BY RICH PALZEWIC
Five … that’s how many Green Bay Packer games Debbie Farah has missed since the early ‘70s when she started going to games regularly.
The Green Bay native has always been a Packer fan, dating back to when her father owned a grocery store in town and she would see many players in the store or eat breakfast across the street.
“I started off sitting in the kids’ area when I was 13 with my sister in the northeast section of the end zone when I started going to games,” said the 59-year-year-old Farah. “Then when I turned 16, I got two tickets assigned from the Packers to sit in another part of the stadium. My dad had season tickets passed down from his dad. His whole family had tickets because they helped the team – like many others – back in the ‘40s and ‘50s when they got into financial trouble.”
Farah, who is also an “owner” of the team and now sits in the southwest corner of the end zone, noted that growing up, she didn’t live too far from the stadium – about 1 mile – so Packer Sunday was always very special. She would see the cars go by her house and they would always honk their horns in support.
“Before the games were split up into the ‘Gold’ and ‘Green’ packages, I went to pretty much all the games,” Farah said. “When they split those up, I only have the Green package games now … I don’t attend the Gold games.”
That means she attends one preseason and six regular-season games each year.
Like many fans that have tickets to a game and they can’t go for one reason or another, those have stuck in Farah’s memory.
“With tickets that I’ve had for a game, I’ve only missed five in all my years of going to Lambeau,” she said. “The first one I missed was in 1978 when my sister was having a bone-marrow transplant, so we had to fly out-of-state to be with her. I missed another one in 1985 when my second daughter was born – I was in the hospital having a baby at the time. My third one occurred in 1991 when I had strep throat and couldn’t make it. It was a December game, and if my memory serves me correctly, it was Lindy Infante’s last home game as coach; and then I’ve missed one game in each of the last two years due to health reasons amongst my family members.”
Even though she’s only missed those five home games in the last 45 years, she has managed to watch those on TV.
Farah remembers going to games where not everyone even wore green or gold or even tailgated.
“We really didn’t start tailgating until the Holmgren/Favre era,” she said. “Now you go, and everybody has some type of Packer clothing on. My husband and I don’t live too far from the stadium, so we are planning on walking to at least a few games this year … I’m looking forward to that.”
When a fan has been attending games for almost 50 years, there will be lots of memories that go along with it. Everyone remembers the exciting games and the disappointing defeats, but obviously, some stand out more than others.
“When I was still sitting in the kids’ section, Ken Ellis – who was my favorite player way back then – had intercepted a pass and was running right towards us for a touchdown,” said Farah. “Our tickets were in row two and the stadium was different back then than what it is now. Of course, the Lambeau Leap wasn’t done, but just to see him running at us full blast was pretty cool. Not only do I remember that but the kid in front of us stood up with some hot chocolate in his hand and spilled it all over my sister and I. It’s a moment I won’t ever forget.”
Ellis, who spent six seasons with the Packers, intercepted 22 passes in his 10-year NFL career. He returned three of those picks for touchdowns, one of which Farah witnessed that day.
Farah also remembers attending the “Snow Bowl” vs. Tampa Bay Dec. 1, 1985. A little research showed that only 19,856 saw the game in person that day, with over 36,000 “no-shows” after 12 inches of snow fell before the game, with another 4 to 5 inches coming down during the 21-0 Packers’ victory.
“I had missed the one in September of that same year when my daughter was born, so I didn’t want to miss another one,” she said. “There was so much snow that we decided to leave for home when the fourth quarter started. Even though we lived close, it still took us the whole quarter to get home. I’ve obviously never seen the stadium that empty before.”
Farah was fortunate enough to attend Super Bowl XXXI in New Orleans, a 35-21 Packers’ victory over New England Jan. 26, 1997.
“That game was even more special with it being on my birthday,” she said. “It was a great game and awesome to see because we had waited so long to get back there. One memory that sticks out was when Desmond Howard took that kickoff back for a touchdown … it still gives me chills thinking about it.”
Farah also attended Super Bowl XXXII against Denver in San Diego and has attended road games in Kansas City, Tampa and Jacksonville over the years.
Another favorite game for Farah was when Al Harris picked off Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck in a 2004 playoff game to seal a Green Bay victory in overtime.
“There have been so many games that have been special, but I am definitely there to watch the games,” said Farah. “We don’t do a ton of tailgating or drinking because I don’t want to spend the whole game in the bathroom … I don’t want to miss anything!”
Besides Ellis, safety Chuck Cecil was a favorite of Farah’s because of how hard-hitting he was. She also loved Favre and got to see him “grow up” right before her eyes during his career.
“I loved Favre but wasn’t too happy like most fans when he became a Viking,” Farah said. “When my dad would take us to breakfast across from the store on Saturday mornings, I would see Bob Brown, Alden Roche and a lot of the defensive guys in there. Ray Nitschke didn’t live too far from me and Mike Holmgren and Favre lived in my same neighborhood.”
Not only did Al Harris give Farah one of her favorite Lambeau memories, but he also gave her another funny moment outside of football.
“Al Harris came trick-or-treating at my house with his little kid,” she said. “After the fact, another boy came to my house and said, ‘Hey, did you see that? That was just Al Harris!’ The excitement on that kid’s face knowing that he got treats from me right after Al Harris did, was fun to see.”
Lastly, Farah’s dad would cook meat for coach Vince Lombardi when he had banquets at the Elk’s Club in downtown Green Bay.
“My dad would be asked to cook for Lombardi, so he was very proud of that,” Farah said. “My dad knew a lot of players back in the ‘60s because many of them shopped in his store, but I don’t think he had a personal relationship with Lombardi. I’d often be working in the store as a cashier and a player would walk in. I’d quickly grab a piece of paper to have them sign. Also, back in ’72, my girlfriend and I would go to the stadium, wait for the team to get done with practice and we’d get a ton of autographs that way. I have a lot of signed memorabilia.”