how I became a cheesehead

Super Bowl Sunday

I am a Green Bay Packers fan.

I didn’t grow up watching much football, and I definitely wasn’t a player. And I’ve never been to Wisconsin.

What happened is this: Several years ago, I had a dream that—as a fortyish, short, nonathletic woman—I managed to walk on at tryouts for a professional football team whose colors were green, yellow, and white. I made the team, played as starting quarterback—of course!—and led my team to the Super Bowl. Which we won.

So, yeah, it was a pretty fun dream, even for someone who didn’t follow or particularly care about football.

But here’s the thing: I had a dream about being capable. I’d been dealing with chronic illness for a good long while at that point—though it would be another year before the chronic daily migraine took hold and made things worse—and waking up each morning to face another day of symptoms and limitations was a real chore. After dreaming about accomplishing the impossible, I was excited and enthusiastic even when having to confront the stark difference between dream land and daily reality.

Since I’d not gotten the team’s name in my dream, I did a quick check on uniform colors to learn that my team was the Green Bay Packers.

I’ve been a fan ever since.

I’m still learning about the different positions on the field and other details of the game. But I do watch the Packers every week, and read game analysis articles and player reports on Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, and others. I even started watching other teams’ games, with an eye toward how one team’s win or loss would affect the Packers in the standings. So while my partner—who actually used to play football in high school—sits in another room reading or working on app development, Sundays (and Thursday and Monday evenings) find me shouting at the screen and cheering.

One Sunday earlier this season, I was tuned in to Minnesota taking on Philadelphia. The first quarter was barely underway when Mike walked through the room and asked me who was playing. I didn’t care about the Eagles either way, but I explained to Mike that while I like the Vikings, a Minnesota loss would potentially boost Green Bay’s position in the rankings. Then I said, “But really, I just want everyone to do their best.”

That’s when he groaned and walked away.

I’ve made a point to learn more about my team, beyond their weekly stats. For instance, I found out that the Packers are the only publicly-owned team in the NFL, and that Packers players are better behaved off the field than many others. I also read this article by Blythe Terrell on how she landed on the Green Bay Packers as her new team after her hometown St. Louis Rams packed up for Los Angeles. (If you like statistics, you’ll like her article.)

There are no Cheese Hats in my closet, or any other Packers-themed accoutrements in the house. I don’t play fantasy football, and I don’t follow the players, coaches, or management on social media. I’m not a super fan— I don’t think.

Overall, I still think the sport is unnecessarily violent and dangerous to the players. I’m not a fan of how the cheerleaders are treated across the league. I don’t like how the new concussion protocol isn’t always followed, how sports figures are often undeservedly idolized, or how far too many players do serious, life-long injury (and disability) to themselves in pursuit of money and contracts. And there are other complaints about the sport and the NFL as a whole.

But when it’s time for another Packers versus Whoever match up, I’m always ready with a bowl of popcorn and a mug of tea and eager to cheer on my team. Once, when the Packers game was pre-empted on local television, I even ventured out to a bar on my own so I could watch them play. (It was the game versus Dallas earlier this year, and it was ugly; I also had the unenviable seat between two different couples who were arguing, loudly, for several hours. It was not my favorite outing.)

I’ll be watching tomorrow when my Packers take on the Bears. I’ll be watching on Christmas Eve when they play the Vikings, and on New Year’s Day when it’s Green Bay versus the Detroit Lions. If the Packers make it to the playoffs, I’ll support them every step of the way. Because watching the Green Bay Packers reminds me of those few happy, dream-state minutes when I was throwing a football and achieving a goal I’d never actually had. For that short time, I was strong and I was whole and apparently I could do anything.

That’s why I believe in cheese.

Creative Commons photo: Super Bowl Sunday by Phil Roeder.

Posted in thoughts from the spiral.

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