Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Packers Film Study Session – Billy Elliot

One of the most pondered questions in life is what makes someone do what they do? Why is it that certain people continue to flourish while others just can’t seem to catch a break? Is it luck? Is it hard work and perseverance?

Whether true or just perceived, the Packers organization and front office comes off at times as a bit… corporate. Of course, a legacy of championships, history and millions upon millions of revenue dollars serves as proof of their substantial organizational and brand power. But despite all the self-confidence in the world, no one should ever be too sure of himself – just ask Ivan Drago how that worked out for him.

You can talk all day about being a professional, being prepared and flawless execution but what about awakening the inner beast once in a while? The same one that eats lighting, craps thunder and offers random barbaric yawps to the moon? Did you know the average age of this team is like 26, which is still on the cusp of adolescence and adulthood? And the perfect time to fuse brain with beast.

The key to understanding the Packers predicament and motivation lies in the seminal film, Billy Elliot (2000). This remarkable underdog story of an 11-year old aspiring ballet dancer stuck in the coal mining town of Evrington, Durham County, Northeast England, perfectly parallels with the Packers current situation. I’m even willing to bet very few within the organization have seen or heard of it, nor would they consider an independent British dance drama film the perfect spark to ignite the fire within their collective bellies.

Allow me to explain.

In the movie, Billy lives with his hardened father and brother, two coal miners out on strike. To toughen up his son, Billy’s father sends him to boxing classes, which also happens to share the gym with a girls’ ballet class. Unbeknownst to his father, Billy joins the ballet class and his teacher begins to believe Billy has the potential to study and the Royal Ballet School in London. But his father finds out, and his disapproval and sheer stubbornness extinguish whatever hopes Billy might have of becoming a professional dancer.

The Green Bay Packers are in a similar situation. Under the care and guidance of McCarthy, Brett Hundley remains trapped in an environment that on the surface would appear to look out for his – and his team’s – best interests but one that also suppresses potential. What if they unleash the reigns and he’s no good? What if he fails? These questions and others like them are aptly addressed in the film.
Photo taken by Jim Matthews, Green Bay Press Gazette
Getting Billy into the Royal Ballet, you see, is only a metaphor for the taking that so-called leap of faith into the great unknown. McCarthy could turn back at any time, but it must be his conscious decision to lead Hundley – and the team – onto a new and hopeful path outside their comfort zones. This is no guarantee of success, but this action must be taken if any success were to happen at all.

This dilemma is precisely what Billy’s father eventually must come to terms with and so must McCarthy. If not, we know that Billy will languish in despair and grow up in the British coal mines like his brother and father before him. Similarly, we accept the fact that Hundley will also be stuck in check-down purgatory, never being able to blossom as a starting NFL quarterback, and giving the Packers no hope to overcome the cruel, unforgiving and inevitable losses that await.

A major turning point of the film shows Billy standing up to his father in the form of an impromptu dance, causing his father to drop his guard and see the potential that lies within his son. From then on, Billy’s father realizes he must do whatever it takes to get his son into the Royal Ballet School and acts accordingly.

In the final scene of the movie, Billy has long been accepted into the Royal Ballet School. We see his father (aka McCarthy) come to see what has finally become of his son (Hundley) during a performance of Swan Lake. A focused, stronger and more mature Billy gracefully leaps across the stage during the climax, thrilling the audience and astonishing his father. The “score” is irrelevant because the previous decisions that were made allowed us to be symbolically victorious. Whether that means winning games or just being competitive is to be determined…

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

How to Achieve Happiness When Things Don’t Go Your Way

It’s so easy to rely on others for our personal happiness. I know this all too well. Maybe it’s your Uncle Elmer. Maybe it’s your bae, Ramone the Ticklish. Maybe it’s a group of people you don’t even really know, like the Packers. Or worse yet, it could be that block of cheddar in your fridge.

Sure, that perfectly aged, natural cow’s milk blend is a beautiful balance of both sharpness and texture, exciting your palette with savoring flavor. Pair that with the engaging satisfaction of watching a 7-minute Packers drive end in 7 points and you might be in heaven. But soon, your blood pressure soars due to the high sodium content of the cheese. And then you start to feel sick after remembering that article, which said cheese can contain pus from cows’ bladder infections. And Brett Hundley just threw a pick that effectively ended the game.

Where is your happiness now, my friend? Was it really so fragile, fleeting and superficial?

What you must realize is that you are in control of your own happiness. Sure, it’s easy to give up on the season and become relentlessly bitter in the comments section of ESPN. But it’s just as easy to take a deep breath through your mouth, slowly exhale through your nose and then sing along to Sweet Child of Mine in your best vintage Axl Rose voice. It’s the little things, after all, that remind us just how close happiness really is.

If this sounds like feel-good, derivative crap, you are probably still angry at what happened to #12 and not ready to let go. Give it some time, but don’t wait forever. Because procrastination is a tell-tale sign of weakness, and just one part of the reason you’re reading this blog and not living the sweet life in Southern California’s beautiful San Fernando Valley.

Hey. I don’t live the perfect life, nor do I pretend to be the perfect fan. But I’m not letting expectations of failure or success interfere with my happiness. If there’s one thing you can take away from this, it’s that if you never have any expectations, you will never be disappointed. 
Delusional? Inspired? You decide.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Packers 53 Man Roster Prediction

We don't usually get very analytical here at the Ranter, as there are plenty of people out there who think they know more than us, and even some that do know more than us. However, I thought it might be fun to step into Ted Thompson's New Balances and do one of those 53 man roster projections that everyone seems to have so much fun doing this time of year. I spent many, many....several minutes running through the roster, and the following is what I was able to arrive at. It's a fairly non-traditional roster make-up, but I think the personnel department at 1265 would be impressed.

"Franklin did a really good job with this roster." 


Quarterback (2) - Joe Callahan, Taysom Hill
Running Back (4) - Ty Montogomery, Jamaal Williams, Aaron Jones, Devante Mays
Fullback (2) - Aaron Ripkoski, Joe Kerridge
Wide Receiver (5) - Jordy Nelson, DeAngelo Yancey, Malachai Dupre, Max McCaffrey, Michael Clark
Tight End (3) - Martellus Bennett, Lance Kendricks, Aaron Peck
Center (1) - Corey Linsley
Guard (5) - Lane Taylor, Jahri Evans, Kofi Amichia, Justin McCray, Lucas Patrick
Tackle (4) - David Bakhtiari, Jason Spriggs, Kyle Murphy, Robert Leff


Defensive Line (6) - Mike Daniels, Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry, Montravius Adams, Ricky Jean Francois, Brian Price
Inside Linebackes (2) - Jordan Tripp, Cody Heiman
Outside Linebacker (5) - Jayrone Elliot, Kyler Fackrell, Vince Biegel, Reggie Gilbert, Jonathan Calvin
Safety (5) - Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Josh Jones, Kentrell Brice, Marwin Evans, Jermaine Whitehead
Cornerback (6) - Davon House, Kevin King, Josh Hawkins, Lenzy Pipkins, Raysean Pringle, Donatello Brown
Special Teams (2) - Justin Vogel, Brett Goode

I know what you are thinking: this only adds up to 52 players. This is the result of the kicking vacancy that will need to be addressed before the first game. Not a big deal, in my opinion. Kickers are pretty easy to find.

What? That's not what you're thinking? Oh, I realize I forgot to clarify that this 53 man roster 52 man roster is based on the Packers' players who have not been cut, traded, or spit on when replacing Brett Favre/benched for a 5th round pick last season by fans.

Operating under these parameters, I think I pretty much nailed this roster. Enjoy...but, please, don't cut or trade anyone because I don't think I can do this exercise next year if you do.

Monday, August 7, 2017

But the Brats Wouldn't Come (A Song)

I went to Packers Family Night on 8/5/17. Before the game, I tried to get a brat at the Johnsonville tent for myself and my child. It took almost 45 minutes. I was not alone. 

Well they…

Musta not reckoned there’d be such a hunger
They were comin’ up empty but still taking orders

We chatted with one man who was buyin’ for four
And a single mom wranglin’ around even more

We had one thing in common – our desire to eat
But soon we were bonded in our heated speech

And everybody wanted some
But the brats wouldn’t come
And the dogs were all gone

It was starting to rain and there was lightning nearby
And I swear to this day, I saw a sweet child cry

Now, no one was blamin’ the man on the grill
But we all felt like cursin’ the Man on the hill

It’s a lesson you’d think was already taught
When you’re expectin’ an army you should plan for a lot

And everybody wanted some
But the brats wouldn’t come
And the dogs were all gone


Update: Johnsonville has heard my cries.

Update #2: The big winner - Paul's Pantry in Green Bay.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

My Packers Time Capsule

Do you enjoy trips down memory lane? Are you a sucker for wistful affections of the past?

I’m willing to bet somewhere in your unique abode there’s a collection of old senior photos in a plastic bin. Or maybe it’s that clay bowl you made in sophomore art class? What about that 2nd place finish award from the local spelling bee? That notebook filled with Great Gatsby notes and daydream doodles? And who could forget that awkward mixed tape of like Ace of Bass and Eric Clapton given to you 2nd semester by your one-and-only potential German foreign exchange sweetheart who always wore clogs, Annika Schumacher? (It was a nice gesture, Annika, thank you…always.)

Regardless of what you’re holding onto, to me, the best-kept nostalgic gems are the ones you forgot you had. Such was the case when my mom recently dropped off some boxes from yesteryear. Cynically, I expected to rummage through once and toss it all but a certain blue container gave me pause. “I remember that,” I thought. Inside, I found a small trove of Packers ticket stubs I once had pinned on corkboard in my room – 13 of them to be exact, including 3 playoff games, and as far back as 1986.
They belong in a museum!
Let’s see how I/we did…

Sun, September 7, 1986
Oilers @ Packers
First game of the season and the Packers are favored by 4 – whoo! And… 3-31 loss, ouch. Warren Moon throws for 2 TDs and rushes for another. Green Bay’s Randy Wright-led offense racks up just over 200 yards and time of possession is almost 2-1 in the Houston Oiler’s favor. I can’t remember a thing, thankfully.

Sun, September 13, 1987.
(LA) Raiders @ Packers
Another year, another opening game and optimism abound! And… we suck. No points, less than 200 yards offense, three picks from Randy Wright, Marcus Allen runs wild, etc. 20-0, Raiders. Don Bracken has almost 500 yards punting. That’s 500 yards punting, I said.
He set records that day I tell you!
Sun, September 16, 1990
Bears @ Packers
2nd game of the season on a nice, 54-degree day. As the Chicago Tribune reported, the Bears “intercepted two passes, forced six fumbles and recovered three, sacked quarterback Anthony Dilweg six times for losses of 39 yards and set up the offense for three touchdowns.” I’m guessing we left midway through the 3rd; not even going to tell you the score. P.S. If you had played the Bears fantasy defense that day, that’s like 30 points. Wow.

Sun, September 6, 1992
Vikings @ Packers
Kicking off the season once again, I finally see a good game on a warm, Fall day. Vince Workman lives up to his name with 25 carries and 14 receptions. Meanwhile, my favorite player at the time, the great Sterling Sharpe, adds 100 yards and a TD and we push it to OT. ALAS! The Faud "Clutch" Reveiz puts the game away with a field goal from 25 yards. 23-20, Vikings, and I’m now 0-4 in Packer games, feeling very much in the minor leagues of the NFL. (I think I had a brat; I most likely had a brat.)

Sun, October 31, 1993
Bears @ Packers
Halloween, ’93! Both teams were 3-3. It was the first year of being Brett Favre’s team and fans in good ol’ Green Bay, Wisconsin, were proud, new owners of the “Reggie! Reggie! Reggie!” chant. In a word, we were ascending. The final score, 17-3 in favor of the Packers, might seem forgettable on paper but it was an actually an incredible game. Only up 10-3, the Packers were trying to hold off the Bears from rallying. Jim Harbaugh had just driven his team 70 yards to our 12-yard line, but Leroy Butler not only blitzed and knocked the ball out of Harbaugh’s hands, but he also recovered the fumble at the 37 of the Packers after a mad scramble. (#36 also had the game-ending interception.) On top of that excitement, the Minister of Defense passed Lawrence Taylor to become the all-time sacks leader in the history of the NFL. And I was there… (“Reggie! Reggie! Reggie!”)

Fri, August 26, 1994
Patriots @ Packers
Final preseason game. Packers 24-Patriots 20; I’m sure Doug Pederson was splendid.

Sat, August 19, 1995
Colts @ Packers
Colts 20-17 in the 3rd preseason game. Neat. (Bonus: Jim Harbaugh took the Colts to the AFC Championship that year. Seriously!)

Sun, October 22, 1995
Vikings @ Packers
We’re freaking good – our best start to the season since 1978. Sometime in the 4th quarter, the crowd receives an announcement they broke the Lambeau Field attendance record. As far as the game goes, Favre throws 4 TDs, we dominate the 2nd half and go on to win 38-21 – a quality victory that’s becoming the norm.

Sun, December 31, 1995
Falcons @ Packers
Green Bay finished the regular season 11-5 and now was playing in the wild-card game on New Year’s Eve (my first playoff game!). Atlanta (9-7) came in limping, having given up the most yards through the air in NFL history (a record the Packers broke in 2011, coincidentally.) On the strength of Antonio Freeman’s 76-yard punt return for a TD, things were essentially sealed at halftime. 37-20, Packers. Next up: San Francisco. Nice.
Via Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Sun, December 1, 1996
Bears @ Packers
The Pack was seeking its sixth victory in a row against the Bears for the first time in almost 70 years. The so-called “rivalry” was fading quickly. Chicago simply could not cover Antonio Freeman that day, who had 10 catches for 156 yards. We also got a little foreshadowing of things to come with Desmond Howard returning a punt for a 75-yard TD.
Bonus! 1996 Jump in the Stands commercial – I bet you don’t remember this one.

Sun, December 22, 1996
Vikings @ Packers
Already 12-3, a win here would give Green Bay a first-round playoff bye and home-field advantage. The 9-6 Vikings were also going to make the playoffs and hoping for a home game the following week. This was BIG, and did we come to play. On top of all the flat-out fun moments, I can recall the crowd being outstanding. Here, watch the game highlights for yourself.

Saturday, January 4, 1997
49ers @ Packers
Packers win, 35-14. Um… I honestly think this was a stub from a family member because I remember watching it on TV and enjoying that wintery slopfest with Edgar Bennett dominating in the rain. Next!

Sunday, January 12, 1997
Panthers @ Packers
NFC Championship. The first title game at Green Bay since the “Ice Bowl.” Just look at the emblem on the ticket above. Whoa.

It was beyond cold, like -20 wind chill or something. Walking into the stadium was the only thing keeping my group from freezing. Once inside, the constant energy of the crowd (and an early military jet flyover) kept me cheering and smiling more so than any other game in my life. As far as I could tell, the stadium was all Packer fans.

The Packers eventually won decisively, 30-13. Dorsey Levens became a hero. The celebration began with about a minute left in the game, with Reggie running a lap around the field and cheering with us all. It can’t get better than this, I thought at the time. 
As though I got it yesterday.
So, these are my memories. There may be many like them, but these are mine. As the risk of sounding old and crusty, I don't think I'll ever get swept up in quite the same euphoria as I did with those teams in the 90s. But we have a TON to look forward to again this year, as we basically have for the last 20+ years. Check out these expert recommendations to see how the Packers will do in the NFC this year. Their Over is set at 10.0, the exact amount of games they've won each season for the last two years. Let's see how they do.

PS. Almost forgot my 2nd place ribbon from the local spelling bee!
Knights of Columbus. Very prestigious.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A Better Draft for All

I'm going to tell you something I've learned during the lead-up to this year's draft: 47 PBR tallboys in a night will dilute your sample. Wait, no, that's not it. Well, probably that's true, but I don't have the requisite replicability to consider it fact.

What I have learned is that the lead-up to the draft is just too damn long. Months of waiting, and we've only reached the eve of the draft? And there's only one round tomorrow? We deserve better. We should demand better.

Follow me, folks. Let me take you to a better NFL Draft, an NFL Draft you didn't even know you wanted, but you'll wonder how you ever lived without. I'm not talking about going back to the old format of rounds 1-3 on Saturday and rounds 4-7 on Sunday (although that would be an improvement over the current nonsense). Think bigger than that.

A round a day for a full week? Nah. Bigger.

Imagine a world where there are no anonymous scouts trashing players, there aren't 4,632 mock drafts all saying the same thing but just different enough to get your click, there isn't a week dedicated to parading prospects around on TV in their durned undies. Does a draft really happen if there are no mock drafts, you ask. Well, I can assure it does and it will. We can enjoy the draft in a Shangri-La void of spandex dog and pony shows, and scouts talking down players only so their team can draft them later on. We can live our best NFL Draft because in this nirvana that we will create together there is no time for these things. None.

You see right now, on this alternate plane where we should hope to someday exist, the Indianapolis Colts are on the clock with the 80th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. April 26th is exactly 80 days from February 6th, or as some people refer to it: the day after the Super Bowl. In this alternate universe you have just enjoyed 80 days of the NFL Draft. Each day represents another glorious pick. Think of the crazy trades the could, and would, happen if teams had extended periods of time to plan and orchestrate them. Think of teams scrambling to sign a free agent when they realize their targeted prospect is now, or will be, gone.

Teams eliminated from playoff contention would have their draft order assigned as they are eliminated, and as the playoffs progressed, other teams would be added to the queue. This still allows time for all teams to best they can, with a slight edge going to the bad teams. As the draft continues on, the later round picks will be doubled up and tripled up on days, allowing the draft to conclude just in time for OTAs to begin in June.

You want this. Search your feelings. You will know it to be true.

Oh, and Mr. Goodell, I know you're reading this, so I will promise you, you can make money off of this. It's a win/win for everyone.

...Let's just get this thing going.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Would You?

A Friday is a great day to come up with "Would You?" scenarios. Every Friday in the breakroom, Craig the Custodian and I have a cup of coffee and pose some "Would You?" scenarios to each other.

"Would you eat five spoonfuls of the year-old yogurt in the back of the breakroom fridge if you got free yogurt for year?"

"Would you shave Gimli's back hair and give Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pip foot massages if you could spend a week hiking with the Fellowship?"

"If your dog could talk, would you want to know what she thought of you?"

Whatever your answer, you have to be prepared to make a case for why that would be your choice. It's really a good way to take your mind off of work and get you ready for the weekend. Plus, Craig usually has a little Red Breast to Irish up our coffees. Would you drink at work if there was a 16% chance you would get caught and fired?

As I was leaving the breakroom last Friday, Craig said, "You need a haircut, man." This comment and the Irish in the coffee got me thinking about a "Would you?" for Packers fans. So, I posed this question on Twitter:
It immediately become apparent that I must be 1) tremendously vain 2) complacent with the Packers sustained success or 3) underestimating the emotional uplift that a Super Bowl victory brings to fellow Packers fans. This seemed like a legit "Would You?" to me, I of thick luxurious hair, and I of a great appreciation of sustained Packers success. I would have to seriously ponder whether shaving my head for a year would be worth it for me. On the other hand, if I was bald, it would be a very difficult decision to wear a rug, a rug that everyone I met knew was a rug. (FYI-There is no cheating. You can't tell people why you have made either of these choices. Come on, guys.)

Well, based on my replies, I am in the minuscule minority. I quickly learned that Packers fans have a shocking disregard for their hair. SHOCKING. DISREGARD. Many responses seemed to imply that people are carrying a razor in their pocket in the unlikely event they are offered this deal on the street.

Then, while I was contemplating taking a straight razor to my scalp, I read these:

You know that part in 'The Matrix' when Morpheus explains to Neo what the Matrix is? The part where he vomits, passes out and then wakes up in his cabin on the Nebuchadnezzar contemplating his new existence? That's where I am, folks. I have awoken to the new reality that I am not the Packers fan I thought I was. I am not the fan who is going to give up a finger, even a pinky. Hell, I'm not even the fan that's going to shave his head.

Please excuse me while I go deal with this reality.

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