As a triumvirate â€“ they are the Meccaâ€™s of baseball.
But baseball season is overâ€¦almost. Iâ€™m ready for some football. And unlike baseball, there is only one Mecca in the NFL.
Itâ€™s name â€“ Lambeau Field.
Iâ€™ve been dying to cross this off my â€śbucket list.â€ť I grew up in the Midwest â€“ Des Moines, represent â€“ and I spent four years at the University of Wisconsin. Still, no Lambeau visit.
Until last weekend.
A month ago I received a phone call from my father.
â€śAriel, what are you doing November 1st?â€ť he asked.
â€śUmmâ€¦I dunno,â€ť I responded.
I meanâ€¦this was to be the most anticipated game of the year! Maybe even the decade! Brett Favre against his former team. A townâ€™s once-beloved son returns home, only this time as the red-headed stepchild! Exclamation marks!
Thus began a month of anticipation, eagerness and excitement. Finally, it came. After a few short hours of not-so-clear-headed sleep (thanks a lot Halloween) a friend and I hit the road to meet my dad in Milwaukee for the trip to Green Bay.
A few hours later, we passed over the Fox River â€“ and there it was â€“ Lambeau Field.
We quickly found a parking spot (and dealt with some playful rousing by the locals towards my father, the Vikings fan) and walked towards the stadium. From the moment I stepped onto Oneida Street and viewed a casket and tombstone reading â€śR.I.P. Brett Favreâ€ť on the left and smelled the aroma of beer and brats on my right, I knew this wasnâ€™t just any other Sunday.
As we approached the intersection of Oneida and Lombardi, I got my first up-close look at Lambeau Field. Itâ€™s no mystery what makes this place so special. Iâ€™ll best describe it as the â€śWrigley Field of football.â€ť One minute, youâ€™re walking through a charming little neighborhood â€“ the next, an imposing structure full of tradition and pageantry.
Tailgating intensified, music blasted and the crowds grew louder and larger. And I realized the tremendous time I was having people-watching. Little kids screamed â€śMinnesota sucks!â€ť and â€śGo home Vikings!â€ť Shirts proudly displayed messages like â€śFavre sucksâ€ť and â€śWe 4-get you.â€ť No. 4 Packers jerseysâ€™ nameplates were replaced with â€śBrutusâ€ť â€śJudasâ€ť and â€śBenedict Arnold.â€ť I knew I was in for a treat. But my favorite? This Jared Allen look-alike (excuse my finger). From the mullet to the headband to the hair fades â€“ the resemblance was uncanny. The only thing missing were fatigue cargo pants…oh wait.
Letâ€™s get back to football.
Kickoff approached, time to find our seats. And discover another great thing about Lambeau. We sat in second to last row of the end zone, literally, and they were great seats! Unlike the multi-million (or, sorry Jerry, billion) dollar stadiums of today â€“ Lambeau truly is different. Itâ€™s a small, intimate enclosure, where even the worst seats are good seats. Perched on the slightly uncomfortable bleachers â€“ while devouring some deliciously healthy cheese curds – I scanned the sea of green and yellow (and purple) and reviewed the wall of fame. Bart Starr. Reggie White. Ray Nitschke.
But, still, one name eludes this class.
There he was tossing the ball at midfield. Warming up like he did for 16 consecutive seasons, only this time, on the opposing side. And there he went, back through the tunnel to a loud chorus of boos.
But the biggest fan reaction came when Green Bayâ€™s newest hero, Aaron Rodgers, was announced and emerged onto the field. The crowd let out a deafening roar that â€“ for a moment â€“ made you forget heâ€™s only in his second year as a starter and hasnâ€™t really accomplished anything. I had to ask myself, was this really a pro-Rodgers chant or an anti-Favre rally?
And then a football game broke out.
Amidst the constant booing on every early possession, Favre dominated the first half as he fit a number of tight spirals into even tighter openings. This led to one Packers fan commenting, â€śI had no idea how much fun it was to root against this guy!â€ť
Meanwhile, Rodgers ran for his life. On every down. Talent on the Packers offensive line is painfully lacking, and Rodgers â€“ six sacks Sunday â€“ doesnâ€™t help his cause by holding onto the ball too long. He is one of the most effective quarterbacks in the league when given time, but Rodgers must improve his pocket presence if he ever wants to be an elite quarterback.
By the second half though, momentum had shifted. Rodgers marched his team up and down the field and Favre threw several questionable passes into heavy traffic. The Packers climbed within a touchdown twice, but the exploits of Percy Harvin in the return game, Adrian Peterson in the run game and Favre were too much for the Packers to handle.
And in the end, Favre did what he had so many times before â€“ exit Lambeau Field, arms extended skyward, and a satisfying grin encompassing the entirety of his face. Unfortunately, the home crowd could not do the same.
What an eerie feeling for Packers fans. But for me, it was a day Iâ€™ll never forget.