A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Monday, January 14, 2008

My Socks RAWK!

Seriously, I believe they may have mystical powers. Why, you ask? What, you won't take my word for it? Huh, skeptics.

Ok, ok. Here's why, and every word is true:

Between 3:30 and 6:30 this past Saturday afternoon, Wisconsin shut down. Well, not entirely-- the bars were probably pretty rocking. But a huge portion of the state was undoubtedly glued to the TV as the Packers vs. Seahawks playoff game kicked off. At 13-3 during the regular season, the Packers were a heavy favorite. I am planted on my couch, wearing my Packer jersey and Packer hat.

First series, Packers' ball. Pass, completion to running back Ryan Grant, fumble... Seahawks' ball at the 1 yard line. Next play, Shaun Alexander scores a touchdown. 7-0 Seattle. urk.

Second series, Packers' ball. Grant runs for 8 yards. Nice. Next play, Grant runs for 6 yards. Nice... oh wait. Grant fumbled again. Seahawks' ball at midfield. urk. Several plays later Matt Hasselbeck throws a touchdown. 14-0 Seattle. double urk. 72,000+ fans at Lambeau Field are stunned.

At this point I take stock. Don Hutson jersey. Check. NFC North Champions hat. Check. Special game day tie-dyed socks. Ch... URK! I'm just wearing regular sweat socks, not the green/gold/barf colored socks my children made for me at the start of the season. I had worn them for all 13 of the Packers' wins, but had forgotten to wear them (truth!) for two of the three losses. Clearly, they are magical socks, imbued with mystical powers.


Run upstairs, rabidly dig through a pile of clean clothes that have yet to be put away. Yes! There's the brownish, puicish color of the socks where the green, yellow and red (why red? I dunno, my 7-year-old son thought it would be cool) dyes all smudged together. Run downstairs, rip off my other socks and jam on the tie-dyes.

Next Packers drive: Six plays, crisp, efficient, TOUCHDOWN! 14-7, Seahawks. My socks are good.

Next Seahawks drive: Three and out. Punt. Pack takes over, and Ryan Grant cracks off several big runs. Nine plays later Ryan Grant is powering into the end zone from one yard out. TOUCHDOWN! 14-14 and now Lambeau Field is LOUD! I knew my socks were good, but wow, what a turn around.

Next Seahawks possession. On 2nd and 19, Hassellbeck hits his tight end, Marcus Pollard, in the flat. As Pollard starts to turn to run upfield, safety Atari (man I loved the Atari 2600 as a kid) Bigby drills him and the ball pops loose. Packers ball on the Seahawks' 18 yard line! Three plays later Brett Favre is lofting a gorgeous little fade pass into the end zone where it is snagged by Greg Jennings. 21-14 Packers and I have to restrain my urge to kiss my own socks.

And so it would go. After the disastrous first 4 minutes in which Green Bay turned the ball over twice and dug themselves a big 14-0 hole, they played nearly flawless football. And not to put too fine a point on it, but it all started with ME CHANGING MY SOCKS!!!!

My socks rawk.

It's good to be a Packers fan today. Very, very good. And what a great story Ryan Grant is-- a complete unknown (he was the 3rd string back for the NY Giants when he was traded to the Packers before the start of the season) he exploded onto the scene halfway through the year when the Packers' other two running backs got hurt. Since that time he is second in the NFL in rushing yards behind only 1st ballot hall-of-famer Ladanian Tomlinson. He set the Packers' all-time playoff yardage record on Saturday, rolling to 201 yards. He's a smart kid-- two degrees from Notre Dame-- and did not let the two early fumbles get him down. Instead, he set out to make amends.

And boyhowdy, did he ever.

What a magical season this has been for the Packers and their fans. Picked by most experts to finish 9-7 or worse (I figured they were 9-7 or maybe 10-6 if they got lucky) and behind the Bears and Vikings (and in some cases, dead last) in the NFC North they have instead gone 13-3 and won the division. The youngest team in the league (and that's with 38-year-old Favre at the QB position), they have gelled as a team in all phases of the game. Unselfishly and coherently.

Case in point-- Greg Jennings, a mere second year player, has become Favre's go to receiver at the goal line, replacing longtime favorite receiver and pro-bowler, Donald Driver. On some teams (think Dallas and Terrell Owens) the supplanted receiver would have pouted and whined about the decrease in his stats (which correlates to $ come contract time). Driver simply smiled and continued to catch first down passes to get the Packers to the red zone, happy for his teammate and satisfied with helping the team win.

Hopefully, the Packers keep rolling for two more games, but even if they were to lose next Sunday (and if there's a hotter NFC team than GB, it's their opponent this week, the New York Giants) this has been a tremendously fun season. Favre has looked as good as he ever has, the defense has progressed from good, to great, to dominant and Grant has added the running dimension to the team that was the one missing ingredient early in the season. Oh, and special teams. I would be remiss not to mention how great the special teams units have been this year.
During the perennial playoff visits and Super Bowl appearances in the 1990s, the return and kicking games of the Packers was always very good to excellent. Since that time it has ranged from adequate to awful. Until this year. This year I don't hold my breathe when we kick the ball back to the other team-- our punt and coverage units have been outstanding. Mason Crosby has been money as a field goal kicker, and his kick offs to the 5 yard line or deeper have been a refreshing change of pace, helping to pin the opposition deep. Well done, boys.

And finally, a big tip of the hat to Mr. Mike McCarthy. What a job he has done as the coach of the Packers. Reined in Favre and got him back to playing QB like he did during the MVP years of the '90s. Got the youngest team in the league playing together and playing well against all expectations. Has his team prepared and ready to go, week in and week out.

Well done! Now, on to the NFC Championship game!

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I noticed watching the Giants game that the runbacks on punts and kickoffs- for both teams - seemed to be excessive.

You get used to how little the Packers allow.

Dare we say - Super Bowl? If anybody DESERVES to beat the Pats, it's Green Bay.
I think you forgot to wear your socks last night. RATS!
I did wear them. They were insufficient to overcome Favre's erratic play and McCarthy's bizarre, pass whacky game plan.

Wait until next year!
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