Green Bay Packers have an incredible fan base

5 of 5

Best of times and …

The following letter is from Peter Hess, who grew up in a Milwaukee suburb. His remarks are particularly meaningful to those of us who idolized the Lombardi Packers.

Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy. Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports photograph

When you grow up in Wisconsin in the fifties and love sports, you naturally become a Green Bay Packers fan. You root for them. You get to know the names of each of the starting players on both offense and defense. You watch every one of their games, exquisitely announced by the late Ray Scott.

You become immersed in the small-town story of Green Bay and the unlikely local ownership of a pro football franchise harkening back to the founding days of the National Football League.

In the late Fifties, as football was just coming into my consciousness, Vince Lombardi took the Packers out of obscurity, restored pride in the team, and took them to championship after championship. He was a gap-toothed disciplinarian who became regarded as the greatest coach legend ever.

Such were my roots as a football fan.

I followed the Packers with a quiet fervor, and a pride in their colorful characters and Mid-western toughness. They were “my team” for life, taking pleasure in their victories and hurt in their losses. After the sixties they went into a decades-long swoon of painful mediocrity. Then, under new management, they were slowly brought back to competitiveness and the occasional season of real accomplishment.

Aaron Rodgers took his rightful place in the pantheon of Packer heroes, a quiet, calm presence with extraordinary talent so reminiscent of my youthful heroes.

Aaron Rodgers blows a kiss to the crowd after the 2014 NFC Divisional playoff football game against the Dallas Cowboys at Lambeau Field. Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports photograph

There were never any green and gold shirts or towels, no bumper stickers, and certainly no cheese-heads trumpeting my Packers. But there was always a strong loyalty to the residents of Lambeau Field and an unwavering partisanship with the team I came to love many years ago.

Watching how the game slipped away so inexplicably (Sunday) brought on a heavy sadness I hadn’t felt before. Of course they had broken my heart many times in the past, but never so thoroughly, never with such an onslaught of lapses on plays, any one of which could have so easily gone the other way and prevented the loss. One can only wonder how it happened.

Rodgers, with hollow eyes, commented after the game that he would remember the hurt of the loss for the rest of his career. I think he underestimated how long the pain might endure.

Wisconsin boys and girls of my age all over the country are no doubt in mourning today. No, no one died, of course. But we all feel the common, numbing pain of this most crushing loss.

If you have your own stories and comments, I would love to hear them. Send them to me at