Packer fans whooooooooop it up in victory
The anxious moments in the third quarter were forgotten in the celebration.
But that’s not the way the evening started: It started with silence and a large helping of unspoken anxiety.
In an innovative decision, The Janesville Gazette asked a seasoned sports reporter to cover the local response to the big game.
OK, so I’m not a sports reporter at all, but I did cover sports two nights a week for the Portage Daily Register for two years in the late 1990s. I did this mostly by asking questions such as “Who’s stepping up this year, coach?”
My instructions were to cover each quarter of the game in a different downtown bar. But that was before the Jell-O shots, high-fives and repeated whooping.
5:35 p.m.: The streets in downtown Janesville are deserted. It’s as though the rapture occurred while I was getting a Diet Pepsi from the soda machine.
5:38 p.m.: Still no traffic, but I can hear muted whooping from Wiggy’s Saloon a half-block away.
Outside Wiggy’s, three Packer flags are snapping in the wind.
Inside Wiggy’s, Patrick “Wiggy” Wygans is having a nervous breakdown. Sporting a Ray Nitschke jersey, he is much quieter than usual.
The whole bar is quieter than usual.
There’s some anxious shouting and groans at a missed pass, but when Jordy Nelson scores the first touchdown, the bar explodes.
Arms shoot straight up into the air, fists pump, high fives are exchanged.
The spell is broken.
Jell-O shots are circulated; mine is red.
Bill Cabarnowski, who has been pleasantly answering the game-related questions I am not allowed to ask during football games at home, gives me his Jell-O shot, which also is red.
Wygans has relaxed and is now shouting instructions at the players: “Move it closer!”
Somebody responds: “You tell him Wiggy!”
-- Outstanding fan for the first quarter: Shane Price, 43, who has been a Packer fan for 43 years. He never wavered in his devotion, even during the 22 years he lived in Illinois.
Pop quiz: On the wall behind the bar are framed and signed jerseys from various Packers including Driver, White, Hornung, Hawk and Favre. Who is Favre?
Answer: Somebody who played for the Packers a long time ago. Nobody talks about him any more.
6:30ish: I’ve lost track of time. Football, it seems, can be enjoyable, especially when you don’t have a guy in a recliner snarling whenever you ask a simple question, such as “who’s in charge of moving the yellow line?”
I head to Legends on Main Street. Outside, a giant inflatable Packers player—no ladies, you can’t order one online—is anchored to the bar by an electrical extension cord.
Inside, the first thing I see is a guy wearing green- and gold-striped overalls. Then I spot a fellow curler—a reassuring sight, like seeing someone you know at your spouse’s uncomfortable office party.
He’s hanging out with Jodi Millis and Lisa Anacker, who are both wearing pink Packer ball caps with pipe cleaner goal posts sticking out of the crowns like alien antennae.
Attached to the goal post are neatly lettered signs that say “Go Pack.”
Anacker, who is “more crafty” than Millis, made the hats.
“She has better handwriting, too,” Millis said.
Meanwhile, the Packers continue to drive into the end zone, causing explosions of whooping, screaming and high-fiving.
I am high-fived by strangers. There isn’t much high-fiving in curling, and I have trouble making solid palm-to-palm connections. Eventually I get the hang of it, and even begin to whoop.
n Winner of fan of the second quarter: John Kislia, owner of the green- and gold-striped overalls. He’s been a fan of the Packers “forever.”
His favorite player?
“The one who catches the next touchdown pass.”
Pop quiz: How do you get a curler to stop talking about curling?
Answer: Trick question. You can’t. The key is not to let them start.
Ignoring all previous editorial instructions, I head back to the office to see what other news is happening.
But I keep an eye on the newsroom’s inexplicably fuzzy television. Somehow, I’ve become invested.
8:20ish: I go back to Legends, to make sure I’ve spelled Mr. stripy overalls’ name. As I pull open the outer door, I hear the patrons burst into a round of shouts and clapping.
8:24 p.m.: Panic sets in after several Steelers touchdowns.
I become anxious about the outcome and find I can’t bring myself to go to another bar.
Bar patrons are shouting instructions at players and coaches. Somebody advises the offense to “hurry up.”
At one point, Donald Driver starts waving his towel on the sideline, encouraging the crowd to pump up the volumes.
Bar patrons start to chant “Go, Pack, Go,” until the noise becomes painful.
With about three minutes to go, bar patrons watch as the Steelers make one last drive. Nobody’s celebrating yet, but the place is vibrating with excitement.
9:10 p.m.: Strangers are hugging me. Somebody gives me a drink. I give it to somebody else.
Outside, the whooping has begun.