Green Bay Packers

Should Fans Root For A Packers Loss On Sunday?

Photo credit: Wm. Glasheen-USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

There are two kinds of sports fanatics. (Only two, no more!)

The more cynical, calculating devotee wants their team to win, of course, but they’re always thinking of the bigger picture. If a season seems lost, these are the folks rooting against their team in the final weeks, with dreams of the next hot young draft pick coming their way in April. They’ll embrace the tank job, the Suck for Luck, the Scam for Sam. (Maybe not whatever the hell the Miami Dolphins were doing last year, that was just dark.) They’re so obsessive about the team that entire games or even months of football can become abstracted in their fantasies of Super Bowl glory.

Then there are the superfans whose love of the team compels them to cheer for success on every down, regardless of the circumstances. Their devotion is so all-encompassing that they literally cannot comprehend rooting against their beloved. There’s an earnestness to these folks that makes their fandom seem more wholesome, more pure even, almost childlike in the face of the often ruthless business realities of professional sports.

Green Bay Packers enthusiasts are about to find out which type of fan they are, if they didn’t already know, as this Sunday’s divisional showdown finds the Green and Gold at an impossible crossroads. It’s so complicated, it’s more like a confusing five-way intersection with lots of baffling configurations of dotted lines on the road and odd angles that make the street signs and traffic lights confounding in their configuration. It’s an epic collision of past mistakes and future hopes. Hope you’re insured.

Last week’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles sent Packers fans on a rollercoaster ride of emotions. Even as they felt the sickening desperation of the season slipping away, they were warmed by a flicker of hope for the future when their MVP signal-caller went out and his long-awaited understudy turned in a thrilling performance. Jordan Love looked good enough to make Minnesota Vikings fans gag a little on their late-night leftover turkey sandwich, exhibiting a poise on field and throwing dimes to the often-struggling receiving corps, all while a broken-thumbed Aaron Rodgers watched grumpily from the sidelines.

Earlier this week, Rodgers announced that the injury to his torso wasn’t as severe as he feared — he said he initially thought it was a punctured lung — and that he planned to remain the Packers’ starting QB as long as the team was “mathematically” in contention. It was an intriguing comment that both cleared up his probable status for Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears but also revealed his willingness to step aside and let the Green Bay staff get a longer look at their third-year former first-round draft pick.

So, ask yourself, my green-and-gold draped friend: What do you want to happen on Sunday?

The Packers’ potential playoff scenario is dire to the point of preposterous. Even if they run the table, which is highly unlikely, their fate is uncertain. If they lose on Sunday, they’re on the precipice of that mathematical reality Rodgers spoke of. The following week is the bye, which would allow two whole weeks of practice to get Love ready as the regular starter for the home stretch. It would radically simplify a complicated situation.

On the other hand, if a battered Rodgers can hobble onto the field and deliver his usual thrashing to Chicago, the Packers could remain alive, or at least on life support. Break out the spreadsheet, whiteboards, and the red string if you want to figure out the elaborate series of wins and losses around the league that would keep them in contention. But a win would likely provide a winding, incredibly difficult path to the playoffs.

In that case, Rodgers may well decide that the team is still technically in contention and that he wants to use the bye week to rest up and get ready for the Los Angeles Rams on Dec. 19. Even if Rodgers takes a few days off during that timespan to recover, that’s several fewer practice sessions Love gets with the 1s and at least one fewer full game with which to gauge his progress.

The Packers’ bye week potentially falls at the worst possible time. At the beginning of the season, when hopes were high, the late break looked like a mitzvah. Any supporter of a serious contender lusts for that late-November/early December bye week when their squad can get much-needed rest and recuperation headed into the playoffs. It’s a definite advantage.

In retrospect, though, perhaps no team had a more dire need for an early bye week to slow their skid and work out the kinks in their system. Maybe that would have, if not saved the season, at least significantly prolonged it.

But that’s not what happened, and here we are, with Love’s starting some games at the end of this season all but an inevitability. If that’s going to happen, it might as well happen sooner rather than later. And, based on his excellent play last week, a healthy Love might even win more games in December than an ailing Rodgers. Or he could demonstrate significant struggles in a larger sample size, which, from a roster-building perspective, would be great to know.

The best chance to bring clarity to Green Bay’s murky future may come with a loss on Sunday. But hoping for such a clean break means rooting against the Packers, and for the Bears (yuck). It means hoping that Rodgers’ season ends with a grim loss against the team he claims he owns. It even might mean Sunday is Rodgers’ final appearance in a Green Bay jersey — or in the NFL altogether.

Tomorrow never knows, as the song says, but Jordan Love is the future — somebody’s future, anyway. Rodgers’ glory days might not be over, but they certainly won’t be stretching much further into the 2020s. After a devastating season, it’s understandable for fans to want to move on to the next chapter, especially if it’s as exciting as the potential sneak preview from Thanksgiving night. But to get to that point quickly and concisely, to maximize the potential of 2023 — whatever that winds up looking like — might require a dose of humbling calamity on Sunday. Is that something you can stomach, or even embrace?

What type of fan are you?

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Photo credit: Wm. Glasheen-USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

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