27 July 2009

The Sacred Tundra of Lambeau Field

Cuddly Hubby and Bio-mom are both football fans. I thoroughly enjoy football, too. So that first full day in Green Bay, we took a tour of Lambeau Field.

I have not yet had the pleasure of touring St. Peter's basilica in Rome, so I can't be sure how they compare. Make no mistake, Lambeau Field is football sacred ground. Large bronze statues of Curly Lambeau and Vince Lombardi tower above visitors. The hour-long tour includes a look inside a luxury box, a walk through the home team tunnel, and a visit inside the stadium where 72,928 people endure Wisconsin winters for the pleasure of watching great football. We were fortunate that Paul Hornung's Heisman Trophy was on loan at the time and, therefore, also part of the tour.

At left is a rather fuzzy picture of me touching the sacred concrete. A few years ago, Lambeau Field was renovated and updated. The changes included relocating the home team tunnel. Thus, concrete from the old tunnel was removed, preserved, and installed in the new tunnel. A plaque nearby proclaims, "Proud generations of Green Bay Packers Players, World Champions a record 12 times, have run over this very concrete to Greatness." No pressure, guys.

Afterward, we sampled some of the local fare in the on-site restaurant. I have no trouble understanding why the Packers play so well. This is real football. It is played outdoors on real turf. It is played in the elements -- as both teams are playing in the same weather conditions, no one has an advantage over the other, do they? Each season ticket holder is entitled to a precious 18 inches of cool metal bleacher. The food is real food -- dark beer, cheese curds, red meat. If Tolkien's dwarves had a franchise, it might be the Green Bay Packers. No wonder my local Atlanta Falcons have yet to post back-to-back winning seasons. They just don't have the proper environment for success.

And if the Packers need more motivation, there is a fair amount of on-site triumphal bling. The Packers Hall of Fame -- a separate area with a separate entrance fee -- is worth the look. Exhibits tell the story of this storied franchise. One whole section celebrates the fans -- banners, license plates, costumes. There is a Hall of Fame with individual lockers honoring specific players and coaches -- the saints of Green Bay and their enshrined relics. Some of the footwear still has dried sod in the cleats. There is an area where visitors can practice the Lambeau Leap and messaging to instruct children in the physics behind it. And at the end is a room that looks much like the Intersect room from Chuck. Pictures of great Packers cover the concave walls. At the far end of the room, Lombardi trophies and rings from Super Bowls I, II, and XXXI are enshrined in Plexiglas cases. They sparkle with the lure of mithril. The Holy Grails of the NFL.

At the end of the week, we returned to watch the first day of Packers training camp at Nitschke Field. About 3000 - 5000 people gather just to watch the players practice. Then again, depending on your appreciation for both athletic skill and a well-tuned body, the view isn't bad.Take a good whiff of the air. Football season is almost here.

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