I have a confession to make.
Those that know me well already know that what I am about to tell you is a huge part of my life. It has been a sense of ridicule, it has strained relationships with family, and sometimes alienated friends.
I’m a fan of the Green Bay Packers.
Some things like Super Bowl titles and franchise quarterbacks have come and gone for the Packers, but one thing has remained since 1957: Lambeau Field.
For every Packer fan, Lambeau is the crown jewel. And almost all of them have on their bucket list seeing a game at the hallowed grounds where Vince Lombardi coached Bart Starr and the rest of the 1967 Packers to a victory in the Ice Bowl, Antonio Freeman made one of the most iconic catches in the history of Monday Night Football in an overtime victory over the Minnesota Vikings, and a fresh-off-the-grill brat is only a trip down tailgate row.
For me, that dream became a reality with the best Christmas gift of my life: tickets for the Jan. 1 contest against the Lions.
We arrived the day before the game, and to take in the sights without having to fight the gameday crowd. We visited the Pro Shop, had a New Year’s Eve supper at Curley’s Pub, and toured the Packers Hall of Fame, home of the franchise’s four Lombardi Trophies.
When I found out I was going to this game, I told my family that I was honestly hoping for a blizzard. My rationale was that I had already been to Lambeau once, and it was a picture perfect autumn day, ending with the Packers losing. Therefore, a legendary Lambeau blizzard would be the perfect way for the Packers to achieve victory. When I asked my uncle, a Wisconsin native, about the forecast, I was disappointed that no snow was predicted.
When we went to sleep, the skies were clear. When we woke up on Sunday morning, there was a steady supply of flakes falling from the sky, adding to the healthy snow cover already on the tarps covering the frozen tundra.
After our shuttle ride to the stadium, my family and I explored various tailgating scenes before we took our seats. Our view of the game was incredible. We were positioned on the goal line in full view of the tunnel the Packers would use, and a few of the game’s several touchdowns.
Once the game started I realized that I would be watching it without some of my favorite players suiting up. Charles Woodson, Greg Jennings, Aaron Rodgers, and, my personal favorite, Clay Matthews, were all sitting the game out in hopes of resting up for the playoffs.
The actual contest would prove to be historic. With 1,000 passing yards, 11 touchdown passes, and 86 combined points, this hardly looked like a game played in driving snow with one team using their backups. Packers backup quarterback Matt Flynn would go on to set franchise records for passing yards and passing touchdowns. It was the first time in NFL history that both starting quarterbacks threw for over 400 yards, over five touchdowns, and the team’s combined passing yards were the most in an NFL game this season.
Jordy Nelson and Calvin Johnson both had career perfect days, leading their respective teams in almost every receiving category. While these two individual efforts, combined with the outstanding play of both quarterbacks, were impressive, one of the best individual performances involved someone who wasn’t even playing.
After the Packers final touchdown, both team’s respective special teams were standing on the field awaiting the end of the media timeout. A 15-year-old fan decided to jump onto the field and try to excite the crowd into a more bombastic cheering effort. The fan managed to make it the length of the field and was circling around to the other side of the stadium to try to excite the fans on that side, when he ran into a bit of a road block.
While the kid was facing the stands trying to excite the crowd, one of the members of the Packers kickoff team took it upon himself to stop this fan’s run around the stadium, and with force. Brad Jones may never be a perennial Pro Bowl linebacker for any NFL franchise, but he will forever be remembered by the 70,000+ in attendance for his pile-driving hit on that unsuspecting fan.
While the game will be forever engrained into my favorite memories as a Packers fan, the truly memorable part occurred without my knowing. We were able to get these tickets from friends that bought them from a man with several season tickets. The owner of the tickets happened to be sitting next to us at the game. He and my dad struck up a conversation, and the man eventually asked “You guys want playoff tickets?”
Long story short, my parents and I are headed to Lambeau for the playoff game on Jan. 15.