I apologize to my readers about not blogging much lately. With the passing of my father and jet lag, I really didn’t feel much like writing. I do want to do two a couple of blog posts on my time in the USA, and then I’ll start again this week with my blogging about Serbia.
The city of Green Bay, Wisconsin is the largest regional airport near my home village of Caspian, Michigan. It is also the closest American Airlines gets to Caspian. Before we flew back to Belgrade, we spent the day in Green Bay and due to my son’s interest in American Football, we took the tour of the Lambeau Field, home of the NFL’s Green Bay Packers. The stadium is like the Wembely of American Football. The Packers were one of the original teams in the NFL and have more championships (13) than any other franchise. The Packers won seven of those titles in the 1930’s and 40’s, but they did win the first two Super Bowls, in 1967-68, and they won two more in 1996 and 2010. The field has seen many historic games, and being located so far north, it is nicknamed the “frozen tundra.”
They are also a unique major professional sports franchise in that they are publicly-owned team. The league started in small towns in the midwest, and they are the last remaining. It is amazing that such a small city as Green Bay, which has a metropolitan population of just over 200,000 can support one of the best teams in one of the richest leagues in the world. The city and surrounding area are fanatical (borderline obsessed) about the team, and support it both financially and emotionally.
For example, we took the official stadium tour on a Wednesday afternoon in February. Our group had about 20 people and it was one of the six tours going that day. It was a very interesting tour and we got to see the atrium, luxury suites, go down on the field, and even run out of the players’ tunnel, just like the team does on Sundays. I couldn’t get over how much money the team generates! We went into a 25-person suite that charges $102,000 to rent for the season. The stadium seats over 80,000 people and they have a waiting list of season tickets of 96,000 people. Last summer, they wanted to raise funds for a $143 million stadium expansion, and so they printed “stock” certificates and charged $250 each. They sold out immediately, even though the stock is worthless. In the stadium there are restaurants, bars, conference rooms, etc. They even offer to get married in the stadium! The gift shop is two floors and is the size of a Wal Mart.
Owen and Ollie loved the tour and they both bought jerseys. Owen especially loves the game, as Ollie is a bit young. We’ll have to try to make it back for their summer camp one of these years. Unfortunately, I am not a Packers fan. People in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan are mixed between supporting the Packers, Detroit Lions (my team), Minnesota Vikings, and Chicago Bears. I say unfortunately, because the Lions have not won any Super Bowls and only 4 championships, despite starting in 1930 and the last championship was in 1957.
There is a small football following here in Belgrade, and there is even a league, the Central European Football League, with the Belgrade Vukovi, the defending champions. We will check out some of the games down at Ada Ciganlija. The season begins in two weeks and runs through June. A
In thinking about the impact of the Packers on the city, they do take a lot of money that would go to other businesses. However, I think that they bring in as much as they take. Without the team, Green Bay would be a non-descript mid-sized town near the Great Lakes. Instead, it is known throughout the nation. The Packers are one of the “national” teams and due to the influence of television and the internet, also have a national following.