Theres no question that football fever is beginning to take hold of us. The World Cup is coming to a close, MLB is at its all-star break, and the free agency hoopla that is the NBA is hopefully over.
Im ready to jump into one of the most unknown traditions for one of the most historic franchises in the NFL.
TRAINING CAMP TRANSPORTATION
If you have ever been to the Green Bay Packers training camp, held right across the street from Lambeau, then you will completely understand. If you have yet to attend a training camp session then you are in for one interesting perspective on this tradition.
Riding bikes, basically anyone can do it, and for kids ages 7-15 in Green Bay it is melting pot to be a personal chauffeur to these high profile athletes. When you waiting for up to an hour before practice to get a good spot in line to snag a "Packer" to ride your bike all of your pent up boredom is erased with elation of being responsible for a professional to get to practice.
Being a "biker kid" brings a pretty tough schedule during training camp. First you have to know the training camp schedule by looking in the paper or online. Sometimes practices begin around 8am so you have to be out of bed and by Lambeau at 7am, at the latest. Many "biker kids" try to get to the field earlier in order to get autographs from the Packers when they are driving into the gates to go to the locker room. I know when I was a "biker kid" back in the day my friends and I would meet at someones house and try to be at the field at 6am in attempt at getting the eluding autograph of Brett Favre.
Once you are at Lambeau there will be a designated area for your bikes to go for the hour you have to wait. Most kids will then congregate together and pass the time by playing cards or catch. Once the first Packer player leaves the locker room the kids flock to their bikes, screaming and jaunting for someone to take their bike and ride it down. The Packer will walk up to a bike and choose it, with the linemen usually drifting toward the 18 gear mountain bikes, not the little pink girl ones.
Before the ride down to the practice field the bikers need to make a decision, how they are going to get down to practice. Of course the Packer Players will be riding on the bike, so what does that leave us? For me the best thing to do is put on my rollerblades and ride my bike, then when the Packer is riding my bike I can keep up and chat with him while I'm rollerblading. Other kids will just run down to the field and others will have pegs on their bikes and ride on those.
Here's an interesting story about Brett Favre and time riding a bike down to practice.
When Brett Favre was a rookie he would do what every other rookie did, ride the bikes. One day on his way down to practice his "biker kid" was riding on the front handlebars, which is a little iffy if you ask me. At the foot of the hill from Lambeau there is an intersection with lights. The lights were counting down as Favre was approaching them and by the time he had to make a decision to stop the light was yellow. Favre, being the first time bike rider that he was didnt realize that the cars would obviously wait for him to cross. He ended up slamming on the brakes propelling the kid on the handlebars onto a windshield of a car. The kid was not severely injured just shaken up a bit but Brett Favre was worried. He was worried so much that for the rest of his Packer career he would take his own truck down to practice, unless completely necessary to ride a bike.
So, choosing a mode of transportation for yourself as a biker kid is key in either being injured, tired, or happy.
There are alot of conversations you can have on the ride down, asking a rookie about his experience so far, asking a veteran about practice or whatever they like to do for fun. Ultimately there is one goal for "biker kids" and that is to sustain the same Packer player for the whole summer. Asking "can I be your rider for the summer?" question can throw the rookies off however after some explaining they will hopefully agree and you have yourself a full time Packer buddy.
It is really an exciting thing knowing that the Packer has chosen you to get them to practice for the whole camp. Becoming someones "rider" has many perks, including building a relationship with them, getting their practice gloves, Gatorades, game tickets, or even hanging out with them or golfing on the weekends. No joke, all of those things have happened to either myself of friends of mine.
When I was in full fledged biker kid mode my main guy was Javon Walker, former Packer WR who asked for way too much money after he blew out. However his story went it was a great summer getting to know the young Walker and hearing stories about him playing for the Marlins farm system and ultimately choosing Football. I received several pairs of gloves from him after practices and it was the greatest feeling in the world being 12 and feeling like you had a big Packer brother.
When you get down to the practice field the player hops off the bike, takes his helmet and maybe shoulder pads from you (because you were carrying them) and he continues into practice, saying "thanks for the ride" or "will i see you here after practice?", in which case you would reply with a huge grin and a exuberant YES for an answer.
This will conclude the first part of this Training Camp Insider: The Life of a Biker Kid. In the second part I will go into what I did during practice to waste time as well as the struggle to get a "token" to get autographs after the practices.