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I grew up in a strict religious household and boy, did we have rules.
Most were small and easy to abide by. I’d pray before meals, wear ironed slacks on Sundays, and punch my crotch every time I thought about the opposite sex. Of all the rules, two weighed heavy upon my immortal soul. One, DO NOT TOUCH YOURSELF; and two, DO NOT WATCH TV ON SUNDAYS. I knew my ability to follow these two rules would determine my eternal fate, and I’m ashamed to admit the second I hit puberty, Satan opened his arms and I gave him one hell of an embrace. Now, I could entertain a world void of self pleasure (remember the crotch punching?), but I could not survive Sundays without my beloved Green Bay Packers and quarterback Brett Favre—especially not in 1997 as Green Bay was winning the Super Bowl and Favre was dashing around the Superdome like a deep fried lunatic.
The only problem was that my family had one television, it was in my parents room, and there was no way I could power up that JC Penny-brand box on a Sunday. My solution: I bought a portable, black-and-white television that weighed roughly 50 pounds, had a 5-inch screen and 3-foot bunny ears, with a manual dial for channel surfing. My room was in the basement, and autumn Sunday afternoons followed a precise pattern: fifteen minutes before gametime I’d place the television on my bed, situate myself for optimal viewing, and cover both TV and boy in blankets. This amounted to a cotton-covered cocoon with two metal antennas peeking out, ready to be snapped down at a moment’s notice.
I watched countless Favre touchdowns from the warmth of this enclave, stifling my yells to avoid detection. Even still, every so often the stairs to my room would creak. My response was lightning: television powered off, bunny ears retracted, and me, a teenage boy smiling nervously on his bed, body completely covered in excess sheets and hands nowhere to be found. One look at me and they would retreat IMMEDIATELY. I would congratulate myself for the deception (They think I’m breaking Rule One, but really I’m breaking Rule Two!) and resume watching Favre fling missiles. Under this guise, my Packers fandom flourished.
I spent the early 2000s undoing my masturbatory reputation. As it turns out, people don’t love the idea of a teenager drubbing himself day and night, so I set the record straight. “I’m just a Packers fan, not a 24/7 pervert,” I would tell anyone willing to listen, keeping my hands above my shoulders at all times—far, far away from the tantalizing whispers of the south. Family members were wary but were convinced over time, exchanging murmurs behind covered mouths: “It’s much weirder than we thought, he’s watching football on a portable television hidden in his bedding.” I bore this cross with equal parts shame and pride. I knew I was going to hell, but on the right Sunday—Favre ripping passes through pinhole openings, foam cheesehead wobbling on my head—it all seemed worth it.
And after reading Dante’s Inferno, I concluded the worst circle of Hell could be avoided by limiting Rule One desecration during football season. Imagine my surprise when I turned 18, left home, and found out watching television might not be a one-way ticket to Hell. I turned LOOSE. No rule was safe, not One, not Two, I even stopped punching my crotch at the echo of a woman’s name. The mid-2000s were glorious. I consumed Packers football like God had exchanged his crown for a cheesehead and blessed my Favre jersey with a smile, wave, and kiss. For roughly 15 years, from 1992 to 2007, no quarterback started a Packers game except Favre, and from a changing list of places—childhood home, college dorm room, small apartment—I watched every pass I could.
In 2008 I was met with betrayal: Favre left Green Bay for New York. The nasty split fractured the Packers fan base in two. I was heartbroken and irate, and vowed to throw the full weight of my passion into defending Green Bay’s new starting quarterback: a third-year pro from Cal who plunged on draft day after being stamped as arrogant. In the brief span of one offseason, Aaron Rodgers became my guy.