Episode 7: Packer Hope Reigns Forever

As October nears it has finally started to cool down in Hubbard.  The unusually hot summer and a sticky, humid September have given way to cooler evenings and good sleeping weather.  Most folks from places like Kiln, Mississippi don’t realize that Wisconsin can get really hot and humid in summer; it just doesn’t last as long.  Dave, the resident wise man of Hubbard, claims that in the 70’s he witnessed a temperature of 105 degrees. Even Lake Shady was like bathwater that summer.

Just when you think that summer will last forever and winter will never again return, you wake up one morning to go out and get the newspaper and there it is; that familiar shot of cold air.  Alas, the memories of wind chill and frozen noses starts to return and you realize that it is time to get the furnace checked.  Within a month the water valve to the outside faucets will have to be closed and the garden hoses will have to be drained and put away.  The paint in the garage will have to go to the basement so it doesn’t freeze.  The window air conditioners will have to be removed and stored and the storm windows will have to be installed.  The 7-horse snow blower will have to be started to make sure it is operating properly.  It is time to face the inevitable.

While next six weeks are a time of preparation, they are also usher in a season that is immensely enjoyed in Hubbard.  Fall!  The air is crisp, the humidity is low and the leaves reach their peak color about the second week of October.  In addition to the fall weather, Wisconsinites, particularly persons of the male variety, find another reason to live each September, a new season for their beloved Green Bay Packers!  In the minds of Hubbardonians the Packers aren’t just another NFL team; they are the quintessential, historic, classic football team.

No one would have guessed that on August 11, 1919 when Curly Lambeau and George Calhoun gathered in the Green Bay Press-Gazette building on Cherry Street, to “get up a football team”, that an NFL franchise would be the result.  The Indian Meat Packing Company donated team jerseys and this is why the team was called the “Packers”.  Through some weird transactions over the years the Packers have evolved as a publicly owned corporation.  No one can sell the Packers and no one can buy them.  Better yet for Wisconsinites, no one can ever move the team to another city.  If the Packers didn’t have history on their side; if they weren’t the longest standing team moniker in professional football and hadn’t been around to play teams like the Chicago Bears (founded 1921) and New York Giants (founded 1925), a small city like Green Bay would never have been considered for an NFL franchise.  Furthermore, the Packers have earned their place in history by winning more championships (12) than any other team in professional football.

So far this year the Packers are 0-3, so the residents of Hubbard will be forced to rely on glorious Packer history to see them through what may be a difficult season.  Brett Favre, that tough old bird from Southern Mississippi, may be in his final year.  While no one in the Packer front office will own up to it, this is a “rebuilding” year for the Packers.  Packer fans will have to suffer.  The distress may continue for a long time after Favre hangs up his shoes, but one thing is for sure; even if the Packers have successive losing seasons Lambeau Field will be sold out game after game.  The estimated waiting time for a season ticket is over 50 years.

Bill Harnack and his son Marcus are avid packer fans.  Despite his working-class wages at the local foundry, Bill splurges every year to buy two tickets to a game at Lambeau.  Bill’s wife Betty, god bless her, helps pay for the tickets by selling produce from her large vegetable garden.  The Harnacks don’t have any connections, so they buy their tickets on Ebay, Stub Hub, or on other Internet ticket sites.  They have to pay as much as three-times face value from the scalpers, but even at $150 a ticket it is money well spent.  The Harnack family will eventually have to succumb to additional financial pressure as Timmy, the second oldest son, has been begging dad to go to the game as well.  Last year, as Bill and Marcus walked out the door wearing their Packer Santa hats, Bill saw a tear in Timmy’s eye.  Looks like whatever the sacrifice, it will be time to buy three tickets this year.

Marcus and Bill usually go to hallowed Lambeau field in December, dressed in their blaze orange hunting outfits.  After parking the car around 9 a.m. they tailgate in the east parking lot where beer and bratwurst abound.  Some claim that beer swilling has a cold-numbing effect on Cheeseheads, which is just as well because by game’s end Bill and Marcus have spent at least six to seven continual hours in the cold.  Needless to say, the warm car feels pretty good on the way back to Hubbard.

Watching the Packers when it is ten degrees with a stiff wind is a sign of manhood for Bill and Marcus.  After all, they are warriors.  Unlike the folks in that unnamed state to the west that sit in short sleeved purple jerseys in their heated dome, Bill and Marcus are adamant that football was meant to be played in God’s great outdoors.  Though they won’t admit it, Bill and Marcus respect Chicago Bear fans because of their insistence that the renovated Soldier’s field should remain an open-air stadium.  After all, when the cold winds of December strike the upper Midwest and ice forms on the roads and bridges, Bear and Packer fans, buoyed by inspiration from the likes of George Halas, Curley Lambeau and Vince Lombardi, wouldn’t accept football any other way.

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