I have been watching football since before I can remember. My grandfather is in the Wisconsin High School Coaches Hall of Fame, for both football and basketball, and I am sure that I was attending his football games before I could walk. My father's family have been Packers fans for generations, like any other typical Wisconsin family, and I'm really sad I can't be in Florida with all of them today to watch the game. Every Sunday, after church, my parents have a "Packer party," where they lay out cheese cubes and summer sausage, and we all watch the game. When I was in college and even beyond, I'd call at halftime so we could compare notes (and if I called a moment before or after, they wouldn't answer the phone).
Most of my friends, being intellectuals, don't care about sports and find the NFL distasteful, a manifestation of machismo and rape culture, and I can't always blame them for that idea (as a football fan, I am horrified that Roethlisberger is even allowed to put on a uniform, much less be at a game, but I digress).
Being raised in Wisconsin, being a Packers fan is different that just rooting for a team. It's as much a part of our culture as knowing that cheese curds are fresh because they squeak or that vacations are spent in the North Woods or Door County. Being a Packers fan is weaved into our state identity, and I'm proud of the team's setup. There's no owner; technically there are 125,000 of them, all of whom bought stock (which is sold in limited shares) in the late '90s. The Packers are a publicly owned, nonprofit organization, the only sports team in the U.S. owned under such terms, and 60 percent of each game's concessions goes directly to local charities (there's a great New Yorker article
about the setup). If the team ever goes under, whatever profits are left go the Green Bay VFW.
When I was in fourth grade, the Packers played the Bears in November and had a touchdown call given in their favor, owing to instant replay. That week, in art class, we had open drawing. I was not a very good artist, but I remember my art teacher began illustrating that scene, of the quarterback, Don "Magic" Majikowski (he was not) and some unremembered Bears player, two refs in the background with their arms raised for a touchdown. At the end of class, Mr. Austin gave it to me, for reasons I still don't understand, probably because I just sat there and watched him draw it, rapt the whole time. It was titled, "The Bears Still Suck." I was 10 years old. If my parents hadn't lost their house in a fire in 1999, I have zero doubts that the drawing would still be in my possession, somewhere.
When the Packers won the Super Bowl in 1997, I was a freshman in college. I watched the second half of the game with my friends at the dorm and we went out to State Street to celebrate with the rest of Madison afteward. At some point, near the bookstore, I got picked up and my feet didn't hit the ground for a few blocks. I'm sure there was drunken bullshit going on somewhere, but it was one of the most joyous things I've participated in (until I joined a second line in New Orleans last year, after they took the Lombardi Trophy home).
I always figured if the Packers got into the Super Bowl now, I'd throw a big party (because Packer fandom is about sharing with others) but most of my Packer-fan brethren live in other states and our schedule has been such that we opted against it. We've been spending the weekend moving books and bookshelves around, getting our office cleared out to be a guest room so we can turn our guest room into a nursery. It's just going to be me and Keith watching the game. We're having guacamole and buffalo wings. In a way, it's perfect. There's some famous quote from Lombardi about how his priorities were God, family, and the Green Bay Packers. The Packers were always about spending time with family, united, and it feels right that it's just our family, as it is now, for this game.
And next year, if they make it, we'll be having a huge party. For sure.