Tonight, the Green Bay Packers and the New Orleans Saints — the feel-good winners of the last two Super Bowls — kick off the NFL season at Green Bay's Lambeau Field. The game also marks the beginning of NBC's football broadcast season, and when you're NBC, football is a very, very important part of your portfolio.
But the interesting question is this: How to choose?
For people who are actually fans of the Packers or the Saints, this is a very easy pick, of course. But for others, what you have here are basically two agreeable football teams with great stories — the Saints are from New Orleans, still possibly the most rootable city in the country, and the Packers are the community-owned Midwestern goofballs with the cheese on their heads.
What's more, they both have quarterbacks with great stories. Drew Brees is revered in New Orleans — he does charity work, he plays great football, and the people, they love him. Aaron Rodgers is revered in Green Bay — he got the city and the team past the miserable end of the Brett Favre era, and though Favre's supporters insisted the team would be hosed without him, Rodgers came through and brought the team last season's championship.
Of course, you could choose to just think they're both awesome, and you could watch the game the same way you'd watch, say, a footrace between an adorable puppy and an adorable kitten. But if you really want to enjoy the game, you need a rooting interest. You could flip a coin, but we thought we'd offer you a few other suggestions. Consider the following.
1. Do you prefer brats or gumbo?
2. Do you prefer the Great Lakes or the Mississippi River?
3. Which of these faces do you find more compelling?
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Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints looks serious during a game against the Cleveland Browns on September 10, 2006.
Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints looks serious during a game against the Cleveland Browns on September 10, 2006. Andy Lyons/Getty Images
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Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers warms up before a preseason game on August 13, 2011.
Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers warms up before a preseason game on August 13, 2011. Jason Miller/Getty Images
4. Do you believe this is the greatest post-game photo in football history?
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Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints celebrates with his son Baylen Brees after winning Super Bowl XLIV on February 7, 2010.
5. How much do you profoundly dislike Brett Favre and spitefully want to see him cry salty little tears?
6. Green and yellow or black and gold?
7. Which is more important to a life well lived: jazz or meat? Think carefully about your answer.
8. Cheeseheads or paper bags?
9. Better city to share your state: Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, or Grosse Tete, Louisiana? (Note: "Oconomowoc" means "waterfall"; "Grosse Tete" means "big head.")
10. Are you able to resist this amazing poem, "Tim The Die-Hard Packer Fan," by Paul Gilmartin?
11. Do you believe in the wildness of Mardi Gras, or do you more believe in a certain Midwestern distrust of spectacle and discomfort with getting too much attention?
12. Press Gazette or Times-Picayune?
13. What kind of rambunctious behavior are you willing to commit in order to obtain some strands of cheap beads? How about for a Leinenkugel?
14. Did Dennis Quaid's (cough) unskilled accent in The Big Easy (in which he is otherwise the most delicious thing since ... wait, what was I talking about? I lost my train of thought) turn you against New Orleans, or did it make you feel like New Orleans will not be paid back for that offense for the next several hundred years?
15. Wisconsin's motto is "Forward." (Very midwestern.) Louisiana's motto is "Union, Justice, Confidence." How important is it to you to be concise? No, really concise?
16. Is it possible for you to root against a city that has a Bayou Boogaloo Festival? How about a city with a roller coaster called the Zippin Pippin?
17. If a saint fought a guy who packed meat for a living, who do you think would win? Does it matter whether the battle is fought with integrity or fists?
18. What is your level of tolerance for the words "Who Dat?"
19. Does someone in your life root for one team or the other, such that failing to root for that team would be a gigantic pain in the patoot?
20. And finally: How much do you prioritize the ability to hug your athletes?