Wisconsin Part 2: The Green Bay Packers

Friday, August 9th, 2013

 

I will never know exactly what drove me to walk into my grandparent’s garage that morning.  I had no purpose to enter, but some supernatural source kept guiding me up the stairs and out the door.  They say the Holy Spirit works in mysterious ways, and could’ve very well pushed me into an event that I would not want to miss.  OR it could’ve been the evil spirits released when Cousin Holly convinced Cousin Erin and myself to use a Ouija Board, a decision I’ve regretted ever since which has cursed the downstairs living room for the past 15 years (I still can’t sleep in there to this day).

 

No matter the cause, I turned the doorknob and immediately sensed turmoil.  I entered to my grandma flailing her arms about in panic as if the sky was falling.  “NO!  STOP!” She screamed in blood curdling fashion, just like in the slasher flicks right before the killer slices his poor victim into pieces.  Part of me wanted to step away from the pandemonium right then and there.  I mean, what if there was a killer on the loose?  I didn’t want to be the next!  But I couldn’t leave my grandma behind like that.  I had to find out what was eating at her soul; what was driving her bananas.  I mean, what the hay…  We’re family!

 

When I turned to my right, everything started to make sense.  It was so crystal clear why she was acting so hysterical, as if she had heard news that Aaron Rodgers had just gotten into a car accident and was in intensive care…

 

My grandpa was attempting to park the Lincoln.

 

For some reason, the Mercury was parked in an awkward position where as the task of maneuvering the Lincoln through the garage and into its normal dwelling proved much more difficult than usual.  I guess I could blame my pops for that one, but then again, if it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be writing such an epic tale of miscommunication, one of the best recipes for failure in the business world.

 

 “To the left!  Stop! Back up! NO!”  My grandma was barking out orders so fast and so furious she could easily be mistaken for that Chef Ramsey guy on TV, and was driving my grandpa to shear madness.  He had endured a lot through the war, and she was inching him to the breaking point.  Her words and actions were becoming a giant blur.  Heck, even I was getting confused, but at the same time impressed at the sight of an 85 year old moving her arms and legs in the fashion of a Richard Simmons workout on crack!

 

My grandpa however was a different story.  All this bewilderment had pushed him to the edge.  “Screw it!” he mouthed through the windshield of the Lincoln right before he blasted his foot down on the pedal.  What followed was the sound of metal crushing on metal and a brand new streak of scratched paint etched onto the Mercury.  That was when all hell broke loose…  And my grandma lost her freaking marbles!

 

She was making noises I never knew existed!  The closest thing I could describe it to were the sounds in “Alien” where the baby alien pops out of the guy’s stomach.  But it was when she started smacking herself in the head with both hands when I knew action had to be taken, common sense for any person with an ounce of courage.

 

But that’s not what I did.  I just froze.  The world was crashing down all around me and I stood there, petrified.  “I couldn’t move a muscle!  “Wake up stupid!” I said to myself.  I needed a catalyst, something to strike a reaction to get my blood flowing once again.  Then came cousin Brian, true-blooded Eagle Scout and captain of the pontoon.  He maneuvered past grandma’s flying fists of fury and to the Lincoln to guide it back to its customary state.  Just the spark I needed.

 

With grandma’s attention diverted, I slothed across the garage and made my escape to the outside unnoticed, miraculously unscathed from the mayhem.  After taking a moment to digest what had just happened, I was reduced to the emotional condition that any man goes through after a near brush with death.  I started giggling like a little schoolgirl to the point where tears nearly streamed down my face.  And I couldn’t stop!

 

It’s one of the surreal survival stories that you just can’t make up.

 

I guess life throws us for loops sometimes, but we have to bounce back quick in order to press on and make it in this world, which can be said of the mangled Lincoln incident.  We had to move forward, for me, my sisters, Cousin Holly and her domestic partner Nick were on our way to see the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field!

 

Man we were all so excited.  So much that my older sister was almost charged with shoplifting at the supermarket right before the game.  Her mind was just racing like a racehorse at the thought of stepping into the great arena of beer, cheese, and athleticism.  Luckily for us, the people of Wisconsin are kind and understanding, and let us off with a simple warning, knowing how important this moment was for us; something you just don’t see in the other NFL markets (no offense to the other teams).  And thank God, for that!  I would’ve pulled a grandma if we missed the game just because she got sent to the pin!

 

Most people have heard of Green Bay because of football, but don’t understand and would never understand its captivating appeal unless they visited, for it’s unlike any other city with a professional football team.  It’s barely considered a city with its 100,000 residents, where the whole state of Wisconsin travels far and long to converge and watch their Packers on game day.  Where the towering skyscrapers surrounding the stadium in a metropolitan city are replaced with farmed planes and a suburban neighborhood, and your parking lot is a family’s backyard, located a  block away from the stadium.  You are greeted with open arms and are invited to use their bathroom, cook on their grill, and even join them for a miller light or two.  It doesn’t even matter if you’re rooting for the other team.  The Packer nation welcomes anybody with the respect they deserve, as long as the same decency is returned.  That is, unless you’re a Bears fan (Don’t even get me started on them.  They’re awful.  I kind of want to throw up thinking about it right now.  Yuck.  UHUAGH!).

 

Come game day, church’s rearrange their scheduled sermons, stores shut down, and the city of Green Bay along with its neighbors gather around to cheer for what is truly their team.  Not a team owned by a mega billionaire or controlled by corporate interests who give ridiculous names for their stadium just to promote their obnoxious products or company (Mall of America Field?  Gillete Stadium? Century Link Field? Sorry Seahawk fans but I mean, c’mon!), but a team that is bought and paid for through shareholders made up of members of the Packer nation, for which I am proud to say that I am a part owner.

 

The people’s team.  It’s what’s taught to the children of Wisconsin and decedents of Packer fans.  Bred in green and gold, they learn early on about the significance of their team, and what it means to be a part of it.  It is the only small town team that could withstand the turbulent years of the NFL when money was not accessible and the talent pool was lacking They were able to survive as an NFL franchise when no other small town team could, with its dignity still intact no less.  In fact, when the team was on the verge of going broke, the city came together and pitched in to cover all of the bills and expenses in order to keep the team alive.

 

Then there’s the legend of Vince Lombardi, a man faced with prejudice his whole life for having an “i” at the end of his name.  A man who fought tooth and nail to follow his dreams and become a head coach in the NFL, even if nobody was willing to give him the chance.  A man, who for when all the odds were against him, took a rag tag group of grunts, the worst in the NFL (and the only team that would take him) and turn them into the greatest championship powerhouse the game has ever had, all while becoming the most respected man in the history of the sport.

 

Or the countless stories fans have to share about their team passed down from generation to generation.  Spend enough time in Wisconsin and you’re bound to run into somebody whose family stories date back to the days when Curly Lambeau founded the team and can tell you of innumerable experiences of traveling to Green Bay to endure the freezing temperatures just to watch their boys battle it out on the frozen tundra; the most memorable being the Ice Bowl, an infamous game in which the Packers clashed with the Cowboys over a field that was completely frozen over with a wind chill temperature of nearly -50 degrees; a game where the Packers miraculously came back and scored a touchdown at the final seconds of the game to send them onto Super Bowl II.   A game that my grandpa attended, in which he had help enduring thanks to a bottle of whiskey.  I am still in awe whenever he tells of the story.

 

And even after attending one game (even if it’s only a pre-season game where they lose big time, or a playoff game where they go 16-1 for the season and then blow it), you realize that it’s more than just a game for the people Green Bay, Wisconsin, and Packer fans as a whole.  It’s a way of life.  A supportive culture of people who will go out of their way to make you feel at home and who will risk life and limb for their team.  It’s because the Packers are as much a part of them as they are to the players, coaches, staff and executives, and without their contribution, the Packers most likely wouldn’t even exist.  Green Bay would just be another small mid-west town, and the team would’ve moved elsewhere and would be just like any other big city team, which makes visiting Green Bay during a Packer game and going to Lambaeu an experience you can’t find anywhere else.  An experience I hope to share with lots of friends and family for years to come, and a tradition I plan to pass down to my children someday, as it has been passed down to me from members of my family.

 

So here’s to the beginning of football season.  Here’s to the memories it brings.  The good feelings, the bad feelings…  Here’s to the Green Bay Packers.  GO PACK GO!!!

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