L-R: Antonio Freeman, Dorsey Levens, John Seibel, David Amber, Robert Brooks and Robert Griffith
To coincide with the kickoff to the 2008 NFL season, ESPN's Monday Night Football Chalk Talk Luncheon series touched down in Green Bay for the first time.
The series, which debuted last season, is geared toward showcasing the teams, host cities, and fans in the weekly primetime matchup. Green Bay is the first of 12 stops the series has planned for the 2008 NFL season. The luncheons also recognize local organizations for their involvement in youth fitness initiatives in their communities.
Dick's Sporting Goods selected the Boys & Girls Club of Green Bay as its 2008 Community Service Award winner. The Club is no stranger to recognition; over the last five years, Green Bay's Club has won more national program awards than any other Boys & Girls Club in America – regardless of budget or market size.
The Miracle League of Green Bay received the other award, presented by the Green Bay Packers. Founded in 2006, the League provides physically and mentally challenged children the chance to experience sports the same way as able-bodied kids. The League built a customized and accessible baseball field and pairs an able-bodied volunteer "buddy" with each player.
ESPN's John Seibel, who hosted the luncheon, appreciates the bond between the Packers and community organizations like the Boys & Girls Club and the Miracle League.
"It's responsible that the team understands that they have to take care of the community," Seibel said. "The community gives them so much that the team has to give back.
"We're talking about having buddies help physically-challenged kids be able to play games. It's so wonderful that there are organizations like that who are willing to go out there and take care of everybody in the community."
Seibel was joined on stage by ESPN colleagues Mike Tirico and David Amber, as well as former Packers Robert Brooks, Antonio Freeman, and Dorsey Levens, and former Vikings safety Robert Griffith.
For Freeman, the luncheon is a great way to reconnect with friends and reminisce about the past.
"It's always good to come back to Green Bay and visit with our former teammates," Freeman said. "You never get football out of your system. You miss the locker room. I miss going into that locker room and being with my brothers."
It should come as no surprise that, when it came to predictions, the only player to side with the Vikings was Griffith. All prognosticating aside, everyone realizes the magnitude of the opening game on Monday night.
"It's a big deal," Freeman said. "This is the first Monday Night Football game of the season."
With the opening game this season pitting them against a division rival and being on a national stage, home field advantage may prove to be the edge.
"There is no comparison," Seibel said. "I've found that this is the most passionate market, bar none.
"I'm not just saying that because I'm in Green Bay. From what I've seen across the country, the two biggest fan bases that I've ever encountered have been the Packers and the Steelers. I tip the cap to the Packers."