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KAUFMAN: Growing up in Titletown, USA

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KAUFMAN: Growing up in Titletown, USA

A statue of famous Packers head coach Vince Lombardi stands outside Lambeau Field in Caroline's hometown of Green Bay.

A statue of famous Packers head coach Vince Lombardi stands outside Lambeau Field in Caroline's hometown of Green Bay.

Photo by Grant Becker

A statue of famous Packers head coach Vince Lombardi stands outside Lambeau Field in Caroline's hometown of Green Bay.

Photo by Grant Becker

Photo by Grant Becker

A statue of famous Packers head coach Vince Lombardi stands outside Lambeau Field in Caroline's hometown of Green Bay.

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After crying in my beer for a week after Green Bay’s loss against the Falcons, the die-hard Packer fan in me is ready to talk about my experiences growing up in Titletown, U.S.A. Green Bay is a small, seemingly ordinary town that lives and breathes football. However, this inconspicuous city fosters a unique relationship between residents and the Green Bay Packers — unlike that of any other NFL team and its fans.

I didn’t realize the magnitude of this relationship until I moved to Milwaukee, another Wisconsin city chockfull of Packers fans, but one where games are just a Sunday afternoon event, not an all-encompassing six-month commitment. And when the season is over, Milwaukeeans get on with their lives. The same cannot be said about the residents of Green Bay.

For example, my dad, a lifelong Packer Backer, named by brother Brett after none other than the revered Brett Favre. I went to Vincent T. Lombardi Middle School, named after the famous head coach from the 1960s. Many streets in Green Bay bear the names of Packers players and staff, like Holmgren Way, Lombardi Avenue and Reggie White Way. My entire family is on the season ticket waiting list, and I am anxiously waiting for my tickets to come, hopefully sometime in the next 20 years. No, this isn’t an SNL parody. This was my childhood, and I didn’t realize how odd it was until I was surrounded by much mellower Packers fans here in Milwaukee.

Green Bay has a little over 100,000 residents, making it the smallest city to have a professional sports team. The second smallest is Buffalo, with a population of just over 250,000. Because Green Bay is so small, it isn’t out of the ordinary to run into Packers players around town. I worked at an ice cream shop in high school where I served many Packers and their families on a weekly basis. On Halloween, we always tried to go trick-or-treating at Packers players’ houses for the chance to have Brett Favre or Donald Driver answer the door. There is something very special and humbling about being able to see Aaron Rodgers’ car in front of you in the Starbucks drive-thru. The people of Green Bay live among the individuals they look up to and cheer on every week.

Also contributing to the close-knit relationship between the Packers and Green Bay residents is the fact that the team is publicly owned. The Packers are the only NFL team that releases stock to raise money for the organization, making the stockholders owners of the team. The Packers also give away 3,000 tickets per home game to Brown County residents as a thank you to them for the county-only sales tax they pay to cover the Lambeau Field renovation that took place in the early 2000s.

Without the Packers, Green Bay would be just another Midwestern town. I used to wish I were from somewhere more exotic (Chicago suburb, anyone?), but I am grateful I was able to experience all things that are quintessentially Green Bay, even my cringe-worthy prom pictures taken in the Lambeau Field Atrium.

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1 Comment

One Response to “KAUFMAN: Growing up in Titletown, USA”

  1. Carol Mogdis on January 31st, 2017 11:52 am

    What a fun, interesting article! Kaufman is an exceptional writer! Green Bay is definitely a very special place to grow up.

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