NFL's golden boys
We love a good underdog story but there's nothing wrong with backing Green Bay, says Neil Reynolds.
Last Updated: 11/12/11 11:00am
With four weeks of the 2011 NFL regular season remaining, the Green Bay Packers remain on course to repeat as Super Bowl champions and are eyeing a perfect campaign having opened the year with 12 wins and no losses.
While it is often the case that us Brits love an underdog and root for the favourite to get knocked off each weekend, there are many fans around the world with a soft spot for the Packers.
So I thought I would use a special 'Pick Six' column to give you half a dozen good reasons to root for Green Bay Packers perfection, starting this Sunday on Sky Sports 4 as they take on the Oakland Raiders.
They can make history...
The Packers are looking to become just the second team in NFL history to compile a perfect season. If Green Bay can win their remaining four league games and then three playoff outings, including the Super Bowl, they will have matched the achievements of the 1972 Miami Dolphins.
But the 2011 Packers will have won more games than the Dolphins, who went 17-0 during their perfect season. The Packers would be the first team in NFL history to compile a 19-0 record and would be the first NFL team to repeat as Super Bowl champions since the New England Patriots in 2003-2004.
And they're not about to let up despite already being in the playoffs, as quarterback Aaron Rodgers explained: "We know how important it was to finish strong last year when we won the Super Bowl and we want to be playing our best football going into the playoffs."
If you like and appreciate good quarterback play, you're probably already a fan of the Packers because Aaron Rodgers is not only the best passer in the NFL today, he is staking a claim as one of the greatest ever.
Rodgers has been scarily good this season, throwing for 3,844 yards, 37 touchdowns and just five interceptions. In a league where a quarterback rating of 100 is generally considered excellent, Rodgers has posted a mark of 125.3.
He is on pace to produce the greatest statistical season in NFL history and is clearly living up to his status as the highest-rated passer of all-time. Add in the fact that he is on course to repeat as a Super Bowl champion and is a hot favourite for the NFL MVP prize and you can see why life is pretty good right now for this Premier League-loving quarterback.
David continues to beat Goliath...
In any other sport, the small-town Green Bay Packers would find it impossible to survive and trade blows with teams from bigger markets such as New York, Dallas and Chicago. But the NFL's revenue-sharing model and salary cap structure makes it possible for such a small market anomaly to not only survive, but to thrive.
The town (it's not really a city) of Green Bay has a population of around 100,000. That makes up just 0.03% of the American population. The UK equivalent would be Chesham in Buckinghamshire, which makes up 0.03% of our population on these shores.
It's hard to imagine Chesham United of the Evo Stik Southern League drawing regular sell-out crowds of 73,000 and charting a course as repeat winners of the Champions League. But that's what the Packers are doing for the relatively tiny town of Green Bay right now.
Packers fans are among the most passionate and loyal in the NFL. But they are also among the friendliest. If you ever find yourself lucky enough to be at the mecca of NFL stadiums that is Lambeau Field, walk through the car park before the game and you'll be offered a bratwurst and beer before you know it as you become fully immersed in the Tailgate experience. Packers fans are the epitome of mid-western hospitality and they love their team.
But they are much more than just passionate cheerleaders. Packers fans actually own the team, which is another rarity in the NFL. The Green Bay Packers are the only publicly-owned team in American sports and there will never be another of their like in the NFL as rules now prohibit fans from owning teams.
When it comes to the Packers, think Ebbsfleet United but on a much grander scale.
The Packers' popularity shows no sign of waning. More than 83,000 fans are currently on a waiting list for season tickets and only 70 become available each year with many staying in families and being passed from generation to generation in wills.
And earlier this week, the Packers offered their fans the opportunity to buy more shares in the club. And even though the $250 share equated to nothing more than a pretty cool collectable with no voting rights included, more than 2,000 fans snapped them up in the first 15 minutes of the sale and by February, more than 250,000 shares will have been grabbed by Packers fans wishing to consider themselves NFL owners.
Many Packers players and coaches have travelled a long road to where they are today and have certainly not been born with the NFL equivalent of a silver spoon in their mouth.
Head coach Mike McCarthy spent nights collecting tolls at a booth on the Pennsylvania Turnpike before finally getting his break in professional coaching, while quarterbacks coach Tom Clements served as a lawyer for five years before finally pursuing his dream of coaching in the NFL.
Punter Tim Masthay was teaching athletes at the University of Kentucky 18 months ago before finding his way back into the NFL and even star quarterback Aaron Rodgers had to prove himself at Butte Community College in Oroville, California, before finally reaching the NFL via an embarrassing Draft Day in which he sat for hours before hearing his name called in New York City.
Then there are the personal stories that make these Packers so compelling. Wide receiver James Jones spent most of his youth living in homeless shelters and fellow wideout Donald Driver lived in a U-haul van while his mother worked hard to raise a struggling family.
With a roster stacked with hard-working, team-first guys who are enjoying success, it's hard to root against the Packers, particularly as they also happen to be extremely talented.
Tradition and heritage...
The Packers are one of the most-storied teams in American football history, having won a league-high 13 championships since entering the NFL in 1921. And in Vince Lombardi they can boast one of the most influential coaches in all of sports.
Lombardi - who coached the Packers to five NFL crowns in 10 years - was so impactful in the NFL that they named the Super Bowl trophy after him. He has also served as inspiration to many coaches around the world, having some of his more famous quotes used by the likes of Bill Shankly and Sir Alex Ferguson.
Lombardi's most famous quote of all was: "Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing."
That pretty much applies to the modern-day Packers and he would most certainly approve of the clinical efficiency of Aaron Rodgers and Co.