With the holiday spirit still in the air, Green Bay Packers fans made their way to Lambeau Field for Sunday’s Packers-Giants matchup and to celebrate the season Packers style.
The freshly fallen snow and crisp winter chill was perfectly fitting for another true gameday experience. And with a one-and-done game scenario on the line for a playoff berth, both the Packers and their fans were ready for a victory.
As fans entered the stadium they were handed a Packers foam candy cane to further encourage the boisterous fan support the team has grown to expect and truly value. And whether it was the foam candy cane or the outstanding performances seen on the gridiron, the thrilling echoes proved how much the Packers’ spirit filled Lambeau Field.
Sunday’s game was just what Arizona State University student Mario Russo needed over his Christmas vacation back in his hometown of Appleton, Wis. Russo, who has spent the past five months studying abroad in Italy, had grown homesick in the absence of a live Packers matchup. So upon his return home, Russo knew he had to make it to Lambeau Field.
“The only chance I got to watch any Packers games was if I tried to stream it over the Internet,” Russo said. “But even that didn’t work most of the time, and the time difference didn’t help much. I’m a huge Packers fan so to be at this game is great.
“Being away from home makes you realize not only the authenticity of true Packers fans but also the years of tradition we have at Lambeau which is unlike any other sporting event.”
For one family, Sunday’s game was extra special as it brought together four brothers for the first time in four long years.
SPC Matthew Gutowski was selected for the Packers and WPS Health Insurance ‘Operation Fan Mail.’ Gutowski, a longtime Packers fan, has served in the Army for four years and has spent 15 months in Iraq. Knowing Sunday’s salute could not be done without his three older brothers at his side, Gutowski nominated his siblings to join him in the salute.
All four brothers are veterans of the current war in Iraq and have not been able to spend the holiday season together in four years. And for the family, the chance to watch their beloved team play together was just the Christmas gift they wanted.
“Every year we talk about how great it would be if all of us could be home and be able to go watch the greatest team play football together,” Gutowski said. “However, this dream of ours never comes true. In the past four years at least two of us have always been gone overseas fighting in the war.”
“In the past eight years, in total, my family has given up so much for the freedoms that our great country has. It is an honor to be selected and stand on Lambeau Field. This is a wonderful gift to myself and my family -- knowing the Green Bay Packers support and that they stand behind us.”
While the Gutowskis were given the ideal Christmas gift, many families are without their loved ones who are currently serving the country. To pay special tribute to those overseas Sunday’s game offered another special gift to their families. Throughout the game fans were able to watch for a special military greetings from their loved ones overseas on TundraVision.
Another military salute taking place Sunday was a special on-field presentation during halftime. Staff Sgt. Scott Becker of the United States Army Chicago Recruiting Battalion was promoted from Sergeant to Staff Sergeant after his years of service and received honors.
As a volunteer Airborne Ranger, Becker was deployed four times to Operation Iraqi Freedom, and twice to Operation Enduring Freedom. For his service Becker has been awarded the Global War of Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Air Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, to name a few.
Of the many spirited fans attending Sunday’s game, pop singer, musician, and actor Joe Jonas (The Jonas Brothers), actresses Ashley Greene (Twilight, New Moon, and Eclipse) and Jessica Szohr (Gossip Girl) made their first trip to Lambeau Field.
And for the three first timers, the experience lived up to their expectations.
“One of my best friends is from Wisconsin so I have always heard about seeing a game at Lambeau Field, especially the day after Christmas,” Ashley Greene said. “We were talking about how amazing and fun a trip here would be so we made it happen.”
Despite Joe Jonas being pro-Giants, he couldn’t believe the fan support being given to the Packers.
“It is amazing how supportive and dedicated the fans are here,” Joe Jonas said. “To see all that Green out there is incredible. And the stadium is gorgeous. I think the way they have constructed it and have kept that classic look is really nice.”
Greene also enjoyed the iconic stadium she has heard so much about but admitted that sitting outdoors in the cold is not for her.
“The stadium is awesome,” Greene said. “We went down to the field before the game and got to see the team come out, and that was really neat. I grew up watching and my dad is a huge football fan so it is always nice to come somewhere like this and see the camaraderie. Everyone here is so dedicated, even in this cold weather. We were out there for 20 minutes and that was long enough. But just to see how packed it gets here, even when it is freezing out is amazing.”
Also joining Greene and Jonas was Wisconsin native Jessica Szohr. And despite living in Wisconsin her entire life, she had never made the trek to Lambeau Field before.
“This is the first time I have ever been to Lambeau or a Packers game and I have lived here all my life,” Jessica Szohr said.
“I have had family members with season tickets but I also just said I’ll sit home and watch it, but now being here, it is insane. When we got out of the elevators and saw a giant Vince Lombardi poster and it’s just surreal. I don’t know how else to put the feeling into words.
“I want to come back next game and maybe try sitting outside, but this has been incredible. It’s cool to be here with my best friends and my family, I love it.”