Green Bay Packers fans have shown they’re willing to go the extra mile. But they’ve also shown they take things too far.
Fans of the green and gold have a well-deserved reputation for fanatical fandom. We bare our chests in subzero temperatures at Lambeau Field. We grill bear meat in the parking lot. One of us recently got a tattoo depicting quarterback Aaron Rodgers in a jockstrap. No one can outdo Packers fans as athletic supporters.
Recent news reports indicate fans’ passion is as fervent as ever, but they also illustrate our struggle to use our powers for good instead of evil. Decision-making isn’t always the strong suit of a fan base that mulls not whether to take a second drink, but a second 12-pack.
Sometimes our devotion is heartwarming. Take, for example, this month’s news that, upon learning defensive back Davon House was stranded at the Minneapolis airport, a pair of Packers fans drove him 280 miles to Green Bay. Friends don’t let friends stay stranded in Minnesota.
Sometimes our devotion is frightening. Last week, a Madison man pleaded to battery and disorderly conduct charges for slicing a Minnesota Vikings fan’s inflatable Vikings lawn decoration, then cutting the man’s face in an ensuing scuffle. Any knowledgeable Packers fan knows the Vikings’ play is deflating enough: There’s no need to resort to vandalism.
Let’s return to the guys who made that House call. It was 11 p.m. on a Monday when the defensive back’s plane landed, and he had missed his connecting flight to Green Bay. He took to Twitter to vent about having to get to practice in less than nine hours.
Soon brothers Chad and Mike Johnson, who live in western Wisconsin, answered the call. They tweeted at House that they would drive him to Titletown. After conducting a background check through a mutual friend, House accepted, and off they went on the four-hour-plus ride. It was truly an only-in-Wisconsin story, right up there with that time a guy in Milwaukee unloaded on his lawn mower with a sawed-off shotgun because it wouldn’t start.
Mike Johnson picked up House at the airport and grabbed brother Chad along the way so they could keep each other awake. They brought House a pillow so he could get some rest before practice. It was soft as the Chicago secondary.
The brothers were prepared to drop House off at his car, but he insisted they come to Lambeau for autographs and a tour. It was a rare moment, Packers fans doing something at 3:30 a.m. that they actually remembered the next day.
House also handed the brothers $80 for gas. This free agent acquisition will fit right in here in Wisconsin, where generosity is a hallmark. Just TRY to leave a church potluck without being handed enough leftovers to feed your family for five days.
The brothers turned around and drove home for work that morning, bearing mementos and memories. “It was a bad night for him,” Chad Johnson told ESPN, “but made memories that will last forever for a couple of lifelong Packer fans.”
If only the indelible reminders left by another Packers fan, Jacob Justice of Madison, had been delivered so sweetly. Last fall, enraged by an inflatable Vikings lawn decoration outside the home of a Stoughton man, Justice took a box cutter to the contraption.
Upon hearing noise in his front yard, the Vikings fan caught Justice cutting a hole in the lawn ornament. A confrontation followed, and Justice cut the victim eight times on his face and head. He now faces up to 15 months in jail.
There’s honor in showing passion for one’s team, and in showing a healthy hostility against that team’s rivals. But these incidents show fanaticism is a double-edged blade. It’s laudable to go the distance. It’s lamentable to go off the deep end.