While the media has been polling its citizens on presidential candidates, I’ve taken the route of polling football fans from Chico, CA, hometown of Aaron Rodgers, on this question: “If the NFC Championship game were between the San Francisco 49ers and the Green Bay Packers, who would you root for?”
1. Man, 20’s: “Green Bay all the way!”
2. Woman, 20’s: “49ers – whole family always!”
3. Man, 30’s: “Packers. My brother knew Rodgers. Plus, we’re from L.A. and have been Ram fans all our lives. So the 49ers were always our rivals.
4. Woman, 40’s: “49ers. They finally have a team to root for. It’s been too long since Montana and Young.”
5. Woman, 30’s: Packers! I’m a hometown Chico girl.”
6. Three Male friends at workout club lobby, 30’s, shouting: “49ers all the way – how can anyone be disloyal!”
7. Woman, 40’s: “49ers. I’m always loyal to my team my whole life, no matter how bad they get.
Given that I live in the city where Rodgers was born, went to Pleasant Valley (PV) High School and Butte Junior College (JC), I’ve had those very depressing Sundays from September – December that only my sons can relate to, and my husband just shakes his head at. Read my blog from January 29, 2011 and you’ll get a slice of what it’s like for this South Side Chicago girl to live in this “newbie” Packer country.
8. Man, 20’s: “I knew Aaron at P.V. (high school), but I’m a loyal 49er fan”
9. Man, 30’s: 49ers fan for a lifetime, even though I’m wearing my P.V. shirt”
10. Woman, 70’s: That’s real tough. When they traded Montana, that really upset me. I liked Favre as a QB, so I’d go for the Packers, especially with Aaron from here.”
11. Man, 30’s: “Packers, since I knew Rodgers from Butte JC.”
12.. BBQ Man #1 at Butcher Shop: “Packers, now that Rodgers is our guy here.”
13. BBQ Man #2 at Butcher Shop, shaking his head: “You gotta be kidding man, 49ers of course!”
14. Woman, 40’s: “Packers – when they didn’t take Rodgers in the draft, that made me mad. Now I’m mad at the 49ers.”
15. Man, 40’s: 49ers all my life, my whole family, all the time.
So instead of living in the past, just a year ago, cheering wildly in the snow when Cutler threw his TD pass to Olsen vs. Seattle at Soldier Field, I’ve made the most of an opportunity – and decided to tally the “Fan on the Street”.
Chico, CA, population 100,000, is the home of Chico State University, one of 23 campuses of the California State University system. Chico is home to Bidwell Park, site of the original “Robin Hood” starring Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland (1938). It sits on the foothills of mountains, creeks, and Lassen National Forest. Chico is in Butte County, 100 miles north of Sacramento, with rice paddies, walnut and almond orchards. It is THE birthplace of Rice Cakes by the five Lundberg brothers.
16. Two Men, 20’s, with oil-stained working clothes at Trader Joe’, laughing:: “Always 49ers, what a question is that!”
17. Man, 30’s, Evening Manager of Trader Joe’s: “I’ve grown up here in Chico, and know lots of people who know Rodgers. But I’m NOT into the “fashion thing.” 49ers definitely!”
18. Woman, PT, 40’s: “49ers – I grew up with them, and my son loved his red and white 49er jersey for Christmas.”
19. Man, 20’s: 49ers definitely! My best buddy went to Cal (UC Berkeley) with Rodgers. He tried to shake Rodgers’ hand in class after a game they’d won. Rodgers brushed him off. So from that, I’d never root for the guy.”
And finally, Chico is home to one of the most famous world re-known breweries: Sierra Nevada, which had its start in a barn over 30 years ago. My husband, 2 little boys, and I attended the “opening” with about 25 other families like us, on an empty piece of land, soon to be its current brewery site. There was simple food, haystacks and music. Kenny and Katie Grossman did a good thing here. Kudos to them.
While Chico is 3 hrs. northeast of the San Francisco Bay Area, people are as passionate as ever for their teams, whom they call their own: SF 49ers, Oakland Raiders, SF Giants, and the Oakland A’s.
20. Man, 30’s: “49ers. Alex Smith got a raw deal with all the poor coaching. Finally it took Harbaugh to show a lot of confidence in him.”
21. Man, 30’s: “49ers. Yeah, Alex Smith has really made a comeback for him and his team. That shows a lot of character.”
22. Woman, 50’s, coach: “I’m a die-hard 49ers and Giants fan, always.
23. Woman, 40s: “Packers, because I’m a Raiders fan. I hate the 49ers – that rivalry is the thing.”
24. Man, 30’s: Packers, but only because we are die-hard Raiders fans from Oakland. But my family is from Wisconsin, so we grew up with the NFC team being the Packers.
I surveyed 130 people: 76 Men and 54 Women, from their 20’s – 60’s, with 3 people being in their 70’s. From Wednesday, January 4 through Saturday, January 7, I went to the following 9 local sites, attempting to get a variety of people from many walks of life, ages, interests, and of course, a few sports-designated places:
Chico Sports Club: January 4 – a large workout facility, owned by ex-49er Jeff Stover, offering the usual activities nearly every fitness club would offer. I interviewed people from:
- My spin class
- Weight Room
- Floor area with treadmills, ellipticals, stationery bikes, various weight and workout machines
- Women’s locker room
- Front desk/ check in/ lobby area
25. Man, 30’s” “49ers – they’re the California team”
26. Woman, 50’s: Packers. My son went to PV where Rodgers went. He knew Jordan, Aaron’s brother, and we loved Brett Favre. But my Dad? He is definitely for the 49ers”
27. Man, 60s, wearing a White Sox hat: “Packers. I knew Rodgers when he played for Butte JC. I’m a Trustee for Butte, so obviously I’m for them.”
28. Woman at check –in counter, 30s: “Janice, you already know I’m a Bears fan, so of course I’m for the 49ers. I just hope Urlacher is all right.”
S&S Butcher Shop and BBQ outdoor grill: January 4
Tony's Fruit Stand with Organic Navel and Satsuma Oranges: January 4
Physical Therapy facility ( for my dislocated shoulder rehab): January 4
29. Man, PT, 40’s: “Packers – Aaron and his brother have come in here for their work over the years. We know him well.
30. Man PT asst, 20s: 49ers – no doubt about it – always my team”
31. Woman at PT desk, 40’s: “ That’s a hard one….I know Aaron, but…..I have to say the 49ers – always been my team.”
Trader Joe’s between 7 pm – 8 pm: January 4
Tres Hombres – local excellent Mexican food, bar and grill restaurant with sports TV’s on in the bar area: January 6
Duffy’s Tavern: January 6. This is the place where many people head for their TGIF spot. The Irish Pub features a fabulous local band, the Pub Scouts, and three TV’s showing all sports games throughout the year. I interviewed people from 5 pm – 7:30 pm, with several NBA games on, including the Bulls v. the Magic. With my Baileys in hand, I had plenty of responses, some rather animated, as expected.
32. Michael, bandleader of the Pub Scouts, 60s: “49ers – come on over to my house for the game –We’re having a big party of course.”
33. Guitar Player, Man, 40’s: Green Bay – Aaron is a Chico guy, but I’m not really a football fan for teams from here. I’m an AFC guy- Browns and Dolphins.”
34.Woman, 40’s: 49ers. Alex Smith is a great story. And so is Harbaugh. He really gave Smith the confidence he needed. I’m a Steelers fan and jumped on the 49er bandwagon when I moved to California a while ago.”
35. 49ers always. My son went to PV with Rodgers and he was pretty arrogant.
Café Coda: January 7. A great breakfast place with French Press coffee and homemade breads
David’s (husband’s) Birthday party with a few friends (several Packer fans, several not interested in sports at all) January 7
In terms of the responses below, I included gender and age. As for the exact quoted answers above, I took the liberty to edit for brevity.
This was the focus of my life for 3 days. I dressed up as a professional: nice scarf, jacket, and slacks – as I do when I’m at my day job as a professor.
And I had so much fun – and I made it fun for all the people who responded. Some were in a hurry and gave quick answers, others engaged in long conversations with everyone around them. I provided a community spirit of dialogue and passion, along with some surprise among best friends whose comments shocked each other.
What struck me the most was that 100% of the responses at Trader Joes, which included people in line and the employees themselves, were all for the 49ers.
36. Woman, worker, stocking cheese case, 30’s: “Whole family 49ers, grew up that way, no reason to change.”
37. Chris, a friend of mine, math teacher, wins her fantasy football league every year: “Are you kidding me? 49ers always, and the Giants! All of us – my husband, kids, their spouses – totally. (And her son-in-law still thanks me for giving them NIEMI)
Total Responses: 130 in 9 locations
Totals: 76 Men 54 Women
Ages: Men Women
20’s 16 18
30’s 27 9
40’s 11 12
50’s 7 7
60’s 14 6
70’s 1 2
Totals: Packers: 53 49ers: 76 Abstention: 1
41% 58% .01%
Breakdown by Age and Gender:
Age 20’s Men: Packers 7 49ers 10
Age 30’s Men: Packers 8 49ers 18
Age 40’s Men: Packers 4 49ers 8
Age 50’s Men: Packers 1 49ers 7
Age 60’s Men: Packers 5 49ers 7
Age 70’s Men: Packers 1 49ers 0
Age 20’s Women: Packers 8 49ers 8
Age 30’s Women: Packers 5 49ers 7
Age 40’s Women: Packers 6 49ers 5
Age 50’s Women: Packers 4 49ers 3
Age 60’s Women: Packers 3 49ers 2
Age 70’s Women: Packers 1 49ers 1
So, what did we learn?
Inter-generational Loyalty to the 49ers, that is to say, growing up with your parents and grandparents who wore their red jerseys every Sunday, or took their kids to see their team play at Kezar Stadium, trumps a local boy making good. Also, several people were against the 49ers, only because they are Raider or Ram fans – and THAT rivalry against the 49ers helped folks decide to root for the Packers. Finally, having a relationship to the Rodgers family, one way or the other, influenced their decision.
38. Male, 20s: “ 49ers - Aaron’s Dad is my chiropractor, but it doesn’t matter. Family tradition overrules for sure.”
39.Male, 30’s: “49ers - Packers are a great team, but I’m with ‘my boys’ for life.”
40.Woman and Man in their 20’s” “49ers, because you have to show California solidarity. We went to school with Rodgers, but he thought everyone knew him, and if you didn’t……………”
41. Woman, 20’s: “Packers, because my sister loves the 49ers, and I always like to go against her. Yeah, it’s a rivalry thing – sibling rivalry our whole lives on everything!”
42.Woman, 40s: “Packers, because I’m a Raiders fan. I hate the 49ers – that rivalry is the thing.
43.Woman, teacher, 30s: “Aaron Rodgers all the way. I’m a Rams fan so I hate the 49ers. It’s all about the rivalry, so I want the Packers to win.”
As for the one abstention? This man, 40's was passionate about sports, but has since made other decisions after all the contract disputes between the players and owners of late. ‘I’m for nobody. Between the NFL and NBA contract disputes, how can anyone really care? Is $20 million really not enough to make? Really?”
And a few final thoughts, provided by my good friend Peter. He's my kindred spirit, another Midwestern transplant to Chico, sports lover from Detroit. 1) Mike McCarthy spent one year with the 49ers as Offensive Coordinator, when they drafted Alex Smith for their QB over Aaron Rodgers in the 2005. What if he remained with SF, and gradually moved up to become THEIR head coach? Give that one some thought.
Finally: 2) Larry David of Seinfeld fame had it right all along: people cheer for their team, the players in their jerseys, or whose inside the laundry.
And that's why I'll always be a Bears' fan. And why I spend a ridiculous amount of money for the DirectTV NFL package every football season. And why I red ink in their games on my calendar every Fall. And why I revolve my weekly schedule around Bears' games every year. And why I proudly wear my Urlacher Jersey on weekends when the Packers play the Bears here in Chico. It's MY laundry, and it's untouchable.
(For those of you who want to see it all, Part II, next blog, has all total 120 interview responses, attached to every interview site, gender, and age.)