After seven largely successful seasons and one Super Bowl championship with the Green Bay Packers, the wide receiver Greg Jennings signed as a free agent with the rival Minnesota Vikings.
The Packers have a history of letting players go when the organization believes that their usefulness or skill set have diminished. Or in some cases, the team has a younger, better replacement in place. (See the transition from Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers at quarterback.)
In light of signing with the Vikings, Jennings made waves by speaking out about “Number 12” (Aaron Rodgers) in relatively critical terms. For one, Jennings has always been a verbose and rather eloquent speaker. For two, almost no one up to that point had ever so publicly called out Rodgers. For three, Jennings had signed with a team that lacked any quarterback of the caliber of Rodgers (See the 2013 Vikings campaign for proof of this).
What this whole ordeal brings to mind for me is the monologue by Jerry Seinfeld when he equated rooting for a sports team to rooting for laundry:
You’re actually rooting for the clothes, when you get right down to it. You are standing and cheering and yelling for your clothes to beat the clothes from another city.
Personally, that has truly been the case with Greg Jennings since I number myself among a very limited subset of football fans: a fan of both the Packers and the Vikings. I have always enjoyed watching Jennings play, so I was pleased that he jumped from my one favorite team to the other. I was less-than-pleased that he said such dumb things, even though he’d always been pretty smart about what he’d said in the past.
Jennings has tried to mitigate his comments, most obviously through his long and awkward postgame hug/mugging of Aaron Rodgers when the two teams played this year.
Through all of it, though, I kept being reminded how much of sports-fan-dom is simply rooting for laundry.
It’s the free agent season in Major League Baseball, so dozens of players have traded one shade of laundry for another. A.J. Pierzynski may just be the poster child for this reality. As a Twins fan, I’ve followed his career fairly closely. He came up with the Twins and stabilized the catcher position while the team was good for the first time in over a decade in the early ’00s. With the ascension of Joe Mauer the Twins smartly traded Pierzynski for Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano, and Boof Bonser. (In this case two out of three ain’t bad at all.)
Pierzynski has had the reputation of being a guy you cheer for when he’s on your team and who you hate when he’s on the other team. This has been made clear every time he has visited Minnesota again only to be sounded booed through his years with the Chicago White Sox in particular. He made his way to Texas and then, as a free agent this offseason, he was tied to the Twins. Had he signed with Minnesota again, it would have been a celebrated homecoming and all those years of boos would be quickly forgotten. Rooting for laundry, right?
Hoping to win a World Series, however, he signed with Boston and will assuredly be booed once again at Target Field this summer.
It’s also been said that fans take the games much more seriously than the players do. It’s not that the players don’t care or don’t want to succeed and win. It’s that the players have better perspective and can get over a tough loss more quickly than a devoted fanbase.
So it might make sense for us fans to take a cue from the players and not take it all too seriously. (This is a memo to the student body of Michigan State.) Root and root hard. Root well. Celebrate the victories. And don’t dwell on the losses. It is just a game after all. A game where you’re basically rooting for laundry.