4

August

Surviving Sunday: News, Notes and Analysis from Packers Training Camp

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Another week of Packers training camp is in the books. Is it Sept. 8 yet?

Finley pipes down
I’ve never been one of those people who gets all bent out of shape whenever Jermichael Finley says something that stirs the pot — I’ll take honesty and candor over canned cliches any day. But it looks like Finley is at least trying the cliche route…for now. Will a boring Finley in front of the microphones lead to a more exciting Finley on the football field? I don’t think one has anything to do with the other. If Finley becomes a force at tight end, it won’t be because he zipped his lips during training camp. Besides, if he does finally break out, people would probably be more tolerant of whatever does come out of his mouth.

Hawk OK with pay cut
Calling it “more of an ego thing than anything that guys can’t get over,” LB A.J. Hawk spoke about taking a pay cut this offseason in order to stay with the Packers. After the slash in pay, Hawk is due to make $10.6 million over the final three years of his deal. That sounds like more than enough money for a guy who rarely makes impactful plays. It’s good to hear Hawk speak openly about taking a cut and being a team guy, but deep down, even he has to know that there probably wasn’t another team out there that would be willing to pay him over $10 million. It’s still a great deal for Hawk, and the Packers obviously think it’s a fair price for a LB that hasn’t made many flash plays, but is healthy and ready to go every Sunday.

Bakhtiari making a move
We’ve been hearing nothing but good things about David Bakhtiari. There are even rumblings that he might end up winning the starting right tackle job. The rookie from Colorado appears to be plenty athletic to be the kind of pass protector the Packers like. And with Marshall Newhouse being, well, Marshall Newhouse, and Don Barclay horsing around at backup center, perhaps the window is open for the rookie to win the job. But remember: We haven’t made it to the first exhibition game yet. All rookies are getting loved up right now because they’re new, they’re fresh, their ceilings are perceived to be high and we don’t know their shortcomings yet.

6

May

Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

Junior Seau

Junior Seau's suicide shocked everyone who pays attention to the NFL.

If the NFL wants a case study on how not to handle tragic situations involving past and current players, it should look no further than professional wrestling.

Here’s a small sample of well-known professional wrestlers who have died before the age of 50 since 1997: Bam Bam Biggelow, Eddie Guerrero, The Big Bossman, Hercules, Crash Holly, Road Warrior Hawk, Ms. Elizabeth, Mr. Perfect, Davey Boy Smith, Chris Benoit, Yokozuna, Chris Kanyon, Ravashing Rick Rude, Louie Spicolli and Brian Pillman.

All of those wrestlers died from suicide, drug overdoses, or health complications that many speculate were caused by years of abusing drugs, painkillers, steroids and/or alcohol.

If you used to watch wrestling, or just tolerated it while your kids or spouse watched it, chances are you recognize many of those names.

Now think back to your favorite Packers players from the 80s and 90s. What if 15 of them were dead, all before the age of 50, many from suicide, drug overdoses or health complications (likely) caused by abusing drugs and alcohol?

We’d be shocked, right? We’d probably ask questions about the Packers’ culture. We’d want to know if there were warning signs, or if management could have done something to help these guys before they went over the edge. The media would do all sorts of exposes and law enforcement might event get involved. We would demand answers. Then we’d demand changes.

At least I hope we would. I’d like to think that we wouldn’t be so blinded by wins and loses that we’d forget these guys are human beings. But because I’m an avid pro wrestling fan, sometimes I wonder.

I know comparing wrestling to football is apples and oranges. — one is choreographed violence and the other is a legitimate (and aggressive) sport — but wrestling fans have done little over the years to question the wrestling powers-that-be about why so many of their wrestlers die so young.

Chris Benoit murdering his family and then killing himself finally brought some attention to the subject, but for the most part, wrestling fans pay little attention to what happens outside of the ring as long as the Rock is delivering People’s Elbows or Stone Cold Steve Austin is chugging beers inside of it.

19

June

The Complete History of Green Bay Packers in Professional Wrestling: Chapter 1 — The Football and Wrestling Connection

That's Packers great Reggie White wrestling Steve McMichael in WCW.

This is chapter 1 in a series examining the history of the NFL, the Green Bay Packers and professional wrestling. The introduction to the series can be read here.

In 1986, Vince McMahon, Jr. was in the middle of transforming the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) from a regional promotion in the northeast to a national powerhouse that would eventually wipe out every other wrestling territory in the United States. McMahon used his deep pockets to lure away top wrestlers like Hulk Hogan and Roddy Piper from rival promotions. He also used his marketing and promotional skills to develop many of his wrestlers into larger than life characters with mainstream appeal.

But McMahon was not satisfied with running a successful wrestling promotion. He wanted to create an entertainment empire that happened to involve wrestling. He wanted the WWF to be viewed on the same level as a major movie studio that produced blockbuster films, or a record label with bands that released No. 1 hits.

To achieve this, McMahon knew he needed more than top-level wrestling talent. He needed something that could make wrestling “cool,” something that would appeal to a younger generation and people who normally did not pay attention to wrestling.

The Rock ‘n Wrestling connection was born.

Wrestling Becomes Cool
McMahon partnered with MTV in the mid-80s to reach the younger and hipper audience he was targeting. He also brought in rock singers and celebrities like Cyndi Lauper to broaden the WWF’s brand beyond the scope of traditional professional wrestling.

To be fair, McMahon was not the first promoter to incorporate celebrities and musical acts into the wrestling world. To sell tickets for larger-scale events, wrestling promoters occasionally brought in musicians to perform after matches or local celebrities to make some sort of appearance. But nobody did it like McMahon.

McMahon used celebrities to build the WWF for the long term. In addition to selling tickets, McMahon wanted the celebrities he used to establish the WWF as mainstream entertainment. He had a vision of where he wanted to take the WWF, and he recognized that celebrities could help get him there.

The WWF’s flirtation with celebrities came to a head at the first Wrestlemania, held at Madison Square Garden in New York on March 31, 1985. Celebrities like Lauper, Mr. T, Liberace, Muhammad Ali and Billy Martin helped Wrestlemania reach over a million people through closed-circuit television and establish the WWF as “hip” and “cool.”