You always hear people talk about the special atmosphere surrounding Lambeau Field, and I'm sure most fans around the country probably think, "Yeah, whatever ... blah, blah, blah." Well, I'm here to tell you: There is no place like Lambeau Field.
I've been to every stadium in the NFL, and there is no doubt that the Lambeau Field experience is like no other. It's like stepping back in time. There's this beautiful stadium in the middle of a tiny little town. Step out of the hotel and, just like that, you are surrounded by history. Vince Lombardi, Ray Nitschke, Bart Starr ... it's just incredible if you're a football fan to start looking at the names associated with this franchise.
I've been to Green Bay many times, but my visit there last weekend for the Browns-Packers telecast on CBS was something new. I looked at it differently this time, and I appreciated it more than ever.
We drove over to the stadium about three hours before the game and there was absolutely no traffic whatsoever. Everybody was already there! And as Jim Nantz and I made our way into the stadium, there was not a hint of nastiness or rowdiness from the fans.
Most weeks, Nantz and I are in the booth half an hour before kickoff, and I'll be looking out at a bunch of empty seats wondering if the fans are going to make it into the game from the parking lot before kickoff. In Lambeau, half an hour before game time, there is not one empty seat in the house. And they don't need to beat your senses.
No need to blast music, shoot T-shirts into the stands -- none of those crazy marketing ideas to keep fans' attention. It was truly an experience.
As for the game, Green Bay struggled and eventually lost to Cleveland. And Nantz sarcastically noted to me that he just might have heard some boos late in the game. We figured that out of 70,000 fans, maybe there were 500 fans booing late in the contest.
Even more incredible was the reception Nantz and I got as we were in a slow golf cart, working our way through thousands of fans in the concourse on our way out of the stadium. Now, any time the home team loses -- and oftentimes even when they win -- we have to brace ourselves for insults, vulgarities or maybe a plastic cup thrown at us.
But as we went through the crowd, all we heard was, "Jim, Phil, you guys do a great job!" Or, "Hey, that was a great game! Too bad the Packers couldn't pull it out." Not one bad facial expression, and not even the hint of a bad word. I kid you not.
Nothing but good thoughts, positive feelings -- even after their team suffered a bad loss, even after their team fell to 0-2 and there's a real fear that maybe their team is not quite as good as they thought.
It was an experience I haven't encountered in a long time.
Brett Favre makes Lambeau Field special. The Packers' history makes Lambeau special. But without question, what makes it most special is the people. It's not a cliché. It's an environment that is unspoiled by modern times.
Lambeau is a true sports landmark, right up there with baseball's Yankee Stadium, Wrigley Field and Fenway Park. The only other football stadiums that can even compare are the Los Angeles Coliseum and RFK Stadium. I played in the Coliseum my rookie year in 1979. It was unbelievable. I really thought about gladiators and wild stuff like that.
And the other one that always will have a tremendous place in my memory was RFK. I always felt like we were stepping back in time on that field.
If you're a sports fan, Lambeau Field is a place you've got to see.
The day Favre retires -- whenever that might be -- he will still have the best arm in the NFL. Not one of the best, but the best. To see him make throws in person, whether it's in a game or practice, is beyond belief. Television doesn't do his arm justice. As much as Michael Vick's running ability is that much greater than any other quarterback's running ability, that's how much greater Favre's throwing arm is than anyone else's. It just doesn't translate on TV. You just can't appreciate it. It's awesome.
DILFER GETS IT DONE
Browns quarterback Trent Dilfer proved he deserves to be a starter in the NFL, but of course the perception in the media is still that he's no good. As I said earlier this year, the Baltimore Ravens wish they had somebody who could play as well as Trent Dilfer. And that's not a knock on Kyle Boller. If he can improve to the level of Trent Dilfer, they'd have a really good quarterback on their hands.