Monday, August 15, 2011

Maybe the Only Truly Romantic Thing Left in American Sports: The Green Bay Packers

(This article was in The Desert News, the Salt Lake City newspaper.)

Seriously, America, what's not to like about the Green Bay Packers? What's not to like about a small-town team that is not only surviving, but thriving in the billion-dollar business of professional football?

There is nothing like them in professional sports. Think about what an oddity they are. Teams have come and gone in the NFL in a continuous game of musical chairs--the Baltimore Colts moved to Indianapolis, the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore, the Oakland Raiders to L.A. and back to Oakland, the Cardinals from Chicago to St. Louis to Phoenix, the Los Angeles Rams to St. Louis ...

But the Packers have stayed in tiny Green Bay, Wisconsin, since their birth in 1919. America 's second biggest city, Los Angeles, with a population of 4 million, doesn't even have a franchise, but Green Bay , with a population of 101,000, does. It's like plunking down a team in the middle of Sandy , Utah . They are the smallest market in pro sports. Green Bay 's metro area--if you stretch the definition of "metro"--is 283,000. Buffalo, the next smallest in sports, has 1.1 million. New York City has 8.5 million in the city limits alone, 19 million in the metro area.

What's not to like about a team that was dreamed up during a street-corner conversation one day? Curly Lambeau, a former Green Bay prep star and Notre Dame football player, hatched the idea and convinced his employer, the Indian Packing Company, to buy uniforms and provide a practice field. In turn, the team called itself the Packers. Lambeau was the team's first star player (for 11 years) and its first coach (for 30 years) and--you've got to like this--he pioneered the forward pass in the NFL.

What's not to like about the last small-town survivor of the National Football League? In the early '20s, the fledgling NFL consisted almost entirely of small-town teams like Green Bay--the Decatur Staleys, Akron Pros, Canton Bulldogs, Muncie Flyers, Rochester Jeffersons, Rock Island Independents. But as the league turned fully to professionalism, those teams either folded or moved to big cities for bigger profits. Green Bay found a way to keep the Packers--the community bought them.

What's not to like about a team that is owned by its fans? The Packers are the only publicly owned team in professional sports... There's no Jerry Jones, George Steinbrenner, or Daniel Snyder in Green Bay . The other teams have one very rich, often reviled, owner; the Packers have 112,000 shareholders--or 112,000 Monday-morning quarterbacks who are legally entitled to kibbutz. They've rescued the team from financial hardship four times--in 1923, '35, '50 and '97. Without them, the team simply would not exist.

What's not to like about this team? Apparently, not much. Despite their small-town roots--or perhaps because of it--they have courted a world-wide following. According to a 2010 Harris poll, the Packers are still the third most popular team in the country, 40 years after their glory years. Someone once asked the late, former, NFL commissioner, Pete Rozelle, to name the best football city in America ... "Green Bay," he replied. "A small town. People owning their own football team. Rabid supporters."

The Packers have one of the longest waiting lists for season tickets in pro sports, some 80,000 deep (Lambeau Field seats only 78,000). The average wait for season tickets is estimated to be 30 years, but if you added your name to the list now you probably wouldn't get tickets in your lifetime. Packer fans are known to leave season tickets in their wills or to place newborn babies on the waiting list. Packer games have been sold out since 1960

"I'm a 'green and gold' season ticket holder and have some voting stock in the team," explains Walt Mehr, a Utah resident who grew up in Eagle River, WI, just north of Green Bay. "It took me 23 years to get season tickets. We have a big shareholders meeting in July and vote. We were involved with remodeling of the stadium. As season-ticket holders, we had to put up money for that - $5,000. My tickets are in my will."

It's every fan's dream--they get to help run the team... You've got to like that.

What's not to like about a team that has been an almost mythical force since joining the NFL in 1921? They've won 13 championships--nine NFL titles in the pre-Super Bowl era, and four Super Bowls--and no one else is close to matching them. They won the first two Super Bowls. They won five championships in seven years during the '60s. They're the only team that's ever won three in a row. The city's nickname is "Titletown." Their coach's name is on the Super Bowl Trophy. They have 21 Hall of Famers, second only to the Chicago Bears. They are a team of legends--Starr, Nitschke, Taylor, Lombardi, Davis, Hornung, Kramer, Gregg, Hutson, Lambeau, Favre.

What's not to like about a team that is so entrenched in the community in such a personal way? It's big-time football in a small-town way that has been lost as the NFL has grown. This is the town that spawned the Lambeau Leap--players leaping into the arms of fans behind the end zone after a touchdown, a routine that has since been adopted throughout the league. It symbolizes the close connection between the team and the fans, like so many other things. Green Bay's stadium is bordered by the back yards of middle-class neighborhoods. The players live in regular neighborhoods, with the fans.

"Unlike the other NFL cities, where players can live in mansions away from the masses, Green Bay has no real 'affluent' suburbs," says Vai Sikahema, a former Packer and BYU player. "And because of the frigid weather, everyone had second homes in warmer places. So, the players lived in modest homes in regular neighborhoods.

"Playing for the Packers and living in Green Bay is generally the way it was in the '60's when Vince Lombardi lived there. The house we rented was rented by a host of former Packers, dating back to the great running back Jim Taylor. Another player rented a home once lived in by Bart Starr. That creates this extra unique bond with the fan base. On Tuesdays, our day off, we'd walk our children to the bus stop and all the dads would go in late so they could walk their own kids and talk football with us at the bus stop. My wife had play dates with regular moms on our street, as opposed to the closed, elitist 'wives club' on other teams."

There is a tradition in Green Bay that has received considerable publicity over the years. Kids wait for Packer players outside the locker room and often use their bikes to ride to the practice field. The kids hold the players' helmets and jog alongside the players as they ride the kids' bikes to practice. Who couldn't like that? "I was one of those kids who ran next to a player while he rode my bike to the practice field from the locker room," says Mark Stimpson, a Salt Lake resident who grew up in Green Bay . "We did it every day during the summer. I had a metallic green stingray bike. I'd wait by the locker room. The player would hand me his helmet. The players wouldn't pedal the bikes. They were too big. They'd just stick their legs out and coast because it's a down-hill walk to the field. We'd talk to them while we walked beside them. Then, during practice, we'd watch the guy who rode our bike. It was a fun time. The players were great to us."

Sikahema remembers the bike routine, as well. "The bikes are one of those unique things in Green Bay that allow fans, especially kids, to get to know the players in a personal way," he says. "I stayed in touch with the kid whose bike I used through his college years and his wedding. He's now in his mid-30s. His name is Aaron Smet. When I was there, a bunch of poor kids didn't have bikes to lend to the players and (teammate) Sterling Sharpe had Wal-Mart deliver to the complex a tractor trailer full of bikes that he gave away to less fortunate kids."

Stimpson recalls seeing Willie Wood, Ray Nitschke, Elijah Pitts, and Bart Starr around town when he was a kid. The Packers were one of them. His sister, Mary Nelson, babysat for reserve quarterback Zeke Bratkowski. "Zeke lived around the corner from us," says Nelson. "After the games some of the players would come over to Zeke's house. I got to meet Bart Starr, Jerry Kramer and Max McGee and their wives. Every time I babysat Zeke's kids he would walk me home."

What's not to like about a town that is all about its team? Green Bay businesses are Packer themed. The streets are named after Packers--Lombardi, Ray Nitschke, Brett Favre, Mike Holmgren, Don Hutson, Reggie White, Bart Starr, Tony Canadeo. Even the official Green Bay website is all about the local football team.

The town shuts down during games; churches schedule around the Packers, then open their parking lots for Packer fans. "The streets are empty during the games," says Stimpson. "When I was a boy I could ride my bike down the middle of the street because there was no traffic."

What's not to like about a team that won the Ice Bowl, one of the greatest games ever played? It was the 1967 NFL Championship game in Green Bay , and the temperature was minus 13 degrees, with a wind chill hovering around 50 below. Rick Delacenserie, who grew up in the Green Bay area and now lives in Park City, watched the Packer practices as a boy and witnessed the Ice Bowl from the same end zone where Starr scored the game-winning touchdown.

"I spent most of the third quarter in the bathroom," he recalls. "It was packed in there. Everyone was trying to get warm. Someone brought a hacksaw and cut up the goal posts. All I got was some of the foam they wrapped around the post." You've got to love a team that inspires fans to brave sub-zero weather.

After the Super Bowl victory that followed the Ice Bowl, the Packers went into decline for 25 years until the Favre years arrived in the early '90s, but the Packers still inspired fierce loyalty and love.

"The only thing you can see on the horizon is Lambeau Field," says Mehr, who pauses to choke back tears before continuing. "I get chills when I see it. On a beautiful, clear day, omigosh."

For his part, Stimpson left home decades ago to attend BYU and settle in Utah . He doesn't follow sports as he once did and the game has changed and yet he still says this: "The Packers are so much a part of you. The Packers still have a certain pull. They always will."

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Steve Wynn and Obama's Fiscal Policies

Steve Wynn, who calls himself a "Harry Reid Democrat", did not mince words this week, talking about Obama's fiscal policies. Wynn is a Las Vegas mogul, and head of Wynn Resorts, so he knows of which he speaks. He spent the last week on conference calls with investment analysts, and when the subject of expansion came up, Wynn was clear about why expansion in this economy is not happening.

William Lerner, of Deutsche Bank Securities, asked Wynn about adding more room and conference space in Las Vegas given the fact that there are times of the year that Vegas runs out of space. Steve Wynn answered:

Well, here's our problem. There are a host of opportunities for expansion in Las Vegas, a host of opportunities to create tens of thousands of jobs in Las Vegas. I know that I could do 10,000 more myself and according to the Chamber of Commerce and the Visitors Convention Bureau, if we hired 10,000 employees, it would create another 20,000 additional jobs for a grand total of 30,000. I believe in Las Vegas. I think its best days are ahead of it. But I'm afraid to do anything in the current political environment in the United States. You watch television and see what's going on, on this debt ceiling issue. And what I consider to be a total lack of leadership from the President and nothing's going to get fixed until the President himself steps up and wrangles both parties in Congress. But everybody is so political, so focused on holding their job for the next year that the discussion in Washington is nauseating. And I'm saying it bluntly, that this administration is the greatest wet blanket to business, and progress and job creation in my lifetime. And I can prove it and I could spend the next 3 hours giving you examples of all of us in this market place that are frightened to death about all the new regulations, our healthcare costs escalate, regulations coming from left and right. A President that seems -- that keeps using that word redistribution. Well, my customers and the companies that provide the vitality for the hospitality and restaurant industry, in the United States of America, they are frightened of this administration. And it makes you slow down and not invest your money. Everybody complains about how much money is on the side in America. You bet. And until we change the tempo and the conversation from Washington, it's not going to change. And those of us who have business opportunities and the capital to do it are going to sit in fear of the President. And a lot of people don't want to say that. They'll say, "Oh God, don't be attacking Obama." Well, this is Obama's deal, and it's Obama that's responsible for this fear in America. The guy keeps making speeches about redistribution, and maybe we ought to do something to businesses that don't invest or holding too much money. We haven't heard that kind of talk except from pure socialists. Everybody's afraid of the government, and there's no need soft peddling it, it's the truth. It is the truth. (Emphasis mine) And that's true of Democratic businessmen and Republican businessmen, and I am a Democratic businessman and I support Harry Reid. I support Democrats and Republicans. And I'm telling you that the business community in this country is frightened to death of the weird political philosophy of the President of the United States. And until he's gone, everybody's going to be sitting on their thumbs.
It doesn't get much clearer than that. And it supports what we see as a country, namely there are no jobs and there is no recovery from the Great Recession.

Nice to have the other side finally figure it out.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Fourth Amendment Null and Void in Indiana

The Indiana Supreme Court has ruled that people cannot resist illegal police home invasions. Their reasoning is that safety trumps the right to privacy given in the Fourth Amendment. The Amendment reads:
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
The Justices claim in a 3-2 Majority Opinion, that the safety of the home residents and the police is more important than the right of residents to protect their home against illegal invasion. The majority believes the place to contest illegal invasion by authorities is the court system. I agree with that part, I just don't agree that people have to let the police in whenever they want to get in.

"We believe ... a right to resist an unlawful police entry into a home is against public policy and is incompatible with modern Fourth Amendment jurisprudence," David said. "We also find that allowing resistance unnecessarily escalates the level of violence and therefore the risk of injuries to all parties involved without preventing the arrest."

I'm pretty sure the Founding Fathers did not believe this was an argument that held any water when held up to the Fourth Amendment. Remember, this was written because the English were forcing their soldiers into private homes. They understood what we take for granted; a person's home should be inviolate. Period. No matter what behavior the resident of the home is engaged in, police cannot enter without permission of some sort; an invitation or a warrant. And warrants aren't easy to get due to the Fourth Amendment.

Now, stick with me here. The Fourth Amendment was used as rationale for legalizing abortion, and is frequently used as a defense of abortion. It's the reason minors can get abortions without their parents' knowledge. So, privacy protects people who murder unborn infants, but doesn't allow you to refuse the police entrance into your home. Privacy allows your 13 year-old daughter to go and get an abortion without telling significant adults in her life, but doesn't allow you to keep that same child safe in your home.

I'm sure this ruling will be appealed, and I hope the Supreme Court is still sensible enough to reverse this decision. Re-read that sentence. Because if the Supreme Court doesn't overturn the incredibly wrong ruling by the Indiana Supreme Court, that ruling will soon become the law of the land. I'm not willing to abide by it. Will you?

I have long said I will protect my home with deadly force if I need to. I have that right. I have also said I am willing to join a new revolution. In fact, I already have by being active in Tea Party rallies, working for political candidates I believe in, and working within the system to effect change. The system, however, is swiftly becoming something that true patriots will not be able to work within. I believe our government, from federal to local, is no longer working for the people, but panders exclusively to the groups with money.

It has to change. We need to get rid of activist judges who believe they know better than the Founding Fathers what they meant when the Constitution was drafted. We need to get rid of politicians who do not pay attention to the people of our country, state, and city. We need to understand the fight never ends, and that it is a true fight.

We may lose battles along the way, but the war isn't over by a long shot. We must win the war.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

n and sober and turn her life around. Please, Lord.
ther 5. This is a pretty surreal experience. One I never thought I'd find myself in. We, as a family, however, believe this is her last, best chance to get clea
I'm sitting in a courtroom, waiting for my sister's plea hearing. She has apparently agreed to a deal which puts her in prison for a year, and probation for ano

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Own It, Shut Up, and Go to Hell

I haven't written for a while, but I have been compiling stories for this post. The things people do never ceases to amaze me.

Since Wisconsin, smartly, elected Scott Walker in November, my political activism has been on the rise. I actually worked the phones for Walker and Johnson before the election, and enjoyed it so much, I got myself more active. Which means, because I live in the belly of the beast; Dane County, Wisconsin; I have also opened myself up to the amazing rudeness of the lefties.

When the 14 Democrat Senators left the state on 2/17/11, I couldn't believe it. I figured they would be back in a day or two, after all here is where their presence was needed. When it became obvious by the next day they weren't coming back any time soon, I started thinking about what action was available to me as a constituent of the ring leader, Mark Miller. Recall. Perfect. I looked on line and found out what was needed, talked to a helpful individual in the Government Accountability Board office, and thought some more. I knew this was a task beyond just myself, so I reached out to a fellow I had made phone calls with, and he introduced me to the people I needed to be in touch with. I have been working hard since then collecting signatures for the recall effort. I have stories to share.

My favorite is the old hippie who drove past me squeezing a rubber chicken and flipping me off. Do you think he carries that chicken around? Did he have to go home and get it, then drive past me with it? There were too many people to count that flipped me off. Most were content with just drive by with the bird flying. Others were compelled to slow down, make sure I was looking, then whip it out. There were those who honked and flipped it out, and there were those who had to add obscenities to the bird. The most shocking were the little old ladies flipping me off. Do they cook for their grandbabies with that finger?

About a month ago, the local daily newspaper and one of the local news stations interviewed me about the recall effort I am putting time in for, so, for a lot of the unionistas, I became the face of the movement. That also made me a flash point for a while. I was told to get a job before I told other people what to do.??? I was told I am a pawn for the corporations, the rich, the Republicans, ... I had a postal employee tell me I couldn't have a sign on my vehicle because it was in their PUBLIC parking lot. I told her she was trampling my civil rights, and she was. I had a large man park, get out of his car and tell me I had to leave the PUBLIC sidewalk I was set up on in front of the Post Office. He told me he had called the authorities but wouldn't give his name. I'm pretty sure he called the local Police Department, because I was visited by an officer not 20 minutes later. Of course, I was within my rights and completely legal. Another man told me I couldn't have my temporary recall signs pounded in to the grass between the sidewalk and the street. He told me someone from city hall would be visiting. None did.

My signs had two sides: Side 1 said Recall Mark Miller, Side 2 said This is What Democracy Looks Like. A woman, who thought she was signing a recall petition for Scott Walker, told me my signs were misleading. (I didn't find out until after the reporter for the paper talked to her that she didn't know what she signed. She didn't know until the reporter told her.) I guess her reading vocabulary is limited to : "This is what democracy looks like." I had more people than I can count ask who Mark Miller is. OK, I get that he's just a state senator, but if you're going to sign something, shouldn't you have a clue? Especially since he's the Senate Minority Leader. It made national news. Hello.

On election day, we were allowed to collect signatures at polling places within the 100 foot "safe zone" because none of the people being recalled were on the ballot. Some old union guy yelled at me from the time he walked out of the polling place, all the way to his truck and then as he drove past me. One woman went ballistic. I had no idea what she was yelling about, but I'm pretty sure she had been off her meds for a while. Two other women told me I was too close to the door, and they would call the police to make sure I wasn't breaking any laws. The polling place I was working was inside a building that houses police offices.

Stupid, rude, insulting, close-minded, and intimidating was what I saw of the left during my 60 day adventure to collect signatures. What I saw at the Capitol during that time was more of the same, but when they gather all their finer points (stupidity...) increase exponentially. In contrast, I never swore, I never flew the bird, I wasn't insulting and I didn't intimidate anyone. i can be a little closed minded, but no one was going to change my mind about this action.

So, lefties, unionistas, Democrats, socialists: Own it, shut up, and go to hell.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Lessons I Need to Learn

When I look at my post from 1/9/11, I blush in embarrassment; not because what I wrote embarrasses me, but because a scant 3 days later I have to admit I totally forgot my own advice.

Let me start from the beginning: Right Kid No1 is getting married in March, and, like all weddings, as it gets closer, the stress level rises. I come from a family of six children, all of whom are very important to me and my children. So last night when I got a call from Right Kid No2, saying her older sister had just called in tears because my brother; her Godfather; was not coming to the wedding, I became angry. Right Kid No2 made me promise not to call my brother, that she would call later in the week when she wasn't so angry.

I didn't call. Instead I posted on my sister-in-laws Facebook wall. Be assured, it was a post designed to embarrass them and let them know I was not happy. A few minutes later, the post was gone, and I reposted that I wasn't going away, and that I was angry.

My brother called me, very upset, well within his rights to be, and instead of listening and caring about this man who is very dear to me, I got into a huge shouting match and said things designed to hurt him and his family. I am not proud of my actions, I am less proud of my words, and I am truly ashamed I didn't email or call to get the facts; especially since my information was at least 4th hand.

This post is an open apology to my brother, his wife and their children. I am sorry. I was wrong. Please forgive me.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Violence and Politics and Life

The shooting yesterday in Arizona was certainly a tragedy, and I join in prayer for the victims and the victims' families. The 22 year-old man who perpetrated the violence is certainly disturbed, angry, and frustrated. I believe this is an aberration rather than the norm. That being said, I also believe violence is more prevalent than it should be.

Last night six people were shot in Baltimore and two died, including a police officer trying to do his job. Fourteen headless bodies showed up in Acapulco just half of the 27 who were killed overnight. Home invasions, car-jackings, domestic abuse, animal abuse, drive-by shootings; these have all become fairly commonplace in our society. Let's not forget school shootings, a phenomenon that didn't exist 30 years ago.

Now, the blame game starts. The Left, predictably, is blaming the Right. The Right is, predictably, defending itself and pointing out the biased coverage of the Mainstream Media. Neither the Right nor the Left is culpable for this act of violence. The person responsible is Jared Loughner. Period. It's not his mother's fault, it's not his father's fault, and it's not Karl Marx's fault.

The "inflammatory rhetoric" and the "use of violent terms" that people are citing should not be scapegoats. We have had "inflammatory rhetoric" in politics since politics began. The "use of violent terms" have been a part of the American vocabulary long before Loughner decided to go on a shooting rampage. Instead of trying to blame language, politics, or ideology; let's find the real reasons. I don't know what they are, but Loughner has certainly left clues on the internet. We may never know exactly what precipitated this act of violence, which is hard to accept because we are a people who want answers for everything. Loughner, himself, may not know exactly why he did what he did.

Today, instead of playing the blame game, let's hold our families a little closer, let's appreciate our lives a little more, let's pray for peace, understanding, and justice. Let's look at our lives and attempt to rid them of as much violence as we can. Peace and justice start at home. This may be an overused phrase, but it's true, nonetheless.

Be safe, be healthy, and be thankful.