When I read that one of the article possibilities for the NFL correspondent job was to write about what turned me into a fan of my team, I had to chuckle more than just a little.
I am a fan of the Green Bay Packers. There is nothing ordinary about that. In fact, to be a fan of the Packers is one of the greatest honors in all of sport.
It is hard to explain to a non-Packer fan just what it's like to follow the team. Actually, it's just as hard for people to understand what being a Packer fan means if you haven't lived in Green Bay.
Luckily, I was born and raised in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and have been witness to something so unique in sports that I begin to get choked up thinking about all the memories I have.
To grow up in Green Bay is to be a Packer fan. You don't become a fan, you are born one. If you look at a photo album of anyone that has grown up in Green Bay, you will see countless pictures of Packer shirts, jerseys, and if you were lucky, a Packer birthday cake.
Knowledge of the Packers is passed down from generation to generation as much as a particular family's history would be.
The Packers are as much a part of the community as any team in any sport. Green Bay is a city of a little over 100,000 people. Lambeau Field seats right around 70,000. It's pretty easy to do the math on that one.
Sundays during the fall and winter are spent doing one thing, watch the Packers. The city literally shuts down during home games.
Streets are empty and stores have minimal customer patronage. That's no exaggeration. You could realistically walk down Main Street in Green Bay on a Sunday in the fall and not see any cars or people walking the street. Everyone is inside, usually with a group, watching the Packers.
Don't make the mistake that the love for the Packers comes from their recent history of success or solely from a certain quarterback that is likely to play for the Minnesota Vikings this year.
The real love for the Packers is built from the foundation of a history unlike any in football. Everyone knows Brett Favre, Reggie White, and Mike Holmgren.
To Packer fans, those are only the latest in a long line of great players that have made the franchise what it is today. Bart Starr, Don Hutson, Vince Lombardi, and Curly Lambeau are the legends that are synonymous with greatness in Green Bay.
All you need to do for confirmation of the importance of the Packers is to look around the city. Lambeau Field's address is 1265 Lombardi Avenue. There are also streets named after Favre, Holmgren, Hutson, White, Starr, and Tony Canadeo. The Main Street Bridge has also been christened Ray Nitschke Bridge as well.
Sure, I can put the Packers' stars of past and present up against any team and the Packers will likely come out ahead hands down. Both knowledgeable and novice football fans can name all those players.
What makes the relationship between fans and players so special is how we as fans remember those who aren't household names around the country. While most football fans may not know the names of Jeff Query, Eddie Lee Ivory, or Burnell Dent, Green Bay fans can still give you great memories about each player.
Green Bay is pro football and pro football is Green Bay. Although it is my hometown, I have to be honest when I say; football is all Green Bay has.
Without the Packers, Green Bay would basically be West Jordan, Utah. Have you ever heard of West Jordan? Neither had I until I read that the cities have basically the same population.
A big city like Chicago or New York is barely phased by a win or a loss. The city of Green Bay lives and dies with a win or loss.
Mondays after a win will see everyone in a good mood, while a loss results in short tempers and a general feeling that the city should just shut down until Tuesday. This isn't just a small sector of people either. This is every person at every place of employment throughout Northeast Wisconsin.
Oral history is becoming a lost art when it comes to preserving the past. In Green Bay, that will never die. You are taught growing up to appreciate the past, enjoy the present, and look forward to the future.
Packer fans are as much a part of the team as anyone that has ever suited up for the team. That's where the love affair for the team comes into play.
We share in their successes and failures more than any fan in sport. We see them in the malls and local restaurants. We know them and they know us.
Do Packer fans see the world through green and gold color glasses? Without a doubt, absolutely. Residents of Green Bay wouldn't have it any other way.
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