Murphy Takes 5 is a monthly column written by President and CEO Mark Murphy. On the first Saturday of every month, Mark will write about a topic of interest to Packers fans and the organization, and then answer five fan questions. Fans are encouraged to email Mark with their name and hometown at: MurphyTakes5@packers.com
We are very fortunate to receive tremendous support from our fans. I believe our ownership structure is a big reason for this strong support. Since our fans have an ownership stake in the team, they have a much stronger bond to the team than fans of other teams. I also think NFL fans across the country like the idea of a community-owned team from a small town competing successfully against teams from major cities and, for this reason, the Packers have fans all across the country and are a lot of fans' second-favorite team. During the stock sale in 2011, we saw firsthand the strong support we received from fans all across the country. Fans from all 50 states purchased stocks, highlighted by a large number of purchases from fans in California and Illinois. Not to go unnoticed are our global followers as well. We were able to sell stock in Canada in 2011 and were thrilled with our northern neighbors' participation.
In 2011, in order to strengthen our fans' connections to the team and to each other, we established Packers Everywhere, a website, app and social media program. More than 220,000 fans from around the world have signed up on Packers Everywhere. One of the main benefits of the program for Packers fans is finding Packers bars in which to watch games with other fans. Over 2,500 bars have signed up as official Packers bars. Fans can go to www.packerseverywhere.com or download the free app and type in their zip code to find the Packers bars in their area. It is also helpful when Packers fans are traveling and are out of town on gameday.
For the last three years, we've held Packers Everywhere pep rallies at Packers bars the day before away games in the city of the game. I am always amazed at the turnout at these pep rallies (they are always packed), as well as the passion of our fans. Our next Packers Everywhere pep rally is set for Dec. 14 at Vernon's Gastropub in Dallas. Former players Donny Anderson and Greg Koch will be there, along with Wayne Larrivee, Vic Ketchman, Mike Spofford and myself. We'll have a round-table discussion as well as a Q & A session. We'll have Johnsonville brats, Sargento cheese and Miller beer available to make all the fans feel as though they're at Lambeau Field. I encourage all of our fans in the Dallas area to come out for the pep rally.
Packers Everywhere also sponsors various contests among Packers fans. Fans have voted on and crowned the Cutest Packers Pet, Most Creative Packers Home Decorations and the Coolest Packers Wheels, among others. More than 70,000 votes have been registered this year.
Also, this year, for the first time ever, a fan will be on our game ticket through the Packers Everywhere Fan Ticket Takeover contest. Over 8,000 photos were submitted, and then more than 16,000 votes were cast among the five finalists. The winner was 8-year-old Emily Sperduto from New Jersey, and her picture (striking a Clay Matthews pose in a cheesehead), is on the ticket for the Pittsburgh Steelers game. We will welcome Emily and her family to Lambeau Field that weekend.
Thanks so much to all of our fans for their tremendous support. Your support is a great help to us, both on and off the field. Please consider signing up on Packers Everywhere, it's a great way to follow the Packers year round and to connect with other Packers fans.
Now, on to your questions:
Brendan from Palm Springs, CA
What, in your mind, makes football so special? Why choose football over baseball, basketball, or others?
Having worked as an athletic director for over 16 years, I'm very familiar with a variety of different sports. Each sport has its own strengths. I developed a great affinity for some sports, such as ice hockey and lacrosse, that I had very little exposure to prior to becoming an athletic administrator. I have to agree with you though, Brendan, there is something special about football, both from a fan and participant perspective. No sport can bring together communities (i.e. Friday Night Lights, college homecomings) like football, and a big part of this is that so many people participate in the games – players, cheerleaders and band members, as well as others. Also, schools and teams have so many great traditions around the games, and tailgating is a big part of the attraction. Football is also the perfect sport for television, with numerous breaks, and this has greatly added to the sport's popularity in recent years. Although I was not a huge fan of instant replay initially, I do think it has improved the TV experience. Fantasy football has exploded in recent years and has increased the popularity of football, especially on TV. To me, though, the best attributes of football are the benefits that it provides to the people who play the game. It is the ultimate team sport, and the players learn valuable life lessons about teamwork, as well as discipline, dedication and perseverance. This is why I am so concerned about the drop-off in participation in youth football in recent years, and strongly support efforts to encourage participation in football, particularly USA Football's Head's Up Football program.
A question from Kurt
Is the league looking into raising the maximum roster of 53? With all the injuries to the Packers and all the other teams, won't raising it to 60 help maintain a higher quality of play each and every game because there would be more depth in each roster. With the extra depth I believe there would be better continuity when a player gets hurt.
Good question, Kurt. As I've mentioned previously here, the health and safety of our players is the biggest issue facing the NFL. We have looked at everything we can to make the game as safe as possible (including rules changes, fewer practices, etc.), and to keep the quality of play at a high level. We presently have 53-man rosters, with practice squads of eight. On gamedays, teams must put seven players on the inactive list for the game.
With regard to your question, I do not think there is a lot of support for raising the roster to 60 because of the eight-man practice squad. Teams can easily move players to the roster during the week from the practice squad if injuries necessitate a move. Also, we recently added a new injured reserve category, IR – designated for return, to give teams more flexibility.
Terry from Spartanburg, SC
When the team comes onto the field for the game, who are the guys in the yellow coats?
The fans in the yellow coats are members of our Ambassador Line. The line adds to the pageantry and excitement of gameday during our pregame introductions as the players run through the line on the way to meeting their teammates at midfield. The line is made up of lucky fans who are selected from our partners and suite holders.
Tom from London, UK
As someone who is visiting over Christmas, and being lucky enough to have Packers tickets for the game against the Steelers, my question to you is: As someone who is from the UK, what's the best advice you can give to staying warm when watching the game?
One word, Tom: Layers! Having grown up in western New York as a Buffalo Bills fan (my father was a season-ticket holder), I have a lot of experience dressing for cold-weather games. It is really crucial to wear multiple layers, including sweatshirts, long underwear and multiple socks. I would also recommend a really good knit cap, as well as hand warmers. Also, bring a blanket to put on your bench seat at Lambeau. Another item that can be a big help is a piece of cardboard to put under your shoes or boots – this is especially helpful to guard against the cold floor. There is nothing better than hot chocolate to keep you warm, and it also helps to get up and move around. Finally, your fellow fans at Lambeau Field will be a big help in keeping you warm – with all the winter clothes, you'll find that you're crammed in very tight.
Joe from Fort Wayne, IN
My wife says if I don't wear a Packers jersey on gamedays and the Pack loses, it's my fault. Is this true?
Absolutely, Joe. I have to agree with your wife. Wear your Packers jersey!