If you live in Green Bay, Wisconsin, you know what the biggest event of the year will be. As a matter of fact, it will occur at least eight times a year, add three more for off-season exhibitions. My source for this next statement is slightly outdated, as it is taken from a 2013 Washington Post article, but 88 percent of the city’s 100,000 residents are engaged in these sporting happenings-whether it be attending, watching on TV or listening on the radio. Add the cold of December and the home team’s oldest rivals, and it is sure to be a classic affair.
I’m talking of a Green Bay Packer home game at Iconic Lambeau Field. In this particular instance, they’re taking on the Chicago Bears for the 200th time, which is the most two teams have faced each other in the National Football League.
Now, you may ask, who would want to stand out in subfreezing temperatures to watch a bunch of sweaty, overgrown men pushing each other around? First of all, there’s more to football than that narrow perspective. As for your answer, it’s simple, Green Bay Packer fans. We revel in it, well not all of us, but quite a few love to brave the elements and create an absolutely hostile environment for opposing teams. Packer fans are actually famous for it, namely because of the 1967 NFC championship game known as the Ice bowl. During that historic game, the fans withstood temperatures of -15 degrees Fahrenheit. So, when I woke up Sunday morning and learned the high temperature would only be eighteen degrees, I couldn’t simply skip the game and waste my 100 dollars on pre-purchased tickets. That would be pure sacrilege. In Wisconsin, you’re born and raised a Packer fan, and bundling up to cheer on the Pack is practically a rite of passage.
So, on with my experience at a historic stadium with one of the most revered rivalries in professional sports.
We’re driving through a neighborhood in Ashwabenon, Wisconsin, searching for a place to park. It’s still early and, believe it or not, I easily find a spot free of charge right on the street. Heidi’s asking why I didn’t park closer, but the walk to the stadium isn’t that bad. Plus, it doesn’t matter how fast we get to our car, we’re sure to be stuck in traffic after the game, albeit a car is warmer than a long walk in the cold.
After a short stroll through this neighborhood, above the rooftops, Lambeau Field comes into view. I can see the Packer logo emblazoned high atop the Stadium’s façade. Along with the sight, I smell the distinct scent of burning charcoal stealing the crisp clean air. As its smoke emanates from a nearby grill at Kroll’s West, People are mingling and starting their day off with a beer. I hit the porta-potty and enjoy the atmosphere for a bit. Fans are dancing, laughing and chanting that montra meant to be taken lightly-“The Bears Still Suck!”
We then traverse the Stadium’s parking lot, as our gate is on the other side of the arena. A cold weather game is certainly not a fashion show. People throw on whatever they can to stay warm. Granted, even in the cold weather, some individuals will dress to get oohs and ahhs from passers by.
Many wear jerseys of their favorite player over their many layers of clothing. Yes, some are donning the colors of today’s visiting opponent.
I, myself, value my health. So, I’m dressed in layers with a cold weather jacket and snow pants on the exterior. After a slight dilemma, involving our tickets on our mobile device, we make our way through the metal detectors and the ticket gates. We then find our seats.
I love the feel of lambeau, its simply a feeling of communtiy, no matter what team you root for. And over 78,000 people simply crammed themselves into this bowl like stadium and brought the pre-game party atmosphere onto the big stage. From the moment our national anthem is played and F-16 fighter jets roar above the venue, people are cheering, dancing to keep warm, enjoying brats with their beers and good naturedly conversating with or, in some cases, razzing their neighbors. Oh, and there’s a pretty significant game happening on the field as well.
This rivalry dates back to November 27 1921, when what was then the Decatur Staley’s beat the Green Bay Packers 20-0. It’s the oldest, longest running and the premier rivalry of the NFL. What makes it even better, the all-time series is pretty even with a slight edge towards the Packers. Today, Packer fans are praying for a better outcome than that of 1921. This year, the first game in Chicago was a pretty ugly contest, although the Packers ended up with a win. Today’s game would fall under the same description and by halftime, as I feel a chill setting in my bones, the score is 7-3 in favor of the home team.
During the midway break, I make my way to the only heated portion of the stadium I can find-the men’s room. The only other way to get any heat back in my chilled bones is hot beverages like hot chocolate and apple cider. The good people of Lambeau are offering them for free today. There’s a slight line into the restroom and when I finally reach the que for the urinals, the place is packed. I really don’t mind waiting, I don’t absolutely have to go this very moment, plus my body is recovering from the chilly air.
I zip up and make my way to the stands right before the second half kick-off. Apparently the Packers offense made some adjustments during half-time. The third quarter is the best part of the game for the Green Bay faithful, as the Packers extend their lead to 21-3. Right now, I’m enjoying how the announcer engages with the onlookers as he, along with videos on the Jumbo-Trons, urges fans to get up and make noise at key moments during the game. He also sends a shh towards the fans while the offense takes the field, so the entire team can hear our quarterbacks cadence at the line of scrimmage.
In the fourth, after the fans get rowdy and Jump around to the ‘House of Pain’, Chicago makes a game of it-scoring 10 points. It’s now a one possession game. Things are getting a bit tense but when the two minute warning hits, we all sing a Wisconsin favorite- a polka known as ‘Roll Out the Barrel.’ Like I said, it’s pretty much a party.
Even though the people in front of us leave about that time, they miss a desperate last second trick play that came two yards shy of threatening overtime. And when I say last second, the play actually starts with one second left on the clock. However, the Packers prevail, and most in the stadium are going home happy. As we head towards the exits, haughty chants of “Go Pack Go” and ‘The Bears still suck” echo through out the concourse.
Its a feeling of community. You know, high fiving the guy next to you even though you only met him the moment you took your seat. Plus, It’s a time honored tradition. If your from this neck of the woods, your great-grandfather may have taken your grandfather. In turn your grandfather may have brought you. It’s simply something you do because it rarely disappoints.
And that’s what a game at Lambeau Field is like.