Teams have personality. Between the owner, the coach, the players, and the fans, a team develops certain behaviors. As we approach the official beginning of the NFL season, WingFan would like to welcome you to opening day of the NFL season by walking you through each NFC North team and our assessment of their persona. Let’s take a look at what each team brings to the table:
Team: Green Bay Packers
Persona: Jack Nicholson
You want an answer? You want the truth? The Green Bay Packers are the truth – but “you can’t handle the truth!” The Green Bay Packers are one of the few teams, if not the only team, to have success over a multitude of decades dating back to the 1920’s. Jack Nicholson is one of only two actors to be nominated for Academy Awards in every decade from the 1960’s to the 2000’s. The Packers were founded in 1919, their team name is the oldest team name still in use by the NFL, and their 13 league championships (9 NFL and 4 Super Bowls) are the most in NFL history. Nicholson has amassed 16 major acting awards including 3 Academy Awards, 6 Golden Globes, and a Screen Actors Guild Award. In short, Colonel Nathan R. Jessup of the US Marine Corp isn’t as decorated as this pair of legends.
While Col. Nathan Jessup was looking for A Few Good Men, Vince Lombardi, the legendary head coach of the 1960’s Packers team, actually found a few great men. He led them to five championships in one decade including 3 NFL Championships (’61, ’62, ’65) and the very first two Super Bowls (1966 & 1967) ever. The shiny silver Super Bowl trophy that everyone hoists in the air after they win is actually called “The Lombardi Trophy” in honor of the late great Vince Lombardi. Jack Nicholson does not have a shiny trophy named in his honor, but he does have a pair of Lakers courtside season tickets that might be considered by some to be just as prestigious.
There’s so much about the Packers and Nicholson that can’t be overlooked. The Packers have a “get it done” spirit and great leadership from legends like Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Willie Davis, Ray Nitschke, Brett Farve, Reggie White, and Aaron Rodgers. The city shuts down on game day like the box office shuts down when Nicholson played the Joker in Batman. Packers are actually the only team in American sports that is owned by its fans – it’s a public company with over 100,000 shareholders and managed by a Board of Directors. No person can own more than 200,000 shares which ensures that the team can never be moved from the small city of Green Bay, Wisconsin. In a league where all other teams represent cities whose average population is closer to one million, leaving a team in a city with 104,057 people might sound like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest but in reality, the Green Bay Packers are As Good As It Gets.
Team Name: Chicago Bears
Persona: Sean Connery
Bring out the bagpipes, turn the river green, and grab your finest Scotch. Sean Connery has been polled as the “Greatest Living Scot” and Chicago is a city with a great Scottish history. While the Chicago Bears franchise is older than Sean Connery, their ages aren’t off by much – the Bears were established in 1920 and Connery was born in 1930. Before diving further into the career of Connery and the success of the Chicago Bears, these two were paired together because they were originators in their field and kept their “sexy” through the years. Americans have kind of minimized the idea of winning NFL Championships before the Super Bowl era, but the Chicago Bears won eight titles and then won a Super Bowl title in 1985 – that’s nearly a decade of championship performances.
Sean Connery’s signature role was as one of the first theatrical action heroes – James Bond (007).
Bond was an innovative character whose physical stature was no match for bad guys and whose intellect seemed to get him out of bad situations. The 1940 Chicago Bears innovated the quarterback position by drafting a guy from Columbia University named Sid Luckman. He was athletic enough to cause defenses to overreact and made quick enough decisions to capitalize on the defenses’ mistakes. Bond always kept a new invention up his sleeve for sticky situations, while the Bears invented the “T Formation”, which lined up three running backs in the back field, standing shoulder to shoulder. These inventions were part of the reason 007 and the Chicago Bears became such exciting personas to follow.
In 1985, after the early years were long gone, the Bears invented a brand new dance called the Super Bowl Shuffle. They won the big game and were led by arguably the greatest defense of all-time. That defense was like a League of Extraordinary Gentlemen with so many outstanding players: Richard Dent, William Perry and, of course, Mike Singletary. After the Bond films were long gone for Sean Connery, he went on to lead one of the greatest careers in Hollywood history – The Untouchables, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Medicine Man, Rising Sun, and of course, The Hunt for Red October. The Bears and Connery have aged well. At the ripe age of 69, People Magazine named Connery “Sexiest Man of the Century.” This year, the Bears are considered a sexy pick to make it to the Super Bowl. The question is, will this year be the year they are named “Sexiest team in the NFL.”
Team: Detroit Lions
Persona: Chris Brown
The City of Motown deserves a talented performer and Chris Brown has all the talent in the world, but the reason these two were paired together has more to do with their attitude than their talent. The Lions are a very talented team that run, pass, and catch with some of the best in the league. Detroit is also one of the oldest franchises in the NFL, being founded in 1929, and having won four NFL championships prior to the Super Bowl era (’35, ’52, ’53, ’57). Like many other teams in the NFL, they have never won a Super Bowl and seem desperate for attention just like a young up-and-coming performer. To his credit, Chris Brown did earn himself a Grammy and three AMAs but you’d never know it by the way he carries himself – the Lions kind of act that same way about their league championships.
When you talk about talent, there are only two Detroit players that you need to know: Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson. These two players represent the kind of talent Chris Brown brings to the stage in “Kiss Kiss”, “Look at Me Now”, and “Forever”. Barry Sanders is a retired Hall of Fame running back that redefined “fancy footwork” and became one of the greatest running backs to ever play the game. His ability to change directions was like no other before him. Some years, Barry would carry the team to the playoffs almost singlehandedly just as Chris can almost carry an entire performance with his dancing alone. Chris can also make his voice soar as high as Calvin Johnson leaping for a pass in the end zone. Calvin and Barry are two of the greatest talents the NFL will ever know, and they have both been trapped in Detroit lacking support like Diana Ross with no Supremes, Lionel Ritchie with no Commodores, and Gladys Knight with no Pips.
In the NFL, the team with the worst record in the previous year gets to have the first pick in the next year’s draft and the Lions have had 8 top ten picks (they finished the previous season with one of the ten worst records). The tragedy of having talent is wasting it on top 10 picks like Charles Rodgers, Roy Williams, Mike Williams, and even Andre Ware. What’s worse is that the Lions and Chris Brown just can’t seem to control themselves and stay out of trouble. The Lions are habitually one of the most penalized teams in the NFL and Chris Brown can’t even make it through Good Morning America without letting a chair or two fly through the window. Ndamukong Suh, the second overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft and the Lions’ defensive leader, has been known for drawing penalties for his lack of control: hitting quarterbacks late, kicking players in the privates, and stomping on the heads of his opponents. Most of us have the ability to look past one outburst by a celebrity (even if it’s Rihanna bad) but consistent outbursts of rage make us all wonder who, or what, raised you? Yup, the Lions are just like Chris Brown, they think they are relevant but haven’t really done anything memorable yet.
Team: Minnesota Vikings
Persona: Clint Eastwood
The Vikings are the team most likely to look at their opponent and say, “Go ahead, make my day”. The Vikings of the late 1960s/early 1970s were led by a legendary defensive line called “The Purple People Eaters”. This era was like the spaghetti western days of the NFL except there were fields of “frozen tundra” instead of the wild west ( – tumble weeds and all. Tackling an opponent evolved a lot during this era, where hard hitting defenses treated game day like it was high noon and you were about to see The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.
In those days, the NFL was more beast than beauty and defensive players had nicknames that sounded like Dirty Harry – they were some of the biggest stars. Alan Page, Hall of Fame Defensive End and leader of the People Eaters, became the first defensive player to be voted Most Valuable Player of the Year in league history. It was during this era that the Vikings won an NFL Championship in 1969 (pre-Super Bowl era), while establishing an enduring definition of “tough guy,” and subsequently losing all four of their Super Bowl appearances.
Being a Vikings fan is like having a Million Dollar Baby – heart breaking at times. Currently, the Vikings are cursed with a supremely talented running back named Adrian Peterson. He’s the most popular guy from Minnesota since Prince and the guy is making miracles happen every season. For instance, Peterson tore his ACL in 2011, he then comes back from surgery in 3 months (takes most guys a whole year) and goes on to nearly break the NFL Single Season Rushing Record, ending up with 2097 yards – just 8 yards short of Erik Dickerson’s 2105 yards. Peterson’s been sitting next to an empty chair for 8 seasons wondering if a quarterback will ever fill the seat. This year the Vikings brought in veteran quarterback Matt Cassel to compete with rookie draft pick Teddy Bridgewater for the role of starting quarterback. Maybe one of these two can start directing the offenses as good as Eastwood directs the cameras.