OK, before I go on to write anything about my experience on this day, I am obligated to warn you that the much (or almost all of the material) contained pertains to National Football League (a.k.a. American Football, Pile-Up Game, or whatever else you may know it as…) and that you may not appreciate the material if you do not know understand this wonderful game.
That said, now to the details. First things first – most of my interest in this game is due to Evan Dixon taking time to explain the rules, plays as they happened during my two year stay at Dave Bezotte’s place. Since then, it had been my wish/dream to attend one such game and thankfully, I didn’t have to wait too long for it. Since we are keeping records, just note that all this happened on Sunday, the 19th November 2006 – the event was Green Bay Packers hosting New England Patriots in an inter-conference regular season NFL game. Why did I pick this game in particular? Number of reasons and /me will explain few of them, in no particular order:
- All the great things that have happened in Lambeau Field
- Amount of history contained in this field
- All the great things that the two *starting* QBs have done to their respective teams – both very likely will have their busts in Canton, OH, some day…
Update #1: Thanks to Mike Larsen, NFL seasons are now technically correct.
Love for Packers originated mostly from the geographical proximity of Houghton to Green Bay, and later cemented by watching few tens of games (some old, some live, some clips, some documentaries) involving #4 and #92 (you should know what these numbers mean) for Packers, including 1996-97 SuperBowl win over Patriots and 1997-98 SuperBowl loss to Broncos.
Not only I wasn’t a fan of Patriots when they won the second SuperBowl of the current millenium, I hated that team – mostly because their name kept reminding me of pages from history I grew up with. The day they beat Panthers to achieve that feat, I did not want to watch the game and spent in our computer lab. However, in the ensuing year, my Patriotism started after the AFC Champioship Game and was cemented greatly due to TO being one of the 53 Eagles. In the two weeks that led to the SuperBowl XXXIX (and during & after the game), watching some historical games and documentaries of individual players (mostly #12 at that time, but now the list extends to #54, #93, #28, #ex-83, and so on) turned me into a die hard fan of this team.
Adding to the list of reasons why I picked to watch these two teams play, I realized that I wouldn’t have to worry about who wins/looses but instead can enjoy the game, absorbing the experience of watching it live. It was one of those hot summer days (which, you know, forces me to hit KBC) that Leroy mentioned about Patriots coming to play Packers at home and my senses lit up on hearing that. I did some search for the tickets and found a reliable, Packers-certified website to buy the ticket. Please do not ask me how much I paid for it, but trust my word – watching Packers and Patriots play each other (with #4 and #12 in action) in Lambeau Field on a pleasant Sunny day for my first ever NFL game – every cent I dished out was worth it 🙂 Although numbers aren’t completely the same, following picture of a certain other fan summarizes my excitement:
Reaching Green Bay
After finishing up some school related work and watching Tech basketball tournment, /me headed off towards America’s Dairyland – my first ever such trip – around midnight. After a trouble-free ride punctuated by a 20 minute nap, I was in Green Bay around 4 am (CST). Knowing the craze for sports, I should have planned this a bit more elaborately – searching for a room to crash turned out be a real nightmare. Fortunately, /me did manage to find one (the only one left), not too far from the final destination. When I did wake up, it was to a town bathed in green and yellow – just about anything and everything (shirts, pants, shorts, sleeping pants, hair bands, scarfs, bandanas, kerchiefs, sweatshirts, wrist bands, caps, helmets, other gadgets, sandals, goggles, automobiles,….) had some connection to Packers! At the morning breakfast area, yours-truly was one of the two who didn’t have explicit Packers support – guess everybody was wondering what team did I support. If mine was bad, the state of a girl from Boston wearing Bruschi shirt initiated even horrible response from the breakfast crowd – eveybody stopped eating, looked up with a clear question, what are you doing here?, on their face. Using that as a hint, I was hoping to see quite a bit of hostility at the Lambeau Field later in the day…
Finishing up breakfast formality soon, I was in the Lambeau Field premises around 8.45 am – reaching early made finding a spot to park real easy and painless. /me talked to few security officials to make sure that shooting pictures was OK and once they gave the green signal, I roamed around shooting pictures of interesting things and here are few good ones:
Any hopes of seeing a hostile environment for non-Packers supporters vanished soon after I saw this (and more like this through out the stadium – father/son pair, bf/gf pair, …. dressed to support different teams) and was forced to believe that this field is probably the most hospitable one (I don’t have anything else to compare with, but /me feels that it’s a good guess).
Some more pics from around and inside the field are below:
You probably saw this game on TV and/or read about it in (e)news-papers – so, I will not bother too much to explain what happened. In a nutshell, a near-perfect execution of tight Patriotic defense and literally unchallenged Patriotic offense meant that Packers were at the receiving end of a second blow out of the season (interestingly, Patriots scored as many points they had given away in 1996-97 SuperBowl) and a mild injury to #4 (hope it doesn’t stop him from making 252nd consecutive start against Seattle Sea Hawks in next Monday Night Game) along with season-ending injury to GB #12 (FYI, my presence had nothing to do with either of them). Thanks to the new weapon in my armour (no, not any gun; 70-200 VR lens), I was able to get some decent shots as action took place. Some are here:
Update #2: Something I forgot initially was the fact that every ticket-holder for the game was given a Brett Favre figurine (see below), as part of 10th year celebrations of Packers’ SuperBowl win.
Update #3: During the closing minutes of the game, die-harder fans of Patriots and Packers (sitting around me) shook hands, exchanged pleasantries and agreed that Packers lost the game as a sign good gesture (remember, Packers had beaten Patriots in 1996-97 SuperBowl) & as a token of their hospitality.
Post Game & Return Journey
All in all, it was a wonderful (and inexplicable) experience that one has to live through at least once in their life time, though I would have been happy if Packers had scored points. Arrangements for people to watch this game (security measures, seating arrangements, refreshment facilities, etc… were better than anything I have ever seen before, especially for such a huge mass of population (approximately 70000). Last time that I was part of such huge mass was, incidentally, 10 years ago – when India & Pakistan played in Bangalore during World Cup Quarter-Finals; and trust me, the facilities — there were none. Like my fellow grad student and dear friend, Patrick Younk, had hinted, there were no bad seats in the house (Lambeau Field) and mine was as good as any could have been. I did get lost, due to one-ways and road closures, while trying to get back onto US-41 but I was in the hotel soon afterwards. Looking at the looooooooooong series of cars/vehicles driving out of Green Bay (on I-43, US-41, US-141), I think it would only be wise to head back early tomorrow…
Update #4: If any of you recorded this game on DVD/VHS, I would greatly appreciate a copy of it.
These and other pictures are here.