Liotta: A slice of Americana

I learned a couple of things about the cultural geography of sports this week. Not from the omnipresent Olympics, but from a pair of meaningless events — an already forgotten NFL exhibition game and a ceremonial tribute to a bunch of old-timers.

Bay Area expatriate Aaron Rodgers had himself a heck of a couple of weeks dealing with all the sniping surrounding Brett Favre’s unretirement. There were definitely divided camps in Green Bay, Wis., with most wanting to take another shot with Favre, but some willing to move on with the untested Rodgers.

By the time the Packers took the field Monday night against the Cincinnati Bengals in their exhibition opener at Lambeau Field, Favre was a New York Jet and Rodgers was left to endure alone the town’s reaction to its favorite Hall of Famer-to-be forever placed in the Packers’ rear-view mirror.

And the crowd on hand did not disappoint. When Rodgers took the field for the first time as the Packers’ starting quarterback, there were no chants of “We want Brett.” Instead, the crowd stood and gave Rodgers a standing ovation that went on for a good minute.

Think about it. If that were New York, you think the new guy would have gotten an ovation? How about Philadelphia? Those fans would have been on Rodgers from his first pass. In a bitterly unforgiving, unrelenting fashion. Incompletion by incompletion.
But in Green Bay, it felt like the crowd was intent on saying, “No hard feelings,” and that they were ready to embrace Rodgers as their guy from here on out. It was really classy.

And Rodgers rewarded them by looking pretty good. He drove the Packers through a pair of scoring drives, completing nine of 15 passes for 117 yards, one touchdown and an interception that wasn’t his fault.

My second eye-opener came a week ago Saturday night thanks to Barry Bonds, who exhibited a ton of class showing up at the Giants’ outfielder reunion ceremony. And Giants fans did not disappoint, reminding everybody just how much Bonds’ heroics meant to the Bay Area. No place else in baseball would have applauded Bonds like that.

Bonds was at his charming best at every turn, only to leave us all wondering why he couldn’t have been like that more often throughout the years.

The funny thing about that is if he had been, he would not have shown up for that ceremony. He’d have been busy — playing for some other team.

Random thoughts

— I’m becoming more and more of a believer in Fred Lewis every day — and I’m the first to admit I gave him almost no shot of ever becoming a threat in a major-league uniform.

— First Olympic reaction? Too much synchronized diving. Too much beach volleyball.

Tim Liotta is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner. E-mail him at tliotta@sfexaminer.com.

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