BY RICH PALZEWIC
Many fans have seen Steve “The Owner” Tate with his Bart Starr jersey and cheese head on tailgating at Lambeau Field, but there’s also a pretty good chance you’ll see him at away games as well.
Growing up in the Madison area as a Packer fan, Tate is now a member of the Pro Football’s Ultimate Fan Association (PFUFA).
Like many others in the organization, it’s not so much about being a rabid fan of your favorite team but also about giving back to the community.
“I try to do as many charity events as I possibly can,” said Tate, who went out to Baltimore, Maryland, in mid-May for a charity golf event that raised money for scholarships for firefighters and EMT’s kids. “I’m fortunate now that I have a good job with some time off and I hang around people that want to give back. That’s the whole thing with the PFUFA – our mission statement is ‘sportsmanship, fellowship and charitable activities.’ Some might ask what charitable activities have to do with being an ultimate fan? Let’s be honest, some people take stuff and leverage it for themselves, but I take stuff and leverage it for others.”
The 60-year-old Tate wasn’t always in a position to help others in need, so now that he’s able to, he doesn’t take it for granted.
“There were times we were on welfare and free lunch at school,” he said. “It just feels good to be able to give back now. Wayne Sargent (Ultimate Packer Fan) and I have known each other for about nine years now and we do a lot of things together. The connections that we have made through the PFUFA have allowed us to give back. We are partnered with the NEW Community Shelter in Green Bay.”
Tate said one of the neatest things about being a member of the PFUFA is hosting other members of the group at Lambeau for games and showing them around town for the first time.
“Most people that come here from out of town are in awe already of our history and team,” he said. “They love how friendly we are, they go on the Lambeau tour and visit our Hall of Fame. I get the honor of seeing their excitement. Other fans reach out to me via social media, so I usually have someone else with me at the games from out of town. Whereas Oakland calls themselves ‘Raider Nation,’ I think the ‘Packer Family’ motto really fits us.”
Despite going to most games – home and away – every year, Tate is not a season-ticket holder. He has friends that are season-ticket holders, so in 2003 he paid the personal-seat license fee for the ‘green package’ and then a few years later did the same for the ‘gold package.’ He gets the tickets for face value in the agreement and estimates he attends about six road games per year, most of the time staying at friend’s houses that he met through the PfUFA.
“I can get most of the tickets when I travel for around face value, but it’s harder to do that here for friends coming to town,” Tate said. “I have one seat next to me, but after that, we have to look for more. I tell them that since we’ve been sold out since 1960, it’s harder to get tickets for Lambeau. They always find that hard to believe, especially hearing about how long our season-ticket-waiting list is.”
A little research showed that the current season-ticket-waiting list sits at 133,702, with reports of only 90-100 names coming off the list on a yearly basis.
Tate pointed out that some cities are friendlier than others, but he loves the tailgating experience at Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium since the parking lot is so massive. He said it’s definitely a unique experience.
“Seattle and Oakland are also interesting places to visit,” said Tate, who hasn’t drank alcohol in 30 years since getting two DUIs in his younger years. “There’s no place to park in Seattle, so there is no tailgating … but that place is loud! I know people say it’s loud because the stadium is concave, but those people stand on their feet and yell their guts out all game long. The ‘Bad Boys of Barbeque’ in Oakland probably has the best tailgate experience of them all – it’s unbelievable.”
Ever since Tate was a youngster he dreamt about being a Green Bay Packer. That passion led to him acquiring memorabilia over the years and eventually buying a share of stock in November of 1997. Two months later Tate’s mom bought four playoff tickets against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“I found a cheese head and since I was now part owner of the team, I put ‘NFL Owner’ on the cheese head,” Tate said. “I was just excited to be at my first playoff game – I had just turned 40 and we were coming off the Super Bowl victory the season before. That’s how it kind of started.”
Tate says it wasn’t until 2009 when he was drafted to possibly become a member of the PFUFA that the people in the organization started calling him “The Owner.” Now everyone that goes to a game calls him that.
One of his favorite former players is Bart Starr, who he calls a “class act” both on the field and off. Tate has also gotten to know Dave Robinson, Jerry Kramer, Chester Marcol, Chris Jacke and Donald Driver.
“I’ve met all those guys,” said Tate. “I also obviously like what Aaron Rodgers does. He’s one of the all-time greats on the field, but does a lot of cool stuff off the field – that means a lot to me. These guys have so much influence off the field … we are blessed as fans that way.”
Tate didn’t attend his first game until he was 37 but ranks his trip to Texas for Super Bowl XLV to watch the Packers beat the Steelers as his most memorable moment.
“I would say that I’ll keep doing what I’m doing for as long as can,” he said. “Maybe I’ll scale back some of the road trips and events I do, but for me, it’s more about the relationships I’ve build. Players and coaches come and go, but we fans are always there. My motto is ‘I wear insulation – a cheese head – on my head because I’ve made a lot of cool relationships over the years.’”
The only thing Tate would like to see change a little is the fact that there isn’t quite as much interaction with the players today as there used to be back in the 60s. Autograph prices have gone up, as have the salaries of the players.
The next time you’re a game and see “The Owner,” stop and say hi to him. He had a humble beginning in life and appreciates the fans and what he’s able to do now.