Through the Eyes of a Die-Hard: The Green Bay Packers, World Champions

The picture below shows the statue of Curly Lambeau on Sunday night.  When we decided to sprint from Kroll’s West, our headquarters since 11 a.m. on Sunday of Super Bowl everything, and the final resting place of some of the most stressful, jubilant, insane, hilarious, terrifying, and in the end fucking amazing moments of my life – also, a half-paid kamikaze shot bar tab. Sorry, Kroll’s – our intended destination was the statue of Vince Lombardi.

We never quite made it, and it doesn’t really matter.

curlystatue

Rounding Lambeau, Curly’s statue was closest, and while running on a full tank of pent-up stress can get you out the door, the equally full stomach of beer catches up to you rather quickly. There was already a mob scene around the statue we when arrived.  Flags and chants and cameras, people with their kids, people just standing and watching it all, hands on their heads.  Truthfully, I didn’t realize what statue it even was until after a few minutes had passed and my friend Kyle pointed to the other statue outside the Lambeau Field Atrium, standing only few paces from where we were.  It was Lombardi’s. Vince may not have appreciated our attention to detail, but I’m sure he would understand why. We just wanted to be in the thick of things, that’s all.

As much as I tried, there just wasn’t enough time to wrap my head around everything on Sunday night.  I still don’t think I have properly.  It was an entire evening of huge emotional waves, split reactions, and saving the thinking for later.  On every touchdown — the first stands out because it was, well, it was the first — the bar-lounge area of Kroll’s was probably just a Molotov cocktail or two short of looking exactly like anarchy. Pure madness.  Their round, bumper car-like chairs were pushed into every available walking aisle as we jumped all over each other, no doubt looking like maniacs for anyone to see.  The only other use for the big chairs was as a makeshift walking bridge to get through the chaos and onto the other side of our long table, to where my parents were sitting.

During one high-five/handshake exchange, I was accidentally punched in the sternum by a friend, but so long as it wasn’t a collapsed lung I figured I’d be fine — either way, I’d know soon enough. I probably pushed everyone I came in contact with with the over-zealous excitement of Elaine Benes.  I hugged anyone I could see. I hugged my parents longer and tried to be a little gentler with the ladies we were accompanied by, but I couldn’t really tell you if I accomplished that. This happened on every score, and to a lesser extent, any big play. It was exhaustively fun.

Things definitely got dicey, though.  Charles Woodson, my favorite player in the whole universe, walked off the field injured and though the lead was on our side at halftime, momentum was not.  When the second half was about to get underway and the news broke that Woodson was ruled out for the game, it didn’t seem possible. I wanted to be in a dark cave somewhere by myself, with about 3,000 glass bottles available for me to smash against the wall, right after my head.  And as terrible as I felt for him, there was still a second half to play here.  I had to forget about him for the time being, move on, even with all those heart-breaking sideline shots, and it was pretty freaking hard. Clearly, it’s easier to think about at this moment, and whatever happened in that locker room at halftime will only be added to Woodson’s legend in Green Bay.  I am just so happy for him, and for everyone.

When that 4th-and-5 pass fell incomplete, I think I almost tore both of my friend Adam’s ACLs during the celebration. Knees should not bend like that. I just remember staring at the television screen, trying to burn every image I could into my memory. My friend Connor was standing on a table somewhere. I couldn’t hug enough people. I couldn’t do enough things at the same time.  I needed a pause button.

Now, trying to put it all into context, the Super Bowl really couldn’t have happened any other way.  As you’ve no doubt heard, the Green Bay Packers were a bit of a thrill ride this season.  No need to remember it all as of today, but there was just so much stress.  So much uncertainty, so much change, so many questions.  They seemed doomed to be the almost team when really, I guess, they just picked a really good time to great, consistently great.  They won every single game they had to win. They made one more play than their opponents. It doesn’t matter how, exactly, they did it at this moment; it just matters you were along for the ride.

Looking back at a regular season that feels so far away, it’s interesting to reflect on games like that Sunday night Viking game. I still feel as though it was the best game I’ve ever seen in person, and yet it feels so miniscule and old-news now, when of course at the time it couldn’t get any bigger.  And, while we’re on the subject, for one final time and because I do enjoy a good feeling of vengeance, ‘miniscule’ should be exactly how you feel if you’re back to supporting the Packers now that the purple #4 jersey you bought, or the stupid half green/half purple #4 jersey you made, or the way you enjoyed #4’s swan song two years ago while every other Packer fan suffered through it (until that beautiful ending, of course), is more of a pathetic reminder of a choice you’d probably rather not discuss anymore.

You see, I’ve been on the Packers side of this argument from the get-go, and admittedly very, very anti-Favre, so if this sounds like gloating, that’s because it is. It feels so goddamn good to see everything come to fruition like this; to witness everything happen almost exactly like you wished it would someday.

Aaron Rodgers (Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers) doesn’t have to say it; Ted Thompson doesn’t have to say it; Mike McCarthy doesn’t have to say it; heck, maybe they aren’t even thinking it (I do believe that’s doubtful, though) and even though it truly is on the back-burner for Packer fans — especially now — this championship feels all the more complete now with the dagger being buried into anything #4 once and for all.

You may not like Packer fans, or Bears fans, or Vikings fans or whoever fans, but if someone says they’re dedicated to a team and they actually stick by said team through anything and everything, it is almost always understandable on some basic level. Brett Favre fans, by jumping from ship to ship; by believing every piece of bullshit he spit out and regurgitating it into excuse after excuse; by redefining loyalty to a team with their ability to forget it at the drop of a hat and remember when convenient, have come to be the most insufferable excuses for sports fans I have ever known.  They are not Packer fans, in my estimation, and it is the perfect supplementary gift of this Super Bowl championship that they are now, officially, as irrelevant as their fearless leader.

But I digress. That is not what this Super Bowl title will be remembered for by me. It is not even close.theview

I know I was at Kroll’s; that I sprinted to the statues and then ran around the parking lot, congratulating anyone in my directionless path, running next to cars full of screaming fans and down the middle of blocked-off roads.  I know what it was like to enter Stadium View and the sweaty, beer-soaked smell that accompanied it.  I know that I needed to order two whiskey-Cokes right away because you weren’t going to be moving freely in this bar.

And I know there were NFL Network cameras in there somewhere and highlights seemingly running on loop on every TV screen.  I was still trying to soak in every play, every piece of confetti from the post-game celebration.  I know what happened, I know where I was, and I’ll never forget any of it, but that’s not exactly how I will remember this Super Bowl either.

Because while I wouldn’t have traded being in Green Bay for anyplace in the world, it was about, as life often is, who you’re with.  The friends I watched the game with, with whom I’ve watched so many games over the years — pretty much all of them this season I believe were seen with at least a few of them and my parents, the two biggest reasons I cheer for who I do; we’ll always have that link, all of us, that same answer to the “where were you?” questions and stories about Super Bowl XLV.

And that connecting feeling was there every time I ran into someone else.  When we met up with my brother at the statue, when he nearly pile-drove me into the parking lot, or catching that first glimpse of a group of more friends at Stadium View,  those connections just kept coming and coming.  With every person I knew, a new shared experience of absolute happiness.

Every hug standing out by itself. It connected everyone, there was no other way to feel except for ecstatic. Or punch-drunk, I suppose. And every so often, saying to whoever was next to you at the time, “We just won the Super Bowl,” and trying to let that soak for a minute.  It never gets old and it never exactly feels real.  I will keep repeating until it does.

There will be many opportunities.  As a text I got Tuesday morning said, “It’s funny how the Super Bowl keeps going and going.”  That’s the best part about all this.  When the team buses arrived, Charles Woodson stepped out of the one parked in front of my section of barricade. How am I supposed to stop thinking about that?  How am I supposed to stop celebrating?  Then at the Return to Titletown yesterday, where a jam-packed Lambeau Field on a frigid day isn’t a new concept, but the Lombardi Trophy was there with us. Another chance to try and appreciate this for what it’s worth. There’s so much to take in, and even if I do, I feel there’s more I could be doing. This post certainly won’t be enough. Honestly, I don’t know if I’ll ever get to the point where I fully appreciate this.

But that, I think, is the best part. Because for every person I’ve already experienced this with, there’s still more to go. There’s still more hugs and “we won the Super Bowl” conversations to be had.  Everyone will have a story to tell and I will never get sick of hearing them; they’ll bring you back to where you were.  The experiences, the memories, the joy, they’ll all keep building on each other.

As happy as I am for this team, these players and coaches, the Green Bay Packers, when they brought this Super Bowl championship to their fans — my friends and family — gave us a connection for the rest of our lives in the prime of our lives, and that is the true gift. A memory that won’t fade away so much as it will grow stronger every time I think about it. All you have to do is say “We won. The Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl XLV,” and you’re off. This is once-in-a-lifetime stuff here. All I can do, all any of us Packer fans can do, is keep trying to appreciate it the best we can. Keep it going.

**Photos thanks to Facebook creeping and my friends Jon and Suze.

Email: griffin@midwestsportsfans.com



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