Cook: A Lambeau Story

After the game, a band leader was singing Packer songs to the crowds filing down Oneida. He stopped to pay homage to the Lions, saying, "I'd like to take a minute to thank Matt Millen for all he's done for us" and then proceeded to lead the crowd in a mock "Four more years!" chant. More from columnist James Cook, who attended Sunday's contest at Lambeau, inside.

Packer fans seem to think they can relate to the Lions' predicament.

It must have been either the large quantities of alcohol speaking, or maybe just pity for the sad fellow in a Roy Williams jersey.

The folks in Wisconsin view the Packers differently than the Lions.

Sure, they want their team to win as much as anybody. But football is a mean to party in Green Bay. Maybe I just blew open some deep-seeded Wisconsin secret, but Packers fans will party regardless of outcome.

Detroit fans, however, put too much stake in the result of the game.

While watching the Lions-Packers game from the end zone seats of Lambeau (and truly, there doesn't seem to be a bad seat in the house), there's an impressive unity and bond among the green-and-gold-clad patrons. That differs from Lions games in Ford Field. It really does.

Lions fans seem to want to be like that, and could with a winning team to bring them together, but Packer backers are one, big, alcohol-laced family, even when the Detroit is up 3-0.

Perhaps it's because Green Bay is a such a small city compared to Detroit. Maybe it's because the Packers are literally the only game in town. But whatever it is, it is palpable. Very much so.

The ever-decreasing population of Lions fans is coming together in one regard: There seems to be an a near-consensus feeling of ill will towards Matt Millen and Bill Ford.

Expecting to be one of maybe a dozen or so littered in a crowd of over 70,000, I donned a Roy Williams jersey and Lions hat to represent Michigan and the D.

Upon arrival, the numbers of Lions fans in attendance was frankly amazing. There were "Fire Millen" T-shirts, "Fire Ford" signs and Lions jerseys were shockingly a common sight, with tiny patches of Honolulu blue noticeably sticking out from the almost blinding background of green of gold.

There was some good-natured ribbing -- which was to be expected, coming from the enemy camp -- but nothing mean-spirited. As I returned to my seat from the concession stand, one fellow yelled, "R. Williams is a queer!" Yes, he actually said "R." Williams.

Of course, this was the same inebriated fan who used the words "gay" or "queer" to berate just about anything. It was humorous the first time when he bellowed following a Packers botch, "That play was gay!" out of nowhere, but it quickly wore out with even the Packer faithful after three or four uses. That‘s one of the many wonders of alcohol: The same joke is funny no matter how many times you recycle it, as long as you are the one telling it.

The Packer fans I spoke to tried to relate to the Lions downtrodden decade. They try to compare it to their down times in the 1980s. But their down times are half as low as what the average long-time Lions fan has suffered through. The "horrible '80s" that one Packer fan spoke to me about included five losing records in 10 years, none worse than 4-12 (twice). Throw in one 10-6 season and four -- yes, four -- 8-8 campaigns, and you have something comparable to the Lions in the 1990s -- something fans now refer to as the glory days of Wayne Fontes, when the Lions had six playoff appearances and four losing seasons interspersed in one decade.

The Pack's 1980s included one three-year stretch of losing records.

But, in that the Packers have generally been more consistent at winning than the Lions (who hasn't?), last year's 4-12 mark and this year's somewhat surprising 6-8 record are disappointing to the natives. Yet Green Bay sells out every game, and the pre-game crowds are massive, with Packer-themed vehicles all over in the Lambeau parking lot, music blaring and breweries struggling to keep up with the amazing alcohol consumption rate akin to the Sturgis Bike Rally.

Sure, they poked a little fun at the Lions, but so did I. As a Lions follower, you have to make fun of your own team's misgivings to stay sane.

After the game, a band leader was singing Packer songs to the crowds filing down Oneida. He stopped to pay homage to the Lions, saying, "I'd like to take a minute to thank Matt Millen for all he's done for us" and then proceeded to lead the crowd in a mock "Four more years!" chant.

Deserved? Check. Funny? Check. Did I laugh? Hell yes.

And who can't appreciate a commercial on the scoreboard that has Brett Favre proclaiming the product is so simple, even a Vikings fan can use it? Frankly, I expected it to refer to a Lions fan.
 

Maybe that's just the pity factor coming into play again.


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