Green Bay Packers: Why Titletown Is Home to the Greatest Franchise in Sports

Ben Chodos@bchodosCorrespondent IIApril 3, 2012

Green Bay Packers: Why Titletown Is Home to the Greatest Franchise in Sports

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    The Green Bay Packers are the greatest franchise in the history of American professional sports.

    I am very lucky to have grown up rooting for a team with such an illustrious history and staunch commitment to excellence. 

    Recently, I became even luckier and was given the opportunity to be a Packers Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. I am an avid reader of the current FCs and hope that my work meets the high standard that they have set. It is truly humbling to work alongside such knowledgeable writers.

    I am excited for my time in this role and look forward to connecting with the most intelligent and passionate fanbase in football. Whether you agree or disagree with something I write, like my work or think it sucks, please reach out and let me know on the comment board, my profile page or my Twitter. Interacting with readers is the most important part of this position for me because I am a fan, just like you.

    More specifically, I am a Packer fan. My mother grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and made sure that her children rooted for the right football team, even though she raised her family in Los Angeles. 

    I did not become a Green Bay fan, I was raised to be one. Many children across this country were taken to church by their mother on Sunday morning, but my mom sat me down in front of the TV to watch our beloved team. 

    Now, my interest in the Pack has grown into an obsession. There are only so many Packer-related discussions my friends and roommates can tolerate, which is why I am grateful to every one of my readers—you are my outlet.

    In the coming months, I hope to spark some interesting discussions and debates, but for my first article in this new role, I want to outline exactly why there is not better team to root for than the Packers. Here are the five reasons Green Bay is home to the greatest franchise in sports.

1. Championships

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    The Green Bay Packers are the most successful franchise in professional football history.

    The team was founded in 1919, joined the NFL in 1920 and has won 13 titles in its 93 years of existence.

    Other teams may have won more Super Bowls, but none have more championships.

    Younger generations of fans are often quick to discount anything that happened before the Super Bowl era, but this is a narrow mindset that is disrespectful to the history of American football. 

    The most common argument in support of disregarding pre-1967 titles is that NFL champions did not play the best competition on their way to the title.

    I had the pleasure of meeting Packer-great Fuzzy Thurston, who owns a sports bar in Green Bay, and in our brief encounter, he got onto the topic of the championships during the Vince Lombardi days. He simply said, "We beat everyone there was to beat."

    Fuzzy's words couldn't be more true. In the NFL's history, there have been three times when a league was competitive enough to be considered a rival.

    The first was the All-America Football Conference from 1946-1949, then the American Football League from 1960-1969 and finally the United States Football League from 1983-1985.

    The AAFC had a few quality teams, and the San Francisco 49ers and Cleveland Browns were both part of the league before joining the NFL. However, the Packers did not win any championships during the league's short existence. Green Bay also did not earn a ring during the USFL's brief life.

    As for the AFL, the Packers won five championships during the league's existence. Green Bay dominated the 1960s, and Lombardi's Packers were undoubtedly the best football team in the world during their title-winning seasons.

    The AFL took time to develop, and many factors led up to Joe Namath and the New York Jets' shocking upset of the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. The top AFL teams could not compete with the best NFL teams early in the decade.

    Later in the decade, the Packers were given the chance to prove their supremacy and did so convincingly in the first two Super Bowls. They beat the Kansas Chiefs 35-10 first, then demolished the Oakland Raiders 33-14.

    Even if the Packers won these games 50-0, some fans in today's era would still look upon Lombardi's first three championships with irrational skepticism because there was no Super Bowl. For those truly stubborn souls, keep in mind that discounting the 1961, 1962 and 1965 championships would still leave Cheeseheads with 10 titles, which is still more than any other team in history.

    The titles in 1961 and 1962 were especially dominant. In '61, the Packers defeated the New York Giants 37-0 in the championship game, then used the momentum to storm through the league and finish 13-1 the next season.

    The AFL was the most competitive rival the NFL ever faced, and existed during the height of the Packers' power. Every one of Green Bay's titles is legitimate and contributes to the unparalleled success of the franchise.

2. Hall of Famers

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    21 players have entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame as Green Bay Packers, which is second only to the 26 who have gone in as Chicago Bears.

    Players like Don Hutson, Bart Starr, Ray Nitschke and Reggie White have come to define what it means to play for the Packers.

    But more than the guys on the field, the men on the sidelines have truly made Green Bay a special place. There are only two coaches in NFL history to win three consecutive championships, and they both did it with the Packers.

    Curly Lambeau coached the franchise to titles in 1929, 1930 and 1931. Vince Lombardi equaled the feat when he won in 1965, then took the first two Super Bowls in the 1966 and 1967.

    No single man has meant more to professional football than Lombardi. His name is synonymous with winning, which made it an obvious choice to put on the trophy awarded to the annual champion.

    Football is different from other sports because the intangible factor known as "the will to win" seems to mean a little bit more. No other team-sport places so much importance on a single yard. Al Pacino famously called it a "game of inches" in Any Given Sunday, and while the movie was fictional, this statement is completely true. 

    Every year, first-round picks turn into busts and players taken in the later rounds become Pro-Bowlers. This pattern continually proves that there are immensely important parts of the game that cannot be quantified by any advanced metric, or measured by an event at the combine.

    Lombardi specialized in the "will to win," and coaxed every ounce of effort out of each player on his roster. He famously said:

    “The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather in a lack of will.”

    His teachings are as poignant today as they were when he coached. Lombardi was a larger-than-life personality who has risen to legendary status since his death in 1970. His relentless pursuit of perfection has made him the NFL's most iconic figure. 

    His contributions to the sport make him important to football fans everywhere, but Lombardi will always be a Packer. The Bears may have sent a few more players to the Hall of Fame, but the man who set the standard for winning will always be associated with Green Bay.

3. Fanbase

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    No group of fans is as loyal to their team as the Cheeseheads that fill Lambeau Field every Sunday during football season.

    The Frozen Tundra has been sold out for every game since 1960. The season-ticket waiting list now has 86,000 names on it, and management estimates a turnover of 90 tickets each year. If you put your name on the list now, you can expect to be attending home games in the year 2967. Despite the nearly 1,000-year waiting list, new names are added to it every season. 

    There are several extremely passionate fanbases throughout the NFL, but there is nothing quite like Packer fans.

    Walk into any bar in Wisconsin and one can find an entertaining tale about being a Cheesehead's trials and tribulations, but no one has a more incredible story than Jim Becker.

    Becker is the 12th inductee into the Packers Fan Hall of Fame and may be the only person who can legitimately claim that the Pack saved his life. 

    The Racine resident, now in his 80s, started attending games in 1941 and was a regular in the Lambeau stands from 1952-2008. He is also a father of 11 children and had to get creative to make ends meet.

    Becker started selling his blood for $15 a pint in order to afford season tickets without compromising his commitment to his kids. In 1975, he was diagnosed with hemochromatosis, a disease that causes a build-up of iron in a person's blood. The condition is difficult to diagnose and took his father's life.

    The treatment, however, is very simple: give blood regularly. Becker's scheme to make a quick buck prevented iron from accumulating in his blood and may have prevented premature death. 

    Becker's incredible story exemplifies the undying commitment that Cheeseheads have to their team. No franchise has supporters more passionate and loyal. 

4. Organizational Class

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    For the Green Bay Packers, winning football games the right way has always been important.

    The organization has always maintained a standard for class and dignity that applies to management, coaches, players and everyone else involved with the franchise.

    Franchises such as the Oakland Raiders and Dallas Cowboys have enjoyed plenty of success, but few football fans would describe these teams as classy.

    The Packers, in contrast, have long been a reflection of the friendly, blue-collar people that populate Wisconsin.  

    A winning tradition was established early on in Green Bay, and this has molded the franchise into what it is today. The people involved with the organization have changed, but certain standards have remained.

    The importance of these principles were never more evident than in 2008 during an ugly saga with legendary quarterback Brett Favre

    Favre's indecision over his retirement led to a bitter divorce between the Packers and its long-time signal-caller. General manager Ted Thompson saw the QB's wavering as detrimental to the preparation for the season, and refused to let a player take precedence over the team, regardless of who that player was.

    Allowing Favre to come back would have resulted in the loss of Aaron Rodgers, and would have proved that Favre had the freedom to essentially do what he pleased.

    Thompson's decision to trade Favre is exactly what Vince Lombardi would have done. The GM's firm decision making showed that the Packers' tradition and history are more important than any single player ever will be. 

    Everyone involved with the franchise is expected to maintain a certain level of respect for their teammates and the organization. The commitment to these standards was tested by Favre, and the Packers' brass showed that it will not bend to popular opinion. 

    Things in Green Bay are always done in a way that shows respect for the game, the team and the history of the two. This will not change, and that is why the Packers continue to be one of the classiest organizations in sports.

5. Public Ownership

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    All of the qualities previously discussed make the Green Bay Packers a great franchise, but do not make them the greatest one.

    Green Bay's 13 championships is impressive, but so are the New York Yankees' 27 titles and the Montreal Canadiens' 24 Stanley Cups.

    The Pack's 21 Hall of Famers is second to the Chicago Bears' 26, and the San Francisco/New York Giants' 23 HOF inductees is arguably a greater accomplishment as well.

    Packer fans are rock-solid in their support, but the Boston Red Sox have a die-hard fanbase whose loyalty is also eternal. 

    Lastly, the Packers' franchise has been classy for its entire existence, but the dignity and respect shown by Green Bay has been equaled by the Rooney family and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    What makes the Packers unique and sets them apart from every other American sports team dates back to 1923.

    The organization went bankrupt in its early days, and stayed afloat by selling shares of the franchise to local businessmen. These stock sales became a semi-regular occurrence and have happened five times in the team's history. The most recent one was this past season.

    Today, there are more than 380,000 shareholders, making the Packers the only publicly owned, nonprofit professional sports team in the nation.

    Green Bay's fans own their beloved team, which is why it has stayed in the tiny town in northern Wisconsin. With a population of approximately 100,000 people, Green Bay is far and away the smallest city with a major pro team. 

    Teams that used to reside in similarly-sized towns moved on to bigger markets long ago. The Packers are a throwback to a time when the bond between a franchise and the city it called home was stronger than it is now. 

    The annual shareholders meeting at Lambeau Field is a yearly reminder of the way things should be. The fans take care of the franchise, and the franchise takes care of the fans. Executives are not responsible to an egotistical billionaire, but to the normal people who fill the stands on Sundays. Everything that makes the Packers great stems from this relationship.

    The inaugural stock sale in 1923 is the most unique part of the Packers' history, and what makes it the greatest sports franchise in the United States. The championships, Hall of Famers, sellouts and standards are all impressive accomplishments, but all have been equaled or surpassed by other teams. The fateful decision to sell parts of the team to the public has made the bond between the fans and the team stronger than it is anywhere else.

    The Packers' ownership model will never be repeated in American professional sports. Green Bay is a special city with the most unique team in the country. This, in combination with the team's success, make it the best franchise in sports.