As we approached the gates at LP Field in Nashville on Saturday, my excitement grew. Green-and-gold-clad Green Bay Packers fans were everywhere – what I always refer to as “friendlies” – and I was about to introduce my girlfriend Cynthia to her first-ever live NFL game.
Clad in my Eddie Lacy jersey and she in Packers T-shirt, we approached the security checkpoint just outside the gates. Cynthia held out her purse for inspection.
“Your purse is too big,” the woman said. “You can’t take it inside.”
What? Yes, apparently, a purse inspection is no longer sufficient, and we had no idea. We pleaded our case, to no avail.
“The information on our website,” the woman said, a droll nonchalance in her voice.
We’re Packers fans, we reasoned. We’ve never been to the Tennessee Titans website, and we bought our tickets through Ticketmaster.
“Sorry,” the woman said, not budging. “You need to take it back to your car.”
Trouble is, we’d taken a taxi to the stadium from our hotel, which was miles away. It was now less than an hour from kickoff. Finding another taxi, getting back to the hotel and then back again to the game would probably put us into the second quarter.
That’s when Packers fans came to the rescue. One young woman we spoke with suffered the same fate, but fortunately had some ziplock bags in her car. Her husband had returned to the car, blocks away, to return her purse and dump the contents into a clear plastic bag. (Yes, THIS kind of bag is allowed in LP Field, for some reason).
“Let me call my husband, and I’ll have him bring you a plastic bag,” she said. He didn’t answer his phone. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t have mattered, as we later learned that Cynthia could not have brought her rolled up purse into the stadium, even when emptied and stuck inside a clear plastic bag.
Confused, frustrated and fearing we would not be able to get into the game, we noted a group of Packers fans tailgating nearby. We approached and explained our situation to them. The first thing our new friend Darla did was to offer to keep the purse in their vehicle so we could attend the game. The second act of Green Bay hospitality was even more touching – one of Darla’s daughters picked up a tray of green-and-gold decorated sugar cookies and extended them in our direction.
“Have a cookie!” she said.
And then Darla’s husband shoved a bag toward me and said, “Have some cheese curds!”
Oh, these were Packers fans, all right. In the words of my favorite Packers writer, Vic Ketchman, they were winsome. Our day was saved.
Inside the stadium, it poured down rain. Half the crowd, it seemed, wore green and gold. There were cheesehead hats everywhere. Green Bay fans chatted and shared in the atmosphere, hundreds of miles south of Lambeau. We got drenched. We had a ball.
It was a fitting full-circle day for Cynthia, whose first experience with Packers fans came in 2010, weeks after we first met, when she traveled to Dallas to attend a concert the same week as Super Bowl 45. To a fault, she reported to me later, it was the Steelers fans who were rude, loud and inconsiderate.
“They were picking fights with each other,” she said, in near disbelief.
But the Packers fans were unfailingly polite, friendly, jovial. Winsome. They won her over, not just because she knew that the guy she had just started dating was a die-hard, life-long Packers fan, but because his fellow fans were so pleasant to be around.
She got another taste of that on Saturday. If she wasn’t before, she is now a Packers fan for life.