By Al Reese
I’ve been a Green Bay Packers fan my entire life. I grew up in New London, WI, a town of about 6,000 people located 40 miles west of Green Bay. Some of my fondest memories are of watching the Packers with my Dad and Grandfather as they won the first two Super Bowls at the end of the Lombardi era. The Packers beat the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10 on January 14, 1967 to win Super Bowl I. After beating Dallas at Lambeau Field during the infamous “Ice Bowl” game in December 1967, the Packers then defeated the Oakland Raiders 33-14 on January 13, 1968 to win Super Bowl II, the last game Lombardi coached for the Packers. Star players of that era, including Bart Starr, Ray Nitschke, Jerry Kramer, Paul Hornung, and Max McGee, all loom large in my personal history of the NFL.
The Packers are a truly unique organization. It is the third-oldest franchise in the NFL, dating back to 1919, and is the only non-profit, community-owned major league professional sports team in the United States. Rather than being the property of an individual or corporate owner, the Packers are “owned” by 360,000 individual stockholders. No one is allowed to hold more than 200,000 shares, a small fraction of the total shares outstanding. Even though it is referred to as "common stock" in corporate offering documents, a share of Packers stock does not include an equity interest, does not pay dividends, cannot be traded, and has no securities-law protection. (A friend once quipped “that sounds like most of the stocks I’ve bought!”). It also brings no season ticket purchase privileges. As a publicly held non-profit, the Packers are also the only American major-league sports franchise to release its financial statements every year. This “small town” appeal is part of what makes the Packers so popular. Although Green Bay is by far the smallest major league professional sports market in North America, Forbes ranked the Packers in 2016 as the world’s 26th most valuable sports franchise, with an estimated market value of $2.35 Billion.
It is for these reasons that I am a Packers season ticket holder to this day, despite many years and miles of separation from Green Bay since my youth. My father held the tickets for 50 years, and when he passed, I elected to transfer the tickets to me even though I haven’t lived in Wisconsin for over 40 years. Attending a game at Lambeau is a fascinating and wonderful experience. Since the stadium is literally in the middle of a residential neighborhood, most fans park on the lawns of nearby houses and walk to the stadium. Tail-gating is a time-honored tradition there, but mostly feature simple fare like beer, cheese curds, and bratwurst. I liken the game experience to that of Fenway Park, in that most of the seats have that intimate “reach out and touch the players” feel. Many players and coaches have come and gone since those first two Super Bowl wins, but my loyalty to the “hometown team” remains unwavering.