Packers fans are a unique bunch.
We are known as being the most knowledgeable fans in the NFL. Countless hours are spent reading article after article about our beloved team, trying to gain a competitive edge on every other team in the league. Whether it is during the season or off season, our thirst for more information about our team is never quenched.
We are very ritualistic. Many of us follow a certain pattern of behavior on game day, from where to tailgate if we are fortunate enough to attend a game at Lambeau, to selecting the jersey of choice prior to the game. I myself will decide just before going to sleep which shirt I will wear under my work shirt the following day. It is something I do every day, and I bet I am not alone.
We are collectors. Many of us are on a never ending search for the Holy Grail of our personal Packer collection. It varies from person to person. Some fans collect autographs, others collect novelty items. Whatever the case is, this collection can quickly expand from a small hobby to a fanatical obsession, often resulting in the creation of "the shrine". Basements, bedrooms, garages and in some cases entire homes have been transformed from four walls of boring into our own personal Packer Hall Of Fame. The shrine often serves as an escape from the day to day grind, and becomes a fan's refuge, allowing for a never ending source of Go Pack Go.
The creation of the shrine differs from person to person. For some, it might have been sparked by the trips to Green Bay during training camp, huddled against the fence at the Don Hutson Center, hoping to get an autograph or six. For others, it could have been handed down, from father to son, with decades of mementos passed from generation to generation. Whatever the case is, each of us have that "one" piece of memorabilia. We always remember where we got it, and always know where it is.
This Packers fan had obsession begin small. And I had no idea what it would transform itself into.
When I was a young child, my aunt and uncle had a cottage on the Fox River. It was a fairly open cottage, complete with their idea of what was fashionable decorating. Every spring and summer, they would make the pilgrimage up to this home away from home, staying anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. My aunt was a teacher, so for her having summers off made it convenient for her to stay for extended periods of time, with my uncle joining her on the weekends.
We made two trips up to the cottage that I can recall, and I have two vivid memories of those trips. The one memory is the Fox River had flooded just before we arrived. The cottage was within walking distance to the river, so the water was perilously close to overtaking the cottage. After we had unpacked, I joined my dad and uncle, laying sandbags around the perimeter of the cottage, hoping to prevent the water from invading. Luckily, it never did.
The second memory I have is arriving up there late at night for a long weekend spent on the river. It was a relatively cool evening, and to enjoy the fresh air, we slept with the windows open that evening. Unfortunately, a heat wave started the next day, and the cool comforts the previous evening was replaced by hot, humid air inside this air conditioner-less house. Only having one fan in the cottage, my parents decided not to stay a second night in the sweltering heat of night.
I never made it back up to the cottage again. My aunt and uncle knew I was disappointed, but there was nothing they could do about it. Instead of having me up to the cottage, they decided to bring a little bit of the cottage to me.
Just before school started in 1983, my aunt and uncle came over to my parents house for dinner. After eating and spending some time chatting, my aunt told me that they brought something for me. As a kid, I was always excited to receive a gift. Handing the small wrapped gift over to me, I opened it with fury, revealing the prize that was inside.
What I was told by my aunt was if I couldn't get to the cottage, she would try to keep an eye out for Packers trinkets for me, since they were easily accessible in Wisconsin. I could not have been more thrilled. Little did I know what these six rocks painted to look like a Packers player would launch my own neverending quest to perfect my own museum to the Packers.
My interest in collecting Packers continues to this day. From autographed mini helmets to autographed jerseys, books and DVDs, the search is always on for that next piece of history. And while this is taking place, the Packers Guy, as I call him, keeps a watchful eye out over the shrine, welcoming each new edition, always reminding me how my obsession began.
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