Time to pay the piper

Back in 1991, in the midst of a dismal 4-12 season, what if someone would have promised me a 13-year stretch of Packer prosperity? I would have reacted with disbelief followed by delirium. Then doubt would set in – the prospect of more than a decade of winning is way too good to be true.

That kind of promise flies in the face of the law of averages, not to mention common sense, given Green Bay's post-Lombardi history.

Miraculously, two men set out to make good on that outlandish proposition. Bob Harlan and Ron Wolf engineered the arrivals of Mike Holmgren, Reggie White and of course Brett Favre to make believers of all of us. Next came the winning records, then the playoffs. In the blink of an eye, the perennial losers became considerable contenders. Blink again – we had an MVP at the helm and soon another Vince Lombardi trophy for the case. Five years after rock bottom, the Green Bay Packers were the toast of New Orleans and the football world.

Life was good, and it stayed good for longer than is natural in the world of sports. There would be no Oakland Raiders first-to-worst crash or Florida Marlins-style fire sale for the Green and Gold. While the Pack didn't repeat as champs during the recent run, they returned to the Super Bowl, won the first three NFC North Division titles and garnered a host of individual highlights and honors along the way.

Don't forget the rest of the icing on the cake. During the run the Packers fashioned a home winning streak that was one of the best in league history. Green Bay's return to glory coincided with the complete failure of the archrival Bears. The Packer record books were rewritten by a host of authors including Favre, White and Ahman Green. A remodeled Lambeau Field put a fitting crown around the already hallowed ground.

Did I say life was good? I was wrong. It was GREAT.

What if the aforementioned promise of glory had come with a catch? What if the dozen-plus years of celebration came on the condition that when it was over, the Pack would turn back into a pumpkin and roll back into the NFL cellar?

Looking back on the great memories, I believe most Packer fans would take that deal. I'm pretty sure that in order to continue their current winning ways for a decade, the Bears would sell their soul. So would the Vikings, if they had one.

Apparently the time has come for the Packers to pay the piper. No expert analysis can sum up the current situation. No prose is needed to describe how it feels.

Simply, it sucks.

Does losing hurt more after such as long and luxurious taste of winning? Or (to twist a phrase) is it better to have won, then lost, then to never have won at all? Again, let's ask the still trophy-less Vikings if their way of doing things is any less painful.

The last time the Packers fell from the ranks of the victors in the late 60s, I had kindergarten to help me take my mind off my troubles. Decades later, thanks to the internet, cable and sports talk radio, there is no such escape.

The way I feel at 2-10, after a decisive loss to a Chicago team that couldn't even muster an offensive touchdown, I don't see how much more excruciating this season could be. Having said that, I already fear eating those words next week. Facing a similarly pathetic team on home with the ESPN Nation watching in prime time, we just may find out how much lower this ship can sink.

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