November 20, 2011: Almost Perfect Sports   Leave a comment

November 22, 2011

Symbolism of Perfection (and almost Perfection.)

Part 2: Sports

Contrary to the rhetoric, the 1972 Miami Dolphins are not the only team to go through an NFL season undefeated. The 1929 Green Bay Packers were undefeated. They were, however, tied in one game leaving them with a 12-0-1 record. [full disclosure: I’m a lifelong Packers fan.] This season of Green Bay’s perfection—at this writing they are 10-0-0—moves on to Detroit on Thanksgiving Day, and will be a true test of their potential for perfection.

I like the Packers, I like their story, and I like their history. I don’t bleed Green and Gold, I don’t have an Aaron Rodgers (or Brett Favre) bobblehead doll in my house or in my car, I don’t wear a Packers jersey on gameday, and I don’t crave to have a cheese hat to wear at any time.  But I appreciate the talent that has built the historic team in a variety of ways: as owners, coaches, managers, and players. The NFL Hall Of Fame includes 21 Packers: Earl L. (Curly) Lambeau, Robert (Cal) Hubbard, Don Hutson, Johnny (Blood) McNally, Clarke Hinkle, Mike Michalske, Arnie Herber, Vince Lombardi, Tony Canadeo, Jim Taylor, Forrest Gregg, Bart Starr, Ray Nitschke, Herb Adderley, Willie Davis, Paul Hornung, Willie Wood, Henry Jordan, James Lofton, and Reggie White; plus another 5 players who spent a limited amount of time with the team: Len Ford, Ted Hendricks, Walt Kiesling, Jan Stenerud and Emlen Tunnell. And soon to be added is Favre, and at some point names like Woodson, Driver, and others.

I was fortunate to be a teenager during the Lombardi era, so I witnessed—on TV or in person—Lombardi, Taylor, Gregg, Starr, Nitschke, Adderley, Davis, Hornung, Wood, Jordan, and in the post-Lombardi years, Lofton, and White, and so many more who did not make the Hall of Fame.

I bring all of this up because last Sunday afternoon, November 20, the Packers beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a game that should not have been quite as close as it was. But the win continued Green Bay’s status as the only unbeaten team in the NFL, with a record of 10-0. And tomorrow they’ll be in Detroit to play the Lions in the annual Thanksgiving Day game. This contest will be the best test of Green Bay’s ability to go untied and undefeated in 2011. The Lions always seem to surprise the Packers on their home turf. And this year, they’ve proven that they have the talent to challenge Green Bay on the field, head-to-head, mano a mano, a fact not in evidence during the Matt Millen “era” of Detroit incompetence. So I’ll be rooting for the Packers, but have no illusion that they’ll end the day undefeated in a rollover.

And I can’t close this out without mentioning the San Francisco Forty-Niners. They started the season with a win, lost to Dallas in week two, and have won eight straight games since then. To paraphrase the late great Phil Ochs, There but for Dallas, goes perfection. The odds are that Green Bay and San Francisco will both make the playoffs, and maybe even meet each other during the post season. Whether Green Bay is still perfect going into that game or not, it’s been fun to watch two franchises who’ve overcome transitions in players and coaching, and are sitting atop their respective divisions with perfect and almost perfect records. A high spot in a week with plenty of less than high spots.

Addendum: The Packers beat the Lions in Detroit 27-15. Their record is now 11-0-0. San Francisco lost to Baltimore 16-6, and are now 9-2-0.

David Steffen


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© David Steffen 2011


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