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Monday, July 6, 2009
Green Bay as 'America's Team'

By Kevin Seifert
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

As part of SportsNation's revamped look, a few of us took part in a debate on "America's Team." I was assigned to make the argument for Green Bay.

AFC North mayor James Walker wrote about Pittsburgh. AFC East guru Tim Graham made the case for New England and NFC East chatterbox Matt Mosley took up the cause of Dallas. In case you don't want to click on this link, here's a reprint of what I wrote:

There are many ways to dismiss the Green Bay Packers as America's Team -- and 112,000 reasons to reconsider.

Certainly, the Packers wouldn't qualify as America's Team if you based the claim on pure numbers. Green Bay is the nation's 260th-largest city (population just under 101,000), and the Packers generate their base in the mid-sized state of Wisconsin. Intuitively, it's hard to imagine their fans outnumber those of the Dallas Cowboys or Pittsburgh Steelers.

It's also easy to understand why more fans across the country would identify with the Cowboys or Steelers. Green Bay is known as "Titletown" and the Packers have won an NFL-high 12 championships, but 11 of them came before the television-aided surge in pro football's popularity. Since the 1970 merger of the NFL and AFL, the Packers have one title: Super Bowl XXXI after the 1996 season.

The Packers, however, represent working-class America like no other NFL team. They are a citizen-owned small business and a true civic property, one that requires not only accountability but substantive interaction with fans. Founded as a non-profit corporation by a newspaper publisher, the Packers are now owned by 112,120 shareholders who possess about 4.75 million shares of stock. A seven-member executive committee, elected by the board of directors and comprised mostly of local residents, operates the team.

Every summer, team officials make a full report to shareholders at Lambeau Field. Unlike any other team, the Packers' football executives must explain their approach and answer questions. Shareholders do not have voting rights, so fans can't influence football decisions. But no fan base can claim a more significant connection to its team.

Some might consider all of this to be a quaint facade for what is now a subsidiary of a profit-driven league. But in an age of billion-dollar stadiums and insulated leadership, the Packers look more like America than any NFL team.

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