Wisconsin is the Dairy State; however, I wondered just how the Cheeseheads got their name. As quoted by Lee Remmel, the Packers team historian, “The birth of the world famous ‘Cheesehead’ hat was not initially about fashion, but a gouda, self-deprecating response to those we kindly call the ‘flatlanders’. Still riding high from their only Super Bowl victory in 1986, Chicago Bears fans began ridiculing citizens of the Dairy State by calling them ‘Cheeseheads’.”
It didn’t take long for the marketing and merchandising department to take advantage of that moniker. Cheeseheads (surely, you have seen those silly hats on Packer fans) are sold in the Packer’s gift shop for just $21.95!
Bruce grew up a Cheesehead having lived eight of his childhood years in Appleton and having a Cheesehead mom and maternal grandparents. I, then, became an adopted Cheesehead as Bruce’s wife. It’s infectious! Once you get to know the history of the team and the loyalty of their fans, it’s hard not for it to grow on you—that is, unless you’re an arch-enemy Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears, or Detroit Lions fan.
First of all, the Green Bay Packers are the only community-owned franchise in American Professional Sports. Right there, you got me, as I have a hard time getting behind teams owned by multi-gazillionaires. Since the spoiled-brat owners of the San Diego Chargers took their team away from San Diego when they couldn’t get the city to build a new stadium for them (Whaaaa!), I’ve given up on them. If the Packers can keep remodeling and improving Lambeau Field (but keep a bunch of the same metal bleachers they have always had; bleachers seat more fans than chairs do), then good on ‘em! (Don’t even get me started on the idiocy of the Atlanta Braves abandoning Turner Field for a new stadium. Built in 1996 for the Olympics and given to the Braves for a whopping fee of $1, the stadium was perfectly fine!)
As of 2014, the Packers were owned by 360,584 stockholders. That’s a lot of owners! (Keep in mind, too, that no one person can hold more than approximately 4% of the outstanding shares.). That kind of community support (and non-profit structure) has kept the Packers in Green Bay, since they were founded in 1919.
Green Bay’s population is only around 100,000; however, Packer fans hail from all over Wisconsin and the entire United States. As a matter of fact, Packer fans are so loyal that every home game has been sold out since 1960, and their season-ticket waiting list is more than 86,000 names long! According to Wikipedia, “The average wait is over 30 years, but with only 90 or so tickets turned over annually, it would be 955 years before the newest name on the list got theirs. As a result, season tickets are willed to next of kin and newborns placed optimistically on the waiting list.”
Not being born into a season ticket-holding family, Bruce never had the opportunity to see a game at Lambeau Field, so we decided to see the Packers stadium the only way we could—on a tour.
We arrived for our tour the morning after sold-out Family Night, so the stadium was still in the process of getting cleaned up. That was of no concern to us; we were getting to see Lambeau Field!
As we pulled into the parking lot, I couldn’t help but to notice the modest homes located in the residential neighborhood just across the street. There was nothing glamorous or big city “Wow!” here!
Lambeau Field itself, on the other hand, got an attractive makeover in 2013, and it looked great. Its capacity is now 81,441, which is the third-largest stadium in the NFL. (By the way, the Packers paid only $250 for its charter membership to the NFL. In comparison, the Houston Texans paid a whopping 750 MILLION dollars to join.)
Our tour guide was a hoot! Between the funny stories he told as we toured the stadium from top to bottom (including the Champions Club, players tunnel and field), and the ribbing he gave a couple of Vikings fans in our group, we were thoroughly entertained. (When you’re a tour guide for the team that boasts 13 National Championships—more than any team in the NFL—you have license to tease non-Packer fans!)
Next up: DOOR COUNTY: HOLIDAY MUSIC MOTEL, FISH CREEK, AND FISH BOIL