Green Bay Packers: A Young Fan's Story From Ignorance to Infatuation to SB XLV
I warn you, this is a long read, but I promise it will be enjoyable.
Green Bay Packers fans are everywhere. The Packers have one of the most widespread fan bases in the National Football League. I only know a handful of Packers fans myself—some of whom are legitimate, and some who are just along for the ride on the bandwagon. Over the last seven years, I have been watching my friend Steve grow as a Packers fan and a football fan and I feel that he has an interesting story to tell.
Six years old when the Packers last won the Super Bowl, Steve was barely aware that the franchise even existed. He started as a New York Giants fan, only liking the team because he lived in New York and had many friends who were Giants fans. He would always watch football with his father. The Packers started to stand out to him. He loved their green and yellow uniforms and took notice of the electricity Brett Favre brought to every game.
In 2001, Steve’s love for football started to develop and he started to keep track of the Packers. A couple years later, he started to learn some of the history of the team and was ready to show his Packer pride. He received his first Packers jersey, a Green, number 4, Brett Favre—an ironic gift from his parents.
Why is this ironic? Well, while screaming at the television during a Packers game that season, Steve’s father decided to tell him that he had been a Chicago Bears fan his entire life. His father grew up in Chicago, and Steve was aware that his father was a Cubs fan, but his father had never revealed his Bears fan hood around the house. At this point, there was no tension or awkwardness between father and son, but we will get back to this later.
Steve would start to take games so seriously around this time that it became noticeable when he was in a good or bad mood after a game. This is quite common for football fans, but for a Packers fan that had no idea who Vince Lombardi and Bart Starr were just a couple of years before, this was a significant change.
Some years would pass and Brett Favre would lead the Packers to three division titles over the next five seasons. Even after a crushing defeat to the new York Giants in the Nation football conference Championship in 2008, Steve’s Packer pride had reached an all-time high, as well as his love for Favre. He knew Favre’s career could be coming to an end, but was hoping he could stick around a little longer.
During that offseason, Favre would announce his retirement.n The Packers were getting ready to start anew with unproven quarterback Aaron Rodgers who had sat on the bench behind Favre for his first three years in the league. Steve, as well as most of Packer Nation, had no idea how effective Rodgers would be.
“I was extremely skeptical. We had just made it to the NFC Championship with Favre and my knowledge on Rodgers was extremely limited so at the time I had little if any faith in him,” said Steve.
Then, Favre would announce that he was not ready to hang it up and wanted to play again the following season. This was not the first time Favre would do this and the Packers’ front office was sick of the drama, but Steve was extremely excited to see Favre back for another season in Packer green. He never expected that Favre would play his next season in a different green jersey.
Ready to move on, the Packers found a trade partner in the New York Jets, who were happy to add the veteran quarterback to the team. This was torture to Steve.
“The Jets would not have been so difficult if I had not been surrounded by Jets fans at the time. It made it extremely hard for me to not think about it especially early in the season when he was thriving and the Packers were struggling with Rodgers.”
Steve grew a hatred for the Jets that season, and was happy to see Favre and the Jets stumble at the end and miss the playoffs. Rodgers, however, would lead the Packers to a 6-10 record, making it difficult to believe in his ability to lead, even after an impressive 4,000 passing yard season.
Things got even more difficult at this point. Favre would announce his retirement yet again and would ask the Jets to release him. Of course, Favre came back once again, this time, to join the Packers’ division rivals, the Minnesota Vikings.
When asked how he felt about this, Steve replied, “Absolutely livid. They are our rivals and having to face him twice a year made it virtually impossible to appreciate the Packer legend.”
Favre would lead the Vikings to a 12-4 record and an NFC North title, barely beating out the 11-5 Packers. The Packers would lose a shootout to the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Wildcard round, while the Vikings would eventually lose in the NFC Championship, leaving them as the favorites to take the NFC North crown once again the next season.
After some convincing by his Vikings teammates and coaches, Favre returned again for the 2010 season, but he would struggle through injuries to himself and his teammates and the Vikings would finish last in the North at 6-10. Rodgers would lead the Packers to a season sweep of the Vikings, giving Green Bay the last laugh. Steve is now ready to accept Favre back into Packer Nation.
“Rodgers beat him twice this year which made it even easier, but he was the face of our franchise for so long that he will definitely go down as a Packer legend.”
Steve said he would love to see Favre sign a one day contract with Green Bay so he could retire a Packer, where he belongs. “He should be known as a Packer forever,” he told me.
Though the Vikings were favored by ‘experts’ to win the NFC North going into the season, Steve was very confident that the Packers had the talent to take the title this year. This feeling would soon change once injuries started to pile up.
“I could handle the loss of [Ryan] Grant at the time, but that came back to hurt us more than I had assumed. It was the loss of [Jermichael] Finley that really got me down on the future of the year. He was set up to be an unstoppable force in our passing game.”
The Packers would struggle to run the ball for most of the season without Grant and lacked the dominant tight end that they expected to have in Finley. Even without some of their star players, the Packers were set up to make the playoffs as a wildcard, until Rodgers suffered what would be his second concussion of the season against the Detroit Lions in a game that the Packers would lose 7-3. They would also lose to the New England Patriots the following week without Rodgers at the helm, but played a tough game behind backup Matt Flynn.
“That Lions loss was devastating. I thought we were really rolling until that. Thankfully, facing elimination against the Giants and Bears, our team really pulled together in a team effort to get into the playoffs.”
The Packers would embarrass the Bears in Week 17, holding them to just three points. At this point, father and son started to butt heads in their household.
“This year was the first that we really did [butt heads]. When the Bears emerged as a real contender, we started getting defensive of our own team with him constantly saying ‘Da Bears’ around the house.”
Steve would then receive the greatest gift he has gotten to this day. Steve’s love for talking about the Packers on twitter got him in touch with other Packers fans, one of which had an extra ticket to their first round matchup in Philadelphia. Steve would jump on the opportunity and would join his new friend on a journey to Lincoln Financial Field for his first Packer game.
“I was probably more anxious than I have been at any point in my life. I was getting to see the Green Bay Packers, the players I idolized and cheered for at home every week. That game was really a dream come true for me.”
A dream come true indeed, as the Packers would pull out a victory, the first win Steve would witness in his life.
“It was a great experience for me. Back home I never had any friends who were true Packers fans so was without someone to cheer with. At that game I was lucky enough to meet up with some true members of Packer Nation and cheering together for our team was an amazing experience.”
The Packers would go on to crush the Atlanta Falcons in the Divisional round, leading to an NFC Championship matchup with the Bears.
“Luckily I was back at school in Buffalo for this one or else me and my Dad definitely would have filled the house with tension. Lets just say me and my dad didn't talk that week leading up to the game, nor for a little while after. But going in I was pretty confident. The Bears defense definitely scared me, but I knew we were up to the challenge.”
As everyone knows, the Packers would take down the rival Bears in Chicago, earning them a trip to Super Bowl XLV in Dallas against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Steve’s father would not speak to him until Super Bowl Sunday.
The two weeks leading up to the game made Steve anxious, but he wore Packers gear every single day, including his brand new Clay Matthews jersey. He said that he felt like the weekend was never coming, like the reality that his team would be playing in the Super Bowl was so surreal. On Saturday night, the night before game day, Steve had trouble sleeping and was up for a while watching Sportscenter over and over until he eventually passed out.
Super Bowl Sunday was here. Steve was glued to the television all day, taking it all in, loving the experience. He was so excited that he forgot to make plans for the game until the very last minute.
“In Buffalo there aren't many Packers fans and I was tempted to watch it alone so I wouldn’t encounter any Steelers fans. In the end I watched it with some buddies that supported the Packers because they knew how much I love them.”
Steve was lucky to find another Packer fan amongst his fellow viewers that night. The two of them, along with six other friends, were ready for kickoff.
“The game started off incredible. A touchdown for us was quickly followed by the pick six that Nick Collins had to take us to a solid lead early on. But at the end of the half we had Driver, Shields, Woodson, and Collins all head to the locker room early.”
The Packers had the lead, but Steve was nervous. He was able to relax a bit during half time. His infatuation with Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas was enough to keep him distracted for a few minutes, but he quickly turned back to twitter for any updates he could get. He would find out that Donald Driver and Charles Woodson would not be returning in the second half.
“It honestly felt like a nightmare for a while. I thought we were gonna let this slip away. We were having trouble scoring with dropped passes being the primary reason, and the Steelers seemed to be getting into a rhythm. By this time I had basically moved two feet from the TV not really worrying about blocking others view of the screen.”
Things would soon turn back in the Packers’ direction. After having to punt four times in the third quarter, the Packers forced Steelers’ running back Rashard Mendenhall to fumble the ball on the first play of the fourth quarter. The Packers would score another touchdown on the drive, bringing Steve and the rest of Packer Nation’s confidence back. The Packers would hold a six-point lead with two minutes left and the Steelers getting one last chance.
“I had faith in our defense. This is where they had come up big all year. Tramon in Philadelphia and Shields In Chicago. But this was a team stop. With extremely impressive coverage on every down the Steelers failed to convert on fourth down and the game was ours.”
“I was screaming and hugging my friends in celebration. My phone went crazy with calls and texts from friends and family who knew how crazy I would be going. I can’t remember the last time I was so happy about something. The Packers, my team, were Super Bowl champions.”
Like I mentioned before, Steve basically was not around for the Packers first title in his lifetime. This is as good as it gets.
“I'm still flying high on the victory. Still rocking Packers memorabilia each day to show my pride. I don't know how long it will be before I come down from this high, but I know it won't be for a while.”
And who can blame him? The Packers made one of the most impressive runs the NFL has ever seen to win this championship. They became only the second team to ever win the Super Bowl as a sixth seed.
Steve’s fan hood has come full circle. He went from a fan that just liked the team’s uniforms and one player to a fan who is familiar with the entire team and its history and has now witnessed a Super Bowl win. He may be the only one in the area celebrating the win, but he has taken the victory in stride and has been a class act since the final whistle. Steve now has the last laugh in his household and with all of his friends as well. It has been good to see my friend’s love of the game grow so much and I am glad to see the Packers’ victory bring him so much joy.
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