Green Bay, WI - Like a pot of bratwurst left unattended at a Lambeau Field pregame party, simmering tensions in the strife-torn Midwest boiled over once again today as rioting mobs of green-and-gold clad youth and plump farm wives rampaged through Wisconsin Denny’s and IHOPs, burning Texas toast and demanding apologies and extra half-and-half.
Cartoon that shocked Midwest
The spark igniting the latest tailgate hibachi of unrest: a Texas newsletter's publication of caricatures of legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi.
Protestors demonstrated against the images throughout the Badger State yesterday, with violent egging and cow-tipping incidents reported in Oconomowac, Pewaukee, Sheboygan, Ozaukee, Antigo, Oshkosh, Waubeno, Wauwautosa, Waunewoc, Wyocena, Waubeka, and Washawonamowackapeepee.
Some of the most dramatic skirmishes were centered around Kenosha, where a mob of masked snowmobilers invaded the Texas Roadhouse on I-94, briefly holding the margarita machine hostage. They were later seen storming the beverage department at Woodman's, where they purchased several cases of Point and a pack of Merit menthols, and later at the Brat Stop classic rock/sausage outlet, where they were reported angrily "boogie-ing out" on air guitar to featured entertainment Molly Hatchett.
But by far the fiercest demonstration took place in Green Bay's Lambeau Shrine parking lot where throngs of Packer faithful burned Texas flags and effigies of Roger Staubach as Lutheran pastors led them in chants of "Those who defame the Vince suck" and "Favre is Great." Many of the frenzied demonstrators were seen ritualistically beating themselves with mozzarella sticks.
The crowd eventually dispersed, lured away by local supper clubs and the nickel slots of nearby Oneida Bingo Casino, but Pastor Doug Schmidtke of Fond Du Lac's Grand Lutheran Temple threatened continued community unrest "until the infidels of Texas deliver an apology. And the head of Tom Landry in a paper bag."
While the curd-strewn streets of Green Bay remain calm for the moment, a startled Texas government official -- speaking on terms of anonymity -- said that they would work with other developed states to find a solution to tensions "before the situation erupts into a full-fledged clash of civilizations."
Eye of a Storm
Over the past five years, the volatile Midwest has produced violent rage like the knockwurst output at Milwaukee's venerable Usinger's -- sudden, repeated, and in long unbroken strings. One of the principle catalysts was the rise the Uff Da insurgency, led by the enigmatic Pastor Duane Gunderson, who seek a unified Lutheran caliphate stretching from the Great Plains to Lake Huron, and the banning of non-Big 10/Pac 10 apostates from the Rose Bowl. Gunderson remains in hiding, but his influence was seen last year in the widely publicized Lutefisk desecration riots that rocked the Heartland amid the pancake breakfast holidays.
Still, outside of the Dells and a handful of violent outposts near its western Mississippi River border, Wisconsin remained a relatively calm exception to the Midwestern maelstrom surrounding it -- a fact that experts attribute to subtle differences in culture and religion.
"Unlike the ultra-extreme, radical Lutheran sectarians of Iowa and Minnesota, most ethnic Wisconsinites belong to the Wisconsin Lutheran Synod," said Joseph Killian, a Midwestern Studies professor at Emory University in Atlanta. "And if you add in three Super Bowl titles, easier access to beer, and walleye fishing, and you're going to have a much calmer and more stable culture."
All that would change in November with the publication of four cartoons in a Texas office newsletter -- cartoons that today have brought this once happily beer-goggled society to the precipice of all-out culture war.
A thousand miles south of Wisconsin's sprawling Holstein pastures, Josh Davidson peers between the drawn drapes of his Plano, Texas apartment, looking for signs of suspicious green-clad strangers. It is his third day at the address, but he is already scanning the classified ads for his next residence. For this 37-year old, staying ahead of Packer radicals has become a full time job.
In November, Davidson -- a self-described diehard Dallas Cowboys fan -- made a fateful decision that would alter his life and whose reverberations are currently shaking the foundations of two societies.
"The Appleby's in Frisco has two big screens, and I liked going there Sunday for the Cowboy games," Davidson explained. "But one weekend there was this annoying bunch of Wisconsin immigrant idiots with foam rubber cheese wedge hats, screaming for the Packers on the other screen."
In response, Davidson drew four provocative cartoons of revered Packer coach Vince Lombardi, and distributed Xeroxed copies to his co-workers at VHT Technologies in Plano. What he didn't know is that one of co-workers was an alumnus of Marquette, and the cartoons would soon be circulated throughout the Packer world.
The response would be immediate and visceral.
"While Wisconsin culture is tolerant compared to, say, Iowa, what many outsiders don't understand is that its ultimate taboo is graven images of Lombardi," said Nigel Rhys-Jones of Harvard's Institute of Primitive Anthropology. "The only Lombardi iconography allowed is allegorical, in throw blankets or needlepoint appliques, and must be purchase at craft fairs from chubby Lutheran women in windbreakers. For a Cowboy fan to make cartoons of the Vince is... let's just say the ultimate sacrilege."
The appearance of the cartoons in Wisconsin media sparked a angry reaction in the Packer street, a reaction that some say radical Lutheran clerics were more than happy to foment and nurture with every Packerless playoff game.
After the NFC Championship game in January, WTMJ radio in Milwaukee broadcast a newly surfaced audiotape of Duane Gunderson on the Wayne Larrivee Packer Report, in which he urged Packer faithful to "rise up against the mockers of the one and true coach."
"Those who sow the curds of blasphemy will reap the cheddar wheel of destruction,” he added cryptically.
In response to growing pressure and threats of Wisconsin boycotts, VHT Technologies dismissed Davidson on January 21, issuing a fulsome personal apology from CEO George Uhl asking Wisconsinites "to consider VHT the next time you are choosing a supplier of multiphase diodes," and "please don't kill me."
Despite the olive branch, the Packer community finally exploded into the streets Sunday, as already frayed emotions were further enflamed by the awarding of the Vince Lombardi trophy to the Super Bowl's victorious Pittsburgh Steelers.
Numerous request to Texas Governor Rick Perry to execute or extradite Davidson to Wisconsin have thusfar gone unheeded, but it is unclear whether the Governor can withstand the growing political pressure for a cathartic public beheading. With nearly one million ethnic immigrant Midwesterners now living in Texas, experts say Perry risks alienating an important voter bloc. More troubling, some analyst believe that south Texas is currently infiltrated by a sleeper cell of tens of thousands of elderly Midwestern snowbirds, each of whom is armed with a Winnebago capable of smashing into a fast food restaurant.
Picking up the Pieces
new hope for peace,
laser guns, buffalo burgers
As the world awaits the next move in this complicated polka of realpolitik, tensions throught the Midwest remain as high as the cholesterol. However, yesterday saw one hopeful sign of a thaw: a consortium of civic, religious and Packer club leaders announced an emergency summit at the Fudgienuckles bar in Glenbuelah next week to start a dialogue with their non-Midwestern counterparts. At the top of the agenda: working with non-Midwestern leaders to create regional peace and security by passing international anti-Packer blasphemy laws.
Small steps to be sure, but observers say these safety measures will help quell the roiling unrest before it spreads to the dimwitted ultra-militant Yoopers of Michigan's notorious Ishpeming Triangle.
While politicians and community leaders from Austin to Rhinelander work to sort out the issues, Josh Davidson says he will try to get on with his life, "maybe in Brazil or Nepal." Still, he says, he can't help puzzling over how he came to his current circumstances.
"Yeah, I guess maybe I was trying to push a couple of Packer hot buttons," he now admits. "I never though it would mean taping a mirror to a pole to check under my car for bombs every morning."
Does he have any regrets? Davis ponders a moment.
"No, not really," he says. "I'm just glad I didn't hand out those cartoons of Mike Ditka."