Look, I’m not a great person.
I get a kick out of watching marriage-proposal rejection videos on YouTube. I deeply dislike the sound of children singing. A couple years ago I won a national comedy roast battle contest for saying meaner things than anyone else in the country. Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop once actually called me a son of a bitch — to my face.
Normally I wouldn’t suggest taking moral cues from me. But, this time around, trust me: Don’t feel bad for reveling in the misery of the Green Bay Packers.
All the major world religions preach the virtues of transcending anger, turning the other cheek, and doing unto others as yada yada yada. Let me remind you, though, that all those books were written before Aaron Rodgers was alive. If the Buddha had to suffer through The Pat McAfee Show trending on Twitter every Tuesday because No. 12 has decided that Jurassic Park is a documentary, Siddhattha Gotama may have added some caveats to the sutras.
Minnesota Vikings fans have had to suffer through an interminable three decades of back-to-back MVP, Hall of Fame, and Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks across the river. And it wasn’t like Minnesota was getting housed by respectable pros like Steve Young and John Elway in green and gold. No, the Packers were led by a dong-flashing (alleged) welfare scammer followed by his successor, Good Luck Chuck’s paranoid cousin.
Vikings fans can try to soothe themselves with talk about Green Bay only winning a couple Super Bowls and enough NFC North title banners to start a color guard squad. But, let’s be honest, that’s still kind of a lot. Meanwhile, the Vikings spent a decent portion of that time feeling pretty miserable. One among the handful of highlight seasons even involved dancing with the Crocs-wearing devil himself. But there has been so much frustration along the way, so many what-ifs and near-misses. The Gary Anderson and Christian Ponder and Blair Walsh of it all.
Finally, this season, it all seemed to be trending in the right direction. The Vikes were flying high while the Packers dragged their battered carcass over the rocky ground. During the Week 13 game against the Chicago Bears, they were about five plays away from fully melting down like a plate of cheese curds left in the microwave too long. And that was just the appetizer to be followed by a promising telenovela of the Aaron Rodgers/Jordan Love Saga.
Then came not just that maddening Green Bay hot streak, but a perfect configuration of wins and losses across the NFC that brought them from a desperate 3% chance of making the playoffs to only needing to stay even with the Detroit Lions for two more quarters to nab an improbable wild card spot. And after the beatdown they laid on the Vikings in Week 17, just about anyone with a current Minnesota state ID could tell you that if the teams did eventually meet again in the playoffs there could only be one outcome, because God has possibly forsaken us all.
And then they lost. Aaron Rodgers threw one measly touchdown along with an interception, and they lost to the Detroit Lions, who were fueled entirely by spite by kickoff time. Not only did they lose, they lost in the kind of deflating, missed-it-by-that-much fashion that the Vikings so often fall victim to.
Sadness is dropping to 4-9 and spending the last couple months of the season kicking the tires on the young first-round QB. But dancing through the raindrops en route to a storybook finish only to miss the playoffs by one possession? That’s heartbreak.
But, as Nicole Kidman points out in that weird AMC Theaters promo video, “Somehow, heartbreak feels good in a place like this.” Bask in the sadness, Purple People. Warm yourselves by the fevered glow of a million sweaty brows dripping pure Spotted Cow. Take a moment to enjoy it. And don’t let anybody tell you that your rival losing isn’t (almost) as good as your team winning, because it is.
Besides, you can have both. And, for at least one more week, you do. It’s awesome. The Packers lost in the way the Vikings have so often fallen, and the Vikings are cruising into the playoffs with the kind of sweet record Packers fans so often take for granted.
It could scarcely happen to a more deserving bunch, starting with their melodramatic know-it-all of a quarterback, whose smugness continues to rapidly expand like a colorless but definitely not odorless gas. Rodgers really was outdone this week by Quay Walker, though, who shoved an athletic trainer tending to an injured player — six days after another athletic trainer saved Damar Hamlin’s life. Even Ndamukong Suh probably thought that was uncalled for. Somewhere, Mike Tyson spit out the piece of ear he was chewing.
I guess at least Walker is consistent? He got ejected in Week 8 for shoving a member of the sideline staff. Against the Buffalo Bills, as it happens.
Let’s not forget also that Packer fans are the Nepo Babies of the NFL, born on the opponent’s five-yard line but convinced the refs screwed them out of the other four and a half. They cheer for an organization that won two Super Bowls in three decades and then named their facility Titletown when, let’s face it, Titletown is whatever bachelor mansion Tom Brady is living in right now.
Don’t lose yourself to negativity. Feel good for K.J. Osborn, who had another great day late in the season. Practice forgiveness with Dalvin Cook, who has reverted to his old, fumbly ways of late. Embrace patience with kicker Greg Joseph, who missed yet another extra point on Sunday. (Don’t do this to us, Greg.) And be joyous for the Buffalo Bills, a truly terrific football team that is rallying around — and being rallied by — their amazingly resilient teammate Damar Hamlin, whose recovery has reminded the whole football-viewing world what’s really important.
But the sweetest desserts have a little salt in them. A dash of sourness makes perfume smell more alluring. A little schaudenfraude is the spice of life. And don’t think there would be one bit of mercy if Run The Table 2.0 was still in effect. So let your winter-dark heart delight.
The great Mel Brooks, whose outlook has helped keep him alive for 100 years, once said, “Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die.”
Well, the Packers just went splash.