The most painful thing about playing against a dominant team is that you are helpless. They just do what they want and you can’t stop them. Not too many years ago, St. Louis used to just ram it down our throats, and everybody’s throats, and there was nothing we could do. I hated it!
Do you remember those games? Do you remember wondering why we couldn’t stop Marshall Faulk? Do you remember when Isaac Bruce and that other gazelle they had would just own our defensive backs? And of course our own Adam Timmerman had to go and defect to the Rams, and suddenly he was protecting Kurt Warner, who was already more dangerous than a cat in a canary cage. And they used to start marching down the field, a little running, a little passing, one first down, and then another. And then another. We used to sit and chew what was left of our nails hoping that somebody on defense had an answer. But nobody did.
And that is part of what the pain was all about. Nobody in Green Bay had any answers for the Rams. The Rams, with their Greatest Show on Turf, came in and did what the Rams wanted to do. We all just had to sit back and take it.
Well, guess what? This isn’t 1999 anymore. And not only has the Greatest Show on Turf left the arena, but Green Bay has acquired a few answers since then. In fact, barring uncharacteristic play, it will be the Packers who will be asking the questions on Sunday, no longer the Rams.
It’s kind of like a guy I grew up with. His name was Mike H. He was kind of tall but pretty shy. Some guys picked on him a bit. He didn’t have the means to fight back. The last time I saw him was at a high school baseball game. Then I heard he went into the Marines.
Some years passed. And then one day, maybe in the mid-1980’s, I saw a picture of President Reagan. But it wasn’t King Ronald who caught my eye; it was the guy standing in front of the President, the guy who was guarding the President.
My jaw hit my chest. For there, standing in immaculate Marine blues, staring a hole through the very air in front of him, and with a scowl you would hide your children from, was Marine Captain Mike H! He was a giant. He looked like he belonged on Mt. Rushmore. No sane human being would ever want to threaten him or tick this Marine off.
I was partly in disbelief. The rest of me was amazed, I was in complete awe. The guy who suffered others’ sticking gum stuck in his hair, who was kicked around a little, here he was all grown up, standing tall and proud, and was guarding the President of the United States.
Now I’m no genius, but I would think that they do not let just anybody actually guard the President, do they? I am not sure of the qualifications to be able to do that, but at 6’6″ and plenty of beef over 250 lbs., it was apparent that Mike had come a long way from the school yard back home. I felt proud to know him. I felt good for his family and for how proud Mike’s assignment to Marines’ Presidential Escort duty must make them feel. I also doubted that some of the hometown fellas would be putting any more gum in Mike’s hair.
And this coming Sunday, I think the Packers can stand tall in St. Louis against the Rams as well. Yes, there was a day when the Pack did not have the ability to defend itself. Yes, the Rams indeed picked on us a little. But those days are no more. Our perpetual agony at the hands of the Rams is over, for now.
And I am proud of our Packers for how they’ve come together, how they are doing, and for what kind of a team they have become. This late in the season there is less disbelief, and more simple amazement. I am also happy for the Packer family, for I know how proud the Packer’s success has made us all.
Now I am not saying the Rams cannot beat us on Sunday — they are still in the NFL and have our respect. But I do like some of the answers that Green Bay has come up with that keeps many others from dictating terms and conditions to us on the football field. We are solid where we need to be solid. We are poised. We are unafraid of a fight.
And I think when we go to St. Louis that the Rams will be keeping their gum in their pockets.