For this week’s Walkthrough, we’re taking a prompt from SB Nation’s theme week, which revolves around nostalgia. Super Bowl XXXI was a huge moment for the Green Bay Packers and their fans, as the team won its first championship in almost three decades. That 35-21 victory over the New England Patriots was a defining moment for many of APC’s contributors, and today we look back at where we were and what we were doing when Mike Holmgren, Brett Favre, Reggie White, and company put the Packers back on top.
We hosted a family party at my house because my birthday is January 27th and the Super Bowl was the 26th. My mom made mountains of food, all of which I was too nervous to eat and considering I was 9-going-on-10 and too young to drink (by a few years), I just had to deal.
It’s hard to separate memories of watching the game from watching the highlights over and over. The voices of Larry Irwin and Max McGee calling the game are forever etched in my brain. Irwin interjecting “here they come” about a Patriots blitz that Brett Favre beat on the opening touchdown pass to Andre Rison or screaming “he got ‘em again” after another Reggie White sack, are moments I’ll never forget. To me, it doesn’t matter if I’d heard those calls live, that’s how I’ll always remember those plays.
When Super Bowl XXXI happened I was 7 years old. I barely had any understand of the game of football but I knew I was already a Packer fan. My uncle had, according to my father, “brainwashed” me by the age of 4. My understanding of the game and the Packers at that point were “Brett Favre throws hard, Reggie White gets sacks, Gilbert Brown has a fun dance”.
At that point in time I was a latchkey kid. My sister and I were woken up by our parents at an early hour, even by adult standards. This meant that bedtime on a school night was 7:30pm. However, being a Packer fan meant that I got to stay up to watch the game. I was even allowed to eat as much of the delivery pizza as I wanted. I didn’t understand everything that was going on, but I knew when Favre threw his touchdown to Rison that I got to celebrate. I knew when Reggie White sacked Drew Bledsoe, the game was out of reach.
The next day, I was dead to the world. It turns out that a ton of pizza and pop followed up by a lack of sleep isn’t good for a small child; however, that was the day I truly became a fan of the the game.
As a six-year old Packers fan during Super Bowl XXXI, my memories of the big game are somewhat limited. But I distinctly remember watching with my mom’s side of the family in my grandparents’ living room as Brett Favre connected with Andre Rison to begin the scoring. The pure jubilance in the room stands out most to me about that day, though Desmond Howard’s kick return for a touchdown is another moment etched in my mind. Too young to truly understand the significance of that game over any other, my grandma’s food spread, including nachos, was one of my fondest memories from the championship celebration.
But I spent my childhood years reliving Super Bowl XXXI as I fired up the season-in-review tape in the VCR whenever possible. My uncle also had a trading card that was a lenticular, 3D image of Brett Favre reaching for the pylon for a Super Bowl score that became one of the coolest things I’d ever seen. These were the things I really held on to as a Packer fan until I was fortunate to experience the pure joy of a title during Super Bowl XLV.
It was my first year of college at Madison, it was the age of CRT televisions, and I didn’t have a fake ID. I’m not particularly religious, however a few of my friends were and their church set up a giant projector for the occasion. They invited me along, and the draw of a giant Super Bowl screen outweighed my non-religiousness. It was a blast.
This was, after all, the Reggie White team, and the amount, and intensity of cheering was pretty great. They had a good-sized crowd and the ambiance of a church is actually quite good for watching a football game, and a Super Bowl in particular. I know this Super Bowl isn’t remembered as an all-time great by most people, partially because it was a “lesser” Patriots team, but I think it’s grossly underrated as it was extremely competitive, and most of the scoring occurred on huge, game-changing plays including Desmond Howard’s finest moment. There were a ton of high-fives, and that made a large group experience crucial. So, kudos to that church I don’t remember the name of for probably the best bit of proselytization I’ve ever encountered.
Evan “Tex” Western
Growing up in a family of Packers fans, Super Bowl XXXI was the biggest day of my young life as a football fan. Because the house we lived in at the time had a great space and flow for entertaining, my parents decided to invite a small group of people over to our house for the game -- some extended family and a few close friends. With a big potluck spread out on the dining room table, my mom adorned her Don Beebe jersey and face paint while I put on my two-sizes-too-big Brett Favre jersey for the occasion.
And what an occasion it was. We had green-and-gold pom pons flying all around the room when Favre hit Andre Rison to open the scoring. The scores by Antonio Freeman and Desmond Howard sent the family into a frenzy. And Reggie White’s game-clinching sack-fest put everybody in a state of comfort as the fourth quarter wound down towards a victory. That day is right up there with Robin Yount’s 3000th hit as a defining moment in my sports fandom.
The 1996 season was the first year I was really “in” on the Packers. I’d been aware of the team prior to that and probably would have even said I was a fan, but for whatever reason, things took off that year. It helped that my family was into it, too. We watched every game together after church, speeding across our small town at the break between the third and fourth quarter to catch the ending with my grandparents, with whom we’d have dinner afterwards.
For the Super Bowl itself, we watched the entire game with my grandparents. As Paul pointed out, the game was actually very competitive, but it didn’t feel that way at the time. Victory was assured. Brett Favre’s bombs were preordained. Desmond Howard’s kick return touchdown was an inevitability. Reggie White’s three sacks were icing on the cake. It’s one of the best family moments of my life. As my grandparents age, I wish there was one notable moment about our experience watching the game together I could bring up with them the next time I’m in Wisconsin.
1996. Oh the awkwardness of being 13 years old.
Super Bowl XXXI Will always be very special to me. First off is the obvious reason that was the first time the Packers have won a Super Bowl in 29 years. The Packers had been terrible for most of my childhood and to see this moment happened was unbelievable
Second is my dad was working for WBAY in Green Bay and was in New Orleans for the entire week of the Super Bowl. So needless to say he brought home a lot of cool stuff. He still even has photos on display around the house. Now that I have my own writing career, he still regales me with stories about that week. Covering the Super Bowl professionally for me would be a dream come true.
Third, and in the long run this really didn’t help me academically, is our science teacher when I was in seventh grade handed out papers the Friday before the Super Bowl and said that if we could pick the exact score of the Super Bowl we would get an automatic A on the next exam. My guess? 35-21 in favor of the Packers.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Finally, please welcome APC’s newest contributor, Wendi Hansen, to the team! You’ll see Wendi working hard on our social media platforms as well as contributing content to the front page here at APC.
Super Bowl XXXI was a bittersweet moment for my family and I. While ten-year old me doesn’t remember a good deal about that night, there are a few things that I will never forget. My great-grandfather, the person who first sparked my interest in the Packers, had been fighting cancer for the few years leading up to the big game. To view the game through this man’s eyes, to see the joy and utter excitement on his face with every play, every touchdown pass, every tackle and opposing team’s fumble, I realized what it was to be a Packers fan.
He lost his long fight with cancer a week after the big game, but I know that he went out the best way he could: with a big fat smile on his face and the notion that he got to witness the team that he loved the most take home the Lombardi trophy, with the people he loved most.