys who would be guiding my journey into muscles.

Rubens was a an understated guy, who did seem to come into the program with a serious attitude about working with the youngsters.  I didn't know then (as I know now) that each player has a requisite number of hours they must do for community service, but if Rubens had drawn the short straw, he didn't seem to mind.  He saw that I was far from the gym rat he was probably hoping to work with, and while the other teens in the program seemed to already know what they were doing, Rubens started me off from scratch and often took me aside to go through the basics.

Pfohl, on the other hand, was a jovial guy whose voice always seemed just a little louder than it needed to be.  He always had a smile on and didn't mind razzing the kids, something that took mickey out of the 120-pound weakling that was me.  He certainly wasn't a bad guy, but I always looked back and thought Rubens sensed that I was pretty self-conscious and Pfohl's playful banter set me back a bit.

Out of the ten sessions, I went to about six.  I remember a day where Pfohl had made an off-cuff remark to the guys about how they needed to work harder or they'd end up like me, and I chose to take a few sessions off after that.  When I came back a few weeks, later, both Larrys called me by name and welcomed me back.  I finished the session and got my little certificate.  I never got an autograph from them, but that was a personal choice.

Fast forward about six years.  I had moved from Green Bay and finished high school in a small town in southwestern Wisconsin, and my football career was something far from stellar, despite my six weightlifting sessions with real-live Packers.  I had started my undergrad degree at UW-Platteville, which at the time proudly hosted the Chicago Bears training camp.

In the summer of 1988, having worked with the university housing department as an RA, I got a call in July that they needed a shuttle bus driver for the players to go from their dorm to the practice field.  At that point, I didn't have a summer job, so I was thrilled get out of my parents' house and live in the dorm for the rest of the summer.  I drove a little mini-coach bus back and forth each day and transported players that today we still remember by name:  Singletary, Tomczak, and Harbaugh...as well as any number of little-known to unknown players trying to make the roster.

One day, I perused the training camp roster and was astounded to see a very familiar name:  Larry Rubens.  He got on the bus, looked a little older but still the same face.  One day, I initiated conversation (which was a no-no for us anyway) and asked him if he remembered doing a weight lifting program back in Green Bay in 1982.  He looked it me with a puzzled look, nodded "sure" and went to sit down.  Pwned.

The next day, though, he got on the bus with a big smile and said, "Hey...I do remember you!" (that was cool).  We shook hands and I thanked him for putting up with a scrawny kid in the weight room and being patient with him.

He then said, "Hey!  Do you remember that other guy that did the program with us?"  I nodded, remembering the loud, somewhat obnoxious Larry Pfohl.

"Do you know what happened to him?" asked Rubens.

"Actually, I did try and follow you guys for a while," I responded, trying my best to not sound like a stalker.  "You guys were both playing for Memphis in the USFL last I had checked."  This was true, and why I was surprised to see Rubens on the roster for the Bears.

"Yup," replied Rubens, "But do you know what he does now?"

I shook my head.

"He's a professional wrestler."  Visions of small-time wrestlers in Georgia or Minnesota came to mind.  In this corner, the Crusher, Larry Pfohl.

Rubens went on, "Do you know what name he goes by now?"  I shook my head.

"Lex Luger."

I was astounded.  Even at that point I had stopped watching professional wrestling, but Luger was a name everyone knew.  Here was Rubens, the nice-guy who helped a dorky kid learn to lift 25-pound weights without killing himself still fighting for roster spots in the NFL, while Pfohl, the cocky guy who never played a down for the Packers, was now world-renowned.

I followed Luger's career as closely as I could without actually getting back into watching wrestling as a whole, amazed that he eventually squared off against the guys I once loved to watch, like Hulk Hogan and Randy "Macho Man" Savage;  and with even more intense jealousy, watched him have an on-stage AND real-life relationship with Miss Elizabeth.

To this day, I can honestly state that I used to lift weights with Lex Luger.  The statement itself sounds a lot more impressive than the actual story, but now, you have both.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Bloggers Can't Have Their Cake And Then Bite The Hand That Feeds Them

 At the time this article was published, the foregoing belief on Twitter was the Anthony's Smith's Twitter Jail time was due to being reported (in fact, as I learned this halfway through writing the article and included this information).  Soon after it was published, we learned that Smith was auto-banned due to tweeting too much in a time period.

I included an immediate post-script acknowledging this, and said I would republish the article with the information corrected.  I removed three instances claiming that "somebody reported Smith" to the Twitter, as well as my firm belief that Alex had nothing to do with it.

I have included the original article in the comment section of this one.

 **************************************************************************

If there was no other reason to plead with the players and owners to settle the work stoppage and get everyone back to football, tonight's blowup between CheeseheadTV's Alex Tallitsch and Green Bay Packer Anthony Smith left many heads shaking.

In short:  Smith, the boisterous and confident tweeter, decided to spend much of Saturday afternoon coming up with his own responses to the trending hashtag #fourwordsaftersex, apparently offering many of his own off-color one-liners while interacting with other Tweeters who were doing the same thing.

Tallitsch, longtime Packer blogger, took umbrage to seeing a Packer representing the Green and Gold with street-alley humor and told Smith straight out he didn't like it.  This set off a war of words between the two, resulting in Smith's pre-emptive block of Tallistch's Twitter account before Tallitsch could unfollow Smith.

Now, I know Alex.  And I am fortunate enough to have shared a beer with him.  Alex was one of our original hosts of Cheesehead Radio last year and is an incredible talent.  There's a reason that he has 6,700 followers on Twitter and has tweeted 22,000 times.  He has a passionate following among Packer bloggers, and it is well-deserved. He has also aired his displeasure with Anthony Smith several times on his blog, so no one should have been too surprised when he took exception to some below-the-belt humor from Smith.

I also had the pleasure of having Anthony Smith on Cheesehead Radio last week.  He's a boisterous personality, a Packer, and a Super Bowl Champion.  Now, mind you, after he publicly announced pre-show that everyone should "loosen their jocks and panties" for the show, I was half-expecting to be censoring out a couple of words post-show to avoid a "Mature" rating on iTunes.  On the contrary, Smith was a total professional (if not a gentleman) on the show and gave a great interview.

There's a lot of emotions and "stances" on this issue.  Should Packers be squeaky-clean at all times when they are in the public eye?  Should fans judge players on their personalities or based on their play on the field?  Does Smith have his First Amendment rights to free speech?  Likewise, does Alex have those same rights, too?

All of the questions are worthy ones, and all can be debated.  But, I want to address the one that weighs most on my mind:   his #fourwordsaftersex brainstorming session--that while offensive to many, was no different from hundreds of thousands of other Tweeters who regularly post offensive subject matter to trending topics.

I mean, there's a reason it was a trending topic, and it wasn't Anthony Smith that started it.  Now, maybe Smith crossed a line that a professional football player shouldn't, but under normal circumstances, that would be Aaron Popkey's job to supervise and discuss it with players that are getting a little too jiggy with their tweets.

But Alex's actions in how he handled Popkey's job in lieu of the lockout has repercussions for all bloggers.  You see, what's happened in the last year or so, especially for Packer bloggers, has been nothing short of revolutionary.

Last year at this time, while being a part of the also-revolutionary Packer Transplant Blogcasts, Aaron Nagler and Corey Behnke often called for the credentialing of bloggers, so that we would have the same access to players and coaches that professional journalists do.  It was a rather radical idea, not one that endeared bloggers to media writers, who justifiably protected that perk from the start-ups that wanted equal access.

But, with Nagler's persistence, several writers at CheeseheadTV were partially credentialed for the Super Bowl and the NFL Draft.  Don't second-guess what Aaron and many other bloggers have fought for and how powerful it is in the evolution of sports coverage.  It's amazing.

But even Nagler's access in major market issues doesn't allow all of us bloggers being able to have locker room access after every training camp practice.  And when it comes down to it, being credentialed means you simply get the same access as the media...the same carefully worded responses to questions in press conferences, the same avoidance of bulletin board gunpowder.

Enter the next revolution:  Twitter.  Over the course of the season and subsequent offseason lockout, the number of ring-toting Packer players on the social network has boomed.  And what we're finding is that they aren't commercial or politically correct.  Some of them pick and choose what they send out into the Twittosphere, such as @AaronRodgers12, but many of them use Twitter as if it were their own text messaging service.

On any given day, you can see a conversation between @RyanGrant25 and @Quinn_Johnson45, or @JermichaelF88 and @stickyshields9 as they decide where they are going out to eat that night, or what they did the night before, or how/where they are working out over the offseason.  In many ways, this is the access, the public access, that allows all fans (and bloggers) access to the players we love.

But, it is uncensored.  It is untempered.  It's exactly what the media usually doesn't get to see and often doesn't report:  the guys being themselves, and sometimes, saying stuff they wouldn't say in an interview.  There's a reason we always have a Twitterverse segment during our Packer News on Cheesehead Radio:  many times it isn't even just a tweet from a Packer player or a fan, its a result of a conversation between a Packer player and a fan.

Last year at this time, I wouldn't have even imagined Cheesehead Radio being able to land a player on the show.  We simply didn't have access to them, as Nagler opined often last summer.  Now, we do, and as a result we've been lucky to have some great Packer players on the show in the last month:  Tom Crabtree, Daryn Colledge, and Smith.

As bloggers, we've gotten one of the greatest gifts we could have ever ask for:  insight into the daily lives and thoughts of the players we strive to write about, and often, actual interaction with them.  We are no longer solely dependent on media sources for what's going on.  We can get it from the players themselves, and if that isn't revolutionary, I don't know what is.

But we have to accept that not every Packer is a choir boy.  Smith has always been boisterous and not known for his personal filter before he speaks, but that is who he is.  Whether you believe he is a bubble player or a solid backup in 2011 is irrelevant.  He's a Packer, wearing Green and Gold.

Does that put him on some sort of higher plane than everyone else, meaning a Packer can get away with anything?  Of course not.  Just ask Fuzzy Thurston.  At the same time, I take issue with Smith being vilified for making the same kind of crass comments as hundreds of thousands of other tweeters, simply because he is a Packer. 

Sometimes we get a gift that is far more than we would have ever expected.  We go from 2010 and having no access to 2011 and seeing many Packer bloggers with credentials and all of us with Twitter "inside access" to the lives of the players we are passionate about.  The stupidest thing we can do is to bite the hand that feeds us and drive them off of Twitter because of the hassles they endure from the people that follow them.

As Tweeters, we have the option to follow or not to follow.  Mr Chang said it best: "I have no fantasy that football players are a bunch of boy scouts. That why I don't follow a lot on twitter. My Packer people are the fans"

Was Alex "wrong" to stand up for his beliefs?  No, but there are other ways to deal with it other than going directly on to Twitter and starting a real-time flame war.. Hey...as bloggers, we've been writing critical articles about players for years.  Perhaps that is the smarter venue to voice our concerns about a player, instead of engaging them toe-to-toe in a real-time public throwdown.

As a blogger, I value the access I have to the players through Twitter, even if Randall Cobb won't follow me back (hint, hint).  The reality of the situation is that players are human beings and not all of them will view wearing the Green and Gold in the same vein as wearing a purity ring, even if we think it should.

Did I find any entertainment value in Anthony's contributions to #fourwordsaftersex?  Nope.  I'm a parent, and take a lot of pride in making sure my blog and Cheesehead Radio are suitable for my kids to read and listen to. (Of course, they don't. *sigh*)  But my kids don't have Twitter and I don't let them read my Twitter, either.  So, in the end, I'm not worried about censoring my timeline from any no-no words because my kids aren't reading them, and in the end, that's who I worry most about.  Personally, I didn't find the entire #fourwordsaftersex hashtag entertaining, period, because that's not what makes me laugh.*

But that's no reason for me to become the Packer Police.  I have a choice, and it is to follow or unfollow, just as I have to make that decision with many other people whose tweets I may find irritating, offensive, boring, or just plain stupid.  Sometimes, the person who is irritating/offending/boring/stupefying me is someone whose tweets I highly value, and I live with some of the garbage between the tweets that I enjoy reading.

And I enjoy being a Packer blogger and reading the tweets of the players, and I want to keep it that way.  And when other Packers see their teammates getting hassled, they will once again start censoring themselves and limiting our access to them.

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*  What makes me laugh, if raunchy trending topics don't?  Jon Stewart, Wipeout, and old videos of my kids eating their first birthday cake.