Cheese whiz

Aaron Rodgers’ success calls attention to football’s one-of-a-kind franchise

A lot of Chicoans are now Green Bay Packers fans, at least temporarily, thanks to Chico’s Super Bowl-bound favorite son, Aaron Rodgers. I doubt that local members of the 49ers Faithful have become permanent converts, but it’s probably just as well that the two teams weren’t playing for the NFC championship. That would have been a tough test of loyalties.

I’ve been a 49ers fan since I was a kid growing up in Fresno, but I’ve also liked the Packers for a long time. I spent my 16th summer in Kenosha, Wis., driving a truck for my uncle, who owned the local Coca-Cola bottling plant. Everybody in the state is a Packers fan, and some of it rubbed off on me, like Cheez Whiz on toast.

Later I learned about the team’s history as an organization, and that made me appreciate it even more.

The Packers formed in 1919, sponsored by the Indian Packing Co., hence the name. At the time small-town teams were common in pro football, and the Packers are the last vestige of that era. That’s why a community no bigger than Chico has its own NFL team.

Green Bay is also the only NFL team that is a community-owned nonprofit; it has more than 112,000 shareholders, most of them Green Bay residents and none of them holding more than 200,000 of the 4.7 million shares.

Despite Green Bay’s small size, every Packers game at Lambeau Field has been sold out since 1960. There are 74,000 people on the waiting list for season tickets, more names than there are seats at Lambeau Field. It’s not unusual for fans to designate a recipient of their season tickets in their wills or place newborn infants on the waiting list.

What’s not to like about such a team? Add in Aaron Rodgers, and it’s easy to be a Packers fan. For now.

Bring in the cleanup crew: It’ll be amusing next Tuesday (Feb. 1) to watch Chico council members try to squirm out of the mess they’re in when it comes to filling that empty council seat.

Candidate Sor Lo has a compelling life story, but he also has none of the usual qualifications for office, beginning with the fact that he’s never voted. How fiercely will his liberal supporters on the council—Andy Holcombe, Scott Gruendl and Ann Schwab—fight for him, now that those weaknesses are public knowledge? Will Jim Walker or Mary Flynn, who supported fourth-place finisher Bob Evans, cave to avoid an expensive special election? Will the council go back to its list and compromise on someone like Bob Koch, a former assistant city manager? Or will it end up unable to agree on anything and thus force an election?

This isn’t good for Holcombe and Schwab, who are up for re-election in 2012. To many people, their support of Lo looks like elitist tokenism and comes at a time when the public is more worried about jobs and the economy than such historic liberal concerns as growth and the environment. They’re playing with fire.