Friends, Booze, a TV and the Green Bay Packers
Anyone who considers themselves a football fan, college or pro, must have at least a few forever-memories watching their favorite team play. I've had several, and I thought I would share my top five (non-Lambeau Field) game watching experiences. I fully expect to have next Thursday's game make the top ten, especially if I can get some of the boys out of their man caves to join me at a local sports bar. Not including games I've been at physically, or the Denver Super Bowl loss, which has forever been erased from my mind, here are my top five memorable Packer games of all time:
#5 GB at San Fran in the '95 season playoffs 1-6-96
DETAILS: Watched the game with three buddies in my college apartment. The game was played in San Fran so it was a late start in Wisconsin. We got blitzed on Old Milwaukee ($14 for a case of bottles back then), and then watched the G win a big road game on their way to the Super Bowl. It was the first time in my life as a Packer fan where I had arrived.
REASONS WHY IT'S A TOP FIVE GAME: Shortly after the gun, we all got cuffed and stuffed and ticketed for a noise violation and disorderly conduct. I'm the idiot who opened the doors when the cop knocked. We had been blaring Megadeth and probably Helmet from our first-class stereo system during commmercials, which probably ticked off the neighbor ladies down the hall.
ENDURING MEMORY: Remember that Jack Palance commercial where he says, "Confidence is very sexy, don't you think?" it played every commerical break, and all of us were talking in our best Jack Palance voices the ENTIRE game. High comedy.
#4 GB at Tampa Bay at the end of the '95 season / 12-10-95
DETAILS: I was huge into gambling on football back then, even though I didn't have $100 in the bank, or a job, or a car etc. The game was late in the season, and the Bucs were junk that year. The game was a Sunday nighter (one of the first ones if I remember right) and I had the G at +4 at the tail end of a winning FOUR TEAM PARLAY. I was expecting to make close to a grand if they won and covered, but they lost by a field goal and my goose was forever cooked with my bookie buddy.
REASONS WHY ITS A TOP FIVE GAME: A few of my degenerate gambling buddies and I watched the game in a quiet off-campus bar. I had a final the following day, and hadn't opened up my books all weekend, so I had the additional stress of knowing I was primed to blow a test and lose my ass in the same week. Also, up until that point, I hadn't really developed an intense hatred of any individual Packer opponents (other than all Bear players in general), but Tampa's kicker was Michael Husted, and he was money, so after that game, I remember hating that SOB for life. A few years later Martin Gramatica took my hatred of all kickers to a new level. When he blew out his knee celebrating a kick, I think I gave extra at church that week.
ENDURING MEMORY: I remember walking up to my bookie's house the next day to pay off my incurred $700 debt in crisp hundreds, which was withdrawn directly from my student loan for the upcoming second semester.
#3 GB at St. Louis in the '01 season playoffs / 1-22-02
DETAILS: My girlfriend and I met up with two other couples to watch the game at Babe's Bar and Grill in Madison (the old location at the train tracks on W. Washington). The Pack was the second game of the day, so the booze flowed for several hours prior to kick-off. We huddled around a bar table, as the place was packed, and proceeded to order two or three massive plates of nachos during the course of the day.
REASONS WHY IT'S A TOP FIVE GAME: Simply put, it's the most plowed I've ever been in public, watching a Packer game. Not the most plowed ever, just the worst I've been in front of a crowd of strangers. I only vaguely remember the second half, though I do remember cursing Bill Schroeder numerous times, especially because he was wearing ice fishing gloves inside a dome. I also remember lecturing my friends saying "Favre's done, he's got nothing left."
ENDURING MEMORY: I still don't know how I got home, how I got cuts (lacerations really) to my face and lower back, but forever appreciating the post-playoff loss healing benefits of a stacked plate of nachos.
#2 GB vs New England in SBXXXI / 1-27-96
DETAILS: What can I say, it very well could be the highlight of my entire life as a sports fan goes. Looking back, I can't say the setting (my apartment), the company (a former girlfiend, a buddy and a couple of random people I haven't talked to since) or the circumstances surrounding my watching of the game (on a small tv, in a small living room packed with casual football fans) were all that memorable, but the day surely was.
REASON WHY IT'S A TOP FIVE GAME: Favre, Reggie, Free, Rison, Desmond, Dorsey, etc. A few months ago, me and a friend spent about a half hour talking about that game and I could vividly recall the players, the announcers, the plays, the pre-game show, and best of all, the realization when I hit the pillow that night MY TEAM WON!!!
ENDURING MEMORY: Doing my best to release all my pent up nervous energy during the game, including: vacuuming my bedroom during commercials, meticulously peeling every last morsel of paper off of each bottle of beer I drank, taking off, and putting back on, my favorite sweatshirt about 100 times, scrubbing spilled margarita stains off the couch during half-time... You get the picture. Also: enduring memory #2 is that I came really close to getting fired the next morning for coming into work hung-over and next to useless.
#1 GB at Dallas in the '93, '94, '95 playoffs
DETAILS: My lifelong, inbred hatred of all things Chicago and Minnesota sometimes leaves little room in my soul for out-and-out hatred of another team. However, back in the 90's, when the G was poised to make it to the top of the NFC, the three Dallas losses, the Thanksgiving Day loss (Jason Garrett) and the gut-wrenching Monday Night Football loss in '96 (Chris Boniol) proved just how much a football game can cause me depression and despair.
REASON WHY IT'S A TOP FIVE GAME: They are all tied for #1 because of the time, energy and emotion I put into rooting for the G and against Dallas back then. Unprecedented hatred, I suspect, that allowed me to make every game an event, every loss a heartbreak, and every coaching decision, a debate. To this day, I regret that those pansies lost to Carolina in the '96 playoffs and didn't get to come to Lambeau and have their crowns ripped off their heads. BASTARDS!
ENDURING MEMORY: That feeling that only hard-core sports fans can get of absolutely HATING another franchise, its best players, coaches, owners etc. The amount of venom and spite I had for the Cowboys in that 5-7 year span will never be approached again. I once picked a fight with a girl because she had a Dallas hat on. I once defiled somebody's car because they had a Dallas bumper sticker on. I once spent two days in Dallas on a business trip and oddly felt like I was being watched (no lie).
There you have it. As you can see, my all-time favorite Packer, non-Lambeau Field, moments involve Brett Favre (meaning I was at least 21), an assortment of friends (but no family) and loads of booze (but no drugs). Here's hoping that Thursday night's game in Dallas gets us to 11-1, at least cracks the top ten and leads to something special down the road...