Sunday, December 18, 2011

Hey Credit Card Companies-->F*ck You.

The American dream, according to Wikipedia, is defined as:
 A national ethos of the
United States in which freedom includes the promise of prosperity and success….life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.

That is a beautifully written, outdated fallacy. The new American dream (or perhaps the real American Dream) looks a little bit more like this: It is every Americans civic and economic duty to spend as much as they can today to ensure the future prosperity of America.  This new ideal is the not the creation of the consumer but rather a debt perpetuating instrument called the credit card. 
Credit card companies present themselves as enablers of this dream.  They position themselves as selfless philanthropists by granting American citizens the opportunity described in the latter half of the Wikipedia definition—a chance at “a better, richer, fuller life” (minus the need for ability or achievement).  Strip away the fluff of the phrase and it is easy to see the underlying truth: “Spend today….pay for it for the rest of your life.”    
Credit cards have ushered in a generation of people that buy into these debt-enslaving instruments and the culprit is not the consumer, but rather the entity. These instruments have not only wronged a generation of people (myself included) but also the very dream they claim to be aiming for—the future prosperity of America.            
 I showed up on my college campus as a savvy 18 year old.  I thought I was a lot smarter than I was, but as it turns out, I was more naive and obtuse than most.  During the first week of school, I found a coupon in my dormitory mailbox for free pizza at a local restaurant. Within a week of college, my body was already craving the dietary staples of pizza and beer—so the mere mention of “free” lured me in.  At the entrance there was a slick man shaking hands while handing out clipboards and pens. The man was of course a credit card tycoon.   Behind him, there was a mountain of “free“ pizza.  He told me that if I filled out a short personal information survey, I was free to indulge.
Personal information surveys are the equivalent to offering a woman a backrub during the seduction process.  It’s a seemingly harmless excuse to get close to another person without stating intent.  Sensing my skepticism, he told me that there was no obligation to sign up for a card, as he stressed the importance of building credit and earning rewards.  Eager to eat, I scribbled my contact information on the form and the man thanked me with great delight. I engaged in flirtatious foreplay with the debt devil.
What happened next was a rollercoaster ride of blurred euphoria and a subsequent mixture of regret and shame.  It all happened so fast. When my pre-approved application for a Discover Card came in the mail a week later, I filled it out and started charging everything—all in the name of building credit. Suddenly, I found myself 1,500 dollars in debt.  My incompetent spending earned me a Discover Card fleece blanket, and four 8 oz. vacuum-sealed skirt steaks—in 6 years. Under the influence of pizza aroma, and the promise of financial freedom, I became the victim of a heinous credit assault.
I am fully aware of my stupidity but some of the blame should be put on other pivotal enablers.  Why did the university allow the credit card company to solicit our business with direct mail?  Why did the owner of the pizza joint endorse the man pushing credit cards on 18 year-olds?
The reality is that credit companies are malicious when it comes to targeting young people.  They lure naïve individuals who define adult independence as purchasing their own groceries and wiping their own asses, with complimentary gifts. The practice is flawless from a revenue standpoint because a person, who is stupid enough to trade their personal information in exchange for pizza, is likely to indulge in frivolous spending habits.  Unfortunately, “good business” can be guised under unethical false advertising. 
What is there to actually discover at  That I’ve been pre-approved for a high interest rate credit card that has a 5,000 dollar limit?  Finally, a company that understands my innate desire to mortgage my future so that I can start living the way I want today!.....because as a Black LT Discover card holder, “anything is possible.”
            Credit card companies are legal loan sharks that compete for business with clever product names and tag lines in attempt to empower a consumer’s sense of freedom and identity. Companies that sell easily abused products should be required to use generic names like “Credit Card Company 1” and “Debt Device 2”.
For instance, look at the prescription drug industry.  Drugs are named with basic scientific titles that evoke little to no emotion from users.  To most, the terms Ritalin and Adderall mean absolutely nothing, but their function is widely understood.  If a doctor offered his patient a choice between the two, they would likely be indifferent.  However, imagine that Adderall renamed its product “Magic” and the patient was approached with same scenario.  Magic would be the drug of choice a 100 times over because the name is more appealing.
            Discover’s product differentiation model is equivalent to the above hypothetical scenario. Isn’t it ironic that a domain that suggests exploration and wonderment belongs to a credit card company? The Discover domain should be reassigned to a company that actually makes sense. (I suggest be granted the domain)  
             The last cigarette advertisement aired during the Johnny Carson show in 1971.  Since then, the FCC has outlawed the glamorization of cigarette usage on television.  Likewise, companies that sell alcohol are not allowed to display people drinking their products.  Companies that sell inherently detrimental products are not allowed to romanticize what it is like to be a user.  Credit card companies, on the other hand, are allowed to depict people climbing mountains, flying first class, and eating cuts of steer only available in the remote annals of Africa.  The underlying theme of these commercials is obvious: with card X anything is possible—or as Discover eloquently puts it: It Pays To Discover.
            Companies like Visa and Discover are able to plaster their names all over the country’s biggest events because they have loads of money.  The irony is that they make their profits from consumers that are the exact opposite of their commercials.  If people were able to pay their balances on a timely basis, then the credit card industry could not afford to advertise.  Instead, they fictionalize the lifestyles of card members and reap the benefits of people who default on their debts trying to live out these fantasies in reality.
Furthermore, increasingly austere tobacco regulations are making it unattractive to continue to smoke.  In the near future, congress will pass a bill requiring cigarette packs to depict the inevitable results of usage—so mangled babies, black lungs, and rotten teeth will be on packs of Marlboro Lights soon.  Credit card companies should be held to these same standards.
Credit card companies offer consumers the opportunity to customize the image on their cards.  They do this by collaborating with a local sports team or by allowing users to put a picture of their Great Aunt Nan on the card.  This practice plays into the American consumer’s obsession with customizing a ubiquitous product with their uniqueness.  In the process, a device that promotes frivolous spending is assigned to the consumer’s fanship or family.  The ill intent of the device is guised under these customizations. 
 Instead, cards should depict the likely result of usage—a man sitting on a park bench, dressed to the 9’s with his shoulders shrugged, pockets turned inside out, and a look of despair and confusion in his eyes. The picture should be watermarked so that in bold 16 point font a warning can be issued that says: WARNING: YOUR CREDIT SCORE DETERMINES YOUR ABILITY TO SECURE A JOB, A MORTAGE, AND YOUR OVERALL WORTH AS A HUMAN BEING! SPEND WISELY!
Sadly, the barometer for a person’s competence in modern society is based on their ability to borrow and buy goods and the masses need to constantly be reminded of this.  Just like we are constantly reminded that cigarettes are bad for our health with anti-smoking campaigns, TRUTH ADS, and lawsuits. 
As Credit card companies continue to incentivize acquiring cards with customization packages and free airlines miles, they are in turn creating habitual errant spenders.  Awareness is crucial, and the above suggestions, though hyperbolic, are steps in the right direction.  
            Look, I understand that not everyone is in credit card debt and those who are foresighted and fiscally responsible will never be victimized by Credit Card companies. However, American culture, down to its very core, is built on consumerism--the need for the newest, brightest, and most expensive product of the season.  Day after day, we are bombarded with advertisements that remind us of our inadequacies and media hubs telling us that the only way to avoid the next great depression is to SPEND NOW. 
            With unemployment and wealth disparity at an all-time high, where are people suppose to get the money to, well, be American? Credit Card companies feed on these ideals by exploiting consumers who cannot stop indulging their every whim. 
Employ a recovering alcoholic at a nightclub and eventually he will be back on the sauce; offer high-interest short term loans to people who are born to consume and eventually they will be in debt for life.  Debt instruments only hinder the possibility of prosperity and success described in the old American Dream.   The new American Dream casts a grave shadow on American citizens, but at least someone was nice enough to give them a chance to Discover.™

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Cigarettes and Iphones: Which has more utility in the modern world?

With the analog apocalypse and yearning for a simpler time aside, I am still reluctant to purchase an IPHONE.  Until my recent epiphany my biggest gripe was the price.  AT&T offers an unlimited text, calling, and the smallest data package for 75 dollars month—who has that kind of money?  Then it hit me, I spend that sum (roughly) on cigarettes every month.  If only I could just burry my addiction to tobacco I could easily become an IPhone owner.
           Now I know it may not be proper literary form to assume what the reader is thinking, but I’ll assume most of you are screaming “EASIEST FUCKING DECISION EVER, put down the cancer sticks” as you are reading this.  But what I am suggesting to you is that my concerns run much deeper than just the price—it’s actually my skepticism about giving up one for the other. So it has come to this: before I assume the role of an IPHONE owner I must fully hash out what I will be gaining by the purchase and what I will be giving up.

Stylistic Liquidity
          Much like a woman recovering from a self-esteem boosting boob-job right at the peak of ovulation (leading to an unexpected pregnancy), the decision to purchase an IPhone is going to take some precise timing, planning, and a little bit of luck. Monumental purchases always have unintended consequences if the timing is off.   The problem with purchasing technology is that the marketplace reinvents itself too quickly.  If I wait for the price of the IPhone to drop, I will be stuck with an old model.  If I purchase the phone too soon I will spend a ton of money and deal with a bunch of preliminary software bugs.   
If I purchase an IPhone I am going to be locked into that purchase and the brand identity that is associated with it. The opportunity to develop a unique identity amongst a sea of other IPhone owners is difficult because it is expensive to do so.  The only way I could distinguish myself is by purchasing an array of accessories.  If I start to think like this, I know I am in trouble:

“Maybe I’ll go with the green case today, or perhaps the red one.  Screw it the fourth of July is coming up, where is my red-white-and-blue case? The one with strategically placed rhinestones in the shape of stars that captures the very essence of my patriotism.
Ask any pubescent child who has ever tried to ease the social aggravation of wearing braces by periodically customizing their teeth caps to reflect the current holiday or their artistic angst.  The verdict?  You can’t accessorize something that is socially repulsive into being acceptable.
            It’s much easier to alter my cigarette smoking habits to reflect my current feeling.  Camel lights are my baseline brand but my purchases alter depending on my mood.  If I am feeling especially frugal, I’ll roll my own.  If I am feeling cash saturated, I will throw down for some Parliaments. Because cigs are so cheap (relative to the IPhone) and quickly consumed, I am able to adapt my brand to fit my current need. (ADVANTAGE CIG)

Social Worth
I’ve been smoking cigs for about 14 months so I feel like I am able to speak on the behalf of habitual smokers. Yes cigs are expensive and yes they are bad for your health but let me remind you that they used to be a perfectly acceptable social norm.  I use cigarettes for a variety of things but I think it’s most valuable use is to connect with other people and also myself--in reality.
In today’s social world, we have become progressively numb to letting our guard down in the physical because of the Internet and its omnipresence. When I see someone smoking a cigarette outside of a public place, I feel an instant connection with them because they are openly advertising something about them self that I can easily identify with.  My hope is that the conversation progresses beyond just talking about cigs or the weather but our shared interest is the catalyst to that opportunity.  IPhones on the other hand prevent this type of connection because users are always buried in asocial world that exists somewhere beyond the immediate present.  I fear that by replacing cigs with an IPhone I will lose many opportunities to spark organic conversation.
             Cigs also provide an escape from awkward social situations.  Whenever I find myself in a place where I lack confidence or there is a great amount of tension, I am able to step outside and collect my thoughts with a cig. If I tried to step outside and collect my thoughts for five minutes without a cigarette people would think I was nuts.  The same concept applies to public places with lots of people—if I were to just stand around without appearing busy, people would instantly discount my social worth.  A cigarette puts me at ease.
The IPhone could solve much of what I just described of course because anytime I may be feeling frightened, alone, or awkward, I could just bury my attention into the digital abyss of entertainment that my phone provides.  The difference is that I will not be reevaluating my situation and looking within myself for answers but rather leaning on the social comfort of my phone.  An IPhone is a means of extro-spection and a cigarette is a means of introspection. (ADVANTAGE CIG) 
Ability to consume:
The utility of a cigarette has been marginalized by legislation preventing smoking indoors.  This is probably for the betterment of everyone, but it limits where and to what frequency I can smoke.  The hurdles to consumption provide me with a feeling of delayed gratification which only makes the cigarette that much sweeter.  There is nothing better than a smoke after a long hard day at work.     
As an IPhone owner possessing the power of 3G and a fully charged battery, I could theoretically consume whenever possible.  Indoors, outdoors, in a car—Hell I could even surf the Internet hands free during sex thanks to SIRI technology. (ADVANTAGE IPHONE) 
Social Taboo
I used to look down on people with smartphones because they always seem pre-occupied with validating what they are doing in terms of what the rest of their social-sphere is not doing (thank-you Facebook status updates) but the presence of smartphones is so wide spread now that it is completely acceptable to do so.  I often find myself referencing someone’s twitter update or Facebook status during a real conversation and the moment passes without criticism.  We live in a digital world and being perpetually attached to the digital dimension is completely normal.
Cigarettes, on the other hand, have regressed in terms of social acceptability.  They stink. They kill. They are completely taboo.  Whenever I meet a new group of people or hang out with someone for the first time I Fra-breeze the hell out of my car and I try not to smoke in front of them in order to avoid judgment. Being a closet smoker is becoming progressively difficult and time consuming.  At my parents’ house I migrate towards deciduous shrubbery when disposing of my butts in order to avoid the criticism they will offer up when the leaves fall of the trees.  
In the middle of writing this paragraph, I stepped out for a cigarette in front of a coffee shop and a man driving a gas guzzling Chevy 4x4 slowed his truck in the middle of the street just to yell “SMOOOOKER!” at me, as if I had just exhaled a vile toxin into his precious air. (ADVANTAGE IPHONE)
Perception from Law Enforcement
I’m obsessed with petty crime or at least getting away with frivolous acts.  Some of my favorite past times include jay-walking, stealing range balls, and texting while driving.  There is a fine line between someone who is texting and driving and simply changing a song on their IPhone.  
As an IPhone owner I would relish the opportunity to trick law enforcement of the latter.  I imagine that if I were to be pulled over by an officer I could simply hold up my IPhone and say “sorry sir, there must be a misunderstanding, you see I am an IPhone owner and I was simply trying to shuffle my playlist. “
The officer’s look of disgust would quickly turn to envy at the misunderstanding. At that point I would toggle over to my apps page and show him my police radar application to service his ego. “I’m a big fan of your work sir, some people listen to the radio, but I enjoy listening to police calls.  He’ll laugh and ask me what I pay monthly for the phone while simultaneously motioning that he would like to give the interface a try.  I will direct him to the shotgun application and let him aim it at cars passing by and we’ll have a big chuckle.  The life of an IPhone owner must be sweet. 
            Recently I’ve been hand rolling my cigarettes (to save money) so to the eyes of a skeptic they may appear to look like joints filled with schedule 1 narcotics.  Although I am sure I could convince the same officer that his “reasonable cause” for pulling me over was just a big misunderstanding, I can’t imagine the post-pullover-chit-chat would be nearly as inviting.  (ADVANTAGE IPHONE) 
           Transitioning from once vice to another is always tricky because I am forced to make a decision that compromises my immediate identity, paving the way for my future being.  But sometimes I just know when a change is needed, and I need a change.
            Cigs, or the IPhone?  I think my analysis has led me to the inevitable decision of becoming an IPhone owner.  The IPhone may cause my social skills to regress 15 years but in the end, I suppose that is better than losing 15 years of my life to cigarettes. 
             We had a good run “Cigarettes” but being able to showcase a flush Angry Birds scorecard, complete with 3 stars at each level has become just as much as a conversation starter as you ever were.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Outdated Technologies I yearn For (AA part 2)

Look, I am just going to say it--I want an IPHONE.  I have a pressing fear that I am going to be left behind by a digital generation.   I am only 23 years old and I still have time left to adapt. I consistently find myself making the follow three arguments about technologies that I yearn for that make me sound like a prehistoric punk destined to be left behind on judgment day.

1) Downloading media from Napster:  I miss the Napster logo with the weird alien wearing headphones. I miss cursing at my dial-up connection as a bootleg .mp3 version of Puff Daddy’s Bad Boys 4 Life downloaded for countless hours.    I even miss the imminent threat of being stuck with nothing but static at the end of a long download, or ending up with an edited version of a rap song because some wise-ass up-loader named it incorrectly--but the delayed gratification made for emotions of frustration and satisfaction.  Pandora,Spotify-Bit torrents--its all a bunch of madness in my mind. 

                Before Youtube swept the nation some 10 years later, Napster was the only place to download user videos (i.e. porn, human folly, cat bloopers).  Now its easy to stream video and watch montage “still photos” to see if the video is even worth watching.  Again, back in the day all there was to go on was the brief description of the video.    
2) T9 texting is like a virtual editor: For all you trash talkers who criticize the limitations of T9, I think of it as a virtual editor of every text that I send.  It forces me to spell words correctly, discourages profanity, and eliminates acronyms from taking the place of whole sentences.  But most importantly, it makes me think about what I am sending rather than just releasing a half-witted comment.
Countless times I have grabbed my phone and tried to T9 the sequence 78779 to patronize a friend.  My phone returns “puppy”.  In that moment I am faced with two options—either use a different word, or go through the intellectually numbing process of “adding” my intended word to my T9databank. 
T9 polices my ignorance and encourages my literacy.  
3) The innocence of AOL Instant Messenger: I have a theory that by simply wearing a pair of sunglasses people can escape himself or herself and drop a certain level of inhibition.  The shades create a new perspective and an altered reality.  A reality in which they do not have to own up to what they say with direct eye contact. 
The same is true of mascots.  I once spent a week dressed as a human sized Dalmatian slanging fireworks and freedom on the side of a highway to draw in customers.  Wearing a “costume” is freeing because it creates a level of anonymity that is not otherwise achievable.   Suddenly my identity was no longer open for immediate ridicule because “I” was not the one doing the hand-jive with two American flags in my hand—it was the Dalmatian.  When the week was over I was able to re-enter reality with ease.  My screen name on AOL AIM was like being a mascot with ran-bay aviators glued to my nose.

As an awkward overweight 12 year old, I did not have the capacity or the confidence to present myself in an appealing way but AIM kind of changed all that.  It allowed me to “customize” my appearance in a way that could not be done in reality.  I would run home everyday after school so that I could “sign on” and starting trolling the digital airwaves for an infinite amount of social possibility.   Under the guise of my screen name Carousel 182 182 I talked to girls with ferocious whit, collected and compared buddy lists like trading cards, and obsessed over finding the perfect song lyric that personified the preteen plight to use as my “away message” (the original status update). 

As a 12-year old, a typical Friday involved having a couple of friends sleepover and going on AIM to drum up some entertainment.  Our objective was animalistic and simply--to get girls to say provocative things.  If there were not anyone online worth talking to, we would create a new screen name and impersonate someone else.  Yes, in today’s hypersensitive world we were committing a combination of identity theft and cyber bullying but I’ll rationalize it by saying AIM was innocent.  We were innocent.   We were simply experimenting with the Internet and how it affected our identities.  We had no idea what we were getting into. 

It is hard to remember but the Internet and AIM were still a huge novelty 10 years ago.  The Internet supplemented our lives but it was not our lives.  What is unique about AIM is the clarifying adjective “screen” in screen name.  Screen acknowledges what was said and done under that digital persona was almost “surreal” or on a stage.  An identifiable reality still existed in absence of the Internet, but now Facebook has taken it to an extreme.  The line between a “real” identity and a “digital” identity are now blurred.

My Facebook screen name is my NAME whereas AIM was just my favorite band.  What was said on AIM was contrived and phony but we knew it because “Matt Baumann” was not saying these things, Carosouel 182 182 was.  Today, the way we present ourselves on Facebook is approached with less suspicion and its almost considered fact because social connectivity has lost its anonymity.  Everything that is said and done on the digital airwaves is categorized and chronicled under our names.  In a way, we have all become firework-selling- Dalmatian-mascots, except we cannot take the head off to re-enter reality anymore because a new reality has been created.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Analog Apocalypse (Part 1)

Steve Jobs is to Jesus as Bono is to Peter.  Keep it moving Bono, in the name of love.

The analog apocalypse is here. I keep having this dream where Steve Jobs is actually this millenniums Jesus Christ figure. In the dream Jobs pulls out his IPhone from heaven and sends out a video text only to Iphone owners. He tells them that a new world is in order and those who believe in the devices that he has created have been chosen to represent the future of the human race. His demands of the masses are simple, "loot all the modern digital devices you can and meet me in Times Square". 
Over the next six hours IPhone owners begin to pillage the earth until it is washed clean of all modern digital devices and then begin to storm the city of New York. The crowd becomes progressively dense as the Iphone owners wait for Jobs with great anticipation. 
"Look! It’s Him," shouts a pompous IPhone owner as the crowd looks up to the sky to see Jobs in the flesh.
Add caption
 Jobs descends from the sky wearing his finest black silk turtleneck, designer jeans, and a pair of heaven-white Adidas all-stars. His body is kept afloat by a hovering, gold plated IPad that stores a list of names of those who will be joining him in the new world. Without hesitation and in a near simultaneous fashion, the Apple brand identifiers utilize the "Flashlight" app on their phones to illuminate the darkened sky as Jobs cuts through the horizon on his golden Ipad before landing on the mound of digital devices. 
Jobs delivers a brief manifesto about his vision for a new world that is based on social connectivity, pure entertainment, and the future of technology. He states that his efforts have gone unnoticed on earth by those who have ignored his digital movement. At this point he sets a blaze to the mountain of digital devices he has perched himself on and turns his golden IPad into a fleet of IPad hovercrafts. He announces, "MacHeads--the digital rapture is here and you have been saved. Join me in the new world". With Jobs leading the way the crowd members jump on their newly issued hovercrafts that are powered by the heat of the souls trapped inside the analog hell on earth and ascend back into the sky. 
Me and the other people left behind are forced to live in a world free of apple products and the digital infrastructure that Jobs created during his life. The analog reality is bleak. Our reality is reduced to buying music from the Microsoft Zune market place (Joan Osbourne's "what if god was one of us becomes the number 1 song in the country in matter of days) , printing out map quest directions, and trolling AOL instant messenger looking for social get togethers--literally hell on earth. 
Then I wake up from my dream soaked in a pool of manic sweat. I turn over and look at my Samsung flip phone (circa 2005) and feel a sharp pain of emptiness. Then the tag line from the popular Iphone advertisement, that stars no actual people but just the device itself, begins to play in my head. "If you don't have an IPhone...then, well, you don't have an IPhone".

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Why do you want this job?

Why do you want this job?”
Well Chuck, do you mind if I speak candidly, about exactly why I am sitting here before you?  By now, you probably have a good sense of my ostensible persona. Up until this point I have pandered my answers to your liken, but I feel I need to be completely honest when answering this question.  If you really want to understand me as a person, and the pain that is associated with the dichotomy of thought I am feeling then I hope you embrace what I am about to describe to you.  Know that that this is my last attempt at abstraction.  This is merely an effort to describe who I was, what I want to be, and how that will benefit your company. 
When I was in grade school there was this awesome substitute teacher named Mr. Quill.  He was a wide-eyed, jubilant man with an insatiable desire to have fun and make kids laugh.  He was as much a novelty as his quirky last name suggested.  Out of the entire, substitute-teacher-pool the students prayed to get Mr. Q.  Like all substitutes, he never required us to do any real work but he always leveled with us in a way that we respected him for.  He usually led off class with a goofy joke, followed by a brief attempt at doing the “assigned” busy work before he would just say ‘screw it, push your desks aside, we’re playing a game”.  
 Mr. Q was somewhat of a celebrity in the local performing arts scene.  He was a staple member on the prominent improve team in town called Comedy Sports.  He always incorporated a level of goofiness from the stage into his teaching persona.  As an 8-year old I hoped to one day have the same type of energy and enthusiasm for living that Mr. Q had as a middle-aged man. 
 As I aged, Mr. Quill continued to substitute teach in my classes a couple times per year.  Around my Junior year of high school I noticed a sharp change in his demeanor.  His tone became more desperate, his pitch more monotone; it was like he had lost his will to entertain, to create, and essentially to live.  Soon he became a shadow of himself, exhibiting little enthusiasm while he hid behind his computer for most of the period and forced us to do the type of busy work he once despised.  Students resisted this change.  Every class had a few who couldn’t help but point out to Quill that he was no longer who we thought he was. 
“Hey aren’t you a comedian, tell us a joke funny guy” is what they would say to him in a condescending voice. 
                Quill would just shake his head, sink his shoulders, and disappear deeper into the abyss of his once vibrant mind.  He would sit behind his computer while he sporadically typed in a manic fashion.  I assume he was working on a novel that he had ambitions of finishing before waking up on the wrong side of 25.  The weight between his waist and sternum constantly reminding him of an adulthood filled with overconsumption.  His aging face and smokers cough were evidence of a lifetime riddled with unchecked impulses for “living in the moment”.             
It was not until I started searching for jobs in the business world and thus having to deal with the reality of adulthood, that I understood what happened to Mr. Q.  He was dealing with the realization of being creatively exhausted and irrelevant. 
I can take one of two paths as I transition into adulthood.  I can either be a speculator/distributor of someone else’s value or I can be a creator of my own value.  However, there is a third option, which is a combination of both roles. This is the most dangerous path because the two ideas are so conflicting in and of themselves.  This is exactly what Mr. Q attempted to do.
He was using the guaranteed income of a substitute-teaching gig to supplement his creative aspirations.  He probably figured he would do the teaching thing while he tried to launch his writing/acting/comedy career.  Slowly he realized that he was never going to make it.  He was never going to make a living in a creative capacity.  Yet, everyone at his rational career (students and peers) already had this expectation of him to constantly be creative and funny.  In a way, we were all rooting for him to reach his creative potential but it never happened.  Can you imagine what it must be like to be expected to play that role all the time? Can you imagine trying to earn a paycheck based on your personality and ability to make someone laugh?  This must be the loneliest place a human being can be.  A human life trapped inside a character-- typecast for eternity. 
So, what does any of this have to do with me being here?  If life operated in a vacuum, there would be no reason to be afraid of anything. No risk too dodgy. No desire too selfish. No deprecating thoughts that could inhibit and destroy the mind.  In this vacuum accomplishment is limitless and creative thought is infinite.  However, I do not operate in a vacuum. I live in the real world.  A world that is dictated by dollars and cents, haves and have-nots, successes and failures.  And the barometer for success is always money.         
When I went to college 5 years ago, I thought a business degree was the next logical step.  A proverbial security blanket in case I didn’t achieve wild creative success or start a retail phenomenon equivalent to silly-bands.  But that turned out to be an ideal fantasy.  A myth buried inside my head.  For 23 years I have lived my life with a complete sense of wonderment, and curiosity.  I have woken up in foreign places, said things I shouldn’t have, used and abused substances/friendships/relationships all in the name of “finding myself”. I have taken a lot of risks in effort to find my creative self but it's easy to be idealistic and socially rogue when I don't have any adult responsibilities like paying bills.  I need to let go of my childish ways and start living with some foresight because the future scares the shit out of me.  My youth and my careless approach to life have been catalysts for creative output and I feel that as soon as I commit to an "adult" life, the rigid domains of reality will limit my ability to find joy the way I once did....but its something I have to do.     
Have you ever loved something and then slowly watched it slip away because of factors you felt you had no control over?  I’m talking about a pain where the lingering sense of loss presents itself in subtle, yet myriad ways.  It’s the feeling you get when you brush your teeth in the morning and see your youth fading away in the mirror day after day. It’s the look of terror in my parents eyes as they watch the news and begin to realize that the “American Standard of Living” that they once thought was infinite, is actually eroding.  The best parallel I can think of is the thought of treading water in the middle of the Atlantic ocean—delaying the inevitable.
I know that I cannot commit my life to working in a creative capacity while the jaws of reality nip at my heels and because of this, I am here to take the brunt of the pain now, rather than deal with a lifetime of depression due to a lack in myself.  I want to avoid what Mr. Q went through at all cost.
As I see it this job provides structure, vertical promotion opportunities, and most importantly a consistent paycheck.   I need to be “Jared the Insurance Salesman” from 9-5 and Jared the human being after hours.  This separation is key for my peace of mind.  Someone with creative aspirations is never off the clock.  Their workday is not finite because as an “artist” their job becomes all encompassing.  It must be impossible to approach ANY situation--social or even in solitude, without thinking about how they must produce something.  Eventually their minds eat them alive. I am here to plug-in and bury my idealistic vision of myself for my own safety and well-being.  I am leaving that part of me in the past and opting into a life of certainty. 
However, this does not mean I am completely done making irrational decisions.  Someday I may use my savings that is earning minimal interest in a CD to buy a boat.  I may assume the role of a boat owner.  I will wear retro fitted caps and measure my relative bravado against other men in terms of horsepower and hyperbolic fish stories.  I might even play the lottery on a weekly basis and internally romanticize about the things I might do if money were no longer a problem.  But this is a different type of irrational behavior in terms of my worth to you as an asset to this company.    My temporary lapses in frugality will only further insure my dependency on the paycheck that this job will provide me. 
The dark truth is that I am a coward. I do not have the balls to commit to a life of uncertainty and make an attempt at creating value.  But I know that my commitment to working here is not selfish--it is actually the most selfless thing I can do.  People say that “surviving” is just a euphemism for slowly dying, but people who are “living” are simply selfishly desiring.  This type of creed works for some people and I have the utmost respect for them, but I am too cowardly to make that commitment.  My dream is to give my son a chance to pickup where I am going to leave off.  I hope that I can provide him with a life of consistency and stability that will allow him to grow into what I could not be.  To give him the bravery and encouragement necessary to find success in making the “unknown” work for him.  
By the time I was 12 I realized my athletic limitations were going to prevent me from ever playing in the NFL and some 12 years later I am realizing that I will never be a creator of my own value.  I don’t think there is a better counter weight to that realization than being a salesman who insures someone else’s value. I am here not because I want to be, but because I have to be; and in that desperation, you will find an employee that is so unequivocally dedicated and addicted to the idea of stability and the importance of success that I will make the best “Yes”-man-employee this side of the Mississippi. 

….Soo what do you think Chuck….am I fit to sell insurance?

Friday, September 9, 2011

The quest for Packer Pie: To divinity and beyond.

If Walt Disney and Jesus decided to purchase a NFL team and subsequently design and shape a city, they couldn’t have done much better than Green Bay.  Disney would obviously assume the roles of civil planner, brand manager, and merchandising expert.  Jesus would be in charge of developing the creeds of citizens to worship and idolize the organization and its players.  The truth is that the city of Green Bay and the Packers organization are one synonymous brand.   Green Bay’s commerce, culture, and most importantly its national relevancy are derived from the success of the Packers.  Without the organization, Green Bay would be less relevant than Gary Indiana.  The team is able to survive in such a small town because of the fans undying appreciation for their packers.  Football is not a hobby--it is a way of life. Packer fans in Green bay are like little kids at the Epcot Center in Disney World.  Kids (fans) wander around the confines of the park (Green Bay city limits) knowing that the Disney mascot cast is somewhere in the park.  They hope to catch Mickey Mouse signing autographs while waiting in line for Space Mountain (seeing Aaron Rodgers at the hottest club in town), but they get a sufficient level of satisfaction from catching a glimpse of Donald Duck exiting the men’s room (seeing Atari Bigby devour a basket of wings and bottomless margaritas at a Chili’s franchise).  I’ve been apart of this surreal theme park for nearly 23 years.  I worship.  I idolize. I am a Packer’s groupie.    
I grew up in the most unique football franchise city, during its return to glory. I became a Packer fan as soon as I was able to identify with the nationalistic colors of green and gold.  I don’t know exactly when I became aware of the Packers omnipresence in Green Bay, but it probably did not begin until sometime after I left my hometown for college. It was not until then that I realized just how ingrained the Packer fanship is in this town. 

          For three years, I went to Vincent T. Lombardi Middle School and earned a valuable education in a building dedicated to the greatest Packer coach of all time.  For years, I drove down the streets of Packerland and Lombardi to work at a local grocery store. En route, I would pass the stadium and homemade shrines located in residential backyards that lined the stadium’s perimeter.  The makeshift monuments included papermâché Lombardi trophies the size of full grown adults, Packer “G” spotlights, and what was famously known as “Steve's Fence.”  Steve was a hardworking resident of Green Bay who gained stardom in the local community by painting his fence directly across from Lambeau every summer
with a slogan or team motto.  When I drove by this week it said "In McCarthy We Trust," which is all too telling of the way the Packers are viewed in my hometown.

The divine presence of the Packers in Green Bay is not only evident with the homemade shrines, street names, and schools named in honor of the organization, but even in actual places of worship.  I distinctly recall my pastor wearing a green and gold robe every Packer Sunday.  He always commenced his sermons with a Packer related pun and asked the almighty to bless the team.  For instance, he once said, "Lord please allow the Packer’s defense to contain and bury (Barry) Sanders.” While he was preaching, he would simultaneously mimic Gilbert Brown’s signature "grave digger" post-tackle celebration.  My pastor may have been the biggest fan in all of Green Bay--yet I doubt he ever had the opportunity to attend a game or even enjoy a tailgate (the ministry is no place for any football fan).  He would hold a Sunday service knowing that the Packers were playing merely 2 blocks away from the chapel.
Being confined in a packed pew with anxious Packer fans while listening to meaningless scripture is the closest I’d like to come purgatory and I am sure my pastor felt the same way.
             It wasn't until he instituted a bit of "clever worshipping” that he was actually able to attend a game.  When the packers started to prosper in the mid- 90's he realized that Sunday worship service attendance was declining, so he enacted the "Saturday night Packer service".  Fans could henceforth spend mornings enjoying every minute of the Packer tailgating experience without evoking the wrath of the big man himself. Sunday services were still offered, but my pastor eventually pawned them all off on associate pastors while he was busy worshipping his new found idol. 
By now, the legend of the Green Bay Packers has been perpetuated into oblivion by the likes of John Madden, mainstream pundits, and big name sports writers passing through town.  Green Bay is known for its hard working people who played a pivotal role in the inception of NFL. Green Bay continues to be such a huge success because of its undying dedication to the organization.  As I’ve aged, I’ve begun to wonder what the consequences of the fan-team relationship really are.  Is it a parasitic or symbiotic relationship?  What do the Packers expect out of their local fans and what do the fans of Green Bay expect out of their Packers? 
For instance, during the early 2000's, the Packers “held Green Bay hostage” by demanding an increase in sales tax in order to pay for a larger, more aesthetically pleasing stadium.  The Packers’ organizations pulled on the emotional strings of their dedicated fan base and were able to get the deal passed because we knew that the team was our ticket to relevancy.  The stadium now looks more like a Vatican fortress; which would probably allow my pastor to easily justify Saturday services (to everyone’s mutual benefit).   The organization holds a great deal of power over the citizens of Green Bay so who benefits from this relationship—the city? The people? The wealthy? Or perhaps everyone?  On the surface the Packers and the city of Green Bay seems like an organic underdog story however, underneath the façade of the legend lays the surreal underbelly of how the Packers function in this town.   

Celebrity Status 
             I began to idolize athletes at a young age. That passion only strengthened as I grew older and became more exposed to them and their lifestyles on a daily basis.  My parents purchased a house in a developing suburb on the skirts of Green Bay during the early 90’s.  My dad, like most citizens, moved here to earn a paycheck from the city’s main economic provider: paper mills.  After the Packers won the Superbowl in 96’, our neighborhood became a hotspot for players and coaches alike to call home.  Brett Favre, Robert Brooks, and Reggie White were the first three players to move into the neighborhood (and were arguably the most threatening QB-WR-DE trio in the league).             
 A group of neighborhood kids and I would crowd onto my front yard at 5:30 pm everyday just to get a glimpse of Favre and Brooks driving home after practice.  I made sure to always have a football in my hands when they passed (just in case they wanted to oblige us with a game of tackle football).   Favre drove a massive truck and always had a piece of hefty chaw in his mouth after a presumably stressful practice.  He would usually acknowledge our group with a grin.  Although Favre was quickly becoming the city’s golden boy, Brooks was definitely the envy of the younger generation.  He would always drive by in what seemed like a brand new car every week.  If it was not his black Prowler, or original Hummer, it was his drop top Lamborghini (useable about 6 weeks of the year in GB’s wicked winters).  Brooks collected cars like Jay Leno. He actually ended up selling his house to Gilbert Brown after a couple of years because his garage was not large enough to harness his insatiable car fetish.
Brooks/Brown's House.  They lived right next to Farve.
Brooks ran routes, Favre slung passes, and gilbert
provide a simulated pass rush in the front yard.

            Reggie White (RIP), on the other hand, wasn’t nearly as accessible as the other two Packer players in my neighborhood.  He lived in a house near my grade school, Martin Luther King Elementary (the school board must have run out of Packer names and decided to defer to a civil rights activist).  A wooden fence separated his backyard and my school’s kickball courts.  Everyday during recess the kids on the playground were more interested in peering through the slits in the fence in hopes of seeing Reggie and his children playing in the backyard than they were with their own recreation.  I did calf raises like crazy those couple of years in hopes of building an adequate level of leg strength so I could kick a ball over White’s fence and get a chance to ring his door bell and see him in person. 
 It wasn’t until Tyrone Williams (my boyhood idol after his one-handed interception during the NFC championship game in 96’) moved his family into town that I had an opportunity to be exposed to the Packers from the inside rather than from Favre’s rearview mirror or the fence slits on my grade school playground.  Tyrone had two sons that were about my age, and they instantly became the center of adoration within the neighborhood.  To no surprise, they loved football and were always trying to get a backyard game together.  These two guys became good friends of mine during grade school and because of them, I was exposed to a bunch of players/coaches and their families. 
            One specific football game I can remember (a truly “holy shit moment”) happened while we were in the Williams’ front yard.  The game included a bunch of neighborhood kids like me but also the likes of Brittany Favre, Ray Sherman Jr., Tommy Donatell, (soon to be the nastiest safety the Big Ten has ever seen), Mike Sherman’s two sons, and Tyrone Williams as the full-time quarterback (Favre apparently was not available).  At the time this occurrence seemed so normal to me but I now realize the bizarre nature of it all.   
            The Packer’s kin were troubled with an awkward situation where they wondered if they were liked, whether it was because of their dads or was truly based on the merits of their personalities.  The Packers themselves were on an untouchable level in the small city of Green Bay, but their children essentially became a tangible branch of their parent’s celebrity that everyone my age wanted to be around.  A friend of mine dated Favre’s daughter during grade school and has told me how she once handed him a note that said, “do you like me because of me, or because of Brett?”
              How is an 11 year old citizen of Green Bay supposed to answer that question candidly when the culture of this city raised him to idolize Brett Favre? The relationship didn’t last long, but my friend’s proudest moment (and the closest he ever got to exchanging words with Brett), was when he emerged from playing basketball in Favre’s basement at about 10:30 at night only to catch Favre himself enjoying a bowl of fruity pebbles in nothing but his underwear.  To this day, my friend will work into conversation the fact that he dated Favre’s daughter and witnessed him doing something so pedestrian.  To no surprise, armed with this story, he continues to reel constant residual ass from female Packer fans, like a B-list 90’s sitcom star, all because of how close he came to becoming an immortal part of Green Bay’s elite. 
            The relationships that I developed with these kids over the years exposed me to see how idolized and worshipped their dads were within this town.  It would be hypocritical of me to say that I did not buy right into it. I wanted to feel like I belonged.  I wanted a piece of the Packer pie.

Tangible/Intangible Paradox
         Ingrained in the mystique of Green Bay is the idea of how the city owns the team.  Walk into any dedicated packers fan’s living room and sure enough, there will be a “Packer Stock Certificate” proudly framed and hung on the wall to be showcased like a Master’s degree.  This idea of team “ownership” is a recurring theme in Green Bay.  I have a friend who (like many) paid twenty dollars for a piece of Lambeau’s destroyed turf when the organization replaced the field during the late 90’s (known as ”the frozen tundra”).
My buddy plans to pay for his children's college education
with this artifact. 

       This friend is in college now, and every time he moves to a new apartment, he makes sure his turf is the first thing he grabs from the freezer.  He has literally held on to a piece of decaying sod for 13+ years to prove his fanship and proverbial “ownership” of the Packer pie.   The truth is, my friend is not an outlier by any means--this is the norm in Green Bay. 
            Since Green Bay is such a small town and the people of the Midwest historically come from a collective society, we feel as if we are more than just fans. Rather we think we are actually part of the Packer’s organization.  This perceived closeness causes some awkward situations between players and fans. 
There are only a finite number of outlets where players can dine, indulge in culture, and live in the city.  This limited domain often enables fans to know where players hangout and live.  I can’t even recall the amount of times I have been playing in my front yard as a child and a car would pull-up at suspiciously slow speed into my driveway.  The drivers were decked out in Packer gear and they always wanted the same thing -- “where does Brett Favre live?”   At the time, I thought nothing of it, but now I fully understand the ridiculousness of such a request and the violation of privacy. However, I think it exemplifies just how close fans feel to the players.  Favre eventually hired a full time security guard who parked at the end of the cul-de-sac he lived on to prevent people from pulling into his driveway and taking photos of his house.
Favre's Kingdom--where he feasted, fornicated, and found
his way in Green Bay.

            On the surface, the Packer players seem so accessible because they can be seen in public and fans feel that they have a level of ownership over them, but often, they cross a line of reasonableness.  The paradox is that players seem so accessible because they are everywhere yet they are intangible because they operate in a social class way above the rest of the Green Bay citizens.  (It’s not like Favre accepted invites to happy hour from his middle class neighbors.)               
When Tyrone Williams first moved into town I asked my parents if it would be appropriate to wear my Williams jersey over to their house to play football with his kids.  My parents, being tax payers of the new stadium, encouraged me to wear the jersey over to his house and said he would probably be flattered and give me an autograph. I never received an autograph, and I hate myself to the day for believing that I ever deserved one while coming off like a fan boy. 
I’m not trying to argue that some Packer players are pricks. But I do feel that there is this unreal expectation of them because the fans feel like the players and organization owes them something.   I once witnessed my friend’s dad stick his coaching resume in Mike Sherman’s mailbox after an abysmal special teams performance vs. the Vikings (as if getting chosen for a Packers coaching gig would be a viable option).  I’m sure he could have coached that team better (hell anyone could have) but that type of expectation is only something that could happen in this town. 
Cultural Shift           
 Green Bay is a predominately white Catholic town that lacks a level of cultural diversity that is surely evident in all other NFL towns.  Honestly, one positive thing that the presence of Packers in this town has done over the last 20 years is provide a unique level of cultural exposure which leads to cultural tolerance.
            Robert Brooks and Leroy Butler did a good job of introducing this community to aspects of black culture.  They were flashy dressers, they drove exotic cars, and they listened to rap music.  Traditionally, all of these attributes are foreign to the citizens of Green Bay, but Brooks and Butler introduced their culture by being our “ambassadors of swag.”  Together, Butler and Brooks developed the Lambeau leap and raised the bar for touchdown celebrations forever.  Screw the Ickey shuffle.  This celebration led to the much underrated rap career of Brooks with his debut (and only) single “Jump Into the Stands.”  The citizens of Green Bay will defend that song to death and will question the authenticity of a fan based on the amount of words they know.  Robert used to drive through my neighborhood blasting his one-hit wonder, and on rare occasions, he would stop to pass out signed CDs to kids.
His CD is selling on for 2.99
I perhaps assign the pioneering of Green Bay’s cultural shift to Robert and Leroy because they were the dominant black Packer players when I was growing up and beginning to realize the absence of my own cultural awareness.  I remember being invited to a Packer game with the Williams brothers when I was 12 and I got the unique chance to go to the post-Packer game party.  The party was like nothing I had ever seen before; Packer wives could put any plain Jane in Green Bay to shame.  As players filed out of the locker room, the Williams brothers would make comments about each player’s style and clothing.  At one point, Bill Schroeder walked out wearing a pair of fitted jeans and a polo. 
The Williams brothers instantly started laying into him for his lack of style, but one brother redeemed him by saying, “but he is straight with those Air Force Ones.”  I responded without really thinking, “what? You thought he was gay?”
  They both laughed hysterically for the remainder of the party at my cultural ignorance.  I now know that “straight” is a synonym for cool and I will never forget how I limped into figuring this out. 
            Now the traditional “cheese and white bread culture” of Green Bay and its transition into a more culturally aware and diverse town have not come without failure.  Nick Barnett tried to open an upscale bar called “Club 5-6” sometime in the early 2000’s.
Barnett's upscale club
  The club attempted to raise the level of culture in this town by requiring a dress code and a general big-city-club-feel.  Barnett pleaded with the city of Green Bay for months to grant him a liquor license.  Within a couple of months after opening, the club closed down.  The marquee from the bar remains on the corner of Dousman and Broadway st., almost acting as a monument of a failed cultural experiment.  Barnett needs to be given credit for trying to advance the culture. It is no surprise that establishments like Brett Favre’s Streak House and Fuzzy Thurston’s bar continue to thrive.
            But it’s not to say that the city hasn’t made steps towards cultural improvement during my lifetime.  For instance, after the Packers won their first Superbowl in 96’ a bevy of dedicated Packer fans released parody songs.  Most of these songs involved crass drinking humor and over exaggerated “wisconnnnnson” accents, none of which gained much national attention (except for maybe the CWA, Cheeseheads-with-Attitude or God forbid—The Packer-rena).
Easy-E is is rolling in his grave

However, this past year when the Packers won the Superbowl, Lil’ Wayne released his hit “Green ‘n Yellow,” which was a tribute song about being a self-proclaimed Packer fan for a life.  Weezy’s song provided this city with a new tier of national publicity because it illustrated this famous black man’s validation of our culture.  I thought maybe this obsession would only manifest itself in my generation, but I recently asked my elementary school teacher mother if she had heard “Green ‘n Yellow” and she responded, “Heard of it? My entire school sung it during an assembly dedicated to the Pack after they won!”  I’ll assume it was the edited version, but regardless, that’s a scene that never would have been embraced 15 years ago. Green Bay has the Packers to thank for that.

Community Protection
For Packer players there is no such thing as anonymity in Green Bay.  As I talked with friends about writing a reflection on the Packers everyone had a unique story about past/present players partaking in scandalous activities (more than I could ever write about or back with empirical evidence).  I found this phenomenon unique because the wrap on every Packer player is essentially known--not publicly, but within the fabric of the locals.  When a story about one of our players gains national attention, it is not “shocking” but rather an embarrassment to our city and our brand.  The media, the police, and the community as whole make an effort (be it conscious or unconscious) to protect the Packer player’s images because it reflects on the integrity of our city.
            Last summer Deadspin broke the “Favre Dick Shot” story.  The national media was outraged and infatuated with the fact that the NFL’s Gun Sling’n Golden Boy was really just a pubescent pervert deep down.  Green Bay’s local media covered the story only briefly because it was an embarrassment to our brand.  Also, the story didn’t have the same lurid appeal that it did on a national level because we all knew that Favre was a derivative of his contrived ESPN persona.

            The local media covers the hell out the Packers—year round.  Stories are usually canned products that run like advertisements for the upcoming season rather than hard journalistic news.  Reporters and journalists alike know that they must respect the Packers and the access that they are granted or they run the risk of becoming alienated by the city.  The lead anchor for the top local news channel in Green Bay is also known as the “voice of the Packers”.  He is the one who is paid to sit in a box during games and say “first and ten for GB from their own 34 yard line” over the loud speaker.  It all comes back to this concept that everyone wants a piece of the Packer Pie and the Packer’s organization is more than willing to give it to people who can best protect their image.  The news station would be hard pressed to report on anything that portrays the Packers negatively because their lead anchor is on the Packer’s payroll.  These types of conflicting interests for the sake of protection are evident throughout this town. 
In my lifetime, no Packer player that I can recall has ever faced any legal trouble that stemmed out of an arrest in Green Bay.  The most high profile players being busted for illegal activities in my years as a fan include Mark Churma’s arrest in Milwaukee for lusting after an underage girl (do yourself a favor and google (“you call this a prom party”), Favre’s Dick story, and Johnny Jolly sipping on purple drank in Texas. 
              The Green Bay Police force was recently issued the option to wear badges that have the Packer “G” logo and “Superbowl XLV Champions” inscribed on them (the Packer’s brand initiatives are about as shameless as Donald Trump’s).
I can look over the fact that a private company is branding a taxpayers service but what about the identity crisis that police officers in Green Bay must face.  On one hand, they are paid to “protect and serve” but they are also HUGE Packer fans just like the rest of us.  I’m not saying it is mandated by the city that they protect players from legal trouble but rather it comes from the internal fear of the being the officer who arrests Favre for a DUI (hypothetically).  That officer would not be able show his face at work, at a bar, or hell even a Packer game ever again.  
             The protection of players goes far beyond those who are employed by the police or the media because the community as a whole aims to protect its players.  We know that what is good for the team is good for the city.  It is one brand.  I’ve been in countless conversations with friends and fans about a player’s scandalous exploits but the conversation always ends the same—“Ehh screw it. He’s a hell of a football player”, and how can anyone argue with that? 
When the Packers won Superbowl 45 I was 3.5 hours away from Green Bay at college.  I don’t remember much about the night besides a city in a complete state of happiness.  At one point I stumbled into a bar reeking of a good time only to see my old neighbor Gilbert Brown (he coaches the arena football team in town) pouring a pitcher of beer from the bar’s 2nd floor balcony into a sea of sexy college girl’s mouths.  Gilbert was sporting his massive 96’ Superbowl ring--and he was celebrating like he had just won another.  I knew at that moment that I needed to get back to GB to welcome home the Packers.
            The next morning I woke up with zero intention of going to class and started the pilgrimage back to Green Bay.    The city was in a state of euphoric ecstasy.  Businesses and schools closed down for days so that citizens could participate in the never ending Packer celebration.  Tickets for the “Welcome Home Ceremony” sold out before I could get my hands on them so I paid 30 dollars (25 above face value) to sit in sub-zero temperatures with all the other diehard fans hoping to get a glimpse of our boys. 50,000 Fans young and old emerged from the bowels of Wisconsin to show their appreciation for their Packers.  The energy and vibe glowing from the stadium was poetically beautiful and pathetic all at the same time.

Like any religious following or cult, we are aware of the faults that this dependency creates but we are willing to overlook them because somehow it validates and provides meaning to our lives.  There is something special about this town because it is an outlier.  Fanship really isn’t an option--we need extreme fanaticism from nearly all 102,000 citizens of Green Bay in order for this thing to work.  We pour so much effort into eight Sundays every year because the money finances the whole show.  The revenue keeps bars, hotels, and the restaurants running at capacity and more importantly it keeps the citizens of Green Bay motivated and willing to work.  The Packer-Fan relationship has several conflicting parasitic/symbiotic functions but I don’t regret growing up in this town because of the existential value I obtained by being here.  Fuckit—thank god there is a season, this town needs it more than any.  Cheers football fans.