OPINION COLUMNS

Green Bay is for (football) lovers

By Joy Carrico | Published Saturday, September 10, 2016
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Given that you read my column last weekend, you know the Fella and I took a trip to Wisconsin, which I described in some detail. As I noted at the time, I left out the part of our trip pertaining to the Green Bay Packers because it warranted its own column.

One of the reasons we chose Wisconsin was because the Fella loves the Green Bay Packers and has always wanted to tour their stadium, so we took a few days of our trip to devote primarily to the Packers.

Joy Carrico

Joy Carrico

We were lucky because there was a pre-season game while we were there. Since the Fella has “going to a Packers home game” on his bucket list, we made arrangements to go. It’s always good to lighten the bucket-list load when the opportunity arises.

Even with my limited interest and general avoidance of all things pro football, I had heard the term “Cheeseheads” before and had a vague sense that the Packers fans are devoted to their team. But my eyes have been opened to just how inadequately that statement describes Packers’ fans. I need multiple adjectives to come close to conveying the depth of their devotion.

They are ardently, unwaveringly, boundlessly, unquestioningly, unyieldingly devoted to the Packers.

The city of Green Bay seems to have one purpose. It is a football delivery system. Other parts of Wisconsin have a rich and diverse cultural scene consisting of things unrelated to football. Green Bay, in my experience, does not.

It has a mall. It has movie theaters and restaurants. There are all the types of places you would find anywhere in a town of Green Bay’s size, but nothing that sets it apart from any other small city.

I could be wrong. Green Bay may actually have a thriving art or music community, but trying to experience Green Bay’s cultural scene would be like trying to hear a soft melody in my left ear while a foghorn goes off in my right.

Nothing in Green Bay stands a chance against the Packers. Football is a tsunami-level force that wipes out everything in its path.

It’s no surprise that on game day, the entire town was green and yellow. I bought a Packers T-shirt and some Packers socks as basic Green Bay survival gear. My southern accent would betray me and people would ask if I was a Packers’ fan. I would point to the Fella and say, “He’s a Packers fan. I’m in disguise.” They mostly found this amusing.

The Packers are a publicly held non-profit corporation. This is unique in the NFL, and it means there is no Jerry Jones in Green Bay (reason enough for us all to like the Packers), and with over 360,000 shareholders and a cap on the number of shares any one person can own, there never will be. So the people are literally, as well as figuratively, invested in their team.

The first obstacle was how to get tickets. Lambeau Field has been sold out since 1960. And there are more than 100,000 people on the waiting list for season tickets. Needless to say, I couldn’t just call the box office. I had to buy our tickets on the secondary market from individuals selling their seats.

While planning the excursion, I discovered that parking is another problem. All parking passes belong to season ticket holders, so there’s no official parking available either. Where the heck would we park our rental? The answer was interesting.

Lambeau Field is surrounded by neighborhoods. The people who live near the stadium rent their entire yards for people to park and party in before the games. We reserved our spot online, so we had our space before we got there, but almost everyone was hocking a parking space in their yard for $20 or more. The yard we parked in had at least 25 cars in it. This particular homeowner took in about $500 that night. With 10 home games, I’m guessing he would earn $5,000 this football season. That’s a nice chunk of change if you don’t care how your yard looks. I’m guessing there aren’t a lot of landscape architects in this part of Green Bay.

The game itself was bucket-list worthy. The stadium, despite being a pre-season game, was packed to 90 percent capacity. Not bad for a game that doesn’t really matter and in which the big stars of the team didn’t even suit up. The roar of the crowd was an all-consuming force of nature.

They showed their enthusiasm in many ways. I’ve been to games where people attempted a wave. They might make it around to me once. On rare occasion, a wave might go around the stadium twice. At this game, a wave was started and went past me seven times before it lost its momentum. I’ve never seen such a commitment to wave formation and retention.

The friendliness that infects all of Wisconsin was in ample supply at the game. Each seat was 18 inches wide, rather than the more standard 22 inches currently alloted for stadium seating, and the seats were aluminum benches with no backs. They aren’t going for comfort here. Despite the cramped seating, everyone around us was friendly and chatty. offering to take our picture, asking us how we’re doing and being good-natured when others spilled food and beer on them.

Green Bay triumphed over their opponent, and everyone left happy and full of bacon-wrapped food and, of course, brewskis.

We took a tour of the stadium the next day. There is an elaborate procedure for signing up for a tour. The website announces tour times two weeks prior to the date, and you may purchase tickets at that time. You may also purchase tickets the day of a tour, if you dare, but they are regularly sold out. You can choose the regular tour, the special tour or the rarely offered extra special tour. We went for middle of the road specialness.

Our tour was sold out, and there were others all around us. All, presumably, full. They hold between 10 and 45 tours per day, depending on the day (with the exception of game days). With each of these tours full or even well-attended, at least 100,000 people must tour Lambeau every year. I would have thought everyone who would want to would have already toured Lambeau, but it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. I, again, grossly underestimated Cheeseheads’ love for their team.

I was not looking forward to the tour. I was being a dutiful girlfriend indulging the Fella’s interest and thought that, at best, I would experience about two hours of a boring walk while wearing a martyr’s smile and glassy eyes. Well, no martyrdom for me. It turns out the tour guides know what they’re doing, and I enjoyed myself.

They might not do much else in Green Bay, but they do know how to deliver up football.

Joy Carrico is a graphic artist at the Messenger.

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