Confessions of a Sports Fan(atic): My First Time at Lambeau Field (Part II) -dlh

Tariq Engineer

Mr. Samson and I made a beeline for the Packer Hall of Fame. The Green Bay Packers are the only professional sports team in the United States to have their own Hall of Fame. Some people may consider this to be a sign of conceit. I took it as a sign of adoration. The people of Green Bay love their team. There is no other word for it. They love their team. Part of the reason is that the people actually have ownership of the team in the form of shares. The team has no individual owner to ruin things, as one fan said during the 12-minute film we watched in the hall of fame. The team belongs to the fans in a way that is unique to the Packers.
It took roughly an hour and a half to make my way through the Hall of Fame. Even so I ignored a number of the exhibits. The Hall has a year-by-year account of the team. It would have taken too long to read them all. I had my picture taken with Brett Favre’s jersey. I had another taken with the three Super Bowl trophies. But what impressed me most was the Vince Lombardi section.
By every account, here was a man, a very special man. I watched player after player (on film) comment on his respect for Lombardi, and his desire to give the coach his absolute best when they played for him. He was not a just a coach, they said. He was a leader of men, on and off the field. A man whose respect you wanted to earn, because when he looked you in the eye and showed you he appreciated what you had done that day, there was no better feeling in the world. You don’t hear that said about a lot of coaches, then or now.
I must jump ahead in my tale once more, or I fear my editor will refuse to print my story on the grounds that no one is going to bother to read it. (It may be too late for that too.) By the time 3 in the afternoon rolled around, I was itching to get into the stadium. I had had enough of the build-up. It was time for the game. I walked up the concourse, into the bowl, and into a sea of green, gold and orange. All around me were some of the craziest and most dedicated fans in the country packed in together like sardines. I was almost overwhelmed by the dimensions of the spectacle.
The first thing I noticed was how small the field looked in comparison to seeing it on TV. The second thing I noticed was much bigger the players looked in comparison to seeing them on TV. It made for an interesting contrast. It was soon time for the team introductions. Needless to say the Vikings were booed. Then it was Green Bay’s turn, and the stadium erupted with the entrance of No. 4. The atmosphere around the stadium was unlike anything I had experienced up to that point. You could not have wiped away the grin on my face even if you had pointed a gun at me.
Following the game was difficult. Mr. Samson had warned of me of the difference between watching a game on TV, and watching it in person. I had a hard time keeping abreast of everything that was taking place on the field. In the days before Jumbotrons and instant replays, if you blinked, you missed everything. Luckily I got a second chance to see events unfold.
Meanwhile the fans seemed to live and die with each possession. When Favre threw an incomplete, the fans would scream at the players, telling them to get it together. When Green Bay got a first down, the team was going to the Super Bowl. It was high-intensity, high-energy involvement.
Sadly Green Bay, and Favre in particular, imploded. Nobody gave the Vikings any chance of winning going into the game. But they scored two quick touchdowns to start the first quarter, while Green Bay went three and out, followed by a Favre interception.
While the scoring slowed down thereafter, Green Bay never managed to develop any momentum, with Favre throwing another three picks. The Vikings eventually ran out 31-17, victors.
While I would have preferred a Green Bay victory, I discovered that the loss did little to ruin the experience for me. Since I was an “outsider,” I was able to value the entire experience without needing to tie it to a specific outcome. I had just witnessed a playoff game in the frozen tundra that is Lambeau Field. And while I did not exactly walk the field that so many legends have walked before, and that some walk still, I got close enough hear the footsteps. It was more than enough for me.