It’s been said that there is something magical about Lambeau Field.
The crown jewel of NFL stadiums, there is just something that transforms it from being just another venue to watch football in. The grass is greener, the brats taste better, and the fans are more proud of their Packers than anywhere else in the NFL. It’s a place you never forget once you've been there, and cannot wait to get back to.
This is exactly what happened this past weekend to someone I know, and am so glad I was able to witness it.
As everyone knows, this past weekend was Throwback Weekend, a gathering of Packer fans from across the globe. My wife and I planned to attend the weekend’s festivities, as we had gone to the event last year as well. Tickets for the game against the Saints were purchased several months prior. It was something we both looked forward to for some time.
Unfortunately, life keeps happening, despite the best efforts to plan ahead. And this was the case for my wife, who was scheduled to start a brand new job at 7am the day after the Saints game on Throwback Weekend. Not wanting to risk being late on her first day of work, my wife had to back out of going, leaving me with one ticket to spare and no one to go with.
I pondered about what to do with this ticket. Should I try and find someone else to go with? Try and sell it? It was something I thought about for several days.
It occurred to me that my brother in law was quite the football fan, despite not being a fan of any particular team. He would watch whatever game was on TV, with no vested interest in the game itself. I wondered if he would be worth asking. It was worth a shot.
The question of whether he wanted to go was answered with a quick yes, and he agreed to see his first football game ever at Lambeau Field this past Sunday. Before this, he had only ever seen a Chicago Bears scrimmage at Soldier Field, which doesn't count as a game (or much of a stadium).
On the drive up to Green Bay, I tried to explain what the day was going to be like. A tailgate just outside Lambeau with the stadium in full view, with a bunch of tweeps that I had met just a handful of times (or in some cases never met) followed by a game that I was personally invested in, but he was not. It was not a hard sell, but I could tell there was some question as to how he would fit in with a bunch of Packer fans.
It wouldn’t take long for him to fit in with the crowd, because the magic of Lambeau started to work on my brother in law, and he would be changed forever.
The first time I knew it was working was when he got his first glimpse of Lambeau while on 172 West. I pointed it out to him, and his reaction was, “I can’t believe that giant stadium is all the way up here.” It had begun.
Arriving at the tailgate, we were greeted by Packer fans galore. It is something I am used to, having been to several games in Green Bay. My brother in law’s reaction was much more vocal. After meeting and greeting a handful of friend that I have made over time, he looked at me and said, “This tailgate is so much better than Soldier Field. There you’re confined to a tiny little parking lot; here, there’s people everywhere. “ It was an awesome sight to see him take in all the glory of a tailgate.
At one point, he was gone for approximately a half hour. As he came wandering back, I asked where he was. He told me that he had to walk around, that he just had to get a look at everything there was to see at a Packer game. Wearing a newly purchased Packer shirt, his first one ever, his comment was, “I just had to.”
After getting through the fun that is security at Lambeau, we made our way inside and to our seats- Section 130, row 15. I had sat in this section once before, so I knew how good the seats would be. I did not want to say anything to my brother in law about how good they were, letting him make up his own mind. We got to our seats, he sat down, and was in awe of just how good they were. He even made the comment that so many others have made over the years: “There’s not a bad seat in this place.”
From the flyover to the Johnsonville brat commercial and especially the game on the field, he was glued to the action. The only exception was when my brother in law disappeared for 45 minutes. This is when he discovered the greatness that is real cheese curds. When he finally came back to the seats, he told me, “I bought an order of cheese curds, ate them, and had to get another . They’re ridiculous.” Yes, yes they are.
As the game turned into a nail biter, and neither victory nor defeat were in sight, I watched him transform from casual football fan into a prospective Packer fan. Cheering at every cheer, booing at every boo, and even participating in a “The refs still suck” chant, my brother in law was acting like every other Packer fan. It was awesome to watch.
When Saints kicker Garrett Hartley missed a field goal in the final minutes that would have given the Saints the lead, he cheered in celebration along with the rest of the crowd. And when the cheers started to subside, he turned to me and said with pride in his face, “You know, I might just be a Packer fan after all.”
The magic had done its trick, and another Packer fan was created that day.
I have vivid memories of every Packer game I have attended. From the people you meet to the play on the field and everything in between, there is something about experiencing a game at Lambeau Field. I will always remember Throwback Weekend 2012 for these reasons, but in particular, the bonding moment I had with my brother in law, as he went from being just a fan, and became a Green Bay Packer fan.
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