Sunday, February 27, 2011

#23 - Return to Titletown

Teamwork is what the Green Bay Packers were all about. They didn't do it for individual glory. They did it because they loved one another. -Vince Lombardi

Shock and awe. Those are the words that best describe my reaction to the outcome of the spectacle I witnessed on TV February 6th. I shouldn't have been too surprised because this has happened many times before -- The Green Bay Packers are Champions of the National Football League!

For the 13th time in team history(most in the NFL), the Packers have brought the championship back to Green Bay. After their stunning 31-25 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Packers claimed their 4th Super Bowl win and combined with their 9 pre-Super Bowl crowns, it's no wonder this tiny Wisconsin city is called Titletown. But for over half of my lifetime, this was not the case.

1967. I was in kindergarten when the Packers won their second Super Bowl and it took nearly 30 years to recapture that glory. During that drought, I grew up to become a newsphotographer and began covering the Pack as a stringer for United Press International (UPI) in 1982. I roamed the Lambeau Field sidelines for a little more than a decade, one which will probably be remembered as the worst in the franchise's storied history. Heck, back then if the Packers struggled to an 8 and 8 record or beat the Bears at least once, the season was considered a huge success! I'll never forget the "Pack Sacks" -- modified paper grocery bags fans wore to conceal their identities at home games.

Green Bay lost and lost big. Their most glaring problem was the revolving door at the quarterback position -- after all, who recalls Randy Wright or Anthony Dilweg? Finally in the late 80's a glimmer of hope emerged for Packer Nation in Don Majkowski, aka Majik or the Majik Man. Having #7 behind center and super receiver Sterling Sharpe lining up beside him, the Pack consistently finished above .500 but the playoffs still eluded them. All that abruptly changed in 1992.

With new Head Coach Mike Holmgren still settling into his job, Majkowski suffered a serious leg injury on a late September afternoon and never returned to the line-up. I watched in amazement as an unknown, unproven back-up named Brett Favre stepped in and rallied the Packers to victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. I had the pleasure of photographing this phenom for only one more season, and the rest is really just modern football history!

Sadly I missed the opportunity to photograph the magical 1996 Super Bowl season and now the equally exciting 2010-11 campaign. But I'm still a die-hard fan and I do know this: both of those teams exemplified the qualities - loyalty, passion, teamwork - that a coaching legend demanded. So congratulations to Coach Mike McCarthy, Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Donald Driver, Charles Woodson, Clay Matthews, and the rest of the Green Bay Packers for capturing the Lombardi Trophy and let's not forget its long awaited Return to Titletown!

The Green Bay Packers never lost a football game. They just ran out of time. -Vince Lombardi

(Note: In the top photo -- why am I wearing an Oilers sweatshirt while covering a Packer game at Lambeau Field in 1986? Because I'd just moved back from Houston and jokingly posed for a photo to say hello to the photogs back there. I just needed to clarify my loyalty -- Go Pack Go!)