Deep-Fried Romantic takes in a Packers game
I like to think of myself as worldly, although I haven’t travelled outside North America. If there is such a thing as being well-versed or experienced in Wisconsin, however, then perhaps I would be “stately.”
In all my years on this planet, I’ve never been more than a 100 yards outside the hallowed turf of Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. I certainly haven’t been inside the stands for a game. One of the now time-honored traditions is the inability to get tickets as long as the season ticket holders bequeath to (or have tickets pried from their dead bodies by) relatives.
The best that one can hope for is to win some in a contest, know somebody that has the generationally passed torch, or make it into the NFL. Luckily, I kind of got the second option when my sister was able to buy a four-pack from a friend whose family owns season tickets. Even then, I only got to go along because she gave them to my Dad for his birthday and then he invited me as his guest.
So it was a bit like going to green and gold nirvana for me, especially given my fondness for all things low culture. The weird thing is, going to the game and seeing the sights is like observing the home furnishings of a working-class fellow who won the lottery last year.
The parking lot that we squeezed into was amok with tailgaters playing bean-bag toss or lounging in butterfly chairs outside their Hummers, Escalades, and new Suburbans. For $20, though, I have to say that struggling through this back alley lot was a lot closer than Miller Park preferred parking lots.
The new facade is impressive, although once inside (we came in the side opposite the new atrium) it’s apparent that the new Lambeau just had some nicer walls put on the outside. The advertising was surprisingly low-key compared what you might see at Bradley Center or Miller Park, if you can get past staring at the interior billboard featuring a smiling Vince Lombardi holding a photoshopped Coke.
Did I happen to mention the giant, Times Square-sized Coca-Cola and Oneida neon signs? No? Well, then I probably didn’t mention that while the interior walls of Lambeau are nearly bereft of advertising (save the Miller Lite Endzone stands and the Breast Cancer Awareness goalposts), it’s the electronic scoreboard advertising that pays the rent. It’s not just the ads; the scoreboard runs replays and info graphics and Packers player testimonials for everything from paint to real estate.
Considering how much tickets cost, the shareholders, and the marketing of Packers apparel, it’s this model that has piqued the interests of the league, as Green Bay was the only franchise to make any revenue last year.
It’s the voracious nature of these fans, a passion and vibe that overcomes you when you start to belong (one of us! one of us!) which drives this football franchise.
There was one guy in a coveted leather Packers flat cap listening in vain to a transistor radio broadcasting the Packers gameplay. And there was the bachelorette group that had eye black strips on their cheeks, yet sported diamond earrings. The dumpsters even sport the colors of the home team (and are in the shape of cheese wedges). I saw one guy with nice hair, designer sunglasses and tennis shoes, and a black coat get dagger stares all day. While I own no official gear, I managed to find a gold windbreaker and a green hoodie — so I went undetected like a spy.
The funny thing is that it seems like many of the people around me have money, or that they direct the energy of what little money they have into showing love for the team. I mean, someone had to crochet that beer hat for months. Someone had to buy that Rodgers jersey. Someone was willing to pay $6.25 for a beer.
Side note: I looked very hard and did some walking during half-time and 3rd quarter to find ethnicities at the game. I successfully found one Indian couple regaled in every inch Packers apparel, one African-American (at a distance), and the halftime show featured women from the Native American tribes performing a traditional dance in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness. Yeah, I have no idea of a direct correlation there either.
Another side note: while I was unable to visit close-up the statues of Curly Lambeau and Vince Lombardi because they were outside and the new No Smoking policy prevents anyone from leaving and re-entering, I could see from the atrium that Curly is pointing accusingly at Vince. Why is that?
Wrapping up, a good time was had by all. I was able to sneak down to the very narrow staircase corner where players do the Lambeau Leap, witnessed a winning game, and ate chili while sitting on a cold, steel bench and getting sunburned. I can report that crowd members drink but do not get drunk except off the high of belonging to something, the free pink waving hand towels came with a one-week coupon for Kohl’s, and that somebody out there still wears a Don Beebe jersey.