It was October of 2005 and I had just turned 12 years old. The Green Bay Packers were off to an 0-4 start with Brett Favre as Quarterback and Mike Sherman as Head Coach. I grew up in Aurora, IL, about an hour outside of Chicago in a Chicago Bears family and I went to school in Chicago Bears territory. My Dad, a lifelong Bears fan, has had season tickets for the Chicago Football Organization since 1986. It’s amazing that I ended up such a diehard Packers fan, and I’ll get to that later but for now, a quick story of the 12 year old me that went to Lambeau Field for the very first time on that sunny, 50 Degree Day in October of 2005.
Like I said, the Packers were off to a less than ideal start to the season and were aiming to pick up their first victory of the season against the New Orleans Saints. Even at the tender age of 12, I was very in-tune with the Packers and had good reason for optimism. The year before, in 2004, the Packers had started the season 1-4 and amazingly finished 10-6 and earned a trip to the playoffs. I figured if they could get a win under their belt, they could do a repeat of the year before and turn their abysmal start around.
Like many people who have graced the holy confines of Lambeau Field, that very first time of finding your section, walking through the aisle and seeing the field is cemented in my brain forever. It was a gorgeous, sunny and crisp October day and here I was, in Green Bay, Wisconsin, feeling like I had found my heaven on earth for the very first time. It was remarkable.
I remember being right next to the visitors tunnel during pregame warmups. Saints QB Aaron Brooks walked through the tunnel and on to the field, so close to me that I could literally touch his helmet. Next was Saints RB Deuce McAllister and a few players later, former Packers CB Mike McKenzie! Mike had been on the team just the year prior and was a solid contributor for the Packers. With Mike, I did tap his helmet as he walked out and I said something to him; I just don’t remember what. He didn’t turn around.
Saints kicker John Carney drilled a 33 yard field goal early in the 1st quarter to give the Saints a 3-0 lead. My Dad, always pushing my buttons as a sensitive and passionate Packers fan, turned to me and said “Uh-Oh”. Panic immediately set into me. The Packers surely couldn’t lose the very first time I saw them play at Lambeau, this was my day!
If you don’t remember the details from that day, allow me to quickly fill you in. Packers RB Najeh Davenport scored a 1 yard touchdown to give the Packers a 7-3 lead and on the next Saints possession, Packers CB Al Harris intercepted Aaron Brooks and took it to the house. I’ll always remember Harris intercepting that pass and lifting his arm as I was sitting in the end-zone stands that he scored in. Panic subsided, the fans cheered and the Packers won the game by a final count of 52-3. Lambeau Field, right then and there, was my sanctuary and happy place for life as rookie QB Aaron Rodgers got his first career NFL snap and Brett Favre won on his 36th Birthday.
A quick highlight video below of the game that is worth the watch:
My Dad has been such a great father to me in so many different ways and one of the intimate bonds we share is our love of sports. Even as a diehard Chicago Bears fan, my Dad made it a tradition to try and see a Packers game with me every year as I continued to grow older through middle school, high school and beyond. In 2006, we saw the Packers beat the Cardinals at Lambeau. In 2007, we took a trip to Kansas City and saw Brett Favre and Greg Jennings win in a shootout at Arrowhead. In 2008, it was a trip to Nashville, where I now live, when we saw the 8-0 Tennessee Titans take out the Packers in Overtime. 2009 was a trip to St. Louis to see the Packers and Rams, 2012 was a trip to Indianapolis, 2016 was a visit to Washington DC to see the team formerly known as the Redskins. The list goes on.
I went to college in Milwaukee, WI. I spent my freshman year at Marquette University and another 3 years at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Admittingly, my 18 year old self wanted to go to college in Wisconsin for the sole purpose of finally being around Packers fans and being able to watch every game on TV without worrying about NFL Sunday Ticket or streaming the game online. That’s where my brain was at and to be fair, kind of still is. I live and die the Green Bay Packers; the team, the fans, the culture, the history…everything.
Between my time at Marquette and UWM, I spent a year back home at a local community college. When it was time to go back to Milwaukee, I needed roommates. I responded to an Ad on Craigslist hoping for the best. Turns out, it was one of the best decisions of my life. I spent the next 3 years with 3 guys from Green Bay, WI and built lifelong friendships, full of trips to Lambeau Field, plates of cheese and venison (what’s venison??), 8am Miller Lites in the Packers parking lot tailgating and so, so much more.
When I think of the Green Bay Packers, I think of my college roommates. I think of my Dad. I think of Sunday afternoon pizza, a warm blanket and a fire. I think of the crisp October smells, the Fox pre-game music as Joe Buck says “Welcome to Historic Lambeau Field” and of course, those 8am brewski’s.
As the Packers prepare to take on a formidable opponent in the New Orleans Saints on Sunday Night Football in Week 3 and possibly improve to 3-0, I can’t help but think how lucky we are as fans to be in this position. Week in and week out, season in and season out, the Packers, for the most part, have been a good, competitive, fun team that puts their best foot forward and always finds themselves in the Super Bowl Conversation.
I have to admit, all week long I’ve had somewhat of a writers block on what I wanted to write about for PackersTalk.com for my Saturday morning article. I’m so thankful for Al Bracco and all the great people that allowed me this opportunity to express my thoughts on the Packers on a weekly basis and I can’t wait to continue sharing my thoughts on the team and city that is so near and dear to my heart. In the year 2020 that has been anything but normal or routine, I am simply so grateful that in a year of chaos, we still have football to think about, watch, discuss and bring joy into our lives.
To me, the Green Bay Packers are bigger than football, as evidenced in the title to this article and I wanted to share my experience with you on what they mean to me. If you’ve made it this far, I have to close the article by telling you how I became a Packers fan. Long story-short, my Dad never pushed me to be a Bears fan (When I have kids, I will definitely push them to be Packers fans, FWIW). My favorite color was yellow as a toddler, so much so that when I turned 3 years old, the theme of my birthday party was not “Power Rangers” or “Star Wars” but Yellow. I’m talking birthday cake, balloons, streamers, the whole nine. “Yellow everything”, as Gucci Mane would say. Secondly, my Dad wasn’t your typical “Packers Hater” as a Bears fan. He watched Favre A LOT and I grew up watching the boys in yellow with #4 winning MVP’s and slinging touchdowns. Now at age 27, I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Go Pack GO.——————
Alex grew up in a family of Chicago Bears fans in the suburbs of Chicago but was always a Packers guy. Alex\'s AIM name when he was in elementary/middle school was PackerAlex. He now lives in Nashville, Tennessee and you can follow him on twitter at @Alex_Mayer93.