Childhood memories turn into Packers-49ers gameday rivalry
Mike Conroy, Packers contributor
Gary at work far away from his boyhood home.Photo: Image by Gary Howell
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- I opened up my Facebook account and there it was. "You know, IT'S ON!" This short and to the point message came from my childhood friend, now living in San Francisco. My reply: "You bet it's on! GO PACK GO!"
It's hard to imagine this conversation happening more than 30 years ago. Gary and I grew up together in the small, panhandle town of Fort Walton Beach, Florida. We spent our most of our time in the neighborhood, playing our favorite sport; football.
"I loved those classic All Time Quarterback games," Gary recently told me. "Every child should play in at least one of those back yard ball games."
We played in all kinds of weather When it was hot and humid during the summer or cold (for us at the time) and cloudy in the winter, we were the heroes of the gridiron. Nothing would stop us, not even an occasional tropical storm that dumped torrential rain on our backyard field.
Then, we grew up. Gary left Fort Walton Beach for the military. I left for college. It's the one thing we didn't like about our home town. Once high school is over, it's time to move on unless you want to spend the rest of your life in the service or tourism industries. We lost touch in the years to follow and our careers brought us to two very different places.
Gary, ended up in Northern California. He works in the media and runs a coffee shop. Once Gary arrived, his love for football drew him to the 49'ers. "I moved to San Francisco in 1988. In '89 I was hooked on the Niners and Joe Montana." He's been a fan ever since.
My journey brought me to Green Bay 15 years ago. I've worked at NBC26 for most of that time. Ever since my first Lambeau Field experience, I've been a Packers fan.
We reconnected through Facebook and discovered how our lives have changed over the years. He's a Niners fan. I'm a Packers fan. This rivalry between two of the most storied franchises in the NFL really boils down to a couple of kids playing football in the back yard, rain or shine.