Let me first tell you something you probably already know.


I am a Green Bay Packer fan. Unabashed, unforgivingly, without shame, my blood runs green and gold.


It wasn’t always so.


My late brother, Roger, was a Packer fan back in the ‘50s; simply, we couldn’t like the same team. Because of that, I was a Chicago Bears fan. It wasn’t that I particularly liked the Bears. But, I did like two of their players long ago – quarterback George Blanda and receiver Harlan Hill. I thrilled each time Hill would race down the sideline and Blanda would toss a pass that somehow found his hands for a long gain, or a touchdown.


Things changed, however, in 1968. It was that year I spent the summer living with old-world relatives in Sweden, taking a European discharge from the Army in Germany. As I was preparing to return to the U.S., I was in search of a job. It was before the Internet. The publication Editor and Publisher listed all available jobs, but by the time it reached newsstands (if it did, at all) in Sweden, it was two or three weeks old.


My solution was to write letters to newspapers in America, picking destinations I thought would be good places to live. I sent letters to papers in Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin, hoping one would make a connection, but not really hoping for much success.


Yet, one of those 50-or-so letters mailed from Sweden found a target. I received a replay from a man named Frank Plano. He was the managing editor of the Wausau Daily Record-Herald in North Central Wisconsin. I’d written there for the simple reason I had a very good college friend who lived in Nelsonville, Wis., about 45 miles from Wausau.


A new high school was opening in Wausau and the sports staff was expanding. After a year in nearby Merrill (the newspaper there had been purchased by the Record-Herald) as both a news and sports writer, I moved to Wausau and covered all sports at Wausau West High School. Yes, even in Wisconsin I continued my love for Iowa Hawkeye football and even helped the Hawks recruit the north central Wisconsin area.


The Wausau Record-Herald received two complimentary tickets to every Packer home game. They were ideal seats, right at midfield and high in the stands opposite the Packer sideline. It’s hard – no impossible – to live in Wisconsin and attend Packer games – to avoid becoming a died-in-the-wool fan of the green and gold.


I attended the Packer pre-season luncheon and became pretty good friends with the late Ray Nitschke, the all-everything middle linebacker for “the Pack.”


That may be a somewhat elongated prelude to the real reason for this column.


I watched in horror Sunday’s Green Bay loss to Washington. The normally-solid Packer bevy of receivers was less than ideal as Green Bay lost to the Redskins. Sure-handed Randall Cobb dropped at least three catchable passes, but he wasn’t alone in the Pack’s ineptness on catching the ball. More than once, I grimaced and felt the pain of quarterback Aaron Rodgers whose passes were uncharacteristically mishandled.


That kind of stuff happens, even to players who earn spectacular salaries and are supposed to make those catches.


No, what I’m angry about is the inconsistency of officials enforcing new rules that are aimed to protecting players. Three times this season, Green Bay’s middle linebacker Clay Matthews has been whistled for targeting. Each time it’s cost the Packers dearly. I take exception to Sunday’s call against Matthews, when he sacked Washington quarterback Alex Smith.


It was, to my eyes, a clean, straight hit on the quarterback. Yet, there was a yellow rag on the field. Matthews was incredulous that he’d been flagged for a personal foul on the play.


I nearly broke the television set as my wife, calmly said to “calm down, it’s just a football game.”


If anyone was targeted on Sunday, it was Matthews. It’s the third time he’s been flagged for roughness on tackles. The first one was definitely a foul, but the last two were questionable to say the least.


That was a weak call and it gave Washington a first down when it could have resulted in a change of possession.


I’m not saying the Packers should have won, or even could have won. What I’m saying is that the NFL’s new struggles to protect the quarterback and eliminate late hits is called so unevenly across the league this year that something has to be done immediately. This is not touch football, it’s a full contact sport and until things are called evenly, there will remain questions.


In fact, one question I have, is: “Why do I torture myself watching this game that can no-longer be called ‘America’s Game’?”