In addition to fronting punk band Bad Religion and holding a PhD in evolutionary biology, Wisconsin native Greg Graffin is a lifelong Green Bay Packers fan who grew up "bleeding green and yellow." Bad Religion will play the 9:30 Club tomorrow night.
What's the relationship like between people in Wisconsin and the Packers?
It's like the forecast of the week is completely dependent upon if the Packers win or not. Now, through the '70s and most of the '80s, it was dismal. It was a very dark time in Wisconsin. The only glimmer of hope was when Bart Starr took over as head coach for a while. . . . And then they went through a few years of mediocrity before the bratwurst eater, Mike Holmgren, came along, and then he forsook us for Seattle. Most people when they go to Seattle, they become fit and trim coffee drinkers, but he still looks like a bratwurst eater. He belongs in the Midwest. So I'm happy to see Seattle choking every year.
My buddy, Jeremy, is making a documentary arguing that people raised in the Rust Belt rely on NFL teams to maintain their connection with the places they grew up. What do you think?
That's really interesting. I mean, you talk to me about Wisconsin and the things that come to mind are bratwurst and beer, the State Fair, cream puffs and the Green Bay Packers. It's definitely part of that tradition. I passed that along to my own son, who's 12 now, and he knows that if we're lucky enough to get the Packers game on TV he breaks out the cheesehead. He honestly believes there's some kind of magic in the cheesehead -- he won't put it on unless they're losing.
The NFL continues to wrap itself in patriotism, with the flyovers and the American flags and all that. Does that bother you at all?
I would suggest that [fans'] loyalty to their team is far more intense than their loyalty to those flyovers. . . . I do think it's healthy to have team loyalty. It's a very healthy kind of town ritual that we don't have in this country any more. They used to have church; that's not really a ritual for most people any more, but football is, NASCAR is.
I was surprised that you were a big NFL fan. It seems a bit corporate or something.
I mean, we live in a corporate world. You can't protest something that is a part of American life just because corporations have taken it over. So I look at it like that. I grew up playing football since the day I could walk, some of my greatest memories of childhood are playing touch football in all kinds of weather with my best friends. That's a part of the American experience that no corporation can destroy.
Your "Punk Manifesto" talks about high school punk rockers taking on football jocks. Do you ever feel conflicted rooting for the football jocks?
Well, look, I run into jocks all the time. A lot of them are in the slam pits at the punk concerts. It's like jocks are a way of life that you just have to tolerate, kind of like taxes and [bad] drivers. Most of them are illiterate meatheads; some of them, through luck of the draw, get the opportunity to play pro sports. You just have to accept them. That doesn't take away the enjoyment of the strategies, and also of the athleticism that goes into becoming a professional athlete.
-- Dan Steinberg