Monday afternoon was my first time visiting Lambeau Field. I was in town covering the Lions vs. Packers Monday Night Football game for Woodward Sports. After hearing so many crazy stories about Packers fans, I didn’t know what to expect about my trip.
Are they rude? How do people from Green Bay treat Detroiters? And even though I am a Lions beat writer, would these cheese heads still give me hell?
The questions that swirled around in my brain were endless.
However, by the game’s end, and I made it back to my hotel, a realization dawned upon me––one that made me sad for Lions fans. I realized that when it comes to the NFL, Detroit will never be Green Bay.
And Ford Field will never be Lambeau.
Now someone who just read what I typed may have burst out with laughter and sarcastically questioned, “It took you going to Green Bay to realize that?” And you know what, that’s a fair question to ask.
But hear me out.
My commute to Lambeau Field on Monday began with a Lyft ride from my hotel in Appleton, a city that’s about half an hour away from Green Bay. My driver’s name was Michael, a pretty cool guy, if I must say so.
During the ride, we talked about his love for the Packers and University of Wisconsin football. Because of that love, he hoped former Badger Quintez Cephus, now in his second year with the Lions, would have a fantastic game. Heck, during our talk, he pondered why Cephus wasn’t the No.1 option at wideout.
Before dropping me off at my destination, Michael thanked me for indulging in his passion for talking sports. It was a great conversation. As I exited the vehicle, he wished me a great day and told me he would follow Woodward Sports and me on Twitter. Then he said something along the lines of “Good luck covering the kittens.”
Damn, Michael. Damn.
As he said that, I thought back to my previous questions mentioned above. Michael didn’t fit the bill of my worries about Packers fans. He was polite, energetic, informative, and he was an excellent representation of the city.
Still, I waited for the other shoe to drop because it’s no way that I’d run into another “Michael” during this trip.
Since no rental cars were available to me, Michael dropped me off at the Lamers/Amtrak bus location. From there, I took a bus from Appleton to Green Bay. And to be honest, it wasn’t that bad of a commute. After getting to Green Bay, I had to call for another Lyft. This time, my driver was Karen.
And no, she was not a “Karen.” Her real name was Karen.
To my surprise, like Michael, she was an incredible person to meet. As she drove me around Green Bay, she informed me of a few places to hit before heading into Lambeau Field. During our ride, I intentionally asked her a stupid question.
“Is football king in Green Bay?” Her reply?
“Oh yes,” said Karen. “When Packers games are on, there are no cars on the road. The streets are clear. Everyone is somewhere watching the game. Everyone.” Similar to Michael earlier, Karen and I discussed football. Specifically, we discuss the Packers’ rivalry with the NFC North. At this moment, she subtly bragged about their dominance over the division.
The shade she threw was hilarious. It was dry humor, but isn’t dry humor the best kind?
Karen’s barbs would’ve stung if you were a Chicago Bears fan. The respect wasn’t there at all. She had some “heat” on deck. Her remarks for the Vikings were minimal as if they didn’t even exist to her.
When it came to the Lions, however, it was like Deja Vu. Because once again, like Michael, Karen threw a “kitty kat” reference when talking about the Lions, saying no one fears them or sees them as a threat. And when she said it, her tone had a sense of pity.
As we approached Lambeau Field, Karen pointed out several bars and restaurants to me. Previously, I asked her where’s the best location to catch a Lyft after the game. While passing these spots, I saw nothing but parking lots and side streets filled with people in Packers jerseys. It didn’t shock me, but it was a sight to see.
Karen ended up dropping me off in front of Anduzzi’s Sports Club on Holmgren way, which I’ll reference again later. She gave me well wishes as I got out of the car, and I was on my way.
At that moment, though, I stopped dead in my tracks.
Once again, I found myself in deep thought over another Lyft ride. I then noticed a common theme was building throughout the day.
These interactions with Green Bay citizens and Packers fans were too similar.
As I walked into Anduzzi’s, a security guard that looked like Marshawn Lynch’s doppelganger stopped me. And no joke, this guy resembled “Beastmode” down to the facial expressions. However, this guy’s beard mirrored Anthony Hamilton’s. Anyway, he checked my ID, and I learned he was from Michigan. We chatted for a second, and then I went to mingle with Packers fans and Lions fans.
The scene was incredible in and around the sports club––which was near Lambeau Field––was incredible.
It was vibrant.
It was infectious.
And most of all, there was genuine excitement.
These Packers fans had nothing but huge smiles on their faces. They were ready for Monday Night Football.
And the Lions fans there? Well, most I interacted with were happy to watch football in a different state.
After some mingling, it was time for me to appear on The Bottom Line with Ermanni and Edwards. And right after that, I had to film my Roar On Woodward Report. I was right outside of Lambeau, in the parking lot for both segments.
When I finished my work and broke down my equipment, two Packers fans named Steve and Skippy approached me and randomly struck up a conversation.
I learned that both gentlemen were Army veterans. Each year, they would pick a Packers game to attend for the sole purpose of catching up with one another. As we talked, I informed them I was a journalist for Woodward Sports covering the Lions.
And once again, for the third time of the day, I had to hear jokes about the Lions.
As we discussed both teams, they mentioned that Jamaal Williams is a missed presence in Green Bay, but then Steve said something interesting.
And Skippy backed him up.
Steve mentioned how the Lions’ defense had no dynamic playmakers they could readily identify over the past several years.
I wanted to say the criticism was harsh. However, I was in no position to defend that intelligently.
It’s been a minute since the Lions had a Ndamukong Suh, a Bennie Blades, or a Chris Spielman type player as the face(s) of the defense. I talked with the gentlemen for a few more minutes, but it was nearing time for me to head inside to the press box.
As we wrapped up our talk, Skippy left me with a few Bears jokes. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve seen them already.
“You know the best thing about Lions [fans] and Packers fans being in a circle?” Skippy asked me. “They can all laugh at Chicago Bears QBs.”
“The four best QBs in Packers history are Bart Starr, Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers, and Jay Cutler.”
After laughing ignorantly, I shook both gentleman’s hands. Steve then asked to take a picture with me, which I obliged. We said our goodbyes, and then I hopped on a Packers’ employee’s golf cart to head to the media entrance at Lambeau Field. It started raining like crazy, and after seeing my umbrella break, the worker gave me a ride so I wouldn’t get wet anymore.
I can’t lie about my feelings walking into Lambeau Field.
I didn’t get any chills.
There was no “happy to be here” moment for me.
I was on assignment to cover a football game. That was my focus. However, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel like I was somewhere special.
Walking around Lambeau Field felt important.
Whether I was in the press box or close to the field watching both teams warm up, I knew one thing.
Lambeau Field is where winners play.
After the game ended, and I took in the experience of covering my first away game as a Detroit Lions beat writer, I had one final thought.
Detroit Lions fans will never be like Green Bay Packers fans, and as I mentioned above, Ford Field will never be Lambeau.
Now “never” is such a strong word, but I can back up my claims as to why.
For starters, let’s revisit that common theme I mentioned that was building. You know, the one with my interactions with Packers fans. The Packers’ “rivalry” with the Lions is different from most rivalries I’ve witnessed.
There is no parity.
In Detroit, Lions fans hate the Packers because, well, they’re the Packers. They continuously whip the Lions’ tail. It’s almost as certain as death and taxes.
And you can’t forget their quarterback transition. The Packers went from Brett Favre, a damn good quarterback, to Aaron Rodgers, a quarterback many recognize as the best thrower ever. Both delivered Super Bowls to Green Bay. Those two names are also damn near profanity in Detroit.
But let’s revisit that common theme that was building throughout my day because it encapsulates everything here. Packers fans don’t hate Lions fans like I assumed they would.
They feel sorry for them.
Speaking of feeling sorry, I almost forgot to mention that my Lyft driver Karen said that Packers fans view Lions fans as their “little brother.”
And in the state of Michigan, everyone knows how derogatory being called “little brother” is.
From afar, Packers fans’ confidence is something one could view as arrogance. It comes off as if they look down on the Lions. However, based on the history between both teams, isn’t it warranted? In 184 meetings, including two in the postseason, the Packers lead the series record with the Lions, 105-72-7.
And so we’re clear, the Packers won both postseason meetings.
Think about this. The Lions could win their regular-season games against the Packers for the next decade and still fall short.
It would take an unprecedented run for Lions fans to confidently fix their lips to deliver any shade to Packers fans.
Now, as far as Ford Field never being Lambeau Field, the answer is simple as to why it won’t be: there’s too much ground to makeup and horrible history to overcome.
Walking around Lambeau Field, I witnessed all types of homage, posters, and signage of the Packers’ greatest players, especially those who helped deliver titles. When you walk around Ford Field thinking or looking for the same thing of the Lions’ greatest players, you can’t help but think that the two best ones both retired at 30 years old, leaving the NFL in their prime.
Another reason why Ford Field will never be Lambeau falls on the shoulders of the Lions organization.
Yes, the city of Detroit is loyal to the Lions, but how loyal are they? While Lions fans came out in droves for the home opener against the 49ers, there was a noticeable amount of 49ers’ jerseys in attendance. And it’s safe to surmise that many 49ers’ fans didn’t travel to Detroit.
While at Lambeau Field for the Monday Night Football game, it was about 97-99% Packers fans. They’re proud of their hometown team in a way Detroiters can’t fathom. Before this season started, the Detroit Lions front office and ownership were to blame for that.
They’ve yet to yield a product that their fanbase can genuinely rally around. But maybe that’s where Dan Campbell comes in.
In his press conferences, Campbell can go a bit off the rails at times. Despite that, one thing for sure is he believes in this team. Campbell is proud to be the head coach of the Detroit Lions. And during his short time back in the place he played, he’s proven that he has no patience for confusion, distractions, or poor effort.
Even though the Lions lost their first two games under his watch, his desire and passion for winning ooze out the pores during media sessions.
He wants to win badly. He wants to lead the charge in dismantling the “Same Ole’ Lions” mentality. The way Packers fans are proud of their team, Campbell wants that in Detroit. Who knows, maybe he can one day be like Mike Holmgren, and have a street named after him near Ford Field.
It’s too early to tell if it will happen.
After all, the Lions are early in the rebuilding process––real one this time. However, until the team reaches continued success, the only conversation they’ll be in with Green Bay is acknowledging they’re in the same division. They have a lot of winning to accomplish before earning a seat at the table for any other conversation with the Packers.
Follow Kory Woods on Twitter at KoryEWoods.