I made the sacred pilgrimmage last Sunday to Lambeau Field, the land of the green and gold, the home of the cheesehead.
I’ve lived in the Upper Peninsula for only about seven years but with remarkable insight, I quickly adopted the Packers as my favorite team. The fact that they win most of the time and actually haven’t lost a game in the last year might have slightly influenced my decision.
But no, I don’t have a Packers’ room in my house and I wouldn’t seriously consider bidding more than $200 for an autographed glossy photo of Aaron Rodgers. Okay, $300, tops.
Seriously, I’m not one of those fanatical fans. No jerseys, no hats, no banners, no bumper stickers. I don’t like advertising anything on my house, my car or my person. Seems silly, even unseemly. The whole idea of religiously devoting yourself to a group of 53 young men–many of them grossly overweight, most of them lacking intellectual and spirtual heft, most of them millionaires, and most of them not caring a whit about you or me–well, that strikes as pointless and delusional. Surely, we can find other, more deserving people to worship.
So anyway, there I was, prior to the game, at Sidelines, a sports bar and grill a block from Lambeau, watching one of the 497 or so TVs on the walls, thrilled that, after only a ten minute, elbow-to-elbow search, we had found two empty, rickety wooden chairs at a table that smelled only slightly of spilled beer.
Less than 15 minutes later, our first beers arrived. I’m not normally a beer person, but these were the best damn beers of my life.
And the wings that arrived 15 minutes after that? Best, damn wings of my life!
And the beers after that? Best, damn…you get the idea.
There, amid the overflowing sea of green and gold jerseys, the beer and the wings, and the blaring TV sets broadcasting the early games before the Packers, I got a sense of what it was like to be a part of the Packers’ tribe.
That’s what it is: a tribe. Very nearly a religion. But as I say, that’s not my kind of thing. Oh, the people were friendly, very friendly. Even the waitress wore a smile!
And out on the streets, more of that sea of green and gold, and jerseys advertising Rodgers and Woodson and Matthews and a slew of other local heroes. Smiling faces everywhere filled with anticipation. And hands filled with beer.
Inside the cathedral–er, Lambeau–more of the same: green and gold, smiles, and beer. Seriously, doesn’t anybody drink pop in this town?
Next to me up in Row 57, which was just south of the horizon, was a lone fan of the Raiders, the Packers’ opponent.
“The f****n’ Raiders! They better win this game!” he shouted between slugs of beer.
A nice enough guy, unshaven and already half-inebriated, who informed us that his visit to Lambeau was just taking care of his “bucket list.”
“F****n’ Lambeau Field!” he exclaimed to us. “Can you f****n’ believe it? I’m sittin’ in f****n’ Lambeau Field!”
We all toasted his good fortune.
Things soon went sour for our Raiders’ fan. 7-0 in the first few minutes.
“I can’t f****n’ believe it!” he screamed. “C’mon, you f*****s! Don’t you know how to f****n’ tackle?!”
A limited vocabulary, to say the least.
And by the time it was 31-0, just before halftime, our friend had suddenly gone mute and, beer in hand, stumbled his way toward the exit. We never saw him again. I’m not sure what else he had on his bucket list but I got the sense that a colonoscopy might have been more enjoyable than his visit to Lambeau.
But more about me. So there I am, a “fan” but certainly not a fanatic, scrunched in among 70,000 rabid and grinning Packers’ fans, and every time the Packers score, the fans stand up and hold their gloved hands high, awaiting the high-fives that are eagerly offered by their grinning neighbors. It’s a ritual; everybody does it.
Me? I don’t care for high-fives, nor fist-bumps either. Silly, contrived, bonding exercises is what they are. So, after the first couple of touchdowns, I make a point of keeping my hands low. I retain my dignity.
But by the third or fourth touchdown, I give in. My hand goes up. High-fives all around. Woohoo! Hell, we were high-fiving after field goals and points-after-touchdown.
It’s kind of embarrassing.I don’t know how it happened except to say that I finally got religion. I joined the tribe.