Wednesday, January 26, 2011

hype and then some

Football fans are mostly used to the hype that precedes the “next big game.” Some games are bigger than others. Those games toward the end of the regular season schedule, when a team’s playoff hopes hinge on the outcome, are particularly fraught with meaning and carry an extra dose of angst for the team’s fans. This season, especially for Green Bay Packer fans, has had more than its share of anxiety inducing games.

Six weeks ago the Packers were teetering on the brink of elimination from the post season. All they had to do was win their final two games against the Giants and then the Bears to qualify for the playoffs. Those two games started the Great American Hype Machine humming along at full throttle.. When the Packers managed to win those two final regular season games the Hype Machine began cruising along into overdrive and hasn’t slowed down since.

After their playoff wins over the Eagles and Falcons the Packers inspired levels of hype never before encountered as they prepared for the ultimate history making playoff game against archrival division opponent, Da Bears.
The level of emotion leading up to that game was unlike anything ever experienced in Packerland. Armaggedon and Judgement Day pale in comparison. The hypemeisters reached new levels. It seemed impossible for the game to live up to the hype that preceded it. But it did.

Toward the end of the game with the Packers clinging to a tenuous seven point lead, the entire football universe was on its feet, taking short uneven breaths, hyperventilating in anticipation of the Bears possible game tying score. With Sam Shields’ interception to stop the Bears scoring threat and preserving the Packers win, there was a sense that maybe the hype wasn’t even adequate for this particular game. That loud sucking sound everyone heard was the collective intake of breath from all the Packers fans around the world finally able to breath again.

So now the next week and a half is again turned over to the practitioners of hyperbole. But after the past six weeks, Packer nation may have finally become inured to the effects of the Great American Hype Machine. Earning the right to play in the championship game seems to have become more important than the game itself. No matter how much the game is hyped, it couldn’t possibly live up to such expectations. Could it?

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