Up here it’s not a Sport, It’s a Religion

Just an ordinary day in Green Bay

Are you a sports fan? Do you live and die on how well or how bad your team performs? Well if you don’t live in Wisconsin, especially Northeast Wisconsin, you have no idea of how crazy it can get. I am not belittling fans of other teams and sports. I know there are dedicated diehards everywhere who paint their bodies blue, buy gear, jerseys, bobbleheads, and decorate their basements, however their teams are in cities a hell of a lot bigger than Green Bay, Wisconsin. Those other cities also have baseball teams, basketball teams and hockey teams that divide the fan base; up here the Packers have a lock. Not a football fan? Well it is damn hard to escape. There are a lot of people who live up here who don’t live and breathe football but they still schedule their activities around Packer home games.  Anyone who had a wedding planned on the past two weekends when the Packers got into the playoffs despaired, knowing that there would be guys hiding in the coat room, or sitting at the reception or even in church with their smart phones tuned to the game, ear buds strung up through their collars. And this might be the groom or even the bride. I know for a fact that our church does not schedule voter’s meetings, potluck dinners, or big Sunday School programs on Sundays when there is a Packer home game. At our church there is a volunteer program called Packer Servers. Members who participate run food and drinks to the box seats during a game. We get paid by the head and earned $10,000 for our church last year. And this is true of many organizations in this town. Try to escape by going shopping? Ha! Most stores have the game on instead of muzak. And don’t even think of driving over to the west side of town where Lambeau Field is located, there are major streets blocked off to accommodate parking, fans, tailgaters. Do other cities block off streets?

I am originally from Chicago, raised a true blue and orange Bear fan, listening to my father swear and yell and go nuts every Sunday. In 1979 I moved to Green Bay with my husband. I hung in there, stayed a Bear fan to see the 1985 team win the Superbowl. But then the Packers started to rise, Bret Favre hit town, and Stockholm Syndrome set in. This is the term used to describe “a paradoxical psychological phenomenon wherein hostages express adulation and have positive feelings towards their captors that appears irrational.” I couldn’t hold out any longer, I became a Packer fan and I joined the cult, I embraced my captors and never looked back.

So last night as I watched the Packer/Falcon playoff game I could hardly believe what I was seeing. Yes, we were playing like a dream and winning big but it was the sight of the empty bleachers in the beginning of the 4th quarter (except for groups of Packer fans) that shocked me. Sure the Falcons were losing by a huge margin but up here in Packer Country the stands would be full till the bitter end, even if it was -10 degrees, snow and sleet, 20mph winds and we were behind by 30 points. No one leaves. Have another beer, we might pull it out!

Nothing else more important happened in the world yesterday, I know, because this was the front page of my local morning paper.

Front page of the Green Bay Press Gazette


There was a full page on the game inside the front page as well. Then there was the actual Sports section, 9 of the 16 pages were dedicated to the Packers.  I guess a few other teams played so they couldn’t use all 16 pages.

Sports Section

The Life Section of the paper didn’t escape either. This is a section devoted to movies, music, travel, entertainment. There was one whole column about Green Bay’s quarterback having a girlfriend and another article about knitting a green and gold sweater for your dog.

And its like this throughout the season not just the playoffs.  In fact, in any given month, any given week, on any given day of the year, summer, fall, winter, spring, the lead-off story on the sports page is likely to be about the Packers!

Well the Bears just won their game so watch for the rabid Green Bay fans next week in Chicago. They’ll be the crazies painted green and gold wearing cheese on their heads. There will be a lot of them.


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