Packers Versus the Void, Versus me

The void is darkness. Darkness all around.

What?

What happens to a football team when it dies?

The void is darkness. Darkness all around.

OK, this is … too much?

What happens to the fans of a football team when it loses in the playoffs?

The void is darkness. Darkness all around.

Quoth the football fan, “I have no life.”

That may be the case. I don’t know why my years of existence all somehow revolve around this moment. Lord knows the NFL doesn’t deserve ownership over my capital-M Moods, but it’s another year in which my January, my February, my … March, too, and April. May? Perhaps not May, but January through April, and, in retrospect, also August through December, are contingent on the performance of the Packers. Why do I allow my life to revolve around Aaron Rodgers’ … passes? His happiness? No, his self-…? His integrity? Jesus, his integrity.

The void is darkness. Darkness all around.

So every year, you become a husk of yourself for days, weeks, months at a time , all because a game of football didn’t go the way you wanted it. That’s … imbalanced. Isn’t that a pretty clear picture of someone in need of change? Shouldn’t you just re-prioritize? I mean, you have a family, right?

I … I’m not here to write about my family. I’m here to write about the Green Bay Packers.

The void is darkness. Darkness all around.

What happens to a football team when it dies? The players and coaches and staff members of that team go back to their lives. They all have things to do. So do you.

Really, I was looking to avoid this. I went into this year in a bit of a nihilistic state in regards to my Packers fandom. I believe this was the right move. Sometimes you meet someone in life who’s an asshole, but you find out that something absolutely awful happened to them and you understand, so much so that you agree with their decision to be an asshole as a means of protecting themselves against future harm. That was me this year regarding the Packers. Opening week, watching a mediocre Saints team absolutely clobber this supposed Super Bowl contender, who was so full of itself after blowing as privileged a set of circumstances as a team can ask for this time of year, I laughed. A lot. I cackled. Villainously. I wanted to watch the Packers get hurt. Even while unable to feel any emotion other than schadenfreude toward the Packers in their opening week loss, I had zero questions as to whether I loved the team. In fact, my debasement actually served to validate that I did love them. It made perfect sense: I loved the Packers. So I wanted to watch them suffer.

The void is darkness. Darkness all around.

So, you pretended to feel OK with them losing, even though you really wanted them to win, because you wanted to seem as though they couldn’t hurt you anymore?

Yes, we always say that: “They can’t hurt us anymore!” Yes, yes they can.

The void is —

Hold on. You wanted to pretend you didn’t like the team anymore?

I don’t know if it was that. I wanted the team to know I could live without them if they weren’t willing to do things for me.

Win games?

Yes.

You believe the team wins games for you?

In my heart? Yes. If I’m wrong, don’t tell me.

The void is darkness. Darkness all around.

So, after a whole year of saying the Packers had to “come to you,” where do you stand? Did they make it up to you?

Yes.

How?

By doing the same thing they did last year.

And?

And the year before that.

So you’re back on the bandwagon, just like that, just one regular season and you’re ready to be broken in two again?

I thought it was going to be a really long time.

Well?

The void is darkness. Darkness all around.

What’s with this void shit?

The void is the opportunity cost of being a football fan. Like, what you could do instead. It grows larger every week. You deposit three more hours into watching the team, plus podcasting, plus obsessing over Twitter, plus it being like the only thing you can talk about with your dad without it devolving into a conversation centered around general regrets and mistakes. It grows larger every year. The stuff in your home with a ovular white and green G on it accumulates, you become this walking advertisement for a company who employs an NFL football team. You stop going to church for a third of the year. You spend 1/7th of your life devoted to watching grown men tussle after a ball.

I don’t do that. You do that.

You are me.

I’m clearly different. See? I lean. Denoting difference.

And yet.

The void is darkness. Darkness all around.

Were you trying to make a point here? Or were you —

Yes, I absolutely am making a point. I’m saying it’s —

It feels like you’re just complaining that you’ve chosen to hang your emotional wellbeing on something over which you have no control.

…Yes.

So this truth, which is good to get out, don’t get me wrong, but this truth presents a problem with an obvious solution. You see the solution, right?

…Yes.

The void is darkness. Darkness all around.

We get it, by the way, you don’t need to keep repeating it.

It has to repeat. Endlessly.

The void is darkness. Darkness all around.

I believe it’s a waste of time. I believe you’re wasting your time.

Anyways, it seems like this could be the year for the Packers.

The void is darkness. Darkness all around.

And if it’s not the year for the Packers? If they lose again?

The void is darkness. Darkness all around.

The void is darkness. Darkness all around.

The void is darkness. Darkness all around.

See, you’re beginning to understand.

I’m mocking you.

There’s something here that we’re not mentioning, and I’m going to offer this up. Who the hell are you and what’s great about you?

The void is —

I’m involved. Alertly involved. I care about issues that move people. I don’t sit and watch other people do things and call that “me doing something.” I go outside. I read books. I write letters to friends. I —

You’re full of shit!

The v —

You’re so full of shit. You don’t do any of that stuff. Or whatever of it you do, I do too. I like all that stuff. I get things out of that stuff.

Nice sentence.

Don’t change the subject. You read books, why? If you process emotions through reading books, and I process emotions through watching sports avidly, what’s the difference?

Books are about life. Games are about scoring points and working out more.

You clearly don’t appreciate the nuance here. Listen: The Packers are the a cultural beacon for me. They give me a sense of place. They make me feel connected to something. I feel privileged to be a Packer fan. Do you hear that? The team I root for in football is so good, that I feel like I am advantaged in life because I root for them instead of other teams. If I like the Packers so much that it affects how I feel, how is that not about life? You can say as much as you want about the net effect of sports on the world, the competitive culture emblematic of the vicious capitalism of America, and the ignorance of human rights crises in our own country in favor of extra hours of sportsball content, but the fact is when the Packers take the field and January and do well, I feel things. It’s the same emotion that overtakes you toward the end of a good book, you start buzzing and feel like you understand life more deeply. So if I can get that, that trumps the feeling I would get from you endorsing the thing I engage with to get that feeling.

The void is darkness. D —

I feel the void, too! Do you feel the void when you read books? Do you feel the void when you donate to a charity or volunteer at an afterschool program?

I do, sometimes. But I don’t really do afterschool programs.

What do you do? You just read books?

I have a family. I —

The void is darkness. Darkness all around.

Look, perhaps I misspoke. I’m not saying that I am great at life because I don’t care about the Packers. I’m saying: Couldn’t you be greater at life if you didn’t?

I don’t know! Maybe! Maybe not! When I watch Packer games, when I engage with Packer stuff, I meet people, I go places, I connect with family. All that stuff’s valid. That stuff has greatness in it.

The void is darkness. Darkness all around.

Well, what about the void?

The void’s there too. I think that’s important. The void needs to be there.

Why would the void need to be there?

…!?

The void needs to be there because there needs to be balance. Without the void, the emptiness that surrounds sports fandom, the knowledge that if the Packers won the Super Bowl there would still be problems in the world, and if they don’t there will still be problems but now you’ll also be depressed, that your connection with your family hinges on the performance of this football team, it provides a flipside to all the cheering.

And that’s a good thing?

The void is darkness. Darkness all around.

The void consumes that team. That’s what happens when a team dies. Like, it goes into something big and dark and becomes a part of that big darkness.

Why is there darkness?

The void is darkness. Darkness all around.

The darkness is there so that we recognize the light. With that, I’d like to tell you something: I bought tickets to the NFC Championship Game.

Whaaaaaat????

Yeah.

Congratulations. That’s cool. Who you going with?

My brothers.

And dad?

No. He’s afraid he’ll catch Covid and die if he goes.

Oh.

How’d you get your wife to get on board with that?

Well, she was really upset.

Oh.

Yeah, I guess the timing’s not great, with her being 35 weeks pregnant.

Yeah. It’s not.

But she let you go?

She didn’t want to be the reason I didn’t go.

Wow, she must really love you.

The void is darkness. Darkness all around.

I’m nervous.

That’s the void.

That’s the void.

It’s like, right there.

The void is darkness. Darkness all around.

I’m excited. It’s my fourth game ever, my first since 2016, and the most significant football game I’ll ever go to. I won’t ever be able to afford a Super Bowl ticket. So this is it.

What happens if they lose in the Divisional Round to the San Francisco 49ers?

The tickets are refundable, the AirBnB is partially refundable and the plane tickets are, well, I haven’t checked yet.

And you’ll be…

…really sad, yeah.

The void is darkness. Darkness all around.

At least there’s the void.

At least?

Yeah, it’s a certain thing. Even if you win there’s the void.

No, the void goes away if you win.

Oh, does it?

Yeah, it sublimates and lifts and everything feels wonderful.

Until…

Yeah, until you realize there’s going to be a new void.

The void is darkness. Darkness all around.

So this feeling of emptiness that surrounds the facade of euphoria that accompanies being a football fan, it’s cyclical?

Life. Death. Rebirth.

The void is darkness. Darkness all around.

And you’re so bought in, you are spending $1,000 on a trip just to catch a beat of it firsthand?

Guess so.

Hey, where’d the void go?

It’s waiting for me there.

What do you mean?

The void can’t touch me right now because I’m going to face it later. It’s like if you owe money to the hospital you can make an appointment to talk about payment so they won’t call you. Then you just call to reschedule the appointment and you can go on like that for a few months.

Only in this case, the void might call you and make you reschedule. Like, if the Packers lose.

I keep forgetting about that. That could happen.

The void is darkness.

But I don’t think it will.

Darkness all around.

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