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So. This Is Lambeau Field.

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So. This Is Lambeau Field.

I promised my dad last Christmas that I’d take him to Lambeau this year. He laughed it off a little, but I told him -- once the schedule came out, he’d pick a game, and we’d make a weekend of it. You see, he'd never been, and neither had I.  I felt it was time to remedy that.  On April 20, the schedule came out, and by April 23, we had our tickets for the Bills game – section 125, row 35, seats 1-4. I bought the tickets for me and my dad, my dad bought a ticket for my grandpa (his 80th birthday was Saturday), and my cousin rounded out the group. Within a few days, Dad and I coordinated our flights into Milwaukee, and the calendar was set.  And that's how I began looking forward to this game 150 days before it was played.

Could we have gotten cheaper tickets if we’d waited? Of course. That’s not the point.

There were four (overt) Bills fans on our flight from DC, and they made a wry comment while we waited to board that this might be the only time during the whole weekend that they would outnumber Packer fans. They planned to drive straight to Green Bay to tour the Hall of Fame before it closed, and when they asked for a recommendation for dinner, I suggested Curly’s Pub. When I asked why they were coming to this particular game, they looked at me strangely and said, “Why not? It’s Lambeau.” That sounded about right to me.

[I found it curious that there was a single Vikings fan --- in full head-to-toe purple --- on each flight. Each looked miserable, as is only appropriate.]

We worked it out so Dad would stay in Burlington with his folks while I would stay in Milwaukee with my cousin. Him being him (an actuary) and me being me, we talked about healthcare and politics while watching college football. Mass, dinner downtown at Roots, a walk down by the lake…all very nice and pleasant.

I didn’t sleep well, and I can’t blame it on the deer mounted toward the bed in my cousin’s guest room. We met my dad and grandparents at Mayfair Mall at 7am (they’d arrived 20 minutes earlier, clearly excited for the day). Before we’d gone 15 miles, we started seeing other similarly-packed cars, loaded with green and gold passengers. We dropped grandma off in Appleton and continued on our way.

Once we turned onto Lombardi Avenue…well, what is there to say? I think of Lambeau as unapologetically majestic, proud, and unflinching. We drove around the block to get the full view, and it was as grand as I expected it to be. I loved the painted fences and the people singing karaoke in their backyard and the houses customized with Packers-centric decorating. I loved the people who’d added green and gold pompoms to their shoes and the kids with green wigs and face paint. It just made sense.

We did what any good Packer fan driving to the game would do – we parked in someone’s front yard, and set up camp. Grandma had made sandwiches and packed some homemade crock dill pickles (and Sprecher's root beer!). Sure it was 10am, so what? I confess I might have been a little antsy, so after we’d had our fill, we decided to head inside.

It might take me a week to get through everything in the Atrium without rushing. Within 10 seconds of being inside, I decided this trip should be a yearly thing.

We stopped through the pro shop (to get my cousin a hat --- he had to have some Packers gear), picked up the program and some pompoms, and went straight to our seats. I know there are dozens of things that I could have done instead, but I wanted to soak it in. You don’t get a do-over on “firsts.”

Our seats were right below Jim Taylor’s name in the Ring of Honor, along the 15-yard line. As soon as we sat down, an older couple near us turned around and expressed their relief that we were Packer fans. Our seats are usually bought by opposing fans, they said, and it’s wonderful to see some friendly green-and-gold instead.

After I tweeted a picture of my view of the field, I got a pleasant surprise – Jen Lada sent me a message that she was on my sideline and wanted to say hi. (Needless to say, I bounded down the stairs in fairly juvenile fashion.) She couldn’t have been nicer. We chatted about Andy Roddick bringing his dad to Lambeau (she was hoping for an interview), and how Jen had been at Caitlin Morrall’s wedding on Saturday (a childhood friend of mine). She paid me one of the nicest compliments I’ve gotten since Aaron and Corey asked me to start writing last year, and then climbed up on the fence so my dad could take a few pictures. I hope we get a chance to meet up again sometime.

Almost before I could recover, I got another message from Wally Pingel, which said only, “Turn around look up.” So, up to the upper concourse I climbed, to meet yet another person that I felt I already knew. It was such a treat to chat with Wally and BigSnakeMan (also from PocketDoppler.com), both before the game and at halftime, where Wally’s first comment was, “Well, this game is boring.” One of my few regrets about the trip was not being able to meet up with Brian Carriveau who, despite multiple attempts, could not figure out where in the stadium we were (my inability to accurately describe our location might have been a factor). My sincere apologies, Brian. Next round’s on me.

There were so many things about the day that I loved. Watching Crosby warm up. Seeing in person how animated Kevin Greene is…all the time. The sign someone had posted in tape on the other side of the field: “More Packs, Less Bills.” Hearing Aaron Rodgers call the players together for a pre-game pep talk in the huddle. Watching him bounce around as though he were as excited to be on the field as we were to be there. How the announcer introduced the Bills and Chan Gailey as though they were an afterthought, without fanfare, inflection, or enthusiasm… ho hum. Hearing the crowd roar even before Charles Woodson’s name was announced. Feeling the stadium tremble when the four jets flew over during the national anthem. Dancing around after Driver’s touchdown. After Rodgers’ touchdown. After Jones’ touchdown. After each of Clay Matthews’ big plays. Hearing the chuckles and cheers from the crowd as the announcer showed each of Favre’s four turnovers. How every time I looked at my dad and grandpa, their eyes were fixed on the field, smiling.

[I should also note that my college didn't have football, so I never got used to being in a crowd of 50,000 people all cheering for the same team. The only feeling of shared jubilation that comes close was (pardon the politics) Election night in 2008, when all of DC erupted.  But it's still not quite the same.]

There were also those things that I could have done without. Idiotic “Packer” fans behind me who, when they weren’t loudly criticizing Ted Thompson’s personnel moves andMcCarthy’s playcalling, spilled beer down my back, soaking our programs and sweatshirts. (As he went to get another beer, I noticed that he wore a #4 shirt…go figure.) The Packers’ inability to punch in either of their first two drives. The second quarter.

We had to leave pretty quickly after the game, heading back to Appleton for homemade chili and a few more hugs from family I don’t see near enough. All too quickly, we rejoined the mass of humanity driving south from Lambeau, heading back to their homes and lives after an afternoon spent celebrating a great team and a good win. Him being him and me being me, my cousin and I settled back on the couch to do a little work and watch a little football, respectively.

The flight on Monday came early. My cousin made sure I took some Sweetango apples with me on the plane (a honeycrisp-zestar hybrid only grown in three Minnesotan orchards). At the airport, a fellow Wisconsin transplant on his way back home to Seattle made sure I remembered to pick up some cheese curds. And on the flight back east, I was joined again by those same four Bills fans, who looked as exhilarated by the trip to Lambeau as I was, game outcome be damned. And then, shortly thereafter, I was back in my apartment, less than 48 hours after I’d left.

Within a few minutes, I’d already begun thinking about when, whether this season or next, I might get back.

But, really, what left the biggest impression during this trip wasn’t the game, or even Lambeau. And, while it was incredible to be among 70,000 people all going through the same emotional journey, that wasn’t what I’ll remember most. Frankly, what will stick with me the longest were all the comments and messages I received before, during, and after the game. As soon as I mentioned that I’d never been to Lambeau, people shared their stories about their first games. I couldn’t believe how many people said, “I’m so excited for you to go to this game.” The outpouring of encouragement, excitement, and general goodwill from Twitter and Cheesehead Nation was completely unexpected and overwhelming. I know I couldn’t reply to everyone who wrote, but I hope they realize how touched I was.

They said it would be life-altering, and yes, it’s true, being at Lambeau changed my expectations of what a football game should be. But with all the helpful tips (about which entrance to use and where the nearest bathrooms were), the shared memories and the good wishes, by the time I got to the stadium, I felt like I already knew the place. What a wonderful gift. What a wonderful weekend.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (37) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Dane's picture

the first time I went to Lambeau, we were looking for tickets outside the stadium - another Packer fan stopped by with tickets to sell, and asked if this was the first time we had been to Lambeau. We excitedly said yes, and he handed us the tickets and said 'Merry Christmas' (it was the last game of the year). I don't think there are many fans willing to part with $50+ tickets just so someone else can share the experience.

FITZCORE1252's picture

Very cool Holly, thanks for sharing.

WOOT

gbpf127's picture

It's always refreshing to hear someone's first at Lambeau. It only reminds me how fortunate I am to be able to go to most games. Regarding the Bills fans, I had only great feedback as well. I like to think that the Packer fanbase in general realize we are representatives of the team and show any and all opposing fanbases a great time. Next time you come back, tailgate in the parking lot with us! :) mg

Asshalo's picture

"The outpouring of encouragement, excitement, and general goodwill from Twitter and Cheesehead Nation was completely unexpected and overwhelming. I know I couldn’t reply to everyone who wrote, but I hope they realize how touched I was."

That's why Lambeau is so Unique. People call it a college game-day atmosphere but the truth is is the stadium is better and more friendly.

foundinidaho's picture

Holly, awesome write up, you may inspire me to write about my own first trip to Lambeau, lo these 14 years ago. Suffice it to say the part that still gives me chills is me remembering calling my Dad on my cell phone and yelling over the crowd "Dad!!! I'm in Lambeau!!! This is Monday Night Football - you're watching right?" and him just laughing at my delight. It's just an incredible experience.

Oh, and the gal with the Vikings sign and a horned helmet with a piece of cheese stuck on one horn - she went to the bathroom and all of us promptly took her stupid sign, ripped it up and passed it back several rows. We were playing the Eagles - WTF?

Jack's picture

I enjoyed reading this up until:

"The only feeling of shared jubilation that comes close was (pardon the politics) Election night in 2008, when all of DC erupted."

Talk about a BUZZ KILL.

P.S. For the record, the SweeTango apple variety is also grown in Door County, WI.

hollycrat's picture

Hey, find me a better comparison. I ain't got one.

To quote Barenaked Ladies completely out of context, "these apples are delicious." Actually, looks like they're also sold in MI, WA, and NY: http://sweetango.com/growers/

MDPackFan's picture

My sentiments exactly ...

MDPackFan's picture

... regarding Jack's posting, not Holly's um, comparison.

Herb Kohl's picture

I like Lambeau Field, too. Especially the locker room right after the guys shower. Now THAT'S entertainment :)

alfredomartinez's picture

holly thanks for sharing...i came to this country 14 years ago with the sole purpose (and no bullshit i kid you not) just so that one day, i may as well experience the extreme and solid beauty that LAMBEAU has to offer...im still working on it (living in California does not help lol) but i can only hope, that one day i can do the same for my dad, and experience that which you have...the great taste of history, tradition, team commitment, and down right town value...envious in a very respectful way : )

Chad's picture

Great piece!! Haven't made it to Lambeau for a game yet, so this definitely gives me even more incentive to take the trip.

david's picture

A comparison of Lambeau Field to the election of a Marxist, left-wing community organizer made me cringe. Its great you are a Packer fan but please keep your hands out of my wallet, thank you very much.

PackersThad's picture

Did you know that he is a closeted Muslim AND he alone is solely responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs, the Industrial Revolution, Manifest Destiny, and the Great Depression????

How is one man sooooo powerful!?!?!?

hollycrat's picture

Thad wins the comment cycle.

foundinidaho's picture

Thad, don't forget he's the anti-Christ too. Sheesh.

packeraaron's picture

Oh my god.

All you people complaining about this particular comparison really need to go to Jon Stewart's "Rally To Restore Sanity" on October 30th.

It's a blog post people. Not the Communist Manifesto. Take a chill pill.

JerseyPackFan's picture

Funny, I do not see Obama anywhere on the Packers Depth chart. Could we be trading for him?

bucky's picture

I'd rather have Obama in the backfield than Brandon Jackson.

Just kidding. Kinda.

DAWG's picture

I say trade for Cheney, the ultimate offensive weapon, imagine darth vader in the back field? let the force be with you.hahahaha

foundinidaho's picture

Amen.

Herb Kohl's picture

I like John Stewart. He has a limp wrist like me.

Asshalo's picture

Dey Tuk R Jebs!!!!

Irish Cheesehaed's picture

Are the Republicans still bitter?

Sharpshooter's picture

I know how Holly feels. The only experience I've had that comes close to the thrill of my first game at Lambeau was the time I handled my first semi-automatic weapon.

Jersey Al's picture

Holly, next trip you need to plan for a visit to the Hall of Fame and take a Stadium tour.

hollycrat's picture

Among 15,000 other things, yes. When I can set my own itinerary, you know I'll be making the rounds.

Oppy's picture

....May I suggest planning a trip for Training Camp, Holly?

Two of my childhood friends and I do a yearly jaunt up to Green Bay for training camp, always on a scheduled two-a-day practice, preferably in full pads.

The time between practices is great for hitting the Packers HOF, stadium tours, and, of course, taking a short drive to Al's Hamburger Stand for an authentic 80 year old traditional Al's cheeseburger with fried onions.

I'm already considering making GB my retirement destination, purely for the joy of spending summer days at training camp.

Wiscokid's picture

Actually, the share holders meeting is kind of fun. The weather is generally good, the mood is laid back and it gives you plenty of time to take in the sights. There's a brew pub in Green Bay that has some of the best beer but I can't remember the name of it. I'm sure somebody could help you out with that or maybe someone on the list could. I guess the beer must of been pretty good or I'd be able to remember the name of the place :)

PackersThad's picture

Holly!! One day (hopefully within the next year), I will experience what you have and take my first trip to Lambeau!! Your pictures are amazing and I loved reading about your trip to Lambeau!! But if I am going to go to Lambeau, I definitely have to do the Hall of Fame and make sure I walk around as much of Lambeau as I can!! And hopefully I can find some nice people to tail-gate with!

JerseyPackFan's picture

Thank you for sharing your first to Mecca with us. I cant wait for mine and my sons on October 24th. When I`m there I will be sure to remember what you said about not getting a do-over on "firsts."

FITZCORE1252's picture

Oh yeah! I remember you posting about your upcoming trip months ago. You GOTSTA be getting anxious. Awesome.

DAWG's picture

Thanks Holly, I love reading these kind of stories. Next time you gotta come early, and check out the tailgating, one of my fav's.

Irish Cheesehaed's picture

Awesome read! I'll be taking my two kids to their first game in 2 weeks vs. the Lions. Now I just need to figure out where to park and tailgate.

Jack's picture

The best place to park is the Resch Center lot off of Lombardi Ave. It is easy-in and easy-out; if you park elsewhere you are going to be stuck in traffic after the game.

Irish Cheesehaed's picture

Thanks, Jack!

JohnRehor's picture

Definitely sounds like the weekend was everything you hoped for and then some. I had similar feelings after the first time I went there and will never forget it. A win just added to the experience. Thanks for sharing with all of us.

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