By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Which leads me, in a very roundabout way, to the Dallas Cowboys of the Jerry Jones era.
Speak of the Devil.
An hour before The Game, I leaned over the railing on the Green Bay side of the 50-yard line and spotted the stubby profile of the man himself. Dangling high above him was Texas Stadium's massive sound system, emblazoned with the Nike symbol--its sinister swoosh representing the mark of the beast.
All around the stadium was evidence of Jerry's many sales of his own soul--signs for Pepsi, Kroger, Haggar, J.C. Penney, and Columbia Healthcare Network. (What's this--the official HMO of the Cowboys?)
A few Packers and Cowboys were warming up around us. Particularly close was halfback Edgar Bennett, the Green Bay beast of burden, who pounds out a workmanlike 3.4 yards per carry, never fumbles, and does pretty much anything he's asked to do, including catching a lot of short passes. He's a Green Bay kind of guy, with a blue-collar ethic that's earned him respect in a hard-working town.
In fact, I've never seen fans sporting the jerseys of so many different players on a team--I saw lots of Brett Favres and even more Reggie Whites, but also LeRoy Butlers (a veteran safety), Edgar Bennetts, and even John Jurkovics. When's the last time you saw someone wearing the jersey of a 300-pound nose tackle?
I turned my thoughts back to the evil Jerry, whose hair was shellacked into that familiar gray poof. He slapped the Cowboys' Darren Woodson on the shoulder pad. Darren looked down at him, shook his head, and smiled, giving that poop-eating grin you only give the boss man when he's standing right in front of you. Jerry grinned back, hovering around his 'Boys like a groupie.
Meanwhile, a gaggle of cheeseheads hooted in derision. One woman waved a hand-lettered sign: "Jerry You Can Buy Your Cowboys But You Can Never Buy Our Packers."
This, of course, is literally true, since the Packers are owned by about 2,000 shareholders, and their $25 shares are practically worthless because the team is run not-for-profit.
As groups of Packers emerged from the locker room for warm-ups, the cheeseheads picked out their favorites and screamed encouragement. Favre got a lot of cheers, and so did receiver Robert Brooks, but Reggie White's arrival was greeted like the Second Coming. He got the most applause by far, as he rumbled down the sideline, pot belly bobbing, punching the air with his fist.
My grandma tells me that when, just before the San Francisco game, skinheads torched the Tennessee church where Reggie serves as associate pastor, Green Bay folks poured out money and sympathy to him and his family. Thousands of dollars were raised, and no one had even asked. You just wouldn't understand it in Dallas, but Green Bay is that kind of town.
Reggie White is held in such extraordinarily high esteem in Green Bay and Milwaukee that I don't think I'd be surprised if he were assumed into Heaven after the Packers won the game. Heaven would surely be a pleasant place if White were up there, strumming a harp.
After the warm-ups, I followed my grandma's advice and looked for the cheeseheads, making my way high into the stands where they were gathered, having been allotted what were, by far, the worst seats in Texas Stadium. I made my seat in the concrete aisle just in front of the very top row, avoiding the wet spot caused when the girl behind me kicked over her 32-ounce Dr Pepper.
Up in the stands with the cheeseheads, it smelled like hell.
The triple stinks of beer, barf, and body odor swooshed about in ever-circulating air currents, and were trapped forever in the cavern formed by the top rows of seats and the steel floor of the press boxes.
Cheeseheads have this weakness for cheap beer, and I can't tell you how many times I was dribbled on as pot-bellied dudes with milky-white skin pushed by into the back row, clutching twin brews. There were also numerous versions of this one overheard dialogue:
"God, I gotta pee."
When I strained my eyes or focused my cheap, rented binoculars, I had an OK view of one end zone. But if the players were past the 50-yard line, I couldn't make out their numbers anymore. The public-address system couldn't be heard up here, so we never really knew what all those penalties were for.
Fortunately, I sat next to a guy who could spot a clip from 300 yards. Ron Dauplaise of Green Bay had come in with the first planeload of cheeseheads. He and his wife Ellen spent the night before in the West End, which, to his mild puzzlement, was overrun with fellow cheeseheads. (I didn't want to go into that whole explanation about the death of Dallas' downtown, and how none of the locals goes there anymore.)
Ron and Ellen made me feel right at home. Ron could have been any elderly man in my hometown, and Ellen had that round, friendly face I associate with Wisconsinites of Polish descent.
Ron and Ellen have been Packer fans for their entire lives. They told me how Lambeau Field, the Packers' 1950s-era outdoor stadium, literally rocked and rumbled throughout the game when the Packers beat the Atlanta Falcons in the first round of this season's playoffs.