Saturday, November 18, 2006
Before I begin this journal, there is absolutely no way to express this experience in words, but here’s my best effort. After a smooth flight to Minneapolis, lunch in the mall inside the airport, and another smooth flight to Green Bay, the time had finally come to see Lambeau Field. As soon as we landed in Green Bay, I immediately focused on the series of events that had to occur in order to not miss our Lambeau Field tour. By the time we walked out of the airport, we had precisely 45 minutes to find a taxi, drive to our hotel, drop off our bags, get back in the taxi, drive to Lambeau Field, and find the meeting point for the tour! Not only did we make it, we had 20 minutes to spare! It wasn’t until when we were in the taxi, on the way to Lambeau Field when we saw it from a distance for the first time, that it finally hit me that we were really there – it was an exciting feeling! We arrive at the front entrance and get out to be greeted by the tall statues of Curly Lambeau and Vince Lombardi. Seeing these life-like statues sent a wave of history and tradition through the air and I was immediately in a very respectful state of mind as I recalled what I know of the history of these two men and what they brought to the Packers’ organization as well as the NFL. We walk in to the atrium and are amazed at the size of it. After we find the meeting place for the tour, I’m standing there looking at the pictures of greats like Bart Starr, Reggie White, Ray Nitschke, looking at the yard lines painted on the floor of the atrium that actually line up with the real yard lines on the field, feeling the presence of everything Green Bay Packers, anticipating the moment I get to see the field for the first time, and it’s just too much. I can think of 5 specific times in my adult life that tears were brought to my eyes. At the birth of each of my four children and now Lambeau Field. Yeah, maybe it’s a little corny, but if you shared the same appreciation of the Green Bay Packers - who they are, who they’ve been, where they came from, the legends born over the past 85 years, how they have changed the game, how the community owns the team and stands in line to sweep snow off of the field for free, how people literally come from all over the world to see the Packers, how season tickets have been sold out since the early 1960’s, how there is a 25 year waiting list for season tickets, how people put their name on the list so hopefully their grandkids can get season tickets, the Lambeau Leap, the Ice Bowl, the ACME Packers, Brett Favre and his magical ability to do anything on the field and yet be so humble while leading his team to success, Favre’s uncanny ability to perform at his highest during times of emotional and physical stress like losing his father, brother-in-law, finding out his wife has breast cancer and shaving his head to support her through chemo, Curly Lambeau inventing the forward pass, Vince Lombardi inventing the sweep, and the list goes on and on – but if you shared the same appreciation as me, and so many other people do, and it became your dream to see Favre and the Packers play at Lambeau Field, and then to have that dream enter your life as not a dream, but a real experience…maybe you’d also shed a tear or two. Soon after this minor breakdown, the tour begins. After a brief introduction, the tour guide led us outside to the statues and gave us a brief history of Curly Lambeau, Vince Lombardi, and the Green Bay Packers up to where they are now with Coach Mike McCarthy. Then we went up to the 6th level and went inside a $30,000 per game luxury suite for 49 people. The anticipation of seeing Lambeau Field for the first time was killing me. I wanted to push everyone out of my way so I could rush in there and see the field. I finally entered the room and the sight of such a beautiful field made my stomach drop and I really think my heart skipped a beat. It was so much more awesome than what I imagined it would be. Again, the history of what I was seeing hit me like a ton of bricks, but luckily I was able to keep my composure and save some embarrassment in front of the other 30 people in our tour. All I could do was stare at the field and replay game moments from the past that actually took place on the very field I was looking at. I was so entranced that I probably only heard half of what the guide said. We left the suite and went down to where the locker rooms are. We didn’t get to go in the locker rooms, but we saw them from outside. The next thing was something that was truly an unbelievable experience. We walked into the player tunnel and they played a recording of what it sounds like when the players are in there – the announcer announcing their entrance and the crowd roaring outside. It was quite the adrenaline rush! Knowing that I was walking down the same tunnel that Favre and the Packers and the Packer greats from the past walked down was almost an out of body experience. I closed my eyes and could feel the presence of all the players as I walked down the tunnel, especially at the place where they preserved actual cement and bricks from the original City Stadium before the modern-day Lambeau Field where Curly Lambeau and Vince Lombardi actually stood to address the Packers. What an amazing thing to see and feel! As we reached the end of the player tunnel, we had arrived at the grass of Lambeau Field. It was a sensory overload! I couldn’t believe I was actually standing on Lambeau Field! I’m sure it’s illegal, but as Jennifer took a picture of me touching the grass, I pulled some and stuffed it in my pocket. I will forever have a piece of Lambeau Field! I also touched and leaned up against the green wall where Packers perform the Lambeau Leap. Of course I imagined Donald Driver catching a pass from Favre and then running up to the exact point where I was standing to leap up over the wall where the fans would catch him and celebrate with him. Hopefully we’ll see quite a few of those tomorrow! After this, the tour was pretty much over after the practice facilities were shown to us in the distance. Here I am, the night before the game recalling the events of the day, and I can’t believe it will get even better tomorrow! I will actually see Brett Favre and the Packers play a game from the 4th row in the end zone! I literally can not believe we are actually here in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and will actually see the game tomorrow. Most dreams are never attained, but this dream of mine is being fulfilled right now! I am appreciating and taking this in as much as humanly possible. I will try to get some sleep tonight before going to the tailgate party and the game tomorrow!
Sunday, November 19, 2006
We wake up early in the morning, get ready, and board the bus to Lambeau Field for our tailgate party. It is probably 25 degrees, which is much colder then 25 in Texas…it feels more like 10! We arrive at the tailgate party, 2 blocks from Lambeau Field and make our way in. There are tents set up, tables, a DJ, and Gilbert Brown (former Packer on 1996 Super Bowl team), and TONS of fans, both Packers and Patriots fans. The fans on both sides are very classy and respectful of each other. We stand in line for the food and listen to the music, which is all Packers parody songs…songs like “The Bears Still Suck” and our favorite was “I love Brett Favre” to the tune of Toby Keith’s “I Love This Bar”- very funny! I fill up my plate with bratwurst, a cheeseburger, Brett Favre’s jumbalaya, and cookies – at 9am!! What a breakfast!! The food was delicious! We then go to find a drink, and were humored to see that you had 3 options – beer, bloody mary, or screwdriver! Again, at 9am!! What a tailgate party! I guess it’s so cold up there that they have to drink alcohol to stay warm! HA! Anyway, I grabbed a screwdriver that had been sitting for awhile with the vodka settled at the bottom and enjoyed a nice glass of orange juice. ;-) After hanging around for a bit, we make our way into Brett Favre’s Steakhouse where we bought a cheesehead and then a few more souvenirs on our way to Lambeau Field. It was a party the whole way to the field! At one point, I look over and see Vince Lombardi himself walking around with a Super Bowl trophy, so I had to get my picture with him! He was a very good look-alike. As we get closer to the entrance, we enjoy looking at all of the tailgaters in the parking lot – it was a very fun atmosphere! To our surprise, when we entered the stadium, we got free towels (like Pittsburgh’s terrible towel) and Brett Favre statues! Cool! We found our seats and were AMAZED at how close we were to the field! Being on the 4th row, we were only like 8 feet from the grass. Jennifer got excited too, she didn’t realize we would be so close. By then, it was probably 30-32 degrees or so, and in the sun, we could take our coats off (we each had layered clothing on over thermals), but when the sun went behind a cloud, it got COLD again. Seriously, it felt like the temperature dropped 15-20 degrees when the sun went behind a cloud! The players started coming out for pregame warm-ups and it was awesome to see them so close! Eventually, the game started, and it was absolutely one of the coolest experiences I have ever had! As the game went on, it was a little frustrating that the Packers were so flat. They never got pressure on Tom Brady (most overrated QB in the league), they couldn’t establish the run, and they couldn’t put together a string of completions. They also had a hard time stopping New England’s offense. The Patriots weren’t impressive or anything, they just nickel and dimed us. They had just lost two in a row, so I knew they were very beatable, but the Packers had to have some things clicking, and they just couldn’t get it going. Now, if you can imagine the irony of the situation here…Favre has started 251 games in a row, which is something that is just unfathomable as a QB in the NFL. It’s a testament to his toughness and ability to play through injury and pain. However, as irony laughs in my face, Favre goes down with 2 minutes left in the half. He of course pops up immediately, but is in obvious pain, holding his arm and wrist. The trainers come out to check on him, and funny enough, so do the refs! HA! After a few minutes, he looks like he’s about to go back to the huddle, but the trainers grab him and make him walk to the sidelines. He’s carted off to the locker room for testing. It was definitely a setback, but I tried to look at the positive side…I told myself that maybe it was luck that we got to see Aaron Rodgers play too – the future QB of the Packers after Favre retires. However, he didn’t have a good game. After halftime, Rodgers comes back out and Favre never does. I kept expecting Favre to come out any minute and come back in the game, because after all, Favre doesn’t get hurt – EVER! I notice early in the 3rd quarter, maybe the 1st or 2nd series, that Rodgers starts limping a little. It turns out that Rodgers had broken his foot and finished the entire game on a broken foot, which required surgery and a screw the next day! Must be part of being a Green Bay QB – no injury keeps you from playing! A few minutes later, Favre comes out of the tunnel and to the sideline, which of course was met by an eruption of cheers from the crowd. I kept waiting for him to come back in, but he never did. The Packers ended up losing 35-0. So here we are…living my dream at the frozen tundra in Titletown USA and the Packers lose to a team I think has been overrated for a decade and don’t really respect that much, and Favre gets hurt. Sure, I could have let myself sulk and get real upset at the result of the game, but it was seriously overshadowed by the fact that I was there in person. What an amazing experience! I knew the Packers lost 35-0, but they weren’t beat by the Patriots, they just simply didn’t show up to play. The Patriots weren’t 35 points better than them, they didn’t get shut down by an amazing powerhouse team, they just didn’t show up. So the game is over and we have 45 minutes to go back to the bus. I lingered in the stands as long as I could, because I knew it could easily be the last time I see Lambeau Field in person. I knew my perspective of the field would be changed forever, since I was there in person, but I just couldn’t let go…I couldn’t say goodbye. Finally, I gave it one last sincere lookever, and we left the frozen tundra. As we were walking underneath towards the exit, I felt as if I were on the other side of a new page in the history of my life. Major events come into our lives and carve out moments in time that become a reference point forever…for me, it was Lambeau Field. We stop at a concession stand since we didn’t get up the entire game and got some hot chocolate, a soda, and another bratwurst. There’s just something amazingly delicious about their brats – I don’t know what’s different, but they are soooo delicious! We make it back to the bus and eventually back to our hotel room, where we crash and watch the second half of the Dallas Cowboys game. What a game!! They beat the Colts!
Monday, November 20, 2006
We got up, went to pickup our rental car, and drove back to Lambeau Field. Being at Lambeau Field 3 days in a row was something I could get use to! It’s so amazing how every time I saw it for the first time in the day, it was such a rush! Even on the 3rd day, I couldn’t believe we were actually in Green Bay, Wisconsin at Lambeau Field. Unbelievable! We still had tickets to the Packers Hall of Fame as part of our package deal, so we (or at least I) wanted to take advantage of it. The tour was self-guided and took about 2 hours. It could have easily taken 3-4 hours if you stopped and looked at every single display and watched all of the videos and read all of the signs. It was really cool seeing the progression of the Packers from 1921 to the present, with actual equipment from the players of old and new. Leather helmets, jerseys that snap at the crotch like onesies, 80 year old cleats and shoulder pads, notes written by Vince Lombardi on the 7-4 defense, a hand-drawn chalk drawing of the infamous sweep play. There was also a setup of Vince Lombardi’s office, as well as life-size statues of players in formation at the Ice Bowl that you could stand next to. I stood next to Bart Starr and looked into the eyes of the Dallas Cowboys’ linemen and linebackers who were hungry to tackle me with all of their ferocious strength and it was quite intimidating. Very cool experience! We saw the three Lombardi trophies and made our way out of the Hall of Fame. After buying a few more souvenirs, we drove away from Lambeau Field toward Appleton, Wisconsin, where we would begin our journey home. It was a sad moment, leaving such an amazing monument behind, but life must go on. I have experienced a part of history that nobody can ever take away from me, and I hope to go back one day…with my son (and any other family member interested) :-).
Jennifer, thank you for agreeing to experience this dream with me! I am truly lucky to have a wife who loves football! YOU ROCK!