View from the metal benches

For the first time in a couple of years, I had the privilege of watching the Packers as a fan, rather than from the press box. As a season ticket holder since grade school, sitting in the Lambeau stands wasn't a new experience, but I was surprised by some of the changes in the atmosphere.

Lambeau has a well-deserved reputation as one of the best venues in all of professional sports. Packer fans are perennially picked as the NFL's best fans in myriad polls. The organization has done their part with the stunning renovation which serves the fans with amenities unparalleled in the league.

Sunday, a large contingent of fans in our usually stellar section were duds. Seriously, the immediate surroundings were flat-out lame. Two seats down, a man watched the entire first half on a hand-held TV, rarely looking up. An older gentleman in front of me spent the better part of the Packers' first drive fiddling with his folding chair. The first touchdown brought modest applause, except for the TV guy who didn't put down his mini-set. Much conversation centered around when and where to go for a smoke. A man in the row above me didn't realize the Browns had tied the game because he was enthralled by a detailed break-down of the difference in beer sales between a noon game and a 3:15 game.

I probably wouldn't have even noticed, except that I was accompanied by my youngest daughter, who was attending her first "real game." (Several years ago she became football-savvy enough to realize that the Family Night scrimmages and pre-season games she and her sister had attended didn't really count.) This was going to be her first impression of how Packer fans treat their team.

Being the only fans in the immediate vicinity cheering first downs or the handful of good tackles was just a little disappointing, not enough to dampen our fun. Then, the unthinkable happened. About two minutes into the second quarter, an incomplete pass on third down forced the Packers to punt. As the offense left the field, fans around us started to boo.

With the home team down just 10-7, with the sun shining down on the Lambeau opener, just minutes away from a tribute to Reggie White who repeatedly praised Packer fans as the best and most loyal, an audible portion of the 2005-model fans were booing Brett Favre.

Unbelievable.

Apparently these folks jumped on the bandwagon sometime in the mid-90s. Otherwise, memories of the long, scary seasons of the 70s or the mediocre 80s which alternated between finishing .500 and being embarrassed by the Bears would be enough to shut up the boo-birds. You think Mike Sherman is struggling? In the Lindy Infante era a 10-6 season in which the Pack finished second and out of the playoffs was cause for exuberant celebration. Too young to remember the bad old days? Youth is no excuse for ignorance. I was born during the Lombardi Era, yet I am aware of Curly Lambeau, Gene Ronzani, Lisle Blackbourn and Scooter McLean, all coaches B.V. (before Vince). The stirring half-time tribute to Reggie took my mind off the Packers' woes both on the field and in the stands. Then, just as the third quarter was about to kick off, I made a decision. With a quick cell phone call to my husband who was sitting with our oldest daughter in our other set of seats, we made the switch. I sacrificed our primo spots which are about one-third of the way up on the 20 yard line and made the climb to the upper reaches of the south end zone. It was well worth it. We cheered and chanted through the ups and downs on the second half. Some of the non-believers (who unfortunately turned out to be right) left early, but most stayed with hopes pinned to an unlikely turn of events that almost came true. I still believe that if Sherman would have called a time out as soon as he saw that Antonio Chatman was down, instead of waiting for the officials to charge the Packers with the inevitable, they could have saved about 20 seconds.

Despite the loss, the second half gave my daughter a true Green Bay experience. I'm sure the majority of Lambeau Field fans are into the game and supportive of the Packers. The poor performance of the team admittedly gives people less reason to make noise, but been to many (many, many) losing games before and I've never seen Lambeau as unresponsive as in our section during the first half. It made me wonder where the Packer faithful went. We found them, in the "cheap seats" in section 137.


Laura Veras Marran

Note: Laura Veras Marran was raised in Green Bay and is a longtime sports writer from Kenosha, Wis. E-mail her at lvmarran@aol.com.


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