Packers: The pain of unrequited fandom
March, 16, 2013
By Kevin Seifert | ESPN.com
Here is a recipe for extraordinary discontent: Take another offseason of relative inactivity, add another high-profile departure to a division rival, and top it off with the loss of a popular backup tight end. Voila!
So goes the concoction currently being ingested by many Green Bay Packers fans, who appeared as upset Saturday morning as I've seen them since a certain Hall of Fame quarterback jumped into a black Escalade four years ago. Quite frankly, some of the anger is irrational and based on divisional rivalries that are not nearly as sharp for players as they are for fans. But we've been talking it through on Twitter all morning, and I thought I would share some of the more thoughtful and representative takes.
@JohnLooper is angry at "the team for not making the team better this offseason." @upnorthjohn tweeted: "I think Packers fans want team to do 'something'. SJax, Canty, Jennings and Crabtree were not that 'something' so fans r mad." @achitko added: "Fans are mad at Jennings. If word comes out that Packers offer was close, that will only increase the level of hatred."
There was an ESPNMilwaukee.com report that suggested the Packers offered Jennings a contract that averaged $10 million per year, but many of you have missed the timetable of that report: The offer came last summer or fall. It's hard to believe that offer was on the table this week, but it's a big reason why some fans are having a hard time accepting his decision.
As we discussed Friday, it made perfect sense for the Vikings to sign Jennings and for the Packers to let him go. Jennings' decision was far more complicated and will take years to assess.
As for tight end Tom Crabtree, who agreed to terms Friday night with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers: I understand he was popular and community-minded, that he made several memorable plays last season, and that the Packers could have retained him with a minimal salary-cap hit. But I would encourage some bigger-picture thinking here. Transition at the backup tight end position is pretty normal in the NFL.
Overall, this episode is a reminder of the pitfalls of unrequited fandom. And yes, that's the word I meant to use. Many football fans offer unquestioning loyalty and love to their teams, and then feel hurt when business decisions redirect an equal return.
That's why I was glad our Twitter discussion revealed plenty of fair-thinking people who remain fans as well. @DannyKrueger1 tweeted: "Look, some #Packers fans take this too seriously. Some want to treat the NFL as something other than a money making machine." Added @k80478: "Not mad at anyone. As a packer fan I didn't think he was worth the $. Packers were 13-3 without him. Too many injuries."
It's rare when a player as prominent as Jennings leaps to a division rival in the middle of his career. The news will naturally spark emotions, and as the NFC North blogger I'll occasionally flame them for the sake of lively discussion. Now, however, it's time for a cooling off period. See you in Phoenix.