Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Green Bay vs. Philadelphia November 2003

                                                      Monday Night Virgins

    In April 2003 I was visiting friends in Kitimat, British Columbia, I was on the phone getting the "ok" from Mike and Sam, for our first Trip to Green Bay. We were Packer fans and loved the toughness of The Pack's QB Brett Favre.

    An added bonus was Green Bay just did a 100 million dollar upgrade to their Stadium. Every Packers season we watched was filled with drama, and we loved it.

     The season schedule had just come out and I was on top of it. THE TRIP:We booked through Packer Fan Tours for the November Monday night game versus the Eagles. We had End-Zone seats and 2 nights at the Hilton Garden Inn.  THE GUYS: Myself a young man recently engaged hungry for good times and pizza, My brother Warren a "party animal " and Jack the bake to my shake..... (SHAKE N BAKE!! that just happened)
     By the time football season had rolled around, we had decided that it would be a road trip.(my favorite) We also added on a special little treat for ourselves a visit to The Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton Ohio. (that's another story) We had no idea what kind of trip we were about to embark on. Title Town Here we come!!)

     The Packers were 1-4 going into the Monday night game. The last 5 weeks had been painful. Either way we were excited to get there and have a good time. We left on a crisp November morning with a dusting of snow on the ground. Headed down the 400 northbound to our first stop, Sault Ste. Marie.

    When we arrived at our hotel,The Sleep Inn and it began to snow. We checked in and decided to go to dinner and a movie. We watched the Matrix 2 and dined at a Italian Restaurant nearby "Joey Calzones" and the food was delicious. I remember only having one problem there they had "cute" bathroom signs that said Maria for girls and Guido for guys spelled out in cursive (hard to read cursive mind you), at the time I had read "Mario" on the "Maria" sign and walked right in to the girls bathroom and on the "To catch a predator" TV series.... Not really, but a 10 year old girl did not looked impressed and I felt like a bit of a perv and really embarrassed. Sam and Mike were very entertained by my story, when I got back to the table.

     The next day was cold and there was about 3 inches of snow on the ground. Bundled up we were off, First stop the border (woohoo). Which back then was like 3 phone booths across a road. With no problems we were in Michigan, hell bent on getting to Green Bay before night fall. The drive was a very nice one, as you drive through winding roads around Scenic Lake Michigan. 2 things that stuck out in my memory was a big Paul Bunyon at a restaurant and one town had a spaceship on every mailbox...  I remember the excitement that filled the truck that day as we came up the highway with Lambeau Field.

    When we had arrived at our hotel, it was in the later in the afternoon. We were tired but Mike had seen the Packer Store was open and strongly encouraged us to go there, we decided we would walk.

     On this short walk we took ridiculous pictures at the old packer hall of fame site and pictures of the stadium and surrounding monuments. We went into the very nice store and bought 3 "cheeseheads!" of course. I remember in that store hearing the song "Over an Over Again" by Tim McGraw and Nelly for the first time, and now when I hear it, I can put myself back in that store.(I love that) When we left the store we took some time to look over the stadium, It was awesome!

   When we were walking down the concrete stairs from the store to the huge parking lot, a rather large bus/RV pulled up and there was a couple people standing there with pens, footballs and cameras. At first I wasn't sure, then my brain put the puzzle together. I say to the guys "Holy Shit! That's the Madden Cruiser!".  "No way" Sam and Mike said slowly in disbelief. We were like little kids and we were in the right place at the right time. I remember it seemed like forever for them to exit the cruiser, we could make out Maddens silhouette almost like Alfred Hitchcock. The whole ABC Monday Night team got out of the bus doing the smile and wave routine.  Madden signed a kids football waved and was gone. Star Struck with smiles ear to ear, we walked back to the hotel.

     That night we decided to order pizza (shocker) I called the front desk and asked  "Where does the best pizza come from?" the friendly voice replied "that would be Green Bay Pizza Company, try the stuff crust!". Mission accepted! We ordered the stuff crust pizza. When it arrived we were starved and it smelled awesome. We opened the box and discovered their version of a stuff crust was quite different from the one I was used to.(Pizza Hut) What they do instead of putting cheese in the crust, they have an entire pizza crust with sauce with another pizza on top of it. Basically a pizza on top of a pizza... I know it blew our minds too.  We enjoyed some beers and pizza while we watched the Sunday Night Football Ravens vs Rams game. It was a good game and great pizza.

    The next morning we woke up and ate the leftover pizza, resulting in an almost unavoidable situation when men room together..... The dreaded but expected (when traveling with Sam) clogged toilet...

    After the embarrassing exchange of the plunger, we decided to explore Green Bay and Appleton area.  We seen amazing High School football fields, browsed in the local Best Buy and was pleasantly surprised  to hear some of the co-workers asking each other if they were going to the game. (small town, big stadium) We ended up stopping at the Hallmark store, we had a long conversation with the owner of the store a nice man with glasses, we ended up finding out he was going to the game and he was a former neighbor of Andy Reid's(Eagles Head Coach) and bought some ridiculous football helmet type toques, with chinstraps. Everywhere we went had a buzz in the air about the game.

     5:00 pm we left for the tailgate party, the weather was grim, cold rain was falling and it didn't look like it was going to stop. When we arrived it was Awesome! Delicious MGD draft all you can handle, shelter, good music and great food. It was there I fell in love with the bratwurst and chocolate chip cookies (not necessarily in that order). The weather had went from rain to a wet snow more than once. We were ready for whatever mother nature was going to throw at us.

      I remember an amazing ice sculpture of MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL on ABC as we walked up to the gate. We were so pumped entering that stadium!

     We were 30 rows up in the end zone and we actually seen the Hallmark store owner, as he was walking up to his seat. We gave him a drunken greeting, that broke the ice with the crowd around us we made "Game friends". I remember being completely jacked up when they announced the team, and especially Brett Favre who was playing with a broken thumb. 70 000 fans can't be wrong! We were loud.  Being in the stadium is nothing like watching on TV.

      It was a close hard fought game and really wet. The beer kept us warm and we were having fun. I had to be reminded the next day about standing up in the middle of the third quarter. When everyone else was sitting quietly, and yelling "LETS GO MINNESOTA" at the top of my lungs. Then was quickly pulled down by Sam and Mike. I still don't know why I said that, but when I look back on it, it was like second sight. (With Favre eventually ending up in Minnesota.)

     The Pack was Defeated 17-14 by a Mcnabb and Westbrook Eagles Offense. It was a tough loss. Heartbroken, voiceless with a smile on our face. (and very very thirsty) we headed back to our Hotel.

     When we got back to the hotel room it smelled like pizza, we cracked open some beers, warmed up and got some dry clothes on. We had the most glorious sleep.

     Looking back at these pictures I wish I had taken more. Back in the disposable camera day. It was a first for us and we had a great time. We had learned a lot about Green Bay and ways to improve our next trip and what to keep the same.  Green Bay is truly the holy grail of football.