Confessions of a Sports Fan(atic): -dlh

Tariq Engineer

The first NFL game I watched was Super Bowl XXXII. I didn’t know very much about football back then, but I knew enough to know Elway deserved a ring. So when Denver beat Green Bay, I walked away feeling fairly content. Little did I know that three years later I would find myself going to school in Appleton, Wis., a mere half hour from Title Town.
When I arrived in Appleton, the Green Bay Packers were still just another football team to me. I had no concept of the fervor of their fans, nor any understanding of how closely the identity of the town (and the state) was tied to the team. It didn’t take very long for all that to change. I learned all about Lombardi, Lambeau and the cheeseheads. More importantly I was converted. Favre became my favorite player, and I found myself wanting *******– no needing ********– to see the Packers play at Lambeau.
Yet by the end of first term my senior year I was still no closer to going to a game then my freshman year. At this point I was sure Opportunity had passed me by without even bothering to knock. There was a moment when I thought I saw it looking through my window, as if it were contemplating coming to see me, but it was only teasing. Or so I thought. It turns out Opportunity was simply waiting for the best, well, opportunity.
The Monday night before the Packers were due to play the Vikings in the first round of the 2004 NFC playoffs, I got a call from friend of mine, Will Samson. Will graduated from Lawrence in 2003, and is now studying down in Texas. Will is from Appleton and was here on winter break.
More importantly he knew about my desire to see the Packers play football in the flesh. Very casually, and without any warning, he asked me if I wanted to go to the Packers******–Vikings game that weekend. His dad had two tickets, and since Will was going back to Texas before the game, he wanted to know if I wanted to go. I was speechless (those of you who know me know that does not happen very often). I couldn’t believe I was going to a Packers playoff game.
The next day found Will and myself going through Will’s old clothes to see what would fit me because I certainly did not own the necessary clothes for such an occasion. Will is *******6′ 4″*********** tall, so this was not an easy task. Luckily we found his old blaze orange hunting suit, which turned out to fit me just right. And just like that I was on my way.
In the interest of brevity (though it might already be too late), I shall now jump ahead to the day of the game. Suffice to say I spent the rest of the week in something of a daze, trying to anticipate what it must be like to voluntarily sit outdoors with 72,000 people in sub zero temperatures for over three hours.
Harvey Samson, Will’s dad, had instructed me on the number of layers I needed to be wearing before the hunting suit went on. I think I doubled my bodyweight by the time I was done. The hunting suit was only going to go on when we got to the stadium. I could hardly wait.
Once we got to Green Bay, I realized we weren’t actually in Green Bay. It turns out that Lambeau Field is in Ashwabenon. The team is called the Green Bay Packers because the money to sponsor the team comes from Green Bay. My day was already proving to be educational, and I hadn’t even gotten out of the car yet. I donned the hunting suit by the side of the road, and then it was time to enter the stadium.
Now we got there just before noon on Sunday. The game wasn’t due to start until 3:30. But there were already thousands of people making their way into the stadium. I was aware of the legendary dedication of Packer fans, but now I was experiencing it firsthand.