Just a week ago, we felt certain that this was the Packers year.
The Packers had overcome so much throughout the season – losing players to injury, facing a tough schedule, and no shortage of off-field drama – but still found a way to win 13 games (again) and secure the #1 seed (again).
Then, with a playoff bye, the Packer activated nearly every injured player on the team. They had the strongest roster in the field. They accomplished the most in the season. This year, that started with such turmoil and uncertainty, was clearly going to end with a Lombardi trophy and silence all the critics.
The weather even cooperated in the playoffs, dropping to single digit windchills and dumping second-half snow on a warm weather team with an injured quarterback that had never even thrown a pass in the cold.
And the defense finally dominated a playoff game. They brought attitude and energy and shut down the opposition.
But it wasn’t enough.
There’s plenty of ways to explain it, plenty of plays that could have been the difference in the game. I won’t rehash them and analyze them anymore. That’s been done enough. We’ve been hurt enough.
Now, it’s time to heal.
We should be good at this by now, we’ve had enough practice. So why is it still so hard? Why does it hurt just as much every time it happens?
Because we see ourselves as more than spectators.
We put a lot of time, energy, and emotion into watching, studying, and cheering for the Green Bay Packers.
And when it doesn’t work out, it hurts.
So what can we do?
We don’t have any control over this. We can’t control the outcome. We have to remind ourselves that football is just our entertainment. It’s like a movie. We get to watch, but we can’t control the outcome.
But, unlike movies, we can’t always have a happy ending. No team can. There are 31 teams trying to stop our Green Bay Packers and we have to remember that the odds of winning the Super Bowl, even for the favorite, are low.
We can’t hinge our happiness as fans on titles.
Mike Holmgren often reminded his players to enjoy the journey. That’s what we have to do.
I’m going to hold on to a lot of great memories from this season.
I’m going to remember September, when the Packers came out stale. Facing doubts, they slowly gained momentum and then rattled off 7 wins in a row.
Along the way, we got to see an amazing last second win at San Francisco, a thrilling back-and-forth overtime comeback at Cincinnati, and then, on a short week, they travelled west, missing what seemed like half the roster, and upset the last remaining undefeated team with an incredible last-gasp interception in the end zone.
That was the game where Rasul Douglas etched his name into Packers lore and started an incredible journey from practice squad cast-off to Pro Bowl caliber corner. De’Vondre Campbell went one better. He joined the team in the final death rattle of free agency, then become the Packers first All Pro inside linebacker in most of our lifetimes. Randall Cobb took a different route, joining the team via a late trade to come play with his friends again. I’ll never forget the misty-eyed look on his face when he came back to take the field as a Packer again.
I’ll remember AJ Dillon plowing through the Vikings for 2 touchdowns, pushing and carrying multiple defenders across the goal line. I’ll remember Allen Lazard falling down to double-catch a touchdown before taking a bow in Detroit. I’ll remember Rasul Douglas running a pick back to the end zone while Justin Fields shook his head. I’ll remember Josiah Deguara slicing through the Lions defense. I’ll remember Davante Adams elevating between three defenders, spinning 360 degrees in the air, seeming to float while he effortlessly grabbed the ball, and set up a game winning field goal. I’ll remember a ton of amazing throws by Aaron Rodgers, but more than anything, I’ll probably remember him spiking the ball and punching the air, fully confident in knowing that Mason Crosby was going to win the game.
Those are incredible stories and fantastic memories.
A lot of teams don’t give their fans that many great memories in one season.
We are lucky.
And we got to spank the Bears a couple times to sweep them for the third year in a row!
Were there bad memories, too?
Sure, there always are.
But like any successful and rewarding relationship, we have to remember the good times and forget about the bad.
That’s what I’m trying to do.
I hope you do, too.