Tuesday, October 11, 2016

If These Walls Could Talk: Green Bay Packers - Book Review

If These Walls Could Talk: Green Bay Packers
Stories from the Green Bay Packers Sideline, Locker Room, and Press Box

Wayne Larrivee is a gem of a sports announcer and Packer fans are lucky to have him. There are few radio broadcasts that still equal the experience of watching a live, televised game. For nearly 20 years, the play-by-play of Wayne Larrivee (and color by Larry McCarren) on the Packers Radio Network has been consistently just as good and arguably even better.

I was happy to read a little more about Wayne in the brand new book, If These Walls Could Talk: Green Bay Packers (256 pages). Of course, some Packers fans may only recognize Larrivee’s famous “dagger” call when the game’s outcome appears to be solidified. But while Larrivee did make it synonymous with the Packers, he readily admits he wasn’t the first to use it. Fun fact: the only time in his career he called it “wrong” was in the case of the Seahawks’ Fail Mary, but as Wayne points out (and I think we all can agree here), the replacement refs also called it wrong so it doesn’t count.

It was also incredibly interesting to read how Larrivee ended up with the Packers. In this book, you’ll learn just how broadcasting for the Packers fulfilled his childhood dream. Or that he made the proactive sales pitch to come to small market Green Bay when the opening became available despite a very successful career in Chicago.

But Wayne’s personal history is just a very small part of this book. True to its title, If These Walls Could Talk: Green Bay Packers recalls stories – both good and bad – I have never heard. While the Packers and their fans have enjoyed a wealth of success over the last 20+ years, there have been plenty of instances of conflict that people outside the organization might not understand.

Larrivee and Reischel aren’t shy about pulling back the curtain on some difficult moments, offering valuable insights and personal anecdotes into the recent history of the Packers’ organization. You’ll learn of the difficult transition from Mike Holmgren’s strict internal policies to Ray Rhodes more laid-back approach that set the team back in 1999. And of Mike Sherman’s obsessive preparation and micromanagement, which became a thorn in the sides of many people within the walls of Lambeau Field – including Wayne himself.

Following a chronological timeline, the book revisits the astute hiring of Ron Wolf, his perceived overpayment for a careless but young and talented quarterback from Southern Miss, and the unexpected signing of all-time great Reggie White. All these moments – each seemingly more unlikely than the previous – formed a new foundation of success for the Packers. Green Bay fans and historians will sincerely appreciate the new insights and reminder of the winning expectations that were set decades ago.

All the biggest names in the Packers from the last couple decades are covered. On top of the many Favre memories, Larrivee and Reischel touch on Driver, Nelson, Rodgers, Butler, Woodson, Matthews and so many more. But what makes this a fascinating read is how each player and moment helped shaped the Packers’ organization to what it is today. And for those interested in the Packers’ more internal dealings, If These Walls Could Talk: Green Bay Packers does an outstanding job of painting the picture of management and coaching philosophies, including those of Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy.

In all honesty, I would love to just divulge all the entertaining details but that wouldn’t be fair to the book or to the readers. If These Walls Could Talk: Green Bay Packers captured so many moments in a new way I truly felt the emotions of the time as if they happened yesterday. (And it’s impossible – in a good way – to not envision Wayne narrating the book to you personally while you read it.) 

You can find If These Walls Could Talk: Green Bay Packers at their website. I highly recommend it. Thanks to the good folks at Triumph Books for sending me a complimentary copy to review.
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