Strip Touchdowns and the ’96 Packers
The rules for Strip Touchdowns were pretty straightforward:
2) When the Packers score a touchdown, remove an item of clothing.
3) If the Packers score a safety, everyone playing participates in the Strip Touchdowns Safety Parade™, a march through the dorm hallway in whatever state of undress they currently find themselves.
My friends and I didn’t really drink in college (a glaring anomaly at UW-Oshkosh), so our hijinks were usually conceived during late night sleep deprivation experiments where we overdosed on Mystery Science Theater 3000 and boredom. I’m pretty sure that’s where we got the idea for Strip Touchdowns, just one of the wacky-ass memories I have from the 1996 Super Bowl championship season of the Green Bay Packers.
A Super Bowl featuring the home team is one of those “Where were you?” moments—like the Challenger explosion or 9/11, only, you know, less depressing. But when you live in Wisconsin and the home team is the Green Bay Packers, the entire ’96 season is a “Where were you?” moment. I was in South Scott Hall, joining my friends Mariano, Kory and Jeff in weirding out our dorm mates with our vaguely homoerotic game-watching ritual (and really, anyone who takes issue with bizarre male bonding rituals during football games hasn’t quite made their peace with their enjoyment of a game that regularly employs terms like “tight end,” “penetration” and “holding”).
A particularly tense mid-season Monday night showdown with the San Francisco 49ers culminated in a Chris Jacke field goal in overtime to deliver a 23-20 Packer win and send Mariano running into the streets of Oshkosh clad in naught but boxer shorts and a cheesehead. His screams of rapture were echoed by cries of joy from fellow students in nearly every house on the block.
Mariano wasn’t the only one who took to the streets that night; as we re-dressed and walked back to campus from our friend Adam’s house, we discovered that the Scott residence halls had emptied onto Algoma Blvd. in a spontaneous display of Packer pride. While a few drunks dangled from street signs, the demonstration was largely peaceful and mostly consisted of kids yelling “WHOOOOOO!” and “GO PACK GO!” Of course, this didn’t stop the Oshkosh Northwestern, still reeling from an honest-to-goodness student riot the previous year, from declaring it a sequel to the ’95 rampage. Ah, sensationalism.
We watched Super Bowl XXXI at Kory’s parents’ house in Green Bay, mere blocks from the hallowed grounds of Lambeau Field. As the clock expired in a highly entertaining contest that saw Favre toss a 54-yard touchdown pass to Andre Rison on the first Packer play from scrimmage, an 81-yard Antonio Freeman TD and Desmond Howard’s back-breaking kickoff return for another score, my crew dressed and made a beeline for the Frozen Tundra, where we joined a few thousand of our closest friends in celebrating the first (and, so far, only) Packer World Championship of our lifetime. The next day there were radio reports of weirdos kissing the Lambeau Field walls… Yeah, that was us.
This year, I find myself retroactively ensuring that the memories from that year are burned into my head with the same significance as hearing that Kurt Cobain shot himself or seeing Jesse “the Body” Ventura get elected. Because, unlike 1996 when it felt like the Packers steamrolled their way to the Championship, the 2010 path to the Dance was hazy up until the final Sam Shields interception against the Bears.
The ’96 team was a juggernaut; the 2010 team, a scrappy wolverine with a mutant healing factor. Holmgren’s squad outscored its opponents 456-210, leading the NFL in both points scored and allowed. McCarthy’s crew was 10th in the league with 388 points, allowing 240 (still good enough for 2nd). And of course, the Super Bowl XXXI winners ended the regular season as division champs with a 13-3 top-seeded record; the Super Bowl XLV competitors, a 6th-seed 10-6 wild card. The only major injuries for the ’96 Pack took out tackle Ken Ruettgers (before the season had even started) and receiver Robert Brooks (replaced capably by Andre Rison). The 2010 injuries have been well-documented and certainly played a factor in the team losing six close games by four points or less. The 1996 team had a kicker with a mullet; the 2010 kicker resembles a six-foot-tall dwarf.
This was pure drama that didn’t need to be enhanced with any near-riots or trou-dropping.
But the best memory of 2010 was born in the wake of one of those heartbreaking losses. As the Packers came up just short against the Atlanta Falcons in week 12, I watched the last gut-wrenching field goal with my old college buddies, Jeff and Mariano, this time in Los Angeles. No, we didn’t play Strip Touchdowns (much to Mariano’s roommate’s certain relief); that we were in the same room watching a game together for the first time in 14 years was special enough.
On Sunday, I’ll once again be in Green Bay for a Packer Super Bowl, and I’ll make damn sure that my boys are with me should our team prevail. Thanks to modern cell-phone technology (something none of us were using in 1996), I’ll be calling them amidst the screaming at Lambeau Field. Wish they could be there, but I guess I’ll have to kiss the stadium for all of us this time.
If this is your first real, vivid memory of a Packer Super Bowl, take heed: savor this as much as you can. Soak up every crazy moment, every rapturous scream, every victorious swig from the chicken bong (don’t ask), because, despite Bob Mcginn’s declaration that we “ain’t seen nothing yet,” you never know when Aaron Rodgers is gonna get Chris Millered into an early retirement. So get crazy and celebrate any way you see fit… clothing optional.
Trust me, I won’t judge.