The 1982 Green Bay Packers' season was cut short by a player's strike, which provided for a major quirk in the Packers schedule. At that time, the Packers typically played a few home games in Milwaukee's County Stadium. Because of that co-habitation with the Brewers in Milwaukee, and the shortened season, in 1982 the Packers played just one game at their true home, against the Detroit Lions.
That was the last time I was at Lambeau Field.
34 years ago, as a ten year old, I sat in the December cold as the Packers lost to the Lions and I'm pretty sure I cried. I was a fairly passionate Packers fan as a kid, which I'm sure doesn't surprise anyone who knows how much I care about the Texans. Eight months after that trip to Lambeau Field, I was in a Ryder truck moving to Houston, Texas, sight unseen.
I became a Houstonian as soon as my blood thinned out, which took all of two minutes. This city became my home and the Houston teams became my teams. The desire to see the Packers win is still there, every day of the year, other than one day every four years. I'll wear a Texans logo proudly with plenty of family and friends in the stands, including my parents who moved back to Wisconsin two years ago after 32 years in Houston. I just have to make sure my Pops doesn't show up in an Aaron Rodgers No. 12 jersey. He's fired if he does.
Lambeau is such a special place and that's the message many convey when they make the pilgrimage to the legendary stadium. For me, though as a kid, I thought that's how everyone experienced their NFL football.
You mean, you don't drive on a two lane road through a neighborhood to get to your stadium?
Well, of course, everyone grills bratwursts with "special" sauce each and every Sunday afternoon, right?
There's a Kroll's in every city, no?
Snowmobile suit or large furry jacket for a game in November? What do you wear? SHORTS?!?
It wasn't until I went to my first Oilers game in 1983 when I realized how different the experience is at Lambeau. Not better, just different. I remember walking nearly the entire circumference of the Astrodome looking for the bratwurst stand. Alas, I was unsuccessful in my pursuit.
Through my travels, I've tried to find as unique a place as Lambeau, but that's hard to do. The great history of the game was established in places like Franklin Field, Yankee Stadium and Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. And, of course, Lambeau. But, those legendary locales don't house NFL teams anymore. Lambeau? It was where Bart Starr ended the Ice Bowl. It was where Brett Favre became a gun slinging legend. It was where the great Vince Lombardi prowled the sideline. Every moment of Green Bay Packer history happened right there on that hallowed ground and it's as rich a history as any NFL team in the league.
People have often asked me why it's a special place. Ten year old me would tell you it was just the place where the Packers played. 44-year old me would need more time than you've got in a day to encapsulate the experience.
You know what's more special though? Beating the Packers in Lambeau.
I can only imagine how ten year old me would've responded to a Texans win over the Packers. Hopefully on Sunday we'll see how a 44 year old me will.