Roddy L’Estrange: Fright night at Vinny’s as Packers come unstuck

Cheese party host left speechless as Seattle Seahawks swoop for victory

Asthe final episode of Charlie gripped a nation on Sunday night, Vinny Fitzpatrick was in thrall to another leader of men; arguably, a far more noble one too, Aaron Rodgers.

In the top left-hand corner of the United States, the hobbling Rodgers was defying medical science as he pointed Vinny’s much-loved Green Bay Packers towards the Super Bowl.

At half-time, the Packers were up 16-0 and all that could be heard of the Seattle Seahawks’ much-vaunted 12th man was silence.

“So much for Seattle’s sounders,” thought Vinny as the night unfolded for him far better than he’d dared hope.


For starters, he’d an ante-post nifty-50 riding on Green Bay at 8/1 to win the NFC title, and had recently topped it up with a sneaky score at 9/2 for the Super Bowl.

“It’s Green Bay for the green backs,” he said to himself as he totted up his winnings.

It helped his mood that the lads had gone along with his request to bring cheese with them to his den in Mount Prospect Avenue in recognition of The Packers’ nickname, The Cheeseheads.

“It’ll be like a cheese and wine gathering, only without the wine,” chuckled Vinny.

In fairness, the lads had shown a sense of imagination. Between Camembert (Fran), Cashel Blue (Brennie), Emmental (Macker), Feta (Charlie) and Halloumi (Two-Mile Boris), Vinny reckoned five nations were represented in the cheese-fest – “hopefully, one for every Packers’ touchdown,” he said.

Sneaky peek

As the lads dipped and supped at the break, there was giddy talk of a record Packers win.

Even Vinny, who’d already had a sneaky peek at the price of flights to Phoenix for Super Bowl, was starting to count his chickens, and his cash.

After all, Rodgers had won 40 out of 41 previous games where the Packers had led by 16 points or more.

Only Charlie Vernon urged caution. "We saw how Martin Kaymer collapsed today in Abu Dhabi. Big leads can be blown."

With a little over two minutes to go, the Packers led 19-7 and one more possession would close out the game.

As the lads took closer interest, especially Charlie, Vinny wasn’t worried; it was like a pro golfer standing on the last tee in a tournament needing a double bogey to win. Even calamity Kaymer, playing blindfolded, couldn’t screw this one up, he thought.

In desperation, the Seahawks tried a grubber on-side kick. The ball reared up into a sea of green and yellow, and Vinny rose too, to celebrate the catch, and the win.

All it needed was the ball to affix itself to the hands of a Packer but a burly guy named Bostick, irony of ironies, let it slip through his fingers.

As Bostick blundered, Vinny’s stomach churned, which had more to do with an impending sense of doom, than the gurgle of porter and cheese in his gut.

“Don’t do this to me, Packers,” he wailed.

The next few minutes were sheer torture. The fumble was followed by back to back Seattle touchdowns; the second of which was adorned by a two-point conversion.

The hunted

From being the hunters to the hunted, the Packers needed a last-gasp field goal to force overtime but the momentum was lost and Vinny was dumb-struck.

As the lads hunched forward, chomping on fried Halloumi, Brennie piped up: “What a comeback, eh?”

Vinny felt as helpless as a turtle on its back. “We’ve blown it, big-time.”

The lads tried to chivvy him up, pointing out it was akin to 0-0 with 15 minutes to go but Vinny was disconsolate; the die was cast.

A few minutes later, a Seahawk called Kearse – rhymes with hearse – soared in to end zone for the winning touchdown as the Packers collapsed like a cheap suit.

“Talk about snatching defeat from the jaws of victory,” said Brennie, his eyes enlivened. “Glad I snuck a tenner on Seahawks at 20s at half-time.”

Vinny couldn’t bring himself to growl in anger. Speechless with rage, he shoved a fistful of Emmental down his throat, and began to chomp and swallow apace.

Within a few moments, he was coughing and waving his hands about as a hard edge of cheese got lodged in his throat.

“Help us, lads,” he wheezed, while pointing to his Adam’s apple.

Quickly, Two-Mile Boris took charge. A qualified nurse, the Russian hauled Vinny to his feet, stood behind him and then wrapped his bulging pop-eye forearms around Vinny’s waist.

Taking care to tuck his thumb into his fist, Two-Mile expertly performed the ‘Heimlich Manoeuvre’, as he executed a succession of upward thrusts of Vinny’s capacious tummy.

On the third heave, or maybe the fourth, Vinny shuddered and the offending piece of Emmental popped out. As it did, he instinctively stuck out a hand. “That’s how you make a catch,” he spluttered, as much in relief as in exasperation.

Their friend

The lads gathered around their friend, their concern evident. “Jaysus, you gave us some fright Vinny. That was some choke,” said Fran.

Vinny paused before allowing himself a wry smile. “It sure was. Not seen one like that since . . the Packers tonight,” he said.

The next night, Vinny was in recovery mode. He consoled himself that the Packers had, at least, given him a decent run for his money.

Also, his support for the Wisconsin team was unwavering, as demonstrated by his hard-necked call to wear his Packers hat, complete with ear-warmers, to work.

It was almost 8.45 as he plonked down in front of the telly after a draining stint on the 130. He’d tried to move his shift around as Everton were on the box but Socket Twomey was still scorpy over the bop on the bus before Christmas and refused to play ball.

As the pictures flashed up from Goodison Park, Vinny checked out the score between Everton and West Brom – 0-0 – and saw the referee pointing to spot for an Everton penalty. Things, he was certain, were about to take a turn for the better.