October 10 - America's Greatest Sports Venue
I have chosen a profession where it is very easy to take things for granted.
I go to games all the time for work. All sports, all over the country. Usually,
when I get home from a trip, I'm happy to see my wife and sleep in my
own bed. The plane rides get tiring quickly. The airports, the eating on the
run, the hotels - sometimes it just isn't all that much fun.
Then I get to work a game in Green Bay.
There are few venues in this country that evoke the purity of sport the way Lambeau Field does. A
sporting cathedral set in the middle of an idyllic Midwestern town, Lambeau takes the aura of Yankee
Stadium, or Fenway Park, or Wrigley Field or arenas of yore like Boston Garden or the Montreal
Forum, and supplements it with the love of the game that seems left behind in most other places.
I was lucky enough to spend my Sunday this weekend basking in the glory that is Lambeau. And
while I was there for work, I was spending a workday in the company of 70,000 fans, clad in green
and gold, all of whom were there proclaiming their love for their team.
From the moment you open your car door, the ambiance hits you. The aroma of charcoal from the
countless tailgaters, with their brat, sausages and who-knows-what-else, fills your nostrils so
completely it stays with you long after you leave hours later. The unbridled joy of the revelers in the
parking lots is unmistakable. On a beautiful early fall day like the one I experienced, the partying
begins early, but by the time kickoff arrives, the lots are devoid of anyone. They are all in their seats
and ready to go.
If you didn't know any better, you'd be shocked to learn you were at an NFL
game. No flashy cheerleaders, no mascots. The sideline cheers are
provided by local high school squads. Sure, some of the trappings of
modern day sports are present (sponsored contests during timeouts,
scoreboard hijinx, canned music, etc.), but compared to most places, it is
minimal and certainly less intrusive.
The aura of the "Frozen Tundra" pervades itself everywhere you turn, even
after the renovations of a couple years ago. The Ring of Honor is still there, as are all of the retired
numbers. It is the simplicity of the building that gives it such a distinctive field, though. No tiers, just a
giant bowl (albeit one with the now-required luxury boxes built on top of it). Outside the building at its
open end, above the crowd, the treetops of the surrounding town are visible. There is no downtown
anywhere to be seen, since this is a town of just over one hundred thousand, and no freeways with
bustling traffic buzzing by. Just trees as far as the eye can see, reminding you just how different this
place is from everywhere else.
Trips to Green Bay are special. Lambeau Field is the single greatest place n this country to watch a
sporting event. From the stadium to the friendly residents, who all want to talk about their love for the
Pack and, especially, Brett (that's Brett Favre, of course, for those uninitiated in the ways of the NFL).
Where else would 70,000 people spontaneously break out into a chorus of "Happy Birthday" in honor
of their quarterback?
I've been to Lambeau Field five times now. And as I write this, on my flight home, I'm already looking
forward to trip number six.