Tuesday, November 10, 2009
We live in Die-Hard Football Country.
I grew up a mere block away from Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers. Football was a constant part of our lives. When the Packers had open practice, we would ride our bikes down to the practice field to wait for practice to end. Then the Packer players would sign our football cards and ride our bikes across the street and back to the Lambeau Field locker rooms, while we kids would run along next to them on our bikes, carrying their helmets.
On Sunday home games, our driveway was packed with cars of friends and family attending the games. We kids would play outside and knew everytime the Packers scored because the entire neighborhood would be enveloped with the deafening roar of cheering fans.
Actually, the Packers stunk for most of my childhood (of course, they rocked it when I moved away for college.) But that mattered not to our city's residents. Fair-weathered we are not. Even those freezing cold, blizzard stricken games would be sold out, each and every time, without fail. It was often those games that I accompanied my own father to those games. We had season tickets on the 50 yard line, just 2 rows under the press box.. We would stand up and watch re-plays on the tvs that lined the litte press box walls. That was back in the day when Lambeau Field was just a round arena of corrugated metal painted Packer Green. Unassuming. Nothing fancy. The focus was strictly the game that went on inside.
When I was 18 and leaving for college, I couldn't wait to get the heck out of Packers country. I was so tired of living in a city where football took up 75% of the nightly local news during football season, and 50% of the airtime during off-season. All because safe and boring little Green Bay had nothing else to report. I was anxious to spread my wings and get a taste of the real world and "real" news.
Well, Tacoma was certainly a taste of that real world. Murders, muggings, drugs, roaming gangs were the reports I read about on a daily basis. And later,we continued that reality in Milwaukee, where the Sunday news reports weren't about play-by-play football recaps, but instead typically about the 3 or so shootings that took place in the last 36 hours.
By 2006, 13 years after I left Green Bay for the first time, I returned again to make Green Bay my home, as a wife and mother of three children. This time, I welcomed the Packer-laden news. Bring on the safe and tidy and boring and neverending Packer news. I'll take it.
Now, truth be told, we are not a huge football family. I have a lot of pride in our team and our city, but I couldn't tell you the season's win/loss record (or even the name of the coach.) I don't own a football sweatshirt, and neither do my kids, but just by growing up in this town, they have become fans by osmosis--you simply can't escape the Packers.
This week though, we are like the thousands of other Green Bay families in that the talk of our house is this upcoming home football game. Why our sudden interest? Because Hatfield gets to perform on Lambeau Field with her dance troupe during the Halftime Show!
It's rare to see Hattie this excited, and it's fun to see how pumped up she and all of her teammates are. I asked her if she is going to be nervous performing in front of 60,000 + people, but she replied, "No. I would only be nervous if it's going to be on tv (it's not), because then we'd be performing in front of the whole world."
I still smile at her comment. I would have made the identical comment as a child (well, not about the not being nervous part--I would have been terrifed. But when I was a kid, I assumed the whole world watched the Packers too.) When you are a little kid and you grow up in Green Bay, you really do think the Packers are the center of the universe.
Is it the most enlightened way of thinking? Certainly not. But after living here and living elsewhere, I am at peace with her way of thinking. She has the rest of her life to be exposed to the hard reality of the real world. For now, Green Bay is the only universe she knows, and here in this die-hard football country, The Packers are the center of it.