Janesville43.3°

Fans shuffle holiday meal, savor surprising season

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
November 21, 2007
— Cook the turkey.

Set the table.


Make the gravy and mash the potatoes.


This year, add one more thing to the must-do list on Thanksgiving: Watch the Packers play the Lions.


Granted, there’s football every Thanksgiving, and the Packers play a holiday game every few years.


But it’s been a long time since a Packers game on Thanksgiving meant this much.


Local Packer fans interviewed this week plan to juggle or hurry their holiday meals. Others will eat at half time or drag out the TV trays. At the very least, they’ll have their radios on in the background.


Fans also seem to have another thing in common this year: They’re having fun watching the Pack play. The familiar angst that has cropped up among the faithful in recent years is gone.


Maybe that’s because most didn’t expect much of their team at the beginning of the season.


But fans have been pleasantly—even incredibly—surprised as seemingly lucky wins have turned into convincing wins.


Tom Halvensleben of Evansville was on lunch break from jury duty and trying out Karma’s Bar & Grill, which opened downtown Tuesday.


“I thought they’d have a tough year,” Halvensleben said of the Packers. “(But) they’re really coming together as a team. They are playing tremendously.”


His family will eat the holiday meal around the table.


But he figures they will have the radio on.


At Wiggy’s Saloon next door, John Schwartz of Janesville said he’s been waiting all year for the Packers to slide into a funk, for the bubble to burst.


Now, he’s starting to think that’s not going to happen.


He predicted that Favre’s performance will put to rest any retirement talk.


“It’s fun to watch them when he’s on,” Schwartz said. “His feet are even planted when he’s throwing the ball.”


John’s son, Kyle, didn’t see the Pack going far at the beginning of the season. But the Monday night game against Denver convinced him that the Pack was for real.


Still, he doubts that the team has a chance at the Super Bowl.


“It depends what they do against Dallas next Thursday,” he said of the Nov. 28 game.


The Schwartz family usually eats at 1 p.m. on Thanksgiving. This year, they’ll eat at 4—after the game.


Mitch Dempski of Milton will be at his mother’s for an 11 a.m. dinner. Then, he figures he’ll fight with the dozen or so guests for a good spot in front of the TV.


He hopes the Packers can hang in there over the next two important weeks.


Wiggy Wygans of Edgerton, owner of Wiggy’s Saloon, credits the Packers’ season to a solid defense.


And Brett Favre, who has been playing like he’s a rookie again, he said.


“It’s unbelievable,” Wygans said.


“I think, after this season, he’ll be back now. I don’t think there’ll be any talk about retiring. He’s had a heck of a season.”


The Wygans family will eat their feast during halftime.


“We always plan it around the Thanksgiving game,” he said. “We always eat at halftime.”


Those who don’t finish will haul in the TV trays.


Just one bah-humbug kind of guy was at Wiggy’s. Jack Heimel of Janesville is a Bears fan. Or a fan of whatever team is playing against the Packers.


He and his family are going out to eat on Thanksgiving.


During the game.



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