By: Barbara Matousek
In the car on the way across Wisconsin Sam is still conflicted.
“I love Green Bay and I love Aaron Rodgers, but I also like the Lions,” he tells me. He wonders if Jack’s daddy would be sad if the Packers won. “What if the Packers won by just a little?”
Jack’s Daddy is my cousin John and he’s joining me at Lambeau Field for the final game of the season. Sam has been speculating on the outcome all morning. What if the Lions had forty-eighty and the Packers had twenty-seven? What if the Lions had one hundred and the Packers had zero? What if the Lions had eleventy-seven?
A few weeks ago, the weekend of Sam’s 4th birthday, the Packers were still undefeated and Sam wanted to know what color the Kansas City Chiefs wore. When I told him red, Sam insisted on wearing a red t-shirt despite the pile of Green Bay Packer clothing that he’s accumulated over the last few years.
A little background: I grew up in Green Bay, a small city spreading out from the banks of the Fox River near Lake Michigan. It is a town with more bars than churches, and paper mills steam the cold Midwestern air with a pungent sulphur smell. It is the smallest market in North America with a major league team, and Green Bay holds the only community-owned franchise in American professional sports. The Packers have won 13 NFL championship titles including 4 Super Bowls, and “Titletown, USA” appears on the Green Bay city seal. Five times during the history of the team when they needed money for stadium upgrades $200 value-less shares of Packer stock ownership sold out quickly.
During my childhood Sunday morning sermons in the fall were short, and even during the 80’s when wins were rare and coaching and quarterback changes were frequent, the wait time for those joining the season ticket wait list was estimated to be several centuries.
Sam is not growing up in Green Bay. But I did. I sleep in NFL pajamas and drink water out of a stainless steel water bottle stamped with a G. I do not carry a purse or a laptop case. Everything of value that I need during the day is stuffed into a backpack emblazed with a big white G encircled in green and gold. The blanket on my sofa is a woven picture of Lambeau Field. My father made me a shareholder in 1997.
So when a 4-year-old boy wants to assert his independence from his green-and-gold-loving mommy, he starts cheering for the other guys every week. Near the end of the 4th quarter of the Chiefs game when the TV showed Aaron Rodgers smiling on the sidelines after pressure for the perfect season finally subsided, I told Sammy I was a little sad.
“No, no,” he said as we watched the Packers file off the field. “I didn’t mean it. I want the Packers to win.”
So as we head across the state where Mommy will go to the final game of the regular season with Jack’s Daddy, Sam is still on the fence about who to root for. He knows Jack’s Daddy is bringing him a little present for his loyalty to the Lions during the early part of the season. But he also knows that green and gold make his mommy happy.
“I like Aaron Rodgers and I like the coach,” he tells me. “But I don’t like the other guys as much as I like the other guys on the Lions.”
I tell him that he can root for whichever team he wants to but Mommy’s team is going to win.
He declares his love of the Packers again but is still conflicted when Jack’s Daddy shows up at Grandma’s house dressed in a Lions jersey holding the promised present.
“I like the Lions,” he says looking out of the corner of his eye at my cousin. “But the Packers are going to win!” And he smiles and jumps into my arms.