The home opener: Packers football is in the air
Photo: Image by Jaclyn Brandt
I didn’t go to my first Packers game until I was in high school, but the sights and sounds of a home football game were already familiar friends by the first time I walked out of the tunnel to find my seat at Lambeau Field.
When I was a little kid, Packers games were for grow-ups.
My uncle would drive up from Madison and would go to a handful of games with my dad.
They never dressed up in green and gold. It was only a coincidence that my dad’s down vest was green.
Think 1970’s Coleman cooler green with an even uglier orange lining that matched the Hot Seat hunter cushion that always seemed to find its way to the game as well.
Parking at Lambeau itself was only five bucks back in the day.
Lynn Dickey was the quarterback back then, and Bart Starr was the head coach.
While my mother will never claim to be a football fan, she thought tight end Paul Coffman was dreamy.
During the 1982 strike, several Packers worked out at St. Norbert College — their training camp home, and Coffman often joined the aerobics class that she would teach.
I vaguely recall that the Packers would appear on CBS.
Pat Summerall was the best play-by-play voice in the business and the new guy joining him was a former coach named John Madden.
But at that age, I never really watched the game.
It didn’t really matter because I could always step out to the back porch and hear the roar of the crowd when the Packers did something exciting.
I grew up across the river, so it wasn’t exactly in the shadow of Lambeau Field.
But if the wind blew the right way, you could hear the stadium erupt with cheers along the river in De Pere.
It was never a deafening roar, but it was there to remind you that Green Bay was a football town.
It was one of the quintessential sounds of fall.
Now I am the grown-up, and it is my turn to go to games.
Those tickets that my dad had were never really his. They belonged to a neighbor, so there never were family tickets to share with the next generation.
But somewhere along the line, my name came up on the season ticket waiting list, and the fall tradition of bundling up and heading to a game became mine.
Sometimes my dad joins me. Thank goodness that ugly green vest long gave up the ghost.
Going to a Packers game is always a great reason to head home.
Family and football keep me tied firmly to Green Bay.
I love how Lambeau towers above the trees and its lights are seen from even Scray’s Hill on the far side of De Pere.
No, I’m not crazy enough to like the traffic that snares up all the highways leading to the stadium, but as a local kid, that isn’t a problem.
I still remember the secret shortcuts that the out-of-towners will never use.
Then, there’s the parking lot.
I have a favorite that doesn’t charge an arm and leg.
Its easy exit after the game is definitely an added bonus.
There’s no doubt the stadium has changed since my dad used to attend games.
Sure, Lambeau no longer looks like a giant green tin can with yellow lettering on its side, but those same aluminum bleacher seats on the inside are just as chilly as ever.
Some things are timeless like the crisp morning air of a Sunday morning tailgate party and the smell of a charcoal grill.
The sun always seems to shine brighter and the sky is always a bit bluer on the morning of a home game.
I hope today is perfect football weather.
I hope the air is thick with the smell of brats and burgers.
I can’t wait to hear the crowd roar as a single entity and chant "Go Pack Go" in unison.
It will be good to see familiar faces that I’ve come to know of the years - the little boy in the row in front of us that has grown into a lanky tween, the family that travels from Ohio to cheer for the Packers and even the usher who high fives everyone after victories and urges the crowd to keep the after games when the Packers fall short.
Lambeau Field is about to come to life again.
They say you can never go home, but I don’t believe them.
Lambeau and the Packers are calling my name.
Kickoff can’t come soon enough.
Kelly Hodgson, who grew up across the river from Lambeau Field, is the co-host of the podcast "Out of the Pocket" at Packerstalk.com. Her other Packers musings can be found at PocketDoppler.com.