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Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2011

Ad Nauseum? You Ain't Read Nothing Yet

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Even the die-hardest Packer fans might be tempted this week to cry, "No mas!" For the first time in 13 years Wisconsin is helping produce the media deluge leading up to the Super Bowl: the brain-numbing dissections of what might happen on the field; the inspiring tales of players and coaches who worked so hard and overcame so much; the delightful yarns as fans compete to show that they're the absolute nuttiest of all; the frenzied TV reports—“The team is getting on the plane to Dallas!... getting off the plane in Dallas!... checking into the hotel in Dallas!"

Sure, it's exciting. But two weeks of it seems a bit much for an event, huge as it is, that won't take a penny off the national debt or make the world safer. Still, as bona fide sports bloviators, the Observers feel obligated to add a shovelful to the hype heap. But with a little twist...


Artie
: No one's a bigger Packer backer than moi, but cripes, I can only imagine everyone's pretty tired of all the back-stories. We're all victims of the Super Bowl zeitgeist. But there's one thing folks haven't gotten.

Frank
: You've found a way we can ad-nauseate uniquely?

Artie
: Yup, by describing our road to Super Bowl blathering.

Frank
: Um, we really don't have a football history, other than the usual flag and touch games through our school days. Of course, no one who played in the Marquette intramural league in 1968 and ’69 could forget my exploits at defensive back—including the 60-ish-yard interception return that gave our team from Schroeder Hall a victory. Really, it happened!

Artie
: I'm thinking more of the hardships we had to endure. For instance, I remember being a young pup in high school and having to forgo the school lunch a couple of times a week so I'd have enough money to buy cigarettes from the upperclassmen.

Frank
: Which stunted your growth and kept you out of high school football.

Artie
: But I had my moments on the field too—including one where I got robbed by a "zebra." In the YMCA league in, like, sixth grade I went on some kind of run and dived for the end zone, and the ball landed right on the goal line. But the ruling was no touchdown!

Frank
: They didn't even go to the replay booth?

Artie
: The game was simpler then. The ball was where it was. But no, I was denied a six!

Frank
: A legitimate swivel-hips, Crazylegs Hirsch six.

Artie
: More like Joe Marconi, but still... I had my own athletic injustice to overcome.

Frank
: Not to mention the injustice that neither of us had the talent to go past the Little League, CYO, YMCA, rec-league level in any sport. But I do have something in common with today's NFLers. I think I've had two concussions, though neither came from football.

Artie
: Falling off a bar stool at the Avalanche on Wells Street, ain'a?

Frank
: Well, they both happened in college. The first was in a pickup softball game when I was catching and a guy was trying to beat a throw home. This was about a year after Pete Rose blasted Ray Fosse in the All-Star Game...

Artie
: So this guy wanted to show he was a badass like Charlie Hustle...

Frank
: And sent me flying about 15 feet. I've gotta think my brain was sloshed around pretty good. The other time was an intramural basketball game in the fabled "Old Gym." I go for a rebound and this guy swings his elbow and bam! It caught me right at the moustache line; didn't knock out any teeth, but damaged the front ones enough that 25 years later I had to get caps.

Artie
: But the ’stache survived just fine.

Frank
: In another officiating travesty, the referee—who was a pal of mine, Bob Ginsberg—called a double foul!

Artie
: What, blocking by your face?

Frank
: I hardly knew where I was, but I had to keep playing because we only had five guys on our team. And then we lost in overtime. It wasn't until we got to the ’Lanche that I started being coherent—and I stayed on the stool.

Artie
: That's what the Avalanche was there for: rehab.

Frank
: Gins, wherever you are, thanks a lot.

Artie
: I remember going to a Little League game on my bike, coming down a hill where they'd just put fresh gravel, and I totally wiped out. Flew off the bike and scraped the hell out of both my hands. But I played, even though I could hardly hold the bat.

Frank
: I got graveled once, too, in a touch football game on our Long Island street. I was chasing a kid who was running for the tree that marked the goal line. I stretched as far as I could, managed to brush his back—and the damned loose gravel sent me skidding about 20 feet. But like you, I toughed it out.

Artie
: We made Jay Cutler look like... Jay Cutler. But how about another kind of suffering—the trials and tribulations I went through as a Packer fan during the Ice Age that soon followed the Ice Bowl. From 1968 to, say, 1993 it was the wilderness of some really bad football, dependably bad!

Frank
: The Giants had 20-plus years between Y.A. Tittle and their first Super Bowl, but my adolescent zeal wore down—until the revenge game at Lambeau in ’08. And remember, the Yankees had World Series exiles from 1965-’75 and 1982-’95.

Artie
: Can't compare to the Ice Age. I still shudder and want to get in a fetal position when I hear "Jerry Tagge" or "David Whitehurst."

For What It's Worth

Frank: All right, let's add our voices to the "maybe this, maybe that" din about the actual game. But first, full disclosure: I got eight of the 12 playoff teams right and you had seven. I brilliantly saw the Vikings missing the playoffs, but thought Dallas would make ’em. You had the Vikes in the playoffs and Dallas out...

Artie
: And why? Have I mentioned that TONY ROMO IS NOT A GOOD QUARTERBACK?

Frank
: As for the Super Bowl, I struck out with Falcons vs. Chargers. You did better, with the Packers...

Artie
: Which means I have the winner!

Frank
: And the Ravens, who are, after all, the Steelers in purple. And you're only a year from perfection because in the 2009 season you said it would be Packers-Steelers.

Artie
: I'm on a roll, sort of.

Frank
: So I leave the specific prognosticating to you.

Artie
: The Pack's offense dropped off in the second half against the Bears, but as far as I can remember it hasn't had two of those sputtering games in a row. The team has yet to be down by more than seven points in a game.

Frank
: In the whole season?

Artie
: Including the playoffs, 19 games' worth. And all six losses were by three or four points. So you've gotta figure the Super Bowl will be close. If there was a semi-blowout it would have to be for the Packers because Pittsburgh doesn't have that kind of explosive offense.

Frank
: Close games have been the rule for the last decade, except for Tampa Bay over Oakland and Baltimore over the Giants.

Artie
: Dom Capers says that in games with evenly matched teams, they come down to three or four plays. If they go your way, you win. And if they don't, you don't.

Frank
: I'd say if Aaron Rodgers escapes the pass rush the way he can and Ben Roethlisberger doesn't, Packers win. And vice versa. So, what's your final score?

Artie
: Packers 31, Steelers 28. The real America's Team wins in the home of the pretend America's Team. And let's hope it's not Al Qaeda 43,732, now that we don't have that color chart to show the nut-bag terrorists we're on the lookout.

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