I’m going to go right out and admit something that no Wisconsinite should ever admit, unless they’re willing to incite a riot…I’m not really a Packer Backer…well…that’s not entirely true anymore…let me back up a bit.
You see, I’m not originally from Wisconsin. When I moved here nearly 20 years ago, I wasn’t really aware of what the Packer phenomenon was really all about. I mean, sure, I have some crazed Packer fans for family, but they never really let their freak flag fly in my presence before…at least, not from what I had remembered. I might have been too focused in playing with my cousins than noticing their cheesehead fever.
So, when I moved up here and suddenly realized how crazy people would get about the Packers, how a green jersey could be considered appropriate church attire if it just so happened to be game day (or work attire or….yeah, they love their jerseys up here), well, that was just one of many things that caused me to wonder what the heck was going on.
You don’t have to do much hunting to see that Packer fans are the wildest football fans out there. Spectators at Lambeau are willing to sit through the coldest days of the year, with their shirts off, painted green and yellow, and be damned excited throughout the entire game (unless the Pack plays horribly, of course). Speaking of bad games…Packer fans after a loss…sheesh. It gets dangerous around here.
But after a big win, car horns are honking, fireworks are set off…it’s a regular party.
Wisconsin lives and breaths around Packer games. In fact, although I was already working on this post, my wife just stopped in to tell me that her running group rescheduled their run this weekend because the game might still be on at that point.
As you can see, this culture of devotion to the team based in Titletown USA is extreme…and one that can be quite overwhelming to step into unawares. And my initial reaction, those almost 20 years back?
I hated the Packers.
The fans were so outrageous, obnoxious, and devoted that I just couldn’t accept that they were anything except out of their minds.
In fact, it wasn’t until a couple years ago when I finally started realizing exactly why Packer fans are so devoted to their team (outside of the fact that they have an incredible habit of being amazingly good).
SImply put, The Green Bay Packers are the only non-profit, community-owned, major league professional sports team in the United States. That’s right…they are not only a talented team, but they are really a team that is for the people and by the people. Sure, the shares they sell to the community are really nothing more than collector’s items (meaning that they offer no voting rights), but that doesn’t matter to the community. When Wisconsin claims The Green Bay Packers as OUR TEAM, that’s because it is literally theirs. They own it.
And it’s a non-profit! That means that this franchise doesn’t need to be as devoted to raking in the cash (not that they have any trouble), because they aren’t trying to pay off stockholders or corporate owners. They’re just paying the bills.
This is all coming from a group that’s based in a town that’s slightly bigger than my own. Green Bay ain’t no Dallas. It’s got a population of a mere 10,000 people. That’s nothing. Almost every other major league sports team out there is based in some town where the population exceeds the million mark. Green Bay barely breaks 5 digits.
This really helps keep the home town idea alive as well. Just drive into Green Bay and you feel like you’re driving into most other cities in Wisconsin. It’s nothing flashy. I mean, there’s an enormous/gorgeous stadium right in the center…but that’s about it.
The reason the Packers are so beloved by Wisconsinites is simple. The Packers are defined by Wisconsin. It’s not just the cheeseheads that show their Wisconsinality, it’s everything about them. They’re simple, they’re no nonsense, and they’re all about the game.
And they’re pretty good too…I mean, they do live in Titletown…and you can’t go through a single Super-Bowl without talking about Vince Lombardi at least 20 times.
I have to admit…once I started looking into the team more, and how they work with the community as a partner, I realized that there was a lot more to this team that fanatical fans.
And I might have become something akin to a Packer Backer….not that I own any jerseys or cheeseheads or anything.
But maybe someday…
Alright, I’m out. Have fun out there!