Red Zone

November 7, 2013 | Posted in General

I thought the coast was clear. It had been three days since the Chicago Bears defeated the Green Bay Packers on the historical turf of Lambeau Field, 72 hours since underachieving Bears defensive end Shea McClellin drove iconic Packer QB Aaron Rodgers shoulder into the ground forcing him out of the game and eventually after evaluation, out for an indefinite period of time.

The Bears won in a battle of backups but while there was a bit of satisfaction, I am not ignorant of the fact that if Mr. Rodgers would have not been injured, the outcome most likely would have been different. As a Bears fan I have learned not to gloat in victory nor shudder in defeat because both of those outcomes are too close to call- for the most part.

But I made the mistake of thinking I was safe, this far north just two hours from Titletown and three days since the “Aaron Incident.” Silly me…

I hit the gym as usual around 10am and always wear my bright orange ball cap with the Chicago Bears logo and any other week no one says a word. They all know I am from Chicago and have staked my territory out-giving the respectable distance to the throngs of Packer and Lion faithful that display their own colors. It started in the locker room when a distended voice said “You guys were lucky that Rodgers went down or you would have lost.” The wall of metal lockers kept me from seeing who was yakking but on the way out there was a couple of guys sitting in the last row and I guessed it was one of them even though neither of them fessed up. Heading into the gym one of the trainers I have known for years sez… “I can’t believe you are wearing that hat.” He was smiling when he said it but that smile could have meant a lot of things. .. “I am smiling because while you are working out I am gonna slash your tires…” or other such mayhem. I grinned back and said “Yeah…it was a great game on both sides and the battle of the backups was fun to watch” being as politically correct as I could, knowing I was outnumbered, as the senior citizens glared at me from their hip adductor machines…clenching and unclenching their fists.

It was a short workout followed by a long whirlpool.

Next stop was the bank and I strode in to take care of some business, only to be confronted by three female tellers lined up like a firing squad. “Well sure nice of you to wear that hat in here” chirped one. “CAN WE HELP YOU?” Squawked another…Before I could respond the words were flying across the counter that was so nicely decorated for autumn. “We lost our quarterback! Aaron Rodgers would have made the difference! IF HE DIDN’T GET HURT YOU WOULDN’T BE WEARING THAT HAT!

Can I make a payment?

After allowing Packer Trio to voice their concerns, comments and retribution (WE HAVE ANOTHER GAME WITH THE BEARS YOU KNOW) I left the bank intact and sat for a moment in my car (after checking the tires again) and thought to myself…

Is this how it was in Rome when the hometown gladiator lost to the rival gladiator? Did this all start with Commodus (brilliantly portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix in the 2000 film Gladiator) who was an Emperor that enjoyed battling gladiators as often as possible. A narcissistic egomaniac, Commodus saw himself as the greatest and most important man in the world. He believed himself to be Hercules—even going so far as to don a leopard skin like that famously worn by the mythological hero. But in the arena, Commodus usually fought against gladiators who were armed with wooden swords, and slaughtered wild animals that were tethered or injured. Or was it the most famous of all gladiators- Spartacus-(either Kirk Douglas or Gerard Butler take your pick.) Whole legions were sent to kill Spartacus, but these were easily defeated by the fighting spirit and experience of the gladiators. In 71 BC, Marcus Licinius Crassus amassed 50,000 well-trained Roman soldiers to pursue and defeat Spartacus. Crassus trapped Spartacus in Southern Italy, routing his forces, and killing Spartacus in the process. Six thousand of his followers were captured and crucified, their bodies made to line the road from Capua to Rome.

Kinda like what happened when Rodgers went down and the Bears won I guess.

For the record let me state that one of my most revered friendships is with two time Super Bowl champion and the greatest guard in the history of the NFL- Green Bay Packer legend Jerry Kramer- and for the record I have been seen in public with Jerry many times and listed “Instant Replay” his book as the most influential read when it comes to not just football but life lessons.

But none of that matters apparently at this point in time- the wound too fresh and the loss too great.

My hope is that just as we watch today’s modern gladiators do battle while thousands cheer and jeer, Taser their wives because “they” lost and “she” won, as domestic violence in the Fox Valley rises and falls with each victory or loss, let us both Packer and Bear fans alike take a lesson from eons ago.

The battle between Priscus and Verus in the First Century AD was the first gladiator fight in the famous Flavian Amphitheatre. After a spirited battle which dragged on for hours, the two gladiators conceded to each other at the same time, putting down their swords out of respect for one another. The crowd roared in approval, and the Emperor Titus awarded both combatants with the rudis, a small wooden sword given to gladiators upon their retirement. Both left the theater side by side as free men.

Kinda like Butkus and Nitchske….

Be well.

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