Unshakable foundation, or, being a Packers fan
Their family calls them “The Fab Five.” The five widowed sisters – who range in age from 82 to 90 — get together to watch the Green Bay Packers play almost every week. Even illness can’t keep them apart; when the eldest had surgery, the other sisters joined her in the hospital that Sunday to keep their tradition going as they cheered on their favorite team.
This story is sweet, to be sure, but probably comes as no surprise to other Packers fans. If you’re a Wisconsin native or long-time resident, you may not always realize the uniqueness of the Packers fan base. Of course, streets and stores are virtually deserted at game time, and community events are coordinated with the football schedule, but we’re also accustomed to being immersed in green and gold 52 weeks a year. Packers flags wave beneath the stars and stripes in front of homes, Christmas trees are adorned with Green Bay ornaments, and children and adults alike choose football jerseys over fancy attire for family photos. Truly, in Wisconsin, there is no offseason.
Some of my earliest childhood memories are of watching the games with my Grandpa Bob. He was a very vocal fan, and though he insisted he wasn’t swearing when he yelled at the team in Polish, I certainly wasn’t encouraged to repeat his words. Visits with my other grandpa in Manitowoc taught me more about the history of the team – his dog’s name was Willie Wood, in honor of the Packers Hall of Fame safety.
My mom is also an avid fan. From her I learned much about the rules of the game, as well as the value of pacing the floor as a coping strategy during tense moments. So, like many people, I grew up watching football and cheering the Pack, but never thought anything of it – it was what everyone did. It was normal.
Around the country, there are thousands of female fans who know the roster of their favorite NFL team, know the rules and cheer as loudly as their male counterparts. They play fantasy football and truly love the game. But maybe you’ll agree that whether male or female, there’s something different happening in Packerland, and that maybe the history of football in Green Bay plants our roots just a little bit deeper. Just as I watched with my mother, my daughters watch with me, and the tradition continues.
My first major move landed me in Miami, Fla. It was 1994. At that time, I’d hardly traveled outside Wisconsin, so moving to South Florida was a total culture shock. There was different weather, different traffic, even different football fans.
There was no singular fan base, which was totally puzzling to me. Certainly, there were some Miami Dolphins fans, and Dan Marino had a restaurant, but many Florida natives cheered for teams chosen not because they were the home team, but instead picked for a certain player, love of the team colors or other reasons which seemed completely foreign to me. It never occurred to me (then or since) that another team was more worthy of my devotion than Green Bay. It had nothing to do with winning or losing – this was at the beginning of the Brett Favre era, so I was more accustomed to watching losses. Regardless, they were my team.
But even in Miami, I found a few fellow Packers fans and overall respect for our team. Virtually anywhere you travel you can find a Packers bar to watch the game, and though I didn’t seek them out in Florida, it’s amazing to me that they exist in so many places. The team even has an official website, PackersEverywhere.com, helping people find fans around the United States as well as internationally. I think both the long and storied history of the franchise and its small town feel contribute to the fact that wherever you are, you can find someone to high five after a touchdown or commiserate with after a loss.
After the Packers lost to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 22 this season, I wrote down my thoughts, posted them online and was overwhelmed by the positive response. It was thrilling to discover how many people shared my feelings regardless of the game’s outcome. Those feelings, that have only strengthened over time, were: I am a fan, no matter what. My love for my team is unshakable. Complaining about players or coaches doesn’t make my life any better, so I don’t. My paycheck and health don’t hinge on the Packers results, so I remember what’s truly important to me in life. I don’t need to hate another team to prove my devotion; I focus on the joy my team brings me each week. The Packers are not perfect, nor do I need them to be.
I am a fan.
No matter how passionate I may be, I know that football is simply a game – a source of entertainment, excitement and pride in my life. My support remains strong week after week, month after month and year after year. Nothing will change my devotion. Each season is to be savored.
I am a fan.
I want the Packers to be healthy, triumphant and strong. I always hope for a win, but no matter what happens, I move on. My life is my family, my friends and my work. My life is about the things I can affect and change. My life is bigger than the NFL, and bigger than my team.
I am a fan. And it’s good to be a fan.
The women of “The Fab Five” love the Packers, and their love of football has been passed down to their children, grandchildren and future generations. The fact that women are as passionate and knowledgeable about the Packers as men, that this is more or less expected, is another sign of how much this team is really entrenched in all of our lives as Packers fans.
As Vince Lombardi said, “The spirit, the will to win and the will to excel – these are the things that endure and these are the qualities that are so much more important than any of the events that occasion them.”
Because of their spirit, their will to win and their will to excel, I will always be a fan of the Green Bay Packers. Win or lose, they are the team of my grandfather, the team of my mother, and the team of my young daughters. They are forever my team.
Central Wisconsin resident Jennifer Brilowski created 12.12.12 – Aaron Rodgers Day – and is the founder and editor of Whirled Affairs, an ‘infotainment’ website. In her spare time, she runs a social media business, homeschools her daughters and delights in the beer, cheese and football of Wisconsin. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.