The familiar voice boomed out from across the Houghton Walmart recently.
"The Pack is Back."
The voice belonged to someone whom I always referred to as "Perry Packer," a moniker given to him way back in the Age of Aquarius.
In reality, Perry Packer was an advertising name used by a Green Bay auto dealership. But it fit this guy to a 'T'.
Perry and I attended Suomi College back in the mid-1960s. Or more accurately, we occupied space at SC.
We both had an avid interest in sports and used to exchange darts over our favorite sports teams. To call us friends would be a long stretch.
Like all too many fans around here, he was a fan of the Tigers, Red Wings, and even the Pistons.
But he was also a big booster of the Green Bay Packers - a fact that always raised my hackles.
A typical exhange between us went something like this:
Perry: "I'm getting ready to cheer on America's real team this Sunday."
Me: I always thought you were a Green Bay rooter ... not a Lions fan"
Perry: The Pack IS America's team."
Me: "Funny, but the last time I checked, Detroit was located in Michigan. And you live in Michigan."
Perry: I can drive four hours and be in Green Bay. It takes 12 hours to get to Motown."
And so it went for hour after hour as I extolled the importance of backing the teams in your own state, and he gave the rather lame excuse that downstate didn't give a hoot about the Upper Peninsula.
He might have been right on that count but when it comes to sports teams, loyalty is the top priority.
He eventually finished his six years at Suomi and moved around the country, occasionally visiting up here.
The last time I saw him, we had a lively discussion about Green Bay drafting Tony Mandarich ahead of Barry Sanders.
Mandarich was recently rated as the second worst flop in draft history (only Ryan Leaf was ahead of him).
Sanders became, without question, the best running back in the history of the NFL. Forget the stats, he would have shattered Walter Payton's and Emmit Smith's totals if he had played more than 10 seasons.
I reminded him that if Brett Favre and Sanders had played on the same team, Green Bay would have won five Super Bowls. For once, he had no retort.
Our latest reunion proved that a leopard can't change spots.
After I inquired if he had just been released from the witness protection program or jail, he fired back:
"Matter of fact, I was. And I saw a lot of your team (Lions) in there."
After that, we had a debate over who was the top player in the NFL. He naturally chose Aaron Rodgers of the Packers. I took Calvin "Megatron" Johnson of the Lions.
Eventually, we switched gears to baseball and found a common ground.
We both agreed that Tigers manager Jim Leyland should be fired immediately while the underachieving team still had a chance to make the playoffs.