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I come from a family of die-hards who, despite not having ever “officially” owned season tickets, have always (at least in my recollection) managed to pull off de facto season tickets. I grew up watching them every Sunday, but I don’t think my fandom really solidified until this game at Milwaukee County Stadium.
I had been to a few games before (always in Milwaukee) but this was the first time I got to see them actually win, and the feeling was just great in person. It might not be the same as walking into Lambeau for the first time, but County Stadium tailgating was still incredible and the post-football party was, I think, the first time I realized what an event this was. Oh, and by the way, don’t blame poor Max Zendejas too much for that missed PAT, there was an Unsportsmanlike Conduct penalty called on his first attempt that turned it into a 32-yarder.
Two years later Tecmo Bowl would be released for the Nintendo Entertainment System which, combined with the first truly good Packer season of my life, solidified my love of football forever.
Born and raised about 18 miles from Lambeau Field, becoming a fan of the Green Bay Packers was almost like a religious calling. It was a way of life in my household, with Sunday acting as an obligatory day for going to church and watching the Green & Gold. However, more than anything, being a fan of the Packers has been a way to connect with family.
From watching games on television, to throwing the football around in the backyard, to studying prospects for the upcoming draft, the Packers have always been a reliable avenue to spend time and share sports knowledge (to feel like a big shot) with my dad. Together, we went to several outdoor practices open to the public and even my first official game with suite tickets he received from work. I even remember a Christmas Day affair in which we froze our butts off in below-zero temperatures to cheer on the Pack to victory over the Oakland Raiders. Now, living almost 20 hours away from home, the Packers remain a conversation starter and one that often leads to long phone calls, especially on draft night.
If those family ties weren’t enough, my love for the Packers was cemented by being able to frequently attend games with my Great Uncle Gene. Gene, who had season tickets passed down through family bloodlines, would always try to take me to one, two, or even three games each season. His tickets, located in the third row of the south end zone, gave me a field level perspective of the game in which I not only could watch opposing players run out of the tunnel before my childhood eyes, but pat a Packers player on the helmet if Gene and I were lucky enough to have a Lambeau Leap.
I think what makes the Green Bay Packers so close to the hearts of fans, including my own, is the feeling of community and tradition from being associated with the team. It’s located in the smallest professional city, as close to a college town as you can get. For all of the fanfare in the parking lots leading up to kickoff, there is still some mystique and awe when you enter the bowl of the stadium. And for me, that will never fade away.
My family has very deep Wisconsin roots. Barnetts moved into Wisconsin before statehood. Beyond that, my fandom has a very real family connection. My great-grandfather was Gerald Clifford. I am actually fortunate enough to be present at his 1991 induction into the Packers Hall of Fame. Sadly, he was not still alive to see it. My grandmother and her sister accepted it on his behalf. As a young boy I met Bart Starr, Jan Stenerud, Larry McCarren, Tony Canadeo and Lindy Infante. It was an amazing celebration of a man I never met. I still have the program card of the induction dinner.
My great-grandfather was an attorney in Green Bay. He was a member of a group known as The Hungry Five that guided the Packers through the Great Depression. It was Gerald Clifford who drafted the articles of incorporation that made the Packers a shareholder owned corporation. Gerald Clifford is also the man who essentially fired Curly Lambeau. As the legend goes, Lambeau was planning on taking his control of the team and moving them to California. At a meeting regarding this possible plan, my great-grandfather is reported to have waited outside for Lambeau. In not too uncertain terms, Gerald Clifford informed Lambeau that he was not to move this team from Green Bay.
My fandom is centered in my family. I have cousins born in many different states, but all of us pull for the Green and Gold. This is deeper than any other team I follow as I know that my own blood was connected deeply in the success of this little team in the smallest city in American professional sports. That, and I would have to answer to Grandma if I had ever cheered for another team.
Evan “Tex” Western
As a child of the early 90’s in Wisconsin, Packers fandom was a birthright. I vaguely remember Brett Favre’s first game as a Packer, but what really locked me into my football allegiances -- both to the Packers and the Wisconsin Badgers -- was the 1993 football season. More accurately, it was the postseason games that year that did it. Both teams were pulling themselves up out of the doldrums of decades of losing, and I just happened to be getting old enough to appreciate football at the right time.
My family didn’t have season tickets, and I never attended a game at Lambeau Field until the 1998 season (when I saw Dorsey Levens break his leg and was convinced that I was a curse). Instead, a young Tex saw two of the most thrilling wins of my life on television just a week apart in the early days of 1994. First, the Badgers capped off a fantastic season with Darrell Bevell’s legendary touchdown run, clinching a Rose Bowl victory. Then a week later, the Packers went into Detroit and won their first playoff game of my early life thanks to a miraculous throw from Brett Favre to Sterling Sharpe.
I have other bizarre memories of Packers football from my youth. I remember sitting in front of the television display at the American TV and furniture store in Oak Creek, watching T.J. Rubley audible out of a QB sneak and throw away a win against the Vikings while my parents picked out new appliances. I remember being woken up by my parents’ excited shouts when Don Beebe scored in overtime against the 49ers in 1996, then being allowed to stay up later to watch night games from then on. Of course, I remember vividly the Packers’ victory in Super Bowl XXXI, when my family hosted a huge Super Bowl party.
But that eight-day span in the beginning of 1994 will go down as the foundation for my football fandom, and it will be very hard to top.
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