(via jrn.com)

Taking the Lambeau leap

a/Football/Sports by

I can’t exactly pinpoint the time I became a Green Bay Packers fan. I simply remember being fascinated by the notion that a small town in Wisconsin of only 102,000 people could support one of the original NFL franchises. That, or I subconsciously really enjoyed Brett Favre’s Wrangler jeans commercials.

Whatever the reason, it had been a life-long dream of mine to visit the historic Lambeau Field to see a Packers game. So when I discovered that Green Bay was playing my uncle and cousin’s beloved Pittsburgh Steelers this season, I wasn’t passing up the opportunity.

We were treated to an amazing view of Lambeau as we exited the highway to Lombardi Avenue. The stadium sits in the middle of the town surrounded primarily by residential housing. If it wasn’t already clear, Green Bay lives and breathes football. Heaven, for the rest of us.

We grabbed lunch at a local “Packer bar” filled with fans and memorabilia celebrating the team’s storied past. Pride oozed from all around—numerous Ray Nitschke and Bart Starr jerseys were in view; plaques and photos from championship seasons covered the walls.

After arriving at the stadium, we proceeded to our seats and watched the pre-game warm-ups. As snow began to fall, seas of green and yellow slowly inundated the stadium. A dangerous amount of cheese was also present—Cheeseheads, that is—the triangular foam cheese hat and official symbol of Packer fans.

Modeled after the Big House in Ann Arbor, Lambeau is constructed in a traditional style and its bowl shape traps the sounds of the stadium. I experienced the effect immediately as the Packers took the field to an echoed chorus of “Go Pack Go”.

Lambeau is limited in its modern features as there are no upper or lower decks; instead, the stadium contains benches that spread from the first row to the top of the stadium. As a tour guide had told us the day before, each individual is entitled to 18 inches of bench space. Bundled up and looking like the Michelin Man, I found this restriction quite difficult to follow.

Though the Packers entered the game with only slim playoff hopes, the atmosphere remained electric. Rookie running back Eddie Lacy stole the show in the first half, tiptoeing his way on the snowy field through holes in the Steeler defence.

Packer fans have adopted Lacy as a fan favourite, which is not surprising given Lambeau’s unique position as a true communal space. The Packers are the only publicly owned franchise in professional sports and have nearly 300,000 owners from all over the world. These are our players and Lambeau is our home. The strength of that bond was clear from the camaraderie of the crowd.

The snow dragged on as the teams exited the locker rooms to start the second half. Pittsburgh came out hot, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger gashed the Green Bay secondary for some big gains.

The crowd rallied around the Packers as the team made a push to cut Pittsburgh’s 10-point lead in the final quarter. Every Matt Flynn completion and Lacy run was met with that “Go Pack Go” echo. The comeback bid culminated in a last minute drive with the Packers needing a touchdown to tie. Green Bay marched down to the 10-yard line, leaving just a few seconds for a final play.

As the crowd bustled with excitement and anxiety, I glanced around to take one final look at Lambeau, the sea of green and yellow, and the cheese. The game ended with an incompletion and Steelers win, but I didn’t care too much. I had made it to heaven.

  • Shaun

    I think it is the people you go with who bring the best out of the lambeua trip.

  • Aliza

    Excellent writing Steven, your ability is matched only by your rugged good looks. Hats off to you sir!