fervent fans and a frosty field like none other in the NFL
I recently finished reading a book on the U.S. Senate called “The Most Exclusive Club.” For many of us, that term applies to those fortunate enough to get tickets to a Green Bay Packers game at Lambeau Field. You may know the gargantuan statistics: the Packers’ season ticket waiting list recently surpassed the 100,000 mark, and if you join the list today, you almost certainly will not receive tickets in your lifetime. You know a team’s ticket is tough to obtain when including a season ticket request in your will is a wise idea.
To a certain degree, tickets can be had. Many season ticket holders do not go to all eight home games, so they sell individual game tickets to friends or co-workers. In recent years, the secondary ticket market has gone mainstream, allowing regular fans to pay a premium to get their long-awaited Lambeau game experience. Yet plenty of us will never have the money or connections to make the journey east, so in this column I aim to provide the next-best thing: describing what it’s like to go to a Packers game at Lambeau Field.
This is where the history presents itself: You will likely be sitting on a bench and concrete that was in place during the Titletown era, the Ice Bowl and so much else from a half-century ago.
I have been lucky. Thanks to my radio job and some connections from my late father, I have attended thirteen Packers games since 1998, the most-recent on Dec. 23 against Tennessee. Even though I’m a Vikings fan, I have thoroughly appreciated each trip, soaking in the game-day atmosphere in the NFL and all its attendant history. And it all starts a little beyond a Kmart.
As you approach Lambeau from the west on Lombardi Avenue, you are struck by how this sizable NFL stadium rises out of some older suburban housing and retail development. Imagine driving down Clairemont Avenue, seeing houses on one side, restaurants and a gas station on the other, and – in place of Memorial High School – Lambeau Field. A jarring thought, but it has the same context. Once you pass the stadium (with the newly installed outdoor clock set 15 minutes fast to “Lombardi Time”), you park. If you drive your own vehicle, odds are that you end up with other cars in someone’s driveway – or on someone’s lawn – a few blocks away. Residential lawn parking is quite commonplace.
As you walk with the masses towards the stadium, you pass the assorted radio station pre-parties, the proselytizers at the Oneida Street crossing, the trombone guy playing “Go! Pack! Go!” and the “Need One Ticket” folks. Once you get the security wand treatment and walk up the steps, you are in Lambeau.
Prior to the 2001-03 renovation, Lambeau Field’s exterior was green corrugated metal, very low-tech for the modern NFL. That renovation got Lambeau on par with the average pro stadium, but you see an echo to the past in the corrugated metal signage guiding you along the gradually sloping lower concourse. Eventually you arrive at your seat – or, really, your spot on a metal bench. Lambeau Field’s seating is still overwhelmingly benches, though many fans bring or rent seat cushions and backs.
This is where the history presents itself: You will likely be sitting on a bench and concrete that was in place during the Titletown era, the Ice Bowl and so much else from a half-century ago. It is a historical thread unique to the NFL. It also means you’ll be quite cold if you go later in the season. Layers everywhere are the way to go, as you get sardined between your bench-mates (some of whom are decked out in blaze orange) while you hear the muffled clapping of thick gloves after big plays in December games.
When the team is playing well, it is easy to get immersed in the infectious good vibes. I usually end up taking part in the high fives after each Packers touchdown. You get to see Lambeau Leaps in person, and experience the random, out-of-nowhere chants of “The Bears Still Suck!”
Many say going to Lambeau Field is akin to a pilgrimage, and I can attest to that sentiment. It is a pilgrimage to the heart of football, of Midwestern community, of a good older’ time in the winter. No matter how difficult it is to get tickets, find some and get to Lambeau. The Vince Lombardi and Curly Lambeau statues are waiting for you.