This past fall my father and I were lucky enough to make the ultimate NFL pilgrimage; back to the roots of football golden days, and to a venue that sends shivers down any true football fans spine. Our destination was the historic and legendary Lambeau Field located in Green Bay, Wisconsin a place I’d never been and truly now will never forget. My time spent at Lambeau that Sunday was special and spending it with my father was the ultimate experience, a sight that will be etched into my memory forever. Finally I’d see my favorite team in their home stadium. But most importantly I’d see the passion that comes with being a Green Bay Packer fan.
After flying from San Diego to Chicago, and then driving to Milwaukee we enjoyed some beers and normal site seeing the day before the game. Since Milwaukee is home to the Miller Brewing Company, it is always a sight to drive through the factory village. Milwaukee is a very fun town and has many great places to eat, party and drink if you can handle a harsh winter breeze and a way of life that is slower and simpler than life out on the West Coast. Due to my father being an avid brewer fan we of course stopped at the TGI Fridays restaurant inside Miller Park to send our wishes for a playoff victory the next day. That night we hit bed early and prepared to make the 150-mile drive north a trek, however before sleep, I logged onto BetUs.com and put down 250$ on the upcoming Packer game. After being in limbo all week I had the feeling the Packers were going to continue their roll and I was going to see it. I slept well.
The next morning, I was surprised at the people headed in our direction as the interstate turned into caravan. Fans emerged from all over the state of Wisconsin sporting their Packer flags and nearly every vehicle we passed contained occupants of the familiar green and gold. The drive up I-94 is absolutely beautiful as farms and rolling grass- lands sprawled into the distance of the Northern Wisconsin horizon. Silos, fences, tractors and cows added to the imagery. Being a kid from California, a feeling of tranquility took over as things suddenly stopped looking like a shopping mall and returned to their natural state. After falling asleep my dad awoke me as we passed threw the outskirts of town and over the Green Bay River, finally Lambeau Field appeared out of the corner of my eye.
Once pulling onto Oneida Street the drive going down the street was something I have never seen. On one side, parking lot after lot filled with barbequing fans and on the other homeowners soaking in the pregame tradition of making a few extra bucks off the extra available space on the front lawn. In this town people create their own tailgate and don’t rely too heavily on the bar scene. Next door, the Packers training and practice complex complimented the scenery. Buses, traffic, and fans consumed the streets as live music and fellow Packer fanatics were scattered in every corner. Brats cooked and former Packer greats such as Paul Horning and Ahman Green sat signing autographs. The scene had a certain ambiance I had never seen before.
In order to rest for a few my dad and I checked out Brett Favre steakhouse and had a drink. Favre’s restaurant was pretty nice however it was sad to see how A-rods memorabilia had all the sudden replaced Favre’s in the shop adjacent. Next we headed to the Bar Holmgren Way which had the parking lot converted into a huge party complete with memorabilia stands and a beer garden. Heading out I couldn’t help but notice all of the different memorabilia and team collectables. There were even shirts women selling shirts that exclaimed, “Clay-Mate”.
The walk away from the bars and to the stadium I was finally able to witness the best tail gating in the NFL as it looked like a festival and resembled a green and yellow carnival. Fans everywhere had specially designed rigs. ambulances, vans, and school buses all with the purpose of ultimate tail gating experience. The air looked like smoke as fans got a lather going for the game. The sheer quantity of jerseys and extent of tailgating was unlike anything I had seen, especially given the cold 35 -degree temperatures. Closer to the stadium fans lined up behind a gate to watch their favorite make the journey from car to locker room. At this point in the trip I’d realized this football game was different, the atmosphere eclectic and nostalgic, the fans passionate and jolly. The time had come to head in.
Getting into the stadium was an adventure, and once inside some parts are very difficult to navigate. Although remodeled Lambeau still keeps the original pathway corridors and bathroom locations the same as in the old days, this makes getting around and grabbing food/beers a task. Moving away from the crowds walking and into the new Curly Pub Pavilion I finally realized how much work went into the new renovated Lambeau stadium. The steel beams and pathways hoisted up into the sky were impressive and for a second we stopped to enjoy another beer and grab a picture.
Once inside the stadium green and yellow once again consumed my line of sight and I made my way to great seats thanks to my dad. As the national anthem came and went and the fly by literally almost had me in tears it was time to watch A-Rod and the Pack work their magic. I’ll never forget, standing on my feet and watching Aaron Rodgers roll out completing a 60-yard TD pass to Jordy Nelson. As Rodgers reversed his body and ran to the far side of the field, he made the best throw I have ever seen. His ability to stop his body in full motion and deliver the ball made me realize why this guy who he is. Witnessing this TD play for me honestly taken alone, would have completed the whole trip. As play continued the Packers ended up winning 24 to 3 and moving to 6-0 overall. I had won my bet easily, however it was for many other reasons this trip was magnificent.
Walking outside my father and I paid our respects to Vince Lombardi who stands enshrined. As we heard the loud roar of the crowd after the Packers landed their last blow, my father kissed the brick of the stadium and we started back to the car. “You think we’ll ever be back dad?”…”Someday… someday Sean we’ve hopefully got a few more trips who knows maybe we’ll bring your kids here”. Continuing back I was satisfied but, sad because I knew I wouldn’t be back to see them finish the season. However if I have to walk myself I will be back, again with my father and next time with some of my best friends. Go Pack Go!
Be Sure to check out www.walloffamesports.com for rare autographs/articles memorabilia and more!