It is a rare occasion when I get to fulfill a lifetime dream. This weekend I was able to cross off perhaps number one on the list.
I made it to Lambeau.
It would be impossible for me to convey in words exactly how much going to the see the Packers play actually meant to me. It was something I have wanted to do for nearly three decades.
I have needed to live frugally for most of my life, and until this weekend the trip never really played into the cards at all. I had tried to find reasonably priced tickets in the past, but nothing ever came up that wouldn't have been irresponsible of me to act on. With a little help from a friend, finally it all came together.
Here is how it went, Alex style.
Oh My God It's Crappy Out
It stood to reason, there was no way the man upstairs was going to make this easy for me. He never does. I only live about 160 miles away from Green Bay but I decided to get up super early anyway. I wanted to get to town by 8 a.m. to meet my friend David (IronMan) and start our tailgate as early as possible. I was so pumped for the game that I couldn't sleep. At 3:30 a.m. I decided to hit the road about two hours earlier than I needed to.
Good frickin' thing.
Since the State of Wisconsin decided it wasn't going to plow the interstate on Sunday morning, I took perhaps the most stressful drive of my entire winter weather driving career. The roads were frozen from the melting the day before, two inches of snow covered this ice, and the four-lane was basically covered with snow and drifts, half a lane wide, and completely invisible due to the twenty-mile-an-hour winds that were blowing all the powder so fiercely that I could only use the reflectors on the side of the road to guide my way.
I don't think the speedometer ever went over 40 mph the entire way drive, but I continued in on in hopes it would get better. It never did. Arrival time--8:25 a.m.
I seriously thought I was a goner several times on that trip.
Wrong Turned Right
As usual, my mapquest directions were a little bit off. Aren't they always? Anyway, I ended up making, or missing, a turn somewhere on the way to David's motel. It was obviously meant to be because, as I bitched my way around the corner, I saw a sign that said Lombardi Avenue. As I looked to my right--there it was.
I'll admit it. I totally pumped my fist and yelled out loud in my car. It was pretty exciting man. It looked a whole lot smaller than I thought it would. It also looked a whole lot cooler than I thought it would.
I finally found David's motel and we wasted no time hitting the road. It was about a mile walk to the stadium and we trudged right down the wrong side of the street, in the road, up to the Bart Starr plaza for a brief tailgate. I think we both were all about getting into the stadium early, so we had a quick meal and David started hitting the tappers as I hit the 7-Up and the BBQ ribs pretty hard myself.
The bartender called David impressive, as his time vs. beers downed stats were off the chart. We didn't stay all that long but on the way out I walked right past Fuzzy Thurston.
This Is No Time To Sit Around
Like I said, I think we were all about getting into Lambeau field. We checked out some of the characters coming in and out of the stadium for a bit, then decided to hit the road. I would say Rodgers jerseys pretty much dominated, with Jennings and Woodson a close second. If I had to pick a third I would have to say Hawk would take it. Yes, there were plenty of Favre's as well.
This was my favorite fan picture.
So, we left the tailgate and hit the trail to the stadium. The parking lot was starting to fill up a little bit, and a steady stream of people were making there way into the parking lot. It was still pretty early, but it was all about Lambeau for me. See you later Fuzzy.
Right before we started to make the trek to the stadium, I had to pause for a moment and have a few words with Mr. Bart Starr.
Then, it was time to hit the pavement to the Parking lot. By now the lot was pretty full, and the banners were waving in full force. It was only a coupe hundred yards to the promised land.
Within minutes we were walking through the sea of tailgaters and perhaps past the largest grill on the planet. Then, finally, we were at the gates of Lambeau field.
The whole thing was kind of a blur from there. My initial reaction was that it was a little more rustic on the concourse than I expected. You see pictures of the Atrium all the time, and it looks quite comfy. The actual walking area around the inside of the stadium is simple cement floors and pretty open air. Our gate was only a few yards from the entrance. I headed through the tunnel and I tell you my heart was racing so fast it was insane. And then, as the light broke the shadows, there it was. Luckily, it is forever on video.
I just took the whole thing in for awhile. We hit the seats right away and took some pictures, making sure to have one taken of ourselves for history purposes of course.
From then it was sensory overload. I watched the warm-ups, checked out the scoreboard, and basically tried to soak up as much of the pre-game experience as possible. I really thought I would take a lot more pictures than I actually did. But, I was so engrossed in what was going on around me that I really never got the chance. Before the game started I was able to get some photographs in.
Then, all of a sudden it was time for player introductions. Paul Coffman was one of the guests and he came out first. The crowd started erupting and then the Packers defense hit the field.
The stadium was filling up pretty quickly, and IronMan was downing the brews like a superstar. I headed up to my seat and was sitting between two older ladies. They were cool though, and there were a smattering of Lions fans in our section as well. There was a bunch of pro-Rodgers guys all around me so I was happy.
Right before kickoff I snapped my last photo.
I proceeded to take in my first NFL game. It's a whole new experience watching everything live. For some reason it seems simpler and slower. It was an amazing thing to take in. Every time I looked down IronMan was trying to pump up the crowd. The first half went by in what seemed like minutes and I took a brief moment at halftime to grab a hot chocolate and a photo opportunity.
Halftime seemed to go by a lot quicker than it does on television. Some girl also yelled at IronMan for throwing half a beer on the floor. It was funny. We couldn't believe all the drops by Jennings or the amount of times they went to Finley. Al Harris pushing a guy down was the highlight for me. I still don't think the guy flopped.
We headed back in for the second half and everyone was getting pretty drunk and pumped up.
The second half was just as exciting as the first although there was a tense moment when the Lions drove the field in four pays to get within a field goal. There were quite a few people boo'ing and yes I was one of them. I think everyone was expecting the Packers to blow it for the seventh straight week late in the fourth quarter. Dale, you can't blame them. I prefer to be heard.
Please fire Bob Sanders and Mike Stock today.
The bomb to Driver shortly after that happened right in front of me. It was frickin' amazing. Everyone went freaking nuts because of the season records for Driver and Rodgers, not to mention it was an incredible throw and catch.
I could go on and on but suffice it to say, the whole thing was the most incredible spectacle I have ever witnessed.
Everyone was super pumped after the game even though it was the Lions. I even got a little bit out of hand myself taking a moment to verbally abuse Dale for no reason at all. Like I said, it was like crack only better.
IronMan was totally hammered. He had an awesome time, but I had to tell him what happened in the game. It was super cool to finally meet someone in person that we all only know from behind a monitor. I suggest you all try it when we organize "Blogfest" sometime next season.
It was a long and hazardous drive back home as well, but for some reason life seemed just that much better and I didn't care. I had gone and it was everything I had ever imagined and more. If I think back really hard I can still feel the look of amazement in my head. It is a picture that will be cemented there forever.