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Sound advice from experts on coping with Packers loss Sunday: Suck it up, buttercup | Column


Paul Srubas   | Green Bay Press-Gazette
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GREEN BAY - A long, long stretch of cold, bleak days lies ahead, empty and cheerless, dull and gray … and no, that’s not a weather forecast.

It’s the end of the Green Bay Packers’ fairy-tale year, from their questionable prospects in the preseason to their post-season Cinderella carriage ride to the playoffs, to the bitter disappointment of being thoroughly schooled, then dropped unceremoniously into the dustbin of sports history with the rest of the losers.

There’ll be no happy ending, no post-post-season, no Super Bowl prepping for party-hungry Packers fans. The sedge has withered from the lake, and no birds sing.

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OK, first off, a disclaimer: There is nothing funny or fun about real depression, and for people suffering from true clinical-level symptoms of sadness, anger, loneliness and grief, things like a bad ending to a Packers playoff run can be serious business, says Cody Pangrazzi, psychotherapist at Advocate Aurora Health in Green Bay.

“I’ve never had anybody directly come to me for therapy based just on the football season ending, but among the existing clients I see, the ones that may already have symptoms of anxiety or depression, they maybe could be more susceptible,” he said.

There’s also nothing fun or funny about domestic violence and the persistent perception in football towns like Green Bay that incidents of domestic violence are directly affected by the home team’s fortunes on the field.

Fortunately, that appears to be a myth.

“I’ve talked to a number of abuse shelter directors in town, and they’ve told me there is no relationship between a Packer weekend and domestic violence,” said Ryan Martin, a psychology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

However, Martin has seen a study into domestic violence and Super Bowl Sunday that found a small correlation. But the study concluded the incidence of violence is similar to that found on any holiday and probably has less to do with football, game violence or final score than with increased alcohol consumption, high family interaction and elevated expectations, Martin said.

So with those serious considerations out of the way, what do shrinks and therapists have to say to the rest of us? What about those of us who have been led to the pinnacles of such hope, only to be dropped with a kerplop to the cold, unyielding earth?

It’s still real, isn’t it? Tell us we’re not just being crybabies.

“I suspect the reactions to the outcome of yesterday’s game vary by how intensely people identify with their team,” said Stuart Korshavn, psychology professor at St. Norbert College in De Pere. “If you ask somebody, ‘Tell me about yourself,’ and they mention, ‘I’m a Packer fan,’ I’m sure last night’s loss has a bigger impact than on those for whom their identity with the team is more peripheral, where they see it more as a source of entertainment because they have other ways of defining themselves.”

But it’s community-wide, isn’t it? It’s like someone let the air out of the entire community, and we’ll be rolling around like a flat tire for the next couple days.

“I noticed that right away when I first moved here 15 years ago — a kind of collective disappointment, a collective joy on Monday mornings after a game weekend, depending on the outcome,” Martin said. “I’ve also seen it elsewhere. I was in Germany for a World Cup a long time ago … when Germany lost, I think, a semifinal match. The next day, you really had a sense of the whole community being pretty depressed, despite a really great performance that season.”

As for whether we’re being crybabies, well, individually, even the psych guys aren’t immune.

“I was a little bit (down), I’m not going to lie,” Pangrazzi said. “I grew up in Green Bay, lived here my whole life.”

Korshavn said he thinks of NFL football as more of an amusing pastime than anything to get upset about, but even so, “I walked away from it as if that’s not really the ending to the movie that I’d have liked to have seen.”

And Martin? Well, he’s a Vikings fan, so Sunday didn’t bother him a bit, but “I suffered a similar defeat a week ago, so I’m full of empathy for my Packer colleagues and friends.”

So what do we do about it? It just hurts so-o bad.

The most scientific advice available, couched in the exacting language of the highly disciplined academic world of psychology and therapy, comes down to something like this:

Suck it up, buttercup.

“Some people cope with emotions by looking for silver linings,” Korshavn said. “No one enjoys stewing in negative emotions, so they look for ways to regulate how they feel. They think, ‘Well, I’ve got my Sunday afternoons back.’ Or they remind themselves, ‘This was a remarkable performance by a first-year head coach’ or ‘It’s a lot better than we thought we’d do in August.’”

Take a step back and consider how the defeat doesn’t really impact your daily life, Pangrazzi suggested. Stay social, keep your life filled with other social activities, he said.

Use your newly regained Sunday afternoons to make healthier choices: Less beer and chips, maybe go to the gym and work out, he said.

Perhaps the best advice comes from Martin, the Vikings fan. “Use the mantra that’s often repeated in Minnesota: There’s always next year.”

Contact Paul Srubas at (920) 265-3087 or psrubas@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter at @PGpaulsrubas.

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