Green Bay Packers

My first Packers experience

Share:

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on pinterest
Pinterest
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

The Green Bay Packers take their floundering season to Philadelphia this week to take on the Eagles. What better way to talk about my first experience at Lambeau Field?

This week marks what would always be an emotional time in the Westendorf household.

Some people talk about houses divided as they’ve married a Bears fan while being a Packers fan or vice versa.

My story is a little different.

Thankfully, my family didn’t have strong ties to one team or another. That way we got to choose our teams.

The team my dad chose at a young age was the Philadelphia Eagles.

I did not choose the same way when I was a kid. I remember watching those Eagles play the Green Bay Packers on a Monday Night Football game at Lambeau Field during the 1996 season.

If you’re a historian of any kind, you remember how that night went. The Packers pummeled the Eagles 39-13, and I was in love.

They wore my favorite color. The stadium shined so brightly. They had a guy that wore #4 that I grew fond of as my childhood went on.

Games against the Eagles were always special from there. My dad would always tell me about Reggie White and how the Packers stole him away from the Eagles.

Yes, I even sat with him through “that” game in 2003 where Freddie Mitchell… well you know the rest.

The middle of my childhood was spent rooting for a lot of those Eagles teams. Because of the bond and connection I had with my dad, I wanted his team to win if mine couldn’t.

I sat through all the NFC Championship Game losses with Donovan McNabb. I sat through the Super Bowl where Terrell Owens tried to will his team across the finish line.

I saw disappointment after disappointment on both sides.

During the regular season in which that infamous playoff game I mentioned above happened, the Packers also played the Eagles at Lambeau Field that season.

I was 12. I’d been a die-hard Packer fan my entire life. My dad and uncle were both Eagles fans. They decided it was time for all of us to experience Lambeau for the first time.

You all remember your first time. There are chills and a feeling upon walking into the stadium that cannot be replicated.

The story of how we got there? That’s even wilder.

We left that morning. We took the day off of school because it was a Monday Night Football game.

I found out much later that we didn’t have tickets going into the game, and there wasn’t a real plan on how we were going to get them.

My uncle told my dad the 2003 equivalent of “trust me, bro.”

We pulled into Green Bay and parked at Stadium View.

In my dad’s recounts of this story he told me that if looks could kill, he was ready to kill his brother.

The idea that we could get to Green Bay and have to tell his two sons that we traveled up here, but aren’t going to the game, was a walking nightmare.

As we parked at Stadium View, my uncle disappeared for a while.

He came back and said he had good news and bad news. The good news was that he had four tickets. The bad news was that we weren’t sitting together.

Two of our tickets were on the 30 in the first row. The other two tickets were five rows up in the south endzone.

We all traded spots throughout the game.

The game was fun. I remember the first time being able to do the “Go Pack Go!” chant. I remember my dad standing up saying to put the points on the board when David Akers walked on the field because he “was money.”

Akers would miss that field goal. That became a recurring joke throughout the rest of his life.

I remember watching my childhood hero play the sport I idolized him for.

I remember Ahman Green scoring a long touchdown on a 4th and 1. Amazing how that exact scenario never came up later that season….. Right?

The game ended with Donovan McNabb throwing a touchdown pass to Todd Pinkston with under a minute left. Green Bay lost 17-14.

I didn’t even care. It was the night of my life. I’ve been to Lambeau Field several times since then, but nothing is ever like your first experience.

As I’ve had years to reflect on that night, I’ve grown an even larger appreciation for it. My dad sacrificed time, money, and energy to make my dream come true.

That was a theme of his life.

We would later have an opportunity to work together for NFL Films for a game in 2014. That was an opportunity I found in 2010, and have worked there ever since.

That game went much more in my favor. The Packers won by 40 points that day. Much like I didn’t care because of the experience in 2003, my dad didn’t care either.

It was my way of trying to give something back to him.

We watched several Packers games against the Eagles. We watched the Packers and Eagles if they didn’t play each other every Sunday.

One of the most special moments was when I had the opportunity to work the Super Bowl in Minnesota.

The Eagles were playing against Tom Brady and the Patriots dynasty.

In a back-and-forth affair, the game went down to the wire.

I was in the same end zone as the Philly special that day, and thought for sure there was going to be something special happening that night.

As the game got into the waning moments, my heart started to race. You would have thought the Packers were playing.

Brandon Graham strip-sacked Tom Brady with a little time left on the clock, but the Eagles were only able to kick a field goal to make the score 41-33.

Tom Brady within 1 score and plenty of time left? Nobody feels comfortable in that spot.

The play was coming down to one final Hail Mary. Brady stepped out of a sack and stepped into a throw.

The ball hung in the air for what felt like forever. It bounced around before harmlessly falling to the turf.

As that happened I could feel the entire stadium look up to the clock to see if time had expired.

Before I could realize what happened, I was covered in black and green confetti.

The Philadelphia Eagles had won the Super Bowl.

It wasn’t the same emotional fervor I felt when the Packers won the Super Bowl seven years prior, but I was incredibly happy.

I remember texting my dad in the immediate aftermath something along the lines of, “Congratulations nobody deserves this more than you.”

I scrambled the grab as much confetti as I could. A little for my uncle, and a lot for my dad.

My football fandom could be tied to those two men more than anything, mainly due to that first experience they gave me when I was just a boy.

That leads us to this week. My Packers will take on his Eagles. That used to mean a week of acknowledging the two teams were playing each other. It also was a reminder of the “24-hour rule.” once the game ended.

That means, no matter the result, the winner does not contact the loser within 24 hours, so they can process their emotions.

This fall has been different. There have been no texts back and forth about how each team has been doing.

There has been no celebration of the Eagles getting to 8-1, or solving why the Packers are 4-7. There’s been no talk about how the Packers are really up against it and need a win this week.

It’s been quiet in an eerie way.

Those of you that have followed along know the tragedy this family faced. January 24, 2022, the world changed forever.

The world as I know it stopped spinning on its axis. The Big Boss made his journey to Outer Heaven.

That has made this football season different.

Yes, I wanted the Packers to win the Super Bowl coming into the year. I always want that.

I would be lying to you, however, if I said an Eagles Super Bowl wouldn’t mean just as much.

I know a sports team winning isn’t going to bring him back, but maybe for just a minute, I would feel like he was smiling wherever he is.

The same will be true on Sunday. Yes, I want the Packers to win. There’s no question. If there is ever going to be a team, however, that a loss will sting a little less?

It’s the Eagles.

That’ll be true until the day I get to go see him again.

It’s because of the sacrifice, time, effort, and energy he put into me. The push he gave me to reach for my dreams. My goals.

So when you see me wear an Eagles hat on a live stream. This man is why. When you see me enthusiastically tweeting about the Eagles, this man is why.

Everything about him is something I want to emulate because I always wanted to be just like him.

That was true in life. It’s even more true now that he’s gone.

It’s an emotional week for me this week, and it’ll always be that way whenever these two teams lock horns.

Partially because of the in-house rivalry we had, but more importantly, it’s always a reminder of the first time I got to Graceland.

Thank you, Dad.

Share:

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on pinterest
Pinterest
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
1 Comment
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Jennifer Westendorf

❤️❤️❤️

1
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x