Mayor George, the fan’s hall of famer
In 2011 George Oudhuis was one of 10 finalists nominated for the chance to become the Packers Fan Hall of Fame inductee, which would be announced the next year. If you know Oudhuis, even for an afternoon or through a couple of phone calls, you probably know this is one of those no-brainers that life lobs out into the world every so often, but never enough.
Because when it’s Green Bay Packers fandom we’re talking about, Oudhuis probably loves the Packers the same, possibly more, but definitely not less than you do. In this realm he usually has universal support. For example: in an article written about him and posted on Jan. 17, 2014, on What’s New, La Porte? – the online community newspaper for La Porte, Indiana – Oudhuis, who lives in nearby Rolling Prairie, Ind., did the unthinkable: he united an Internet comments section, one of the more treacherous places to search for an agreement in our modern world. Underneath the piece entitled, “Help a local Cheesehead have his day”, 39 comments pile on, stringing together one after the other praise and support on top of personal anecdotes and well wishes, all in favor of Oudhuis when voting was open to decide the 2013-14 Green Bay Packers Fan Hall of Fame inductee.
Jon Burger, from the article’s comments section:
“I remember being a young Packer fan when my dad took me to see the fan collection of Mr. Oudhuis’. It was 1997 and I was caught in amazement with all the Packers gear he had acquired. Mr. Oudhuis being the kind man he is even gave me a Wheaties box from Super Bowl XXXI, which I still have to this day. Biggest and kindest Packers fan I know. Hope he gets it.”
The article was written because Oudhuis is that big of a Packers fan, and has, more importantly, impacted the lives of others in his own memorable, green-and-gold-soaked way throughout his travels between Indiana and Green Bay and beyond. It was written because he is known as Mayor George, or the “Unofficial Mayor of Green Bay”, and he’s not from Wisconsin, and doesn’t physically live there now – though spiritually is a different story. It was written because anyone who’s been to his 700-square-foot Packers-themed basement complete with full-service sports bar doesn’t forget the trip and often doesn’t leave empty-handed. George gives them Packers handouts from his own memorabilia collection to remember the experience by. It was written because he has kegs of Titletown beer in the fridge fitted with a tapper on the outside of the door, and, as a season ticket holder, brings friends with him to experience Lambeau Field and Green Bay with him, sharing his love of both his adopted city and team. It was written because whether in Wisconsin or Indiana, George wears an article of Packers clothing every single day of every year. It was written because it doesn’t take long for people to understand the depths of Oudhuis’s obsession. It’s right there, maybe not always on his sleeve, per se, but worn with pride.
It was also written because Oudhuis didn’t win the first time, and didn’t win a year later, and now has to hope for a new nomination, hope that he is named a finalist once more, and that he then gets to wait again for next time as the only fan who’s been a finalist twice for the Packers Fan Hall of Fame. A feat by itself until you remember it’s a reminder that Oudhuis’s ultimate goal as a fan hasn’t been achieved yet. He’s got everything he wants in this quest to become one of the Packers’ real and true superfans. Everything except that one thing, that still-blank first line on his nearly-lifelong resume as a Packers fan.
Mark Johnson, from the article’s comments section:
“I had an opportunity to go with George to Green Bay vs. Pittsburgh in 2013 @ Lambeau. To put this in perspective I am a season ticket holder with (the) Colts. I haven’t missed a game in 10 years. George redefined the meaning of a fan. Through the arrival, dinners, Lambeau tour, tailgate party, and game he was a Packer Fan (gentleman). Thanks George for the memories.”
George’s friend, Chris Countryman, wrote the first nomination in 2011. The Packers receive 500-word essays as nominations, then select the finalists from that pool. The winner is ultimately decided by a cocktail of fan voting – hence the call to arms nature of the What’s New, La Porte? article mentioned above – a vote from a Packers selection committee, and input from previous inductees. His wife, Tammie, wrote the second one. Tammie was a Bears fan once upon a time before she met George but converted because how could she not? She is as supportive as can be of her husband’s massive collection and obsession, and usually travels with him to Green Bay. She eventually stopped pushing for a non-Packers portion of his wardrobe.
Oudhuis has been at this for awhile. Born in 1957, he’s been a Packers fan since he was 9. His fandom could’ve been shaken when his father moved the family to Holland, where he’d spend some of his teenage years, but he still kept up with the team as best he could during a time without Internet or instant access to video. He eventually returned to Indiana and, in 1974, started collecting Packers stuff. George looks for the weird, one-of-a-kind memorabilia, and hats – lots and lots of hats. Oudhuis estimates he has over 500 different Packers hats.
Then there’s all the people he’s met and kept in touch with through the years since he and Tammie started taking trips to Green Bay in 1994. There’s the guy at a local hat store who embroiders each of his purchases to personalize them for Oudhuis or whomever he’s buying the hat for. There’s Shawn at Titletown Brewing Company, who after George started showing up with handfuls of beer growlers to fill and bring back home, arranged to sell him kegs. They go fast during the season, Oudhuis says, because when he’s not in Green Bay on gameday he’s hosting basement bar parties for about 20 of his area friends. There’s his photographer friend who, in 2002 and 2003, enlisted George to help him shoot Make-A-Wish Foundation dinners. That was where Oudhuis met Brett Favre, and had a one-on-one chat with Bart Starr. Max McGee heard about his basement and visited Oudhuis’s home while he was in Indiana.
There’s the people at the hotel in Green Bay where George and Tammie usually stay who have a coffee, newspaper, and seat by the pool (even before it opens) ready every morning for him. There was the one day he got a call inviting him to the street unveiling ceremony of Donald Driver Way. Not just to attend but to do the actual unveiling, pulling the sheet off the new street sign. He accepted, of course.
Oudhuis has all the unique experiences many fans don’t have, the kind that when you hear about them let you know you’re in the presence of someone who shifts fandom into a higher gear. It’s there but it’s not in-your-face or over-the-top; actually, George is soft-spoken enough that, if you didn’t know him, you might just think of him as the guy in the Packers shirt, not the guy who wears one every day. But after all the great memories and times he’s had because of and with the Packers in mind, it’s the connections that he’s made with people in Green Bay that put Oudhuis above a regular out-of-state Packers supporter.
Part of Oudhuis thinks that if he was living in the state more people would know about him, his collection, his Hall of Fame-worthy love for the team. But there’s the other side of that idea, the part we happen to agree with: it’s in his shrine and love for the Packers in Indiana that makes his fandom all the more incredible. It’s in the all the connections he’s made and friends he’s made and the impact he’s made on those people in his visits to Green Bay. That is why he should be in the Packers Fan Hall of Fame. That is why it shouldn’t dissipate, and should really only heighten his case, the fact that he lives out of state. Who lives in Indiana, is born in Indiana, then lives overseas during some of his formative years, then returns to Indiana, builds a Packers shrine, and inserts himself in Green Bay’s long line of die-hards? Who else could be this well known to people in Green Bay if his connection wasn’t true and his fandom wasn’t spectacularly out of control?
He’s the unofficial mayor for many reasons. The first is because he wasn’t self-appointed. He was elected.
Steve, from the comments section:
“There are few people even in Green Bay that show as much appreciation for the city and the team as George. A vote for George is a vote for all Cheeseheads everywhere. GO PACK GO”
Hope will have to extend to next year because, despite all this and after two straight years of nominations, George the unofficial mayor of Green Bay, the guy who adopted the Packers and their fans, who drives to see us, who supports our local businesses, who brings people with no connection to the Packers together through the strength of his own commitment to the team, is not yet a member of the Packers Fan Hall of Fame. If you’d ask anyone who knows him, no one would understand why.