Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Giant Wish for Christmas

Every Packer fan has one thing on his wish list this December 26 (hint to Santa - they don't sell it at the Packer Pro Shop): a Packer victory over the Giants.  It wasn’t supposed to be this way.  The Packers didn’t expect to be on the brink of elimination from the post-season in week 16.  They were supposed to be resting up for a playoff run, preparing to host games at home, maybe even making plans for a bye week.   But a rash of key injuries, an inability to win close games, and a fair share of just plain old bad luck has the Packers facing a must-win game this Sunday against the Giants.

For all intents and purposes, this is a playoff game.  If the Giants win, they clinch a playoff spot – even if they lose in week 17 against the Redskins.  The Packers must win or they are eliminated, although a win doesn’t clinch a spot.  They will most likely need to win again in week 17 against the Bears to secure a playoff berth (otherwise, they would be relying on a Giants loss in week 17 and one more loss by the Buccaneers to get in).

The Giants' "Meltdown in the Meadowlands" last weekend was one of the greatest blown games in years.  (Speaking of meltdowns, I have a special recipe in honor of that game below.)  To give up a 21-point lead with 8 minutes left in the fourth quarter at home when it was effectively for the NFC East division title has to be incredibly demoralizing for the Giants.  But I fully expect them to come into Lambeau fighting on Sunday.

Packers beating the Giants in the 1962 NFL Championship Game at Yankee Stadium.
Although not as hyped as divisional showdowns, the Packers and Giants are actually one of the most historic rivalries in the NFL.  The Packers’ 37-0 win over the Giants in the 1961 NFL Championship game at Lambeau Field (then “New” City Stadium) marked the emergence of Vince Lombardi, who had been a former Giants assistant coach, as a national icon.  The Packers repeated as NFL champions the following year against those same Giants – this time in an iconic game at Yankee Stadium that drew a huge television audience and helped usher in the modern era of football.

Of course, the last time the Giants visited Lambeau they eliminated the Packers in the 2008 NFC Championship game.  Brett Favre’s crucial interception in overtime proved to be his last as a Packer and ended Green Bay’s last best shot at a Super Bowl.  It’s a painful memory for any Packers fan, made all the more painful for me due to the Spanish play-by-play I had to endure while watching it.

Hopefully, our Christmas wishes will be granted with a Packer victory on Sunday, or Santa is really going to be on my shit list.  Rodgers will be back, but the offensive line needs to have a big game – not only to protect Rodgers from the Giants’ vicious pressure, but to continue to be productive in the running game.  On defense, Cullen Jenkins will be out again, which will make it hard to stop the Giants’ rushing attack.  But the Packers need to figure out a way to win this game.  A season of expectations is riding on it.  Furthermore, some NFC team this year is going to be made an example of – the team that is eliminated from the playoffs despite having a vastly better record than the 7-9 “winner” of the NFC West.  We don’t want to be that team.

Now, in an attempt to inspire another Giants meltdown, here’s  a Wisconsin-inspired recipe that also happens to be perfect for Christmas.

Packers Cheddar & Beer "Meltdown" Fondue

1 lb aged Wisconsin cheddar cheese
½ lb Gruyere cheese
1 bottle (12-oz) Wisconsin beer
½ tbsp cornstarch
4 cloves garlic
2 tbsp brandy
¼ tsp baking soda
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
Salt to taste
1 loaf French bread cut into cubes

Get ready to shred some cheddar (and your knuckles!)
Shred cheese using that cheese grater at the bottom of your kitchen tools drawer.  Don’t buy the pre-grated cheese – they use "anti-caking agents" on it like microcrystalline cellulose and calcium carbonate.  I don’t really know what that stuff is, but I know you don’t want it in your fondue, or your body for that matter.  Plus, let’s face it, grating the cheese is the most exercise you’re going to get today.  Open the beer and take a sip.  Put another “sip’s worth” into a small bowl, whisk in the cornstarch and set aside.  Peel the garlic and throw it into a pot with the rest of the beer.  Bring to a boil and whisk in the beer-cornstarch mixture you’ve set aside (and, hopefully, not drank already).  Remove the garlic cloves (they’re just for flavor, not texture) and reduce heat to low.  Gradually mix in the cheeses.  Keep stirring and allowing each handful to melt before you add more.  Keep the heat low or you’ll curdle the cheese.  Combine brandy and baking soda in a small bowl, then add to fondue.  Finally add in lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve the whole thing in the fondue set you got as a wedding gift.  Try not to spill the entire cauldron of scalding cheese on yourself or any of your guests.  Enjoy!

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