So imagine my trepidation when some high school buddies of mine called back in October and said they wanted to come up for the Lions game. Tom, Kurt and Joe are from Detroit, so they are Lions fans. I figured that they would insult some Packers fan and a fight might break out. Secondly, a game in mid-December is not my idea of fun. I can handle the cold. I take pride in living in Green Bay. We are a hearty bunch up here, but I was none to keen to sit outside for six hours. To watch the Lions no less.
But these are my best friends in the world and how could I pass up a chance to hang out with them. I proceeded to round up the necessary tickets and got them a hotel room. I scored a parking pass in the Lambeau lot and mapped out a bratwurst and chicken wing extravaganza for tailgating. A local beverage made it ideal.
So game day arrived and the weather was mild, the seats were solid and even though my pals were obnoxious, no fight broke out unless you count the one between Tom and Kurt that occurred at halftime. The boys were arguing over how quick Matt Millen should be fired. Tom said immediately and Kurt figured they should wait until after Christmas so as to not ruin his holiday. Kurt has always been a big softy. But he is bigger than Tom and was a wrestler in High School and Tom is a wuss, so Kurt won the argument.
The game was not very good, but the Packers won and by the end of it, the guys were rooting for the Packers or, more specifically, rooting against Detroit. The only negative other than the quality of play was the lady four rows back with the screeching voice. She yelled all game long like a cat with its tail in a blender.
After the game we tailgated some more, waiting for the crowd to clear out, and basked in the glow of a Packer victory. The boys were sullen and dreading their eight-hour ride back to Motown as losers.
After that, we ran up to Fuzzy Thurston's place and had a post-game beverage with Fuzzy. I used to see Fuzzy a lot in the press box, but had not seen him up there at all this year. He told me that he got sick of sitting up there because cheering is prohibited. It is a working environment and Fuzzy could not cheer for his beloved Packers up there. So he decided to watch it elsewhere.
And at that moment, it occurred to me that I had it all wrong. As much as it is cushy and comfortable upstairs, it is not what football is all about. It is about screaming your lungs out for your team and making bad jokes at someone's expense and arguing over some obscure fact. I forget about that sometimes up in that stale environment in the box.
It would behoove the owners and managers of some of these teams to get down there in the stands so they could remember what it is all about. But many of them might not make it out alive, especially if the Lions fans had any say. I saw some fire Millen signs in Lambeau. If the power brokers who built these losers got out with just their ego bruised they could consider themselves lucky. I am not advocating violence, but their fat cats have lost a sense of what being a fan is all about up there in palatial confines of their skyboxes.
Lucky for me I got a taste of it and look forward to the next time the fellas come to town. Until then, I'll see you upstairs. I like the free food too much to give up on it completely.
Editor's note: John Lombardi is the grandson of legendary coach Vince Lombardi. His football experience includes stints with two teams in the World League (now NFL Europe); in the scouting departments of the Cleveland Browns and Tennessee Titans; and graduate assistant coach and director of football operations at Vanderbilt. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.