Tuesday, December 30, 2008

End of the football season and the Lambeau Leap

On Sunday afternoon RonO and I met at Grumpy's in preparation for a trip over to St Paul to watch our recently hapless hockey team, the Wild, lose decisively to the streaking Chicago Blackhawks. Even though the Wild are creating extreme suction as of late, they still manage to sell out the building to the loyal fan base. We also watched the Minnesota Vikings clinch the division title against the New York Giants second string. As the lone Packer fan in the bar, I was much more interested in the Packers helping the Detroit Lions achieve their 'perfect season' than in any Viking win. As an alien in enemy territory for the past three decades, I have a snappy comeback for every smug comment that was sure to come my way at work on Monday morning. As I watched the Vikings celebrate, I recalled that fifteen years ago I was at Lambeau Field with my two boys watching the Packers win their first division title in a dozen or so years. Reggie White was completing his first year with the team and, although we didn't know it at the time, we witnessed the beginning of the famous Lambeau Leap.

My former spouse was from the small town of DePere and every Christmas we would drive the 5 1/2 hours to the Green Bay area for the holidays. While there, we would scalp or otherwise track down Packer tickets. Prices tended to drop with the temperature and this particular day the temperature was around 0F (-18C) with a brisk breeze. This was the old Lambeau, the one that looked like a giant John Deere implement barn before all the corporate improvements were made. The bench seats were, and are, aluminum and act as a heat sink that sucks bodily warmth right out through the butt cheeks if you're not armed with some sort of insulating cushion. The official Packer colors that time of year in Lambeau are green, gold, and blaze orange. For most folks in Wisconsin, the warmest gear they own is their deer hunting stuff and it makes for an interesting color spectrum in the stands. The boys, 11 and 14 at the time, and I had plenty of warm gear and were in good shape for the game. I did run into a fellow in the bathroom that had a similar layered look but he negated 50% of his stored warmth when he neglected to properly clear all layers of clothing as he stepped up to the communal urinal trough. As I zipped up, I glanced over and pointed out to him that his used beer was flowing down the inside of his snowmobile suit leg rather than into the stainless steel trough. He was not pleased; it appeared to me that he had been overserved.

I can't remember exactly when it took place in the game, but Reggie White forced a fumble, picked it up, and lateraled it to Leroy Butler, who took it in for the touchdown. For some reason, after he scored he jumped up into the stands. "Because I had pointed, the fans knew what they had to do," wrote Butler, the Packers' former All-Pro safety. "I go up into the green padding ... and when I'm halfway up, a guy starts pulling me up the rest of the way. Everyone right behind him grabs on. Everyone is screaming and yelling. Some are complimenting me with 'Awesome' or 'Good job.' It only lasts 2 or 3 seconds, and I'm back down". The boys and I thought it was pretty cool but had no idea that we were present at the start of a tradition.

Good luck to the Vikings. They will be playing the Eagles and we'll up north cross country skiing. It sounds like there are still about 20,000 tickets left; I don't know why people wouldn't want to attend the first home playoff game in a few years but the Viking fan is a unique creature. It would certainly send a message if we had a playoff game blacked out in Minneapolis and St Paul. As for me, I'll stick with Wild hockey and Packer football when the occasional ticket falls into my lap. As far as TV sports, give me the ski's, kayak, bike, deer rifle, etc. any time over the tube. Enjoy the new year!


Silbs said...

Sitting outside in the cold watching men play on ice???? I don't get it. Happy new year.

Ranger Bob said...

Beautiful- a masterpiece of North Country prose. And I mean it.