So I had to work with a fellow salesman in the Midwest last week. I flew up to Chicago and then we drove to several places in Wisconsin. Thankfully, I was in Milwaukee a week before the current disaster but that’s a story for another day. Learned a lot about the great state of Wisconsin. For instance, did you know that 12 of the 20 drunkest cities in America are in Wisconsin? Yeah, me either. I do not doubt it one bit now though. There are also an inordinate amount of stores along the highway that sell, shall we say more mature products. Just another piece of interesting state trivia. I guess when it’s brutally cold for two-thirds of the year you have to find entertainment where you can.
While bouncing around the cheese head state, we managed to make our way to Green Bay to check out Lambeau Field and a Packers practice. It was so hot and humid that I thought I was back in Georgia but the experience was awesome. For those who are not aware, the Green Bay Packers are the only American professional sports franchise owned by the community. The Packers are run as a non-profit organization and owned by members of the community with no single individual owning more than 4% of the shares. It is this ownership arrangement that has made the Packers the longest NFL franchise to remain in the same city. The relationship between the city of Green Bay and their football team is like no other I have witnessed.
And the fans gathered in that heat to watch training camp might be the friendliest group of folks I’ve ever met. Of course, that might be in some way related to the above mentioned factoids about the state. Just saying. Everyone smiles and welcomes you to Lambeau Field and the practice facility. The stands are completely full of spectators. Rather than have you stand in the sun or block other’s view while looking for a seat, there are volunteers posted at every stairway who ask how many are with you, go and find a spot for you to sit and then come lead you to that spot. Despite the 100 degree heat index, each of these volunteers was smiling and cheerful.
The practice itself was pretty much like any other training camp I have been to except that the fans ooh and ah with every catch as if what they have just witnessed means their beloved Packers are destined to win the Super Bowl this year. Then there is some ritual where kids line up with their bikes outside the door to the locker room. When a player walks out he will choose a bike to ride over to the field. It is considered an honor to have them choose your bicycle. Without a doubt, the interaction between the fans and the players and staff is unlike anything anywhere else in the NFL. The deep connection is actually tangible and one who is a fan of another team cannot help but come away from the event knowing that they now have a second favorite team in the NFL. It really is that moving.
Of course, by the time you’ve had enough of sweating in the hot sun, the next thing on the agenda is a walk across the street from the practice field to a nearby sports bar. Because, naturally, Green Bay is one of the twelve cities in that top twenty list. So it’s a short stroll over to some air conditioning, cold beer and cheese curds. What are cheese curds? Don’t ask, because then you wouldn’t eat them and they are delicious. All and all the experience was wonderful from the party atmosphere of the sports bar to the friendliness of the fans to touring Lambeau Field (which was anything but a frozen tundra that day) and getting my picture taken in front of the statue of Vince Lombardi. I am glad we took a little time out of a busy schedule to take all of that in. And go Packers.