Lambeau Field and The Packers Hall of Fame, Green Bay, Wisconsin

Posted on
Jan 23, 2013

My husband is a non-believer.

I don’t mean to say he isn’t religious. At least, I don’t mean to just say that he isn’t religious. There are lots of things that Rand doesn’t believe in or ascribe to. Here is a short list:

  • Tarot cards
  • Palm readers
  • Any type of healing that involves crystals
  • Putting sugar in your tea/coffee/booze
  • Using coupons
  • Pre-rinsing dishes before putting them in the dishwasher
  • PUTTING DIRTY CLOTHES IN THE GODDAMN HAMPER INSTEAD OF LEAVING THEM IN A PILE OF THE GROUND (Ahem.)
  • The afterlife
  • Taking vitamins
  • Holding your breath while driving through tunnels
  • The existence of Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster, or any other awesome and totally real creature
  • Listening to the nagging feeling in the pit of your stomach
  • Obeying the GPS

He’s perfectly respectful of people who do believe in those things. I’ve never heard him ever disparage the views of those who think differently than he (as long as those views aren’t intolerant in and of themselves).

But despite being open-minded, he remains a skeptic and a devil’s advocate; the first one to scream that the emperor is naked, to pull the curtain back and reveal that the Wizard of Oz is just a small, skinny man.

Rand doesn’t really believe in anything. Except for the Green Bay Packers.

Then he’s about as devout as they come.

I don’t quite know how it happened. Rand’s family is from New York and Jersey. He’s lived in Seattle for practically his entire life. He’d never even been to Wisconsin.

But he loves their football team. Quietly, intently, and occasionally accompanied by a little dance. He gives a variant of reasons why (most notably, he loves the fact that the town owns the team. The Packers aren’t backed by some massive investment group; there is no aging billionaire in a suit watching home games from an executive suite. Instead, they are a non-profit; concession stands at the stadium are run by volunteers, with more than half that revenue going to local charities).

Like all great loves, I don’t try to dissect it; I just accept it. And eventually, in some small way, I inherited it. That seems to be a common trait with fans of the Packers. Their devotion is handed down to them from generations before them, and passed along to younger ones.

I don’t mean to suggest that I’m one of the Green Bay faithful. Hell, football in general still boggles my brain. I need Rand to occasionally clarify penalties for me (the subtleties of pass interference escape me), and I secretly wish that the signal for holding was this instead of this. (Also, how cool would it be if a little puff of smoke erupted every time someone threw down a challenge flag? The NFL should totally hire me.) But I’ve grown to really like watching football – especially when I get to watch it with my husband.

Plus, I get to say positively obscene things about the physiques of the players, and he just quietly smiles and shakes his head. Some examples:

  • “I think that Eric Decker needs to play either shirtless or pants-less. At this point, I’m pretty flexible. I’ll take either one.”
     –
  • “So … they only call Donald Driver in for special plays? Like … when they need a bit more excessive handsomeness on the field?”
  • “I think that all of the Falcons players should rub Tony Gonzalez’s abs for good luck prior to every game. I’d be happy to demonstrate .”

See? I’m awful. I kind of owe my poor husband for all he puts up with.

And so, when we were in Milwaukee, and realized that Green Bay was a mere two hours away, there was no question as to what we’d be doing with one of our days in Wisconsin.

I was taking Rand on a pilgrimage. We were going to tour Lambeau Field, home of the Packers.

You know the old and tired expression about a kid in a candy store? I think it should be officially retired. From now on, I’m using “Rand at Lambeau field.”

This is his “stop taking pictures so we can go inside and also, OMG” face.

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen him happier. Maybe on our wedding day. Maybe.

The drive was flat and straight, the sky hazy until it gave way to sunshine.  Rand took a few business calls, while I drove and eavesdropped on his conversations.

I wave to the camera.

I’d never been in this part of the country before. It was beautiful.

Just under two hours later, we’d arrived.

Green Bay is not a big town – about 100,000 people live there. But the scope of the Packers extends far beyond city limits; the stadium seats 70,000, and every game is sold out. The waiting list for tickets is a few hundred thousand people long.

I wondered if the town would be crushed by the presence of the Packers, but it embraces it wholeheartedly. There isn’t even ambivalence. Only love.

There is a huge parking lot at Lambeau – a small but significant detail that I liked. Even on a non-game day, there were quite a few cars out front. Clearly, the tours are popular.

To understand the significance of football to the town, you have go back in time a bit.

The Packers are one of the oldest franchises in the NFL – they started in Green Bay in 1919, back when football was populated by a bunch of sepia-toned men running around in leather hats. One of the founders was a gentleman by the name of Earl “Curly” Lambeau (parenthetically, I wish that grown men could still run around with nicknames like that. The world would be a better place if we had people like François “Curly” Hollande and Silvio “Crazy Legs” Berlusconi.) The field where the Packers play was renamed in his honor.

At the time of the Packers’ founding, there were lots of similar small town teams. They all had delightful old-timey monikers like the Muncie Flyers, The Columbus Panhandles (“HOW IS THAT A MASCOT?” – my brain), and my personal favorite, The Kenosha Maroons.

The Maroons apparently had just one awful season before disintegrating. Consequently, I want a Kenosha Maroon jersey.

A few NFL teams can trace their origins back to that era, though their names have changed. In the 1920s, the Chicago Bears were known as the Decatur Staleys (named after the Staley Food Starch Company. This might be the greatest fact in the history of facts). The Detroit Lions were, in the 1930s, called the Portsmouth Spartans.

Only the Packers have remained in the same town, with the same name, for nearly a century. Naturally, the locals have grown quite fond of them.

But NFL teams are notoriously expensive (those little under-eye stickers are not cheap, it would seem), and so the team has had to raise money several times. They do so by selling stock in the team – literally – with the understanding that the stock won’t appreciate in value. Owners have no voting rights, and the stock can’t be resold to another party (though it can, like one’s allegiance to the Packers, be handed down from family member to family member). Oh, and there’s a limit to how many shares you can by, ensuring that no one party can have a controlling stake in the franchise.

If the team is ever sold (a near impossibility, given that it belongs to its many shareholders) the Articles of Incorporation state that the proceeds will go to a number of non-profits and charities across the state of Wisconsin.

In short: the Packers will always belong to its fans.

Our tickets included a stadium tour and a trip to the Packers Hall of Fame (which is self-guided, so we left it for later).

As we waited for the tour to begin, Rand was so excited, he couldn’t sit still. He kept jiggling his foot nervously.

Even with a quick shutter speed, it’s blurry.

And yes, we coordinated our footwear for the occasion.

There were about 20 or so people on our tour. Our guide took us up to one of the luxury boxes, and then down past the locker rooms (which we couldn’t actually enter), and through the same walkway that the Packers take to head out on to the field.

Okay, so now imagine it filled with about 100,000 people all dressed in green and gold and wearing foam cheeseheads while screaming.

Lambeau field was renovated just a decade ago, but these bricks were taken from earlier incarnations of the stadium, and placed on the walkway.

It’s so that the players of today can cross the same ground as other Packers before them. I found that rather beautiful.

Like I said, my husband is not a religious man. He doesn’t believe in much. But seeing him out there on the field, touching the wall where the Lambeau leap happens? It was clear that in his world, this was no small thing.

We had our moment there, on the field and in the sun.

This is not to say that there was no levity or joy amidst all the reverence.

There was boatloads of that.

He is my goober.

The other visitors eyed us somewhat warily. We visited Lambeau the week after Green Bay’s loss in Seattle, the result of a call so misguided, it was a turning point in bringing the striking NFL refs back to work.

Each time we mentioned where we were from, eyebrows would raise. We did receive less ribbing that the lovely old man from Minnesota who was on our tour (the Vikings and the Packers have a loong rivalry), though. So I guess there’s that.

And you know what? The field goal posts are waaay narrower than they look on TV. I need to stop giving poor Mason Crosby such a hard time. It’s not like he gets a lot of practice.

After the tour, we made our way down to the Hall of Fame. There, on display, were tons of relics from Packers’ history.

Telegrams to Vince Lombardi from the 1950s …

Packers stock certificates throughout the years …

Old iterations of the uniform …

And all four of Green Bay’s Super Bowl trophies.

Also, whatever the hell is going on here:

Me: “That looks obscene. Go stand in the middle of it.” Rand: “But-” Me: “GO STAND IN THE MIDDLE OF IT. And smile.”

\Before we left, we did something my husband has wanted to do for years (no, I don’t mean making out in front of the stadium. But that happened, too). We got him a Donald Driver jersey from Lambeau field. He wears it once every weekend during the regular season, and twice as often during the post-season.

Gah. My heart.

It’s funny, what you learn from your loved ones. They pass on to you things that may seem arbitrary or silly to someone else. But in your home and your life, they are important.

Rand taught me about the game. He helped me master the art of screaming at the TV, “HOW IS THAT NOT A HOLD?” He instilled in me a love of the Packers (and an even greater love for my Seahawks), and an appreciation for the simple pleasure of sitting in front of the TV, eating wings, and heckling Tom Brady.

He taught me that football can bring people together.

He made me a believer.

—————

The Essentials on The Lambeau Field Tour and The Packers Hall of Fame

  • Verdict: Are you a Packers fan? If so, then you don’t need me to tell you to visit. And if you aren’t a Packers fan? Well, you’re missing out.
  • How to Get There: We drove – it’s about 2 hours from Milwaukee, and makes for a nice day trip.
  • Ideal for: Packers and NFL fans, as well as anyone who loves American sports history.
  • Insider tips: Tickets regularly sell out, and are on a first-come, first-serve basis. They run often – about once an hour on weekdays, and once every half hour on weekends. There are no tours on gamedays. We called ahead (before we left Milwaukee) to check availability, and were told that it was a slow day (Tuesday), so there wouldn’t be any problems. Still, we gave ourselves enough time that if we missed one tour, we had a chance of getting into the following one.
  • Nearby Food: We ended up eating at Curly’s Pub, inside the stadium. It’s what you’d expect from bar food, but still pretty damn good. The fried cheese curds threatened to clog our arteries. And yet, we continued to eat them.

    Oh, and across the street from the field is Kroll’s West. According to Gary over at Everything-Everywhere (who’s a native Wisconsinite), Kroll’s is a bit of an institution in Green Bay, having been in operation for more than 70 years. The food isn’t necessarily stellar (think greasy spoon/diner-type food), but it’s supposedly a fun place.
  • Good for kids: Not really. There’s a lot of sitting and standing, and it’s not what I’d call stroller-friendly. However, if you have an older kid or a teenager who’s a big Packers fan, they will love it.

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