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It’s Just a Game But It’s More Than a Game

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It’s Just a Game But It’s More Than a Game


January 21st, 2015



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Green Bay Packer fans are still reeling from a heart wrenchingly disappointing NFC Championship loss. Some fans will probably need the buzz of the SuperBowl to subside before they can think of something else. Some probably woke up Monday morning after the loss and moved on easily. Whereas some cope by evoking the ‘there is always next year’ mantra, the loss plunged many into sadness and perhaps drove some to displays of aggression and frustration. Too many people look at the anger and lows and say “it’s just a game, move on”. Yes, it IS just a game, but that neat tidy suggestion sells short the magnitude of football fandom in Green Bay, Wisconsin (and elsewhere too). It is more than a game too.

For starters, the NFC Championship loss seems like more than just a game as not only was it the precedent to the Super Bowl, but it is the pinnacle of a division. This was not a game of pick-up. This was not noon-ball with your pals. This was the culmination of sixteen weeks of jockeying for position, of sixty-minute tests of mental and physical prowess. Every week a team survived symbolized many different factors-good coaching, talent, skill and a host of other factors (good referee calls?). There will be next year but there will be 32 other teams to beat out all over again not just 2 more for the Super Bowl. When you get so close to the biggest prize in football, it is not surprising it does not seem like ‘just a game’.

Sure football is big money. Players get paid a lot. Stadiums are expensive to build and maintain. Cities benefit from having a team. The world knows about our city in large part due to our football team. This fact brings us commerce directly (the millions brought in by tourists and home games) and indirectly (companies that are aware of the city due to Packers raising name awareness). The sport has cultivated network channels, fantasy leagues, advertising empires, and of course severe mental and physical harm (let’s not forget the recent concussion exposes). Football sadly also has a host of villains as last season’s off field court cases attest to. But in the face of all of this, it IS just a game. At the core of it all are two teams pitting their skills against each other to rack up the highest number of points and eventual ‘World Champion’ bragging rights. And it is this simple fact, that two groups of human beings, sans mechanized vehicles or weapons, are battling it out, that makes sports in general, and football in particular so alluring.

Being a fan can shape one’s identity. Social media leading up to the game nicely showcases the extent to which fans wear their green and gold proudly. When we care about the Packers it makes sense that we feel down when the team, when WE, lose. It is human to feel attached and human to have one’s emotions ride the tide of our attachment’s fortunes. Advancing this far made the winter more bearable. Every win provided minutes, hours, days, weeks, of better mood for those attached. Those NOT so attached could do better to recognize this actuality.

Give fans space to grieve the loss. Packer backers would do well to face their feelings of loss and process it. Talk about it. Go exercise. Verbal vents are healthy for the short term. No amount of frustration or loss justifies mistreating others, abusing alcohol or people, and Packer backers would do well to not make loved ones around them scapegoats for their frustrations. Yes we can dissect the loss till the cows come home. Being well aware of the reasons can sometimes help with the pain (or make it a little worse). No, it may not make avid fans feel too much better, but the reality is that football in Green Bay is more than just a game. And that’s ok as long as we keep it in perspective and not allow that to justify some potential negative consequences of being too attached to the game. This pain shall pass. And for the casual non-fan, how about that Downton Abbey?