It’s 8 a.m. on a Friday but the Atrium is already occupied with a healthy contingent of Packer fans from all over the world, who are about to embark on one of the daily tours of Lambeau Field. The extremely popular one-hour tours are not only filled with rich stories of players and championships past but they also offer a small glimpse into the behind-the-scenes activity of one of the greatest professional sports organization in the world.
In what can only be described as divine coincidence, Head Coach Mike McCarthy and General Manager Ted Thompson walk by the awestruck fans on their way to a meeting. They are clearly in the midst of an important conversation, but Mike and Ted are more than happy to offer these good fans pleasantries.
“Good morning,” Mike says as he shakes a young girl’s hand.
“Hi Coach McCarthy!” she eagerly replies.
“So you’re taking the tour today?” Ted asks the crowd.
“Well, have a great time. We’re sure glad you could stop by,” Ted tells them.
Mike and Ted wave their goodbyes and head to an area reserved for personnel. There's an outside chance they visit Bovada sportsbook for the latest odds. But just as they are almost out of view, someone from the crowd yells out, “Thanks for cutting Bishop, Thompson!”
“Forget about it,” Mike tells him quietly.
“No, it’s fine, Mike,” Ted assures him.
Sarcastic comments like these are a daily occurrence for the GM, even from – sometimes especially from – Packer fans. While he would never admit how truly annoying they can be, it’s clear Ted would prefer to get to work instead of having to explain himself to another so-called diehard fan. But being a Packers’ figurehead carries with it the inherent duties of acting an organizational steward and answering these types of concerns. Simply put, as a GM, you don’t lose your cool and up to this point in his career, Ted Thompson has been about the coolest cucumber in the bunch. And true to form, Ted politely turns around and engages the crowd with professional courtesy.
A middle-aged man, Darryl Wischnewski of Sheboygan, wearing a Desmond Bishop jersey and a pair Velcro-strapped Reeboks steps forward. Although he tries his best to conceal his disgust for the GM, Darryl’s clenched fists and tightened brow clearly tell the story.
“He was the best linebacker we had!” Darryl exclaims.
“Desmond is a great player and a real professional, and we were sad to see him go,” Ted tells him.
“You are the worst GM in the world! You let go of all our best players only to see them have career years at other places! The Vikings are probably going to win the Super Bowl this year! What is wrong with you!? Why do you hate Packer fans so much!?” Darryl screams.
Ted waits for him to calm down, but it only gets worse. Tears begin to form and the man soon breaks down, right there in the middle of the Atrium among thirty Packer fans and the team’s coach and GM. All football decisions aside, this is a sad situation. Ted walks over to comfort the emotional wreck of a man, putting his hand on his shoulder. Darryl looks up at Ted’s eyes. He wants to cry; instead he erupts.
“I HATE YOU!!!” Darryl screams out. Like everyone else, Ted is taken aback. He takes a deep breath and a moment to compose before launching into the man with a rejuvenated, fierce conviction.
Ted: Have you ever played professional sports, son?
Darryl: No sir.
Ted: Ever asked a teammate to trust you and put your trust in them?
Darryl: No sir.
Ted: Ever ran a football organization?
Darryl: No sir.
Ted: We make decisions, son. We make decisions or the franchise fails. It’s that simple.
Darryl: But you said “Desmond was a great player.”
Ted: Yes, I recall what –
Darryl: You said “He is a real professional, and we were sad to let him go.”
Ted: I know what I said. I don’t have to have it repeated back to me like a damn –
Darryl: Then why did you release Bishop!? It wasn’t because of his hamstring. It wasn’t it because of his contract. You released Desmond Bishop because you hate the Packers, don’t you!? DON’T YOU!?
Ted: You want answers?
Darryl: I think I’m entitled to them.
Ted: You want answers?
Darryl: I want the truth!
Ted: You can’t handle the truth!!
And nobody moves.
Ted: Son, we operate an organization that wins championships. And those championships have to be orchestrated by men with BALLS. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, little girl? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Bishop and curse management. You have that luxury. You have that luxury of not knowing what I know: that Bishop’s release, while tragic, wins games. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you. Wins games.”
A moment passes while this sinks in.
“You don’t want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don’t talk about at tailgates, you want me running the Packers. You need me there.”
Now, proudly, Ted continues.
“We use words like franchise, salary cap, development. We use these words as the backbone to a career spent building something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who revels under the very blanket of success I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it. I’d prefer you just said ‘thank you’ and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a water bottle and hydrate my players. Either way, I don’t give a DAMN what you think you’re entitled to!”
Silence. From everyone. The crowd is frozen, as it Mike. Ted is strangely at peace. Darryl musters a final thought.
Darryl: I believe I wet myself. Yes, yes I did. Dang.