I was just reading through some NFL previews before I do my weekend shows when it came to me... it's throwback to 1986 weekend at Lambeau!
Just for background on the author (for those that don't know me... Otto! Afternoons on 106.5 the Buzz, Packer Stockholder... nice to meet you too!): I’m 33 years old. I started watching pro-football somewhere around 1985. Which is to say, I can remember the game being on TV as a 4 year old, but couldn’t tell you whom, when, or what happened (Oddly, I have clear memories of the first time I saw pro-wrestling on TV (Superstar Billy Graham in the AWA of all things!) but the football part’s a little hazy…). The first time I actually remember paying attention to a game was Super Bowl XXI, and feeling bad for John Elway when he got his ass kicked by the Giants, but also thinking Lawrence Taylor was pretty awesome (ironic that Super Bowl 32 would erase ALL good feeling for Elway that I had, and Tecmo Super Bowl would confirm my thoughts about Taylor…). I was born a Packer fan, but didn’t really get deep into the team until 1989 and the “Sharpe/Majik Man” era, and kinda rolled along from there.
My father has long told me repeatedly (since #4 came to town anyway...) that Wisconsin "kids" today have NO idea how good we have it football wise compared to when he was a kid. And I've always told him: "While that's probably true, at least I “get it” anyway", because I feel like I do “get it”. I’ve been to the Packer Hall of Fame more times than I can count, and have seen where history basically seems to skip from the mid 40’s until Lombardi arrived, and again hiccups from the end of time of St. Vince until Ron Wolf comes to town. I’ve read the books, seen the videos. I know the numbers, have heard all the tales of Dan Devine, David Whitehurst, John Hadl, Jerry Tagge, Tony Mandrich, COACH Bart Starr, “Forrest Fire”, Rich Campbell, Lofton and Eddie Lee Ivery at the Marquee Club… I know how bad it was.
But here's the funny thing about history: while I understand the concepts of how good it's been recently, and how bad it was prior, I have a feeling it's something you can't fully understand unless you've been there. It’s like speaking to veterans about war. I can read about landing at Normandy, and the “poor battered bastards of Bastogne” until my eyes hurt, but unless you were in the next fox hole you REALLY don’t actually know. I could listen to my grandma talk about being a child in the Great Depression, and think “Wow. That musta sucked.” But unless I was out on the breadline with her, while I can sympathize and empathize all I like, I really don’t know.
I have a feeling this weekend will be a HARSH dose of the reality for fans of my generation. A reality that the rest of the league has lived with for a long time, and that Packer fans have basically not had to deal with since Sept 20, 1992. With the exception of a couple "blips" (and actually for the most part the “blips” haven’t been horrific, one TJ Rubley audible aside…), there has been a hall of fame level QB at the helm for every important snap in that time, and really you can go back further than that even. While Majkowski will never have a plaque in Canton, he was at least solid for most of his time at the helm. So really how far back do we have to go?
1987… the Packers were lead into pre- and post- strike battle by Randy Wright. Randy had a QB Rating of 61.4 and was 7 – 25 for his career (wait… Wallace for the career: 6-15…OH DEAR GOD!) He stunk the joint out in 1986 for a 4 – 12 team throwing 17 TD’s and 23 INT’s, and was back at the helm in 87 where he was on pace to do not much better at which point, he got yanked for Majkowski. That would be the last time the Packers had total incompetence at starting QB.
Now going back to my larger point: I can read all about that, and know all that, and write all that, but really I have no idea what it was like… however I have a sinking feeling, I’m about to find out, and will one day be able to tell my kids: “Yeah, we had a great 25 year run there. But then Seneca Wallace came to town…” with that same look my dad gets when he talks about the 70’s Packers (and don’t even get him started on the Baders and the “Veer Offense”…).
Luckily unlike for them, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. All we gotta do is survive the next couple weeks, and it gets better. (and frankly… after the way the Brewer, Bucks, and Badger’s season went, 2013 is shaping up to be “the year that shall not be named”)
Get well soon Aaron. We NEED you.