Vince Lombardi is Judge Jeff Robbins' second favorite Vince, right after Vince Neil. Dr. Feelgood, baby!
"And there is your Super Bowl dagger!"—Green Bay Packers play-by-play announcer Wayne Larrivee after Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger's final pass in Super Bowl XLV fell harmlessly incomplete
Super Bowl XLV Champions: Green Bay Packers is a predictably constructed but thoroughly entertaining overview of the Packers' championship 2010-2011 season. Featuring fantastic audio and video and a slew of solid if unspectacular bonus features, this DVD is sure to entertain any football fan over the long (maybe longer than normal?) offseason. Packers fans will likely think this is the greatest DVD released since Artie Lange's Beer League.
Facts of the Case
Despite an incredible string of injuries and some close losses that left them on the brink of missing the playoffs entirely, the 2010 Green Bay Packers rode the play of their stingy defense and their stud quarterback Aaron Rodgers all the way to the title of Super Bowl XLV Champions. (Since the title of this DVD is actually Super Bowl XLV Champions: Green Bay Packers, I don't think giving away the ending qualifies as an actual spoiler.)
I hate the Green Bay Packers.
Actually, that's not entirely true. As a lifelong fan of their purple-clad divisional rival (you can read my review of the History of the Minnesota Vikings here), I should hate the Packers as easily as I suck oxygen. But I really can't.
The truth is that I have a great deal of respect and perhaps even fondness for the Packers: Sure, as a football fan I appreciate their storied history, but for much of my life they were quarterbacked by Brett Favre, who I simply loved to watch play. It was my hope when Favre and the Packers parted ways in 2008 that the decision to elevate Aaron Rodgers to starting QB would stall the team's progress. But that move, like most of the moves of GM Ted Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy, has proven to be the right one.
It is that major personnel decision that provides the prologue for Super Bowl XLV Champions: Green Bay Packers, NFL Films' excellent review of the Packers' 2010-2011 championship season. We see footage of Rodgers being drafted by the Packers in 2005 as Favre's heir apparent, then a brief history of Rodgers' rapid growth from Favre's backup to the Packers' starter, an intro that ends with the soul-crushing overtime Wild Card playoff defeat to the Arizona Cardinals following the 2009 season.
Super Bowl XLV Champions: Green Bay Packers establishes early on, then, that Aaron Rodgers is to be the star of this season recap, and with good reason. Even for this Vikings fan, Rodgers has proven himself to be extraordinarily likable, not only for his magnificent play on the field that reached new heights in the 2010-2011 season, but for the modest and unassuming manner in which he continues to handle himself off the field. As might be expected, Super Bowl XLV Champions: Green Bay Packers is loaded with Rodgers highlights. It's a hell of a resume tape. (Now if only he would do away with that asinine championship belt TD celebration.)
But Rodgers is far from the only Packers player who stands out on Champions. Wide receiver Greg Jennings and especially second-year linebacker Clay Matthews dominate, not only for their tremendous play throughout the season, but also for being the most vocal leaders, cheerleaders, and motivators, roles evident in countless illuminating audio clips captured by NFL Films during game play.
And therein lies the brilliance of NFL Films generally and Champions specifically: Through unparalleled camera and sound work and superb narration by Scott Graham, NFL Films is able to make edited highlights of completed games just as compelling—if not more so—than live games with unknown outcomes. Many times during the 74-minute main program, I found myself chewing on my nails, even though I knew how every game situation would be resolved.
While undeniably entertaining, Champions would be more compelling if it had been structured more cleverly than as just a straight chronological game summary from week one's victory over the Eagles through to the Super Bowl. Storylines such as the Packers' injury woes, Rodgers' first (and second) victory over his mentor Brett Favre, and the Packers' struggles to run the football are touched on superficially, but are just some of the season's storylines that are worthy of greater analysis.
The chronological approach works best when Champions gets to the Packers' playoff push (falling to an 8-6 record put their playoff lives in severe jeopardy) and playoff run: the NFC Championship Game and obviously Super Bowl XLV are given the most time here, with the season-ending 31-25 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers making up the final 20 minutes of the main program.
The 20-minute Super Bowl segment is the finest material here, not only because the game itself was so dramatic, but because NFL Films does an excellent job of capturing the emotions, the nerves, and the anxiety of the players and coaches. Anyone who thinks that those involved in professional football are only in it for the paycheck (a reasonable thought given the sport's current labor situation) will have those assumptions challenged here.
Undeniably adding to the enjoyment of Champions is the program's audio and video presentation. The Dolby 5.1 sound is crisp, clean, punishing, adding a definite layer of excitement to the proceedings, while the sharp video pushes the limits of DVD's capabilities.
About 45 minutes of bonus material, most taken from NFL Network's pre-Super Bowl coverage, rounds out Champions: "Aaron Rodgers' Journey" (4:23), "Donald Driver's Dream" (3:43), "Mike McCarthy—Master Teacher"(3:20), and "The Rise of Tramon Williams" (3:16) are pompously-titled but enlightening interview packages with the Packers' QB, WR, head coach, and CB.
Elsewhere, "Capers Vs. LeBeau" (3:47) is an interesting segment on the closely-intertwined background of both the Packers' and Steelers' defensive coordinators, while "Super Bowl Post-Game Ceremonies" (5:22), taken directly from FOX's original broadcast, may be essential, but also serves to point out how much better the NFL Films material is. And "Super Bowl Media Day" (12:51) is a surprisingly enlightening window into how humble and relaxed the Packers' players were with the media several days before the game. Only "Packers Nation Vs. Steelers Nation" (3:52), a brief look at the fanatical following both Super Bowl teams enjoy, is an unnecessary fluff piece.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
In a DVD obviously targeted to Packers fans, it's clear why the highlights are one-sided in favor of the green and gold. But the footage of the team's six losses should include at least some positive plays for the winning team. It's odd that there is very little tone change in the program from victories to losses. The exceptions here are the Super Bowl, which is covered superbly from both team's vantage points, and the Packers' late-season 31-27 loss to the Patriots, which was (to use the world's oldest sports cliché), a true "moral victory," given that the Packers were without Aaron Rodgers for the game and the Patriots at the time were regarded as nearly unbeatable.
It's also unusual that there isn't more time spent on the victories over Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings, given how important those victories over the two-time defending NFC North champions were to the team and to Rodgers in particular. However, it's true that in hindsight, those two wins weren't as crucial as others the team earned in the regular season.
Packers fans are a loyal lot, seemingly buying, making, displaying, visiting, eating, drinking, and hoarding anything even remotely to do with their beloved team. Of all the Super Bowl XLV souvenirs out there, this DVD is absolutely essential for lovers of the Pack. Even NFL fans who don't bleed green and gold are likely to be entertained by Super Bowl XLV Champions: Green Bay Packers.
Hey, even this Vikings fan enjoyed Super Bowl XLV Champions: Green Bay
Packers. Not guilty.
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