For most Wisconsinites, 2010 was a lousy year.
Unemployment continued to remain around nine percent, foreclosures continued at a frightening pace and most individuals and families around the state spent the year mired in sheer uncertainty about the future of their livelihoods.
Yet, despite everything that could conceivably bring a resident of my native state down, one thing remains for people to attach themselves to, if only for the duration of their season:
The Green Bay Packers.
Yes, at the end of the day, they’re a sports organization, and yes, that may ultimately mean that their success doesn’t materially benefit anyone who doesn’t work for the team, equipment manufacturers or relevant media organizations.
But should that bring down the sheer emotional power of a narrative like the Packers’ 2010 campaign?
The Packers’ season fits your standard inspirational narrative quite well, as they’re the National Football Conference’s representative in Super Bowl XLV, despite a well-publicized total of 16 players on injured reserve.
In most—if not virtually all—cases, a number that staggeringly high would spell certain doom to a team’s hopes for a successful season, much less their Super Bowl chances.
Heck, when the Packers found themselves at 8-6 just over a month ago, I considered them good as dead for this year, focusing my thoughts instead on hopes that a looming lockout in 2011 wouldn’t stifle their chances at future success.
Yet, despite the odds being stacked against them and falling down a few times along the way, the Packers kept picking themselves back up.
The loss of Jermichael Finley didn’t stop them, the loss of Ryan Grant (and with it, an effective running game) didn’t stop them, and even numerous losses in veteran star power embodied in names like Nick Barnett and Mark Tauscher didn’t stop them.
No, far from it. Where past Packers teams in recent history failed at mitigating injuries (2005 and 2002, I’m looking at you), the Pack flourished, taking young and previously unheard-of names like Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, and Frank Zombo, and turning them into identities that fans could cheer on as they—by and large—outperformed any reasonable expectations that could’ve been had of them at the outset of this season.
There’s no two ways to go about it: These guys showed up. They came in week-in, week-out, gave it their all and refused to let bad odds bog them down.
Aaron Rodgers provided key leadership, weathering omnipresent criticism of him in relation to the Brett Favre of yesteryear, the aforementioned rookies went above and beyond their call of duty, and the oft-villified Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson saw through it all, silencing people like myself who tend to pine for the light of past seasons.
I’m not here to ignite another discussion on McCarthy vs. (insert another head coach’s name here), or a political fight about the ramifications of the economic problems I described earlier.
Merely, I came here to reflect on the true tale of a remarkable run for football’s most storied team in the heart and soul of “middle America”, a tale that reminds us that adversity can be overcome in good time with hope, perseverance, and a little extra “oomph”.
This is the Packers’ time, Wisconsin. After all you’ve gone through as a collective state, you deserve this happy story now more than ever.