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Packerena Is Still in the Groove

January 19, 1998|MIKE DOWNEY

SAN DIEGO — And now, a few words about Green Bay, Wis., the 210th-largest city in America, toilet-paper capital of the world, my kind of town.

Ola, and welcome to San Diego to each and every cabeza de queso!*

(* Cheesehead.)

Yesterday, I made my case for Denver winning a Super Bowl. I did this because Denver's only pro sports championship of consequence was won by hockey's Colorado Avalanche, which made me feel so sad for all the tiny Colorado tots who have to dream that when they grow up, they will be great, big Avalanches.

Today, I offer equal time to Green Bay, city that never sleeps, king of the hill, top of the heap.

Green Bay is a nice place to live, though I wouldn't want to visit there. Even so, if you ever find yourself driving from Sheboygan on your way to Sturgeon Bay, be sure to stop by. Don't listen to John McKay, the old USC and Tampa Bay coach, who once said, "If there was a contest and there were 97 prizes, the 98th would be a trip to Green Bay." He wasn't serious.

And besides, 99th prize would be Tampa.

I have never been to heaven, but I've been to upper Wisconsin. I love it there and would love to live there (nine months out of 12). Ride a ferry to Ludington, Mich., or ride a bicycle around Washington Island or ride the gigantic knockwurst ride over at the SausageWorld theme park. (OK, so I made that one up.)

When I was a kid, Green Bay had 98% of the NFL's toughest football players. I am serious. Let's see, Chicago had Butkus, and Detroit had Karras and, yep, that's it. Green Bay had the rest.

In real life, the Packers probably were pussycats, but they sure did play mean. I always felt if you sent out 11 men to play the Packers, only nine or 10 would come back. Y.A. Tittle once went on a big-game hunting expedition in New Guinea. When he got home, the New York Giant quarterback said of facing wild animals, "I had more fear looking across the line of scrimmage and seeing Ray Nitschke inches from my nose."

Nitschke was the kind of guy who could make Dick Butkus and Alex Karras seem as cute as Beanie Babies. Asked about the way he played, the Packer linebacker said, "When I tackled somebody, I tried to make sure that when he got up and walked away, he'd remember he met Ray Nitschke. And I don't mean socially."

I saw a photograph of the 1966 Green Bay Packers on the dust jacket of Dick Schaap's great book last summer, "Green Bay Replay." I was surprised to see how many Packers had smiles on their faces. Man, I wonder what a photographer would say to somebody from Green Bay to make him smile for the camera.

Schaap, the ABC-TV newsman and ESPN "Sports Reporters" referee, I mean host, has written, let's see, 9,997 books, leaving him three shy of the magic 10,000 mark. One of his best was "Instant Replay," co-written with Jerry Kramer (not to be confused with Cosmo Seinfeld), the man who threw the famous block for Bart Starr that cleared out four linemen, three linebackers, two guys carrying the first-down chains and a cheerleader who fell right on her frozen tundra.

"Green Bay Replay" is great. Buy it. Put it out Sunday on your table, with the chips and dips.

In it, you'll learn:

I. Marv Fleming, first man to play in five Super Bowls, watched Super Bowl XXXI at a friend's in Bel Air, wearing a cheesehead.

II. Fuzzy Thurston, former tough Packer, came to the game, heard Luther Vandross sing the national anthem and started to cry.

III. Green Bay sold 650,000 locker-room championship caps.

IV. Reggie White is so popular, on Super Bowl morning, the marquee outside the First United Church of Christ read: "For God so loved the Packers, He sent Reggie."

V. When the devout Don Beebe and devil-may-care Jim McMahon were first introduced to their teammates, Sean Jones said, "It's the Christian and the anti-Christ!"

VI. Green Bay sold 125,000 season highlight videos.

VII. The lyrics to the "Packerena" song were:

"Brett, Brooks, Edgar and a Reg-gie . . .

"Jackson and Chmura and Holmgren and a Jacke . . .

"Jones and a LeRoy and a Newsome and a Dorsey . . .

"Hey! Packerena!"

VIII. The Wisconsin Vault & Casket Co., of Janesville, advertised: "Limited Edition--Green and Gold Casket."

IX. The population of Green Bay is approximately 100,000. The total African-American population is 453.

X. Bonita Favre, mother of Brett, celebrated Super Bowl Sunday at a bar in New Orleans. When the bartender asked for her order, she said, "Sex on a Beach."

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