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First Trip to the Holy Grail

Posted by on April 14, 2014

The Quality Inn. The original office of Vince Lombardi.

The Quality Inn. The original office of Vince Lombardi.

I wish I had a dramatic story to share about my first visit to Lambeau Field, but I don’t.

 I think the Packers played either Seattle with Jim Zorn or Minnesota with Tommy Kramer. And I think I was in 5th or 6th grade.

What I do remember is that my dad took me and I remember that it was cold – really cold

I remember I wore long underwear and I think a either a James Lofton number 80 jersey or Lynn Dickey number 12.

 In the early to mid-80’s they didn’t sell jerseys like they do now. Jerseys back then were not authentic. They were made of heavy material like polyester and they weren’t replicas. They had “packers” in heavy white letters across the front. And I think they were even long sleeve. They did have Merle Harmon’s Fan Fair stores but the jersey market was in its infancy. The marketing machine of the NFL soon took grip on planet earth….Can you remember those days when jerseys weren’t what they are today?

 If you have a memory that is similar, be a part of the 16 Son Days community and share your story with us.

I don’t have a ton of memories of my first game at Lambeau Field in part because my father was not, and still is not, a big sports fan. He enjoys a little bit of everything but he is not “all in” on one specific type of entertainment.

 And that’s okay. A lesson is here for the taking. Not every activity I do with my son has to be a true passion for either of us. I think we need to share just enough of an interest in it to do it together and that’s about it.

Right now my young son is a Packers fan, but he has also gravitated to the Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. At the top of his Christmas list in 2012 was a Cam Newton Jersey — which Santa brought.

 I can’t tell you why he likes Cam Newton exactly and neither can he actually. It’s part marketing (he likes the commercials Newton has done) and it’s part play on the field. (There’s little doubt that the man makes some amazing runs. Amazing passes. Amazing plays. He is pretty dynamic to watch.)

I also think in might due in part to a trip to we took to the beaches of North Carolina. He equates the Panthers with sun and fun. And then of course he thinks the uniforms are flat cool looking too.

My son is lucky but he doesn’t know it yet. He was born in 2007 and his first visit to Lambeau Field came in the summer of 2011.

It was a preseason game in August against the Cleveland Browns. It was memorable because I made an “event” out of it.

 I booked a room at the Quality Inn on Washington Street and we stayed overnight in Green Bay. The Quality Inn is not a marquee property by any means but few fans know of its historical significance

The now-hotel was once the actual office location of Vince Lombardi. Years ago I worked a few days a month in Green Bay and would stay at the hotel. After work I would usually head over to the adjacent Glory Days Pub for pizza. In the back of the bar was the original desk of Vince Lombardi.

Little relics of football history are sprinkled throughout Green Bay. It’s one of the things that make it all so special.

Later the same season in 2011 my son and I took two other fathers who also had one son to the Arizona Cardinals game at Lambeau Field. We had such a great time we decided we would try to make it a tradition.

We are “Milwaukee” season ticket holders. This means we have tickets to three games per season: one preseason game and two regular season games.

My wife and I decided it would be nice tradition to go as a family to the preseason game (She likes the preseason game because it’s still warm in Wisconsin in August.)

One game would be designated as the “Father / Son Game” and the Third game would be parents only or a father’s only trip.

To date my son has been to 4 Packers games at Lambeau Field. His cousins and some of his classmates have also been to games as well. It’s hard to teach him what it all means. I hope someday he gets it. Maybe he won’t, but I will certainly make my best effort to explain why it’s a privilege to visit Lambeau Field.

I will try to explain that tickets aren’t cheap, that a soda, a game program, a bobble head at the team store, a brat… (In some cases) hotel rooms, all add up and cost money.

I will explain how lucky we are and that not all dads and sons get to experience the tradition of Green Bay each year.

Right now I am lucky. He actually loves going to see the game. For the most part he sits and watches. He has his little things he looks for. Of course he looks to see where Aaron Rodgers is when he’s not playing and he’s on the sidelines. He looked for Donald Driver years ago.  He likes to spy Clay Mathews – “he’s on the bench right there!” he squeals – finger extended, pointing.

 Then there is Jordy Nelson. We have a bond with Jordy Nelson.

Once, while watching a game Jordy Nelson made one of his amazing sideline stretch-catches and I said something like: “Man! Jordy catches everything!”

It stuck with my son. (Thank God he wasn’t listening during a Brett Favre interception.)

So now, whenever Jordy Nelson catches a pass I look over at him and ask:

“What do we say about Jordy Nelson?!”

Together we cheer: “He catches everything!!”

We have both had our first “Lambeau Experience”. We – or at least I – have not taken it for granted. And I know there are fathers with sons out there who want to share the experience with their son.

That’s really what 16 Son Days is all about. For everyone it’s not about going to ALL 16 games together. That’s my goal but I don’t expect everyone to share it.

16 Son Days might just be about a father and son (or mother and son) sharing one game together. It could be their first game at Lambeau Field. It could be their first time to a road-game in general.

16 Son Days is about being together. It’s about sharing a memory, because here’s the truth:

 If we are each given the gift of seeing our end draw near, material matters won’t matter much. We will hopefully be left with our mind and memories of our Journey. The memories might not be completely clear but if we can be left with at least a few lasting images of certain life-events, hopefully it will be something we did with our children or something we saw our children do.

My life might be long or it might be short, but at minimum I hope to have at least 16 Son Days to capture that lasting image.

You’re welcome to join our journey to create a lasting memory of your own.

Share your stories about your first trip to Lambeau Field in the comments section below.

Thanks you and Go Packers!

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