Remember the old U.S. Army television ads that oozed with excitement and offered promise of a rewarding career, long after the days of boot camp had faded from memory? The catch phrase was, "It's not just a job! It's an adventure!" If memory serves, the ads were pretty darned effective and military recruiting was enhanced in the process.
Well, what used to be a routine intra-squad scrimmage featuring the Packer offense against the Packer defense has evolved into a major annual event. The Packers have honed and groomed a great annual attraction. Long gone are the days when maybe a few thousand people would take advantage of a free opportunity to take a seat in Lambeau Field and watch a glorified practice. Well, it's still a glorified practice, but "Family Night" in Green Bay has become so much more and both the team and the fans are reaping the benefits.
Instead of Packer versus Packer in a series of drills and a live scrimmage, this year's edition features the Packers against the Buffalo Bills. How cool for the players! They finally get to hit somebody else instead of beating each other up in training camp. For the fan, the scrimmage will be fairly similar to watching a pre-season game. True, the game is no longer free. The face value of the tickets is $8 apiece, though many tickets were scarfed up by brokers who, in turn, sold them to fans for much more. Every seat in the house was sold within a matter of hours. (Note: The Packers are keenly aware of this problem and will limit advance ticket purchases next year to give more fans a chance to buy tickets at face value.)
And there's so much more for those families to enjoy. The new Lambeau Field Atrium with its shops, food stands and the Packer Hall of Fame. On-field entertainment featuring the Oneida Nation Dancers and mascot games. The scrimmage itself. A great fireworks show. And, for those who can't make it, the Packers are broadcasting it all live, not only on the statewide Packer TV network but nationally on the NFL network as well. Now that's an event!
At its heart, Family Night is still just a scrimmage that gives the players and coaches an opportunity to see where the team stands in game-like conditions. This year's edition is the first time the Packers are facing a different NFL team and that would appear to be a very good thing. Both the Packers and the Bills will get an early taste of "game" action before the pre-season starts next week.
But for the fans, Family Night represents so much more. It's an opportunity for many folks who never get the chance to come to Lambeau Field any other way. In today's economy, it's also an evening out with their families where they can affordably watch NFL football.
Again, hats off to the Packers.
Editor's Note: Tom Andrews began covering the Packers in 1974 as a reporter for Milwaukee radio stations WZUU and WOKY. He has been a contributing writer to Packer Report since 1999 and his articles have also appeared in the Green Bay Packers Yearbook, Packer Profiles, Packer Tracker and Sports Collectors Digest among other publications. Andrews is also president of Andrews Media Ventures, a Milwaukee area media and communications consultancy. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.