A tale of two Bays: the story of a Packer backer gone astray
Special to Packerland Pride
INGLEWOOD, FLA. – It’s hard not to root for the Packers when you grow up within 40 miles of Lambeau Field. Watching Packer legends like Paul Hornung and Jim Taylor produced unwavering devotion from any true Wisconsinite who was privileged enough to see them play. For many, being a Packer fan is an almost religious experience.
Sometimes, in acts of unmitigated sacrilege, fans waver in their support of the Packers during down years—or when they move out of the shadow of Lambeau Field. Such was the case for Lynn Kittelson.
“As a kid, I always rooted for the Packers,” said Kittelson, who grew up in Neenah. “I didn’t watch a lot of games on TV in the fall because I enjoyed being outside during that time of year, but I always was a Packer fan.
“When I was in high school, I got some Packer tickets and went to a game with my friend, Paul Nelson,” recalled Kittelson.
“I think it might have been the Ice Bowl,” joked Kittelson. “I’m not sure about that, but we froze our buns off, to say the least.”
Two of Kittelson’s best friends—Jim Kussow and Mike Carli—are dyed-in-the-wool Packer fans, despite growing up much farther from Green Bay.
Kussow grew up in Arlington Heights, Illinois, but moved to Neenah during his senior year of high school. Kittelson took Kussow under his wing after meeting him at school, and the two became fast friends.
Carli began his career in Milwaukee but moved to Seymour in 1977 after being reassigned to a job in Green Bay.
The three met while helping each other move into their new homes, and they have been best friends ever since.
Kittelson eventually moved even closer to Lambeau, joining Kussow in Navarino.
While Kittelson admits that his friends’ passion for the Pack always ran deeper than his, the trio was still able to enjoy rooting for Green Bay together for 15 years.
“I think Kittelson has always been sort of lukewarm to the Packers, because when we lived in Wisconsin, he was always more interested in playing Sheepshead and drinking beer,” said Carli.
“Kittelson just isn’t a die-hard fan. I am. I love two teams—the Packers, and whoever can win a game that will help the Packers. Kittelson gives high-fives when we’re watching the game and the Packers make a good play, but he’s no die hard.
“Kussow and I would rather die than miss a Packer game,” continued Carli. “Kittelson, on the other hand, will go for a motorcycle ride instead of watching the game if the weather is nice. He’s a very complex fan.”
Kussow’s assessment of Kittelson’s team preferences is a bit more blunt.
“I think Lynn fell off a hay wagon and hit his head or something,” said Kussow, in an attempt to explain his confused friend’s pro football loyalties. “It all went south after that.
“Kittelson was never a full-fledged Packer fan,” stated Kussow. “I can remember him rooting for the Cowboys in the Ice Bowl. That was stinky.”
Then, in 1989, Kittelson moved to Florida.
“Buccaneer fans gave me a hard time when I first moved down here,” said Kittelson. “But there was a Packer bar not far away, and they would rent a bus and go to the games whenever Green Bay played in Tampa Bay. This was back when the Packers were in the same conference (division) as the Buccaneers, and I went to three or four of those games. It was a lot of fun. We tailgated and did the whole nine yards, backing the Pack in a hostile environment.
“Unfortunately, the Packers weren’t very good during the late 1980s and early 1990s. To make it worse, the Packer games were never on TV down there—it was always either the Dolphins or the Buccaneers. So, I guess I just sorta slid into being a Bucs fan,” admits Kittelson.
Kittelson says he still considers himself a Packer fan, but also roots for the Buccaneers.
“Carli and Kussow can’t understand how a person can cheer for two pro football teams,” Kittelson said with a chuckle. “They’re strictly Packer fans.”
“I don’t think you can cheer for two teams. That’s Kittelson’s imagination talking,” said Kussow, obviously annoyed by Kittelson’s wishy-washy ways. “Whatever his problem is, it’s probably partly genetic. Also, he is a creep. He’s just a dorky kind of guy.”
Kittelson has done a lot to bewilder his loyal Packer friends over the past decade.
“One example really made me question Kittelson’s commitment to the Pack,” recalled Carli, who became a permanent resident of Florida in 2004, moving to the same neighborhood as Kittelson. “It was fourth down and 26 in a Divisional playoff game against the Philadelphia Eagles…”
The infamous 4th and 26 play saw the Eagles throw a slant route to Freddie Mitchell deep in the Packer secondary with 1:12 remaining in the game and the Packers leading, 17-14. Mitchell needed 26 yards and gained 27 on the play. Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb then ran for another first down, setting up David Akers’ 37-yard, game-tying field goal.
On the Packers’ final drive, Brett Favre threw an interception that was returned 35 yards by Brian Dawkins, setting up another Akers field goal try from 31 yards out. The kick was good and the Eagles won, 20-17.
“I can’t forget that 4th and 26 play,” laments Carli. “We were watching the game, and Kittelson was sitting on the couch next to me. When Philly converted on 4th and 26, Kittelson had the biggest smile on his face. I’ve never seen such a big smile. He was just beaming.
“So, he can say he is still a Packer fan—and he still wears his Packer gear—but I can tell you that when the Eagles converted that play, his reaction was not at all what you’d expect from a Packer fan. And at that point, I had seen enough.
“I can understand how he switched allegiance to the Buccaneers, because he was here in Florida before the rest of us moved down. We didn’t lose touch with him, but we only saw him once a year or so. He lives about 1.5 hours away from Raymond James Stadium, so I can understand him adopting the Buccaneers—but I continue to be perplexed by him being happy when the Packers lost to the Eagles,” said Carli, his voice dripping with disgust.
Kittelson’s blasphemous ways continued at a Packers vs. Bucs game five years ago, and Kussow, who had moved to Florida in 2007, had to witness it first-hand.
“Kussow and I went with some friends to see the Packers play the Bucs at Raymond James Stadium on Nov. 8, 2009,” Kittelson recalled. “Of course, I wore a Packer jersey.”
Green Bay jumped out to a 14-7 lead after one quarter, thanks to a 74-yard touchdown from Aaron Rodgers to James Jones and a two-yard touchdown run by Ryan Grant.
Tampa Bay tied the game after blocking a punt and returning it for a touchdown, but Rodgers put the Pack back in the lead with a 32-yard touchdown pass to Donald Driver. The Bucs added a field goal in the quarter, but the Packers held a 21-17 lead at halftime.
Neither team scored in the third quarter, but the Packers opened up an 11-point lead after Rodgers scored on a 12-yard touchdown run with 12:54 remaining in the game.
To most fans—Kussow and Kittelson included—it looked like the Packers would roll to an easy victory.
“The Packers had a comfortable lead early in the fourth quarter, and it looked like they were going to win,” said Kittelson. “I was cheering for the Packers and being a good Green Bay fan because Kussow was with me.”
Unfortunately, the Bucs scored a touchdown with 11:34 remaining in the game to cut the lead to 28-24. The Packer offense couldn’t answer, and the Bucs took the lead with another touchdown with 4:14 left on the clock.
A desperate Packer attempt to rally ended when the Bucs’ Tanard Jackson intercepted Rodgers and returned the ball for 35 yards and a touchdown, giving Tampa Bay a 38-28 win.
“Somehow, the Bucs came back and won the game. So, I took off my Packer jersey—I had a Bucs shirt on underneath. Kussow about wet his pants on the spot, he was so upset,” laughed Kittelson. “He will probably never forgive me for doing that.”
“I was shocked when he took off his Aaron Rodgers jersey to reveal a Bucs shirt,” recalled Kussow, with intense disgust. “There were like 12 Bucs fans in the whole place. It was mostly Packer fans. And then Kittelson takes off the jersey and his Buc fan friends said, ‘I knew it, Lynnie! You’re back!’ What a traitor.”
Despite this heresy committed six years ago, Kittelson said he has tried to mend fences with his die-hard Packer buddies.
“My boss gave me a Packer jersey for Christmas about three years ago,” said Kittelson. “So, I wore it over to Carli’s house for a game. Well, he and Kussow almost booed me out of the house. Even though I was wearing a Packer jersey, they still think I’m a traitor. Those guys are hard core.”
“It’s pure sacrilege when he wears his Packer stuff,” said Kussow. “It’s embarrassing, and it’s just not right.”
Though they strongly disagree on where their football allegiances should lie, the three continue to maintain a strong friendship—and Kussow and Carli still believe that their strong influence could one day bring Kittelson back into the fold.
“We’ve tried interventions, but they haven’t worked. I think the next step is just to commit him to an institution for re-grooving,” laughed Kussow. “We still watch the games together, but I know he is a fake and a fraud. He is not a legitimate Packer fan—for now.”
Tim Biemal is the former sports editor of the Clintonville Tribune Gazette.