Seeing is believing

How do you explain what it means to be a Packer fan to two long-time Illinois residents who have never set foot within 100 miles of Lambeau Field? Words simply cannot sum up the Packer Mystique. The only way to get the message across is to bring the uninitiated home.

That's what I did last weekend when I convinced my wonderful inlaws to spend a few days in the Green Bay area. After providing some ideas for an area tour, I joined them in my hometown for the heart of the trip. Afterall, visit to Lambeau Field is best spent with someone who "gets it."

The Packer primer began even before we left for the tour. Armed with a list of suggested destinations and a map, the visitors traversed Brown and Door Counties, spending most of their time in Green Bay. One of their first observations was how the town and team are permanently intertwined. I was thrilled that these seasoned travelers, one a geographer, were interested in the nuances of my favorite place in the whole world.

They noticed so many things I take for granted: Daily doses appear in the newspaper and broadcasts, even during the offseason lull. Billboards proclaim Packer pride, along with marquees, street signs and license plates. Two dozen businesses bear the name Titletown, ranging from a brew pub to a sheetrock suplier to a mortgage lender. Even more are named for the Packers or Packerland. Some of these ventures make their homes on Lombardi Avenue, Holmgren Way, Packerland Drive or even Glory Road. I take these things for granted, but to an outsider the Packer presence looms as large as the hulking statues outside the Lambeau Field atrium.

That's where these Chicago fans may have become believers. One step inside the awe-inspiring atrium was all it took for my father-in-law to declare - "Forget about the Cub Mystique - that's nothing compared to what the Packers have going." Thus, it was fitting that we watched the Chicago White Sox put away the rival Cubs while enjoying refreshments underneath the giant G in Curly's Pub dining room. While the baseball teams to our south were playing in what is considered to be one of sports' most venerable venues, we were actually sitting in the real standard-bearer, surrounded on all sides by proof of the Packers' pedigree.

After my guests walked through history (and kicked a field goal) at the Hall of Fame, it was time to close the book on their first lesson on life in Titletown. I know that they exited with a sense of the heart of this team and this town, as well as respect for Packer history - not to mention the green G logo stamped on their hand at the Hall admissions desk!

The next day a sign advertising a Brat Fry at a local grocery store drew curiosity. I see now that there is still much more to teach. The next visit cover chapter 2 - Tailgating.

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