GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – I know everyone is still reeling from how abruptly the Packers season came to end. From the players to the fans, to even myself as a reporter, I fully expected to be preparing to go down to Tampa Bay to cover this team in the Super Bowl.
While it’s disappointing, it’s not the reality, the 2020 season still can’t be looked at as anything other than a magical season that was full of joy and as Aaron Rodgers put it, an “attitude of gratitude.” I am eternally grateful for the 2020 season. I’m grateful for a multitude of reasons. I got to get my feet wet in covering the NFL with one of the most storied franchises and listen and learn from veteran reporters that can only make me better at this wonderfully crazy job that I hope to be doing for many years.
If you don’t follow me on Twitter, you wouldn’t have seen me talking about how I’ve achieved a dream that I set for myself when I was eleven. It’s a simple dream: become a sports reporter and cover an NFL team. If you do follow me on Twitter, I’m sorry for all the in caps shouting about the Florida Gators being disappointing athletically and I hope you enjoy my dad providing better analysis than I ever could.
When I got this job back in June of 2020, it seemed surreal. Sure, COVID had attacked the world and everywhere was still basically in lockdown but there was hope on the horizon! The NBA and the NHL were coming back, the MLB, well, the MLB was a mess but I don’t have time to get into that. Surely, the NFL, and the rest of the world would return to normal by August, right?
August comes, everyone who’s a reporter and player realizes that everything is going to be virtual, nowhere near normal, masks are now a thing, and COVID tests for NFL players every day becomes a reality. Still, despite the weirdness of everything, the absolute joy I felt over getting to this point in my career, was through the roof. At 28, I had reached a point that I had marked on a mental bulletin board since I was 11. And walking into Lambeau Field, which many will say is the most iconic football stadium in the league, I won’t lie to you, I teared up. The promise I had made to myself, to my parents, I’d done it. Not many people identify what they want to do with their life at 11 and then go out and do it. But that’s the point I want to make about this Packers season. For all the uncertainty, all the hurdles everyone had to go through to get the job done, reporters and players alike, the JOY is what came through from the 2020 team.
You saw the joy in training camp, with Rodgers and Tim Boyle fake wrestling before drills. You saw it when Jamaal Williams would bust out dance moves at random intervals. David Bakhtiari having a fake beef with Rodgers over not giving him a Christmas present to Matt LaFleur having fun with reporters on Zoom calls. Despite all the weirdness and the need to social distance and the inability to physically be together and with each other, the Green and Gold found a way to “bring the juice” when the lack of fans made football games feel like a regular practice but this time, you were allowed to actually tackle each other. I mean, the Gold Zone? Come on. The end zone celebrations from the Packers this year alone were enough to bring a smile to anyone’s face.
The offense was a juggernaut that you never knew who was going to be the hero of the game. Looking at what the team accomplished this season, they were just fun to watch. It could be Allen Lazard, Robert Tonyan – who decided this was the season to tell everyone they’d been saying his last name wrong for the past two years – Dominque Dafney, Davante Adams. Now, look, Davante Adams is Davante Adams. He led the league in receiving touchdowns during the regular season despite missing 2 and a half games with a hamstring injury. He’s unbelievably good and was my favorite Packers on the zoom calls this year. His deadpan humor was far and beyond the best, and my favorite quote was from his first zoom, where he said he had no problem being a hermit to avoid getting the ‘rona. There are so many more little things about this team that I got to see that I wish I could write about.
Many people have asked, did it suck having to do interviews on Zoom instead of in person? For me, yes and no. Yes, because none of the Packers ever saw me in person. So they never got to associate my personality with my questions, or really see how I am as a reporter. No, because I got to listen. That’s the best tool you can have as a reporter. LISTEN. I listened to the beat reporters who have been doing this for years. I listened to how these players answered questions and I got a sense for who each person is. Yes, it’s not the same because it’s through a computer screen but to me, it was a valuable tool that helped me grow as the season went on. By listening and understanding this team and how they operate, my confidence grew to the point where I did ask some questions this season. Some of them came out the way I wanted them to, others were flubbed or there’s the time I mispronounced Adrian Amos’s last name wrong and Matt LaFleur corrected me, nicely, I might add.
Sorry, Coach. I’ve got flash cards with pronunciations for next season. I’ll be ready to do my one-eleventh.
You also got Zooms with Aaron Jones like this:
Another note and this is not me wearing my reporter cap: Aaron Rodgers is real good at football. As someone who has watched football since she can formulate memories (my grandfather played football for the University of Florida, my father raised me to yell at the Gators on the TV every Saturday), I’ve lived and breathed the game my whole life, Rodgers is otherworldly to watch. The accuracy and timing he has is astounding. This season was fun for so many fans this season for a multitude of reasons, but watching Aaron Rodgers have a season to remember was one of the main ones.
The NFC Championship game. We gotta rip the band-aid off. It hurt. It did. Up until that fourth and goal decision with barely over two minutes left, I believed the Packers were going to complete the comeback and either force overtime or win in some ridiculous Aaron Rodgers heroic way. Rodgers believed it too. Which is why when I saw him sitting there in that post game presser, just looking like a shell of the leader of the Pack that I had seen all season, it was hard. As for his comments about his uncertain future, I’m not going to speculate. He said on the Pat McAfee show there is no reason he shouldn’t be back in 2021. He had just lost his second straight NFC Championship game. He was rightfully disappointed.
The 2020 season may not have ended the way anyone wanted, but for my first season covering the Packers in the NFL? It was one I will always remember, for the lessons I learned, the growth I had as a journalist, and the very special team that I got to watch in a season where many people only got to watch from their couches.
I had a front row seat to 14 games this year. I will forever be grateful for that.
Also I got a picture of an adorable dog in a Rodgers jersey and a cheese head hat. So 2020 wasn’t totally awful.