I’ll Regret This, Probably.

Lara Regan Kleinschmidt
5 min readOct 29, 2021

--

The Packers & my stupid, stupid hopefulness.

Last season a terrible thing happened, and then — very shortly thereafter — a wonderful thing happened, to me anyway. The Packers lost their 700th NFC Championship game, I cried about it in my room for two days, and then I wrote about it here on Medium and a lot of nice Packers fans from all corners of the globe got in touch to tell me that what I had written meant something to them, and so I stopped crying because how could I possibly cry in light of that togetherness. Terrible thing. Wonderful thing. Football, family, love, loss, repeat. (And then, of course, more terrible things: a hellish off season, speculation, scandal, bullshit, media churn, fair-weather fans, private plane stalking. The list goes on. You remember.)

I ended that piece saying that I will never, ever, learn. That despite crushing loss after crushing loss, I will let each season wash over me with a renewed sense of bravado and hope, and that — until my dying day, and against my better judgement — I will meet each version of the Packers with the same sense of dizzying, frenzied, manic enthusiasm and hopefulness that I always have.

But then, I didn’t.

Battered from the NFCC and the brutal will-they, wont-they nonsense of the offseason, I entered the 2021 season with a more relaxed point of view; let’s just enjoy the ride, I thought to myself, because it’s almost over. I’ve always thought it was a joy and privilege to watch Aaron Rodgers play the game, and so — for me — this season was not about winning it all, but rather about enjoying the MVP until the last drop. Lightening doesn’t strike twice but it sure as hell doesn’t strike three times. I thought about the fact that for my entire 30 years on this blue marble, all I’ve ever known is 4 & 12, and that instead of being greedy and wanting it all, I should relax into my luxurious position of football fandom, quit my complaining, loosen my obsessive grip on victory, and enjoy my Sundays.

You’ll have to forgive the colloquialism but…lmao, nice try, Lara.

Because here we are — 9 months after the devastating loss and 8 weeks into the season — on a Friday afternoon after what was, in my humble opinion, the greatest win of the LaFleur era, and one of the most delightful, thrilling, satisfying games I’ve ever watched. The Packers, on the road and badly injured and COVID-stricken, beat the last undefeated team in the league in a gritty, beautiful, scrappy Thursday night game. And just like that, WHAM, there it is again, that stupid, stupid hopefulness I was hoping to avoid.

But let’s zoom out.

My obsession with football has always leaned away from the technical and leaned into the esoteric. Yes, stats, yes, schemes, yes, injuries, yes yes yes, blah blah blah. I know, I know, and I care about all of that too because it matters and it’s how the game is played and we’d all just be interpretive dancing with pigskins without it — fine. But when Aaron Rodger’s said, “How could you not be romantic about football, man?” I stood up straight. I understood that instinctively; that ballgames are so often decided in these magical little moments, where a million tiny things have to happen in such a specific order so as to get the ball from one pair of hands to another. That if anything in that chain of events is out of step, it doesn’t happen. And so, when it does…wow. To think of it that way, it’s hard to watch the Packers play and not think to yourself, “This is a miracle.”

What I am trying to say here, what I am trying to bottle up and distill into words — actually, what I have always been trying to bottle up and distill into words — is that great teams need “this” and “that,” yes, but they also need something that can’t be practiced or manufactured. Great teams need magic. Please don’t ask me to define that magic, because I’ve tried and failed, but surely if you are reading this, you know what I mean.

How that magic is generated is another story all together. I think about this a lot, and the best guess I can come up with is that it is some sort of goldilocks combination of momentum, grit, luck, and hunger. The point is that you know it when you see it, it’s clear as day. And the really amazing thing about the magic is that when it materializes, it is felt by absolutely everyone paying attention. It becomes a visceral experience of spirit that extends beyond the team itself, seeping into the fandom, and then — and then! — sustained, in large part, because it keeps transferring back and forth between the two. It happened last night. How marvelous.

The Rasul Douglas game winning interception? Obviously magic. That Randall Cobb — who held onto his house in Green Bay for 18 months after getting traded in the hopes of coming home — got to haul in two TD’s from 12? Poetic magic. That Mercedes Lewis catch? I don’t care that he stepped out of bounds because all-caps-MAGIC. This Davante Adams tweet? Sorry, I don’t make the rules, and that is also magic.

My family has a group chat about the Packers. Every year it has a different name. This year it’s “Packers Chat: Winter Is Coming.” It reflects the position that most of us took back in September, the position to just enjoy the ride. That soon, very soon, too soon, it will probably all be over. And while my father and brothers debated about the defense winning this game, the offense abandoning the run at the goal line, whether or not there were time management issues, the lack of time outs…I chimed in, as I always do, to offer a more emotional point of view: I’m going to say it — and I’m going to regret it — but I’m going to say it: we have the magic this season. An important ingredient…

Why would I regret it? Well, of course, because having the magic means the big loss — should it come — is even more devastating. It means that the narrative is coming together and you’ve read five chapters ahead and you know exactly how it SHOULD end, but of course so many of the other times you’ve had the magic it didn’t end that way at all. And so the magic is maddening; it’s exhilarating, it breathes life into the fandom, and it also means that the amnesia of previous seasons has officially taken hold and that you believe that this year…this year….well, this could be the year. Despite my resistance, I really will never, ever, learn.

At the end of the day, that kind of rabid hopefulness is a miracle in and of itself. That we go through this every year, blindly and with abandon is such a specific kind of sweetness. How could you not be romantic about football, is right. And truly how silly of me to think that for one single solitary second, I was capable of resisting that romanticism. Go Pack Go.

--

--