Loss leaves fans out in cold, but there's always next year
The sun came up today, didn't it?
At 9 o'clock Sunday night, that wasn't a sure thing in Packerland.
When Lawrence Tynes kicked a 47-yard field goal in overtime to brrrrrrr-ing an end to the Packers' season, obscene words were uttered throughout the state.
At least that was the case at the Watering Hole, one of the Janesville establishments where mostly Packer fans gathered to cheer on the green and gold. While the outcome was disappointing—especially because Packer icon Brett Favre was the main culprit—it was fun while it lasted.
A trip around Janesville on this below-zero day showed just how much fun.
Because every game has to start with a tailgate, the first stop is 1421 N. Pontiac Drive. Starting at 2 p.m. in the driveway, Jimbo and Kathy Condon's residence is the gathering place for about 40 friends and some strangers.
A huge sign at the end of the driveway invites drivers to stop and join the fun.
Guests watch the New England-San Diego game on an outdoor TV while eating and drinking in the bitter cold. A fire pit provides some heat.
Jimbo, who retired after driving Janesville city buses for 28 years, says the idea for the tailgate party came to him when he was at the Fireside in Fort Atkinson with a group Thursday. It is a hit, especially to the many vehicles that drive past Sunday afternoon.
"So many people honked, and some stopped and took pictures," says Mary Lynn Fox, one of the guests.
About a half hour before kickoff, the group moves to the basement. Kathy is a relative of NASCAR driver Matt Kenseth. So half the basement is a Packer room, and the other half is a "Matt room."
Both rooms are filled as kickoff approaches.
It is on to Damon's for the first half.
All of the booths in the dining room are filled as fans watched the game on three giant—oops, that is the wrong word today—screens.
Warren and Judy Kukla are sitting behind the dining area. Both worked at the Elks Club spaghetti dinner before heading to the restaurant.
The crowd is subdued as the Giants take a 3-0 lead.
"Three-and-out," Warren says after one Packer possession fizzles. "That was fast."
Zach Buggs runs the contests and serves as the master of ceremonies during football Sundays at Damon's. He wears a referee's striped shirt, calls out ticket numbers and hands out glasses and T-shirts. He also plays the interactive game where contestants predict what play the offense will call (pass or run) and where on the field it will run it.
He's good. He has the highest score after the first quarter.
"I didn't even play the last two minutes," he says as he hustles back to his booth at the side of the dining area.
With the score 6-0 Giants in the second quarter, Linda, a hostess, hands out sheets with a joke on them. Peyton Manning, Tony Romo and Brett Favre meet the Lord. The Lord asks each one what he believes. Manning and Romo say they believe in discipline, etc. Favre says, "I believe you're in my seat."
Less than a minute later, Favre hits Donald Driver, who runs 70 yards down the sideline to complete a 90-yard touchdown.
Everyone in the dining room jumps to their feet. High fives are everywhere, silhouetted in front of the giant—oops—screens.
Three employees in Packer jerseys chase an employee with a Brian Urlacher jersey around the room.
The Packers add a field goal and lead 10-6 at halftime.
There aren't as many fans at East Point Sportz Pub.
Bob Johnson is at a side table. The well-known auctioneer and Milton High School teacher has more than just a passing interest in the game.
It seems that when Johnson and a couple of friends were in Las Vegas last spring, Johnson decided to make a futures wager. His two buddies decided to wager on Steve Stricker winning an upcoming major PGA event.
Johnson decided to put $100 at 25-1 odds that the Packers would win the NFC title.
"I would make more if they win than spending 3.5-months coaching wrestling," says Johnson, who was the Red Hawks' wrestling coach for many years.
The Packer defense is not having any luck stopping Eli Manning. It's Eli freaking Manning, for crying out loud. The Giants take a 20-17 lead into the fourth quarter.
At the Watering Hole, Packer fans agonize over every pass, penalty and miscue. The Packers tie it up with 11:46 left on Mason Crosby's 37-yard field goal.
The suspense builds.
"I'm a nervous wreck right now," Mike Hastings says.
Nine minutes are left.
The Watering Hole has a large high-definition TV in one corner of the bar. Because it is high-definition, the signal comes in a few seconds later than on the other TVs in the bar. Normally, that doesn't matter, but it does when the Giants' Lawrence Tynes attempts a 43-yard field goal with just less than seven minutes to play.
"Noonan," someone yells just before the kick, borrowing a bad-luck line from the movie "Caddyshack."
Then, half of the bar starts yelling BEFORE Tynes kicks the ball on the TV that I am watching. Of course, they already saw the ball sailing wide.
The Giants get the ball back and appear ready to win the game, driving down the field in the final minute.
"I'm going to have a nervous breakdown," Doug Sheridan says.
Tynes lines up for a 36-yard field goal with four seconds left. When he snap-hooks it like one of my golf drives, the joint goes nuts.
When the Packers win the toss, everyone knows the Packers are going to win.
Then comes Favre's interception.
A few minutes later, all the "Noonans" in the bar can't prevent the Packer season from ending.
Tom Miller is a sports writer/page designer for the Janesville Gazette.
THE FANS SPEAK
Packer fans at Park Place bar in Janesville reacted after the game Sunday:
"I thought we had it. I was the one keeping the positive attitude. We just did not capitalize on a lot of the plays. They didn’t out play us. When we had the chance, we didn’t capitalize. We had a great year. We really can’t put our team down."—Tina Russell
"We played a good game."
On next year: "They need to play the same as they did this year. It was a great season."— Jill Newlin
"They didn’t run (Ryan) Grant up the middle. They could have done that a lot more. That was his old team. They could have ran him up the middle all night they would have come out on top." — Adam Giese
"They got away from their game plan. They need to stick with their running and passing game as opposed to going out and passing. They needed to stick with the game plan that got them to the playoffs."
On next season: "Don’t let Brett go away. I think because of the loss, that will ensure us he returns for at least two more years."— Jim Lilburn
"They didn’t play enough long game. The short game was lacking. The long game was everything but good, and the defenders sucked ..."
On next season: "More passing, less running. But they still need to work on their running game."— Jerrett Peterson
"I’m speechless. They went this far ... I don’t want to say they let it go, but they let it go. They had a pretty strong team all year."— Andy Reierson