LET'S SAY you wentto Starbucks, ordered your double espresso mocha half-soy grande and didn't getit for 37 years. Might you be a tad ... bitter? So tell me, why are the 47people who got their Green Bay Packers season tickets this year so freakinghappy? Some of them have been waiting since 1970! My God, that was the year theBeatles broke up.
"I remember Iwas a high school freshman," says Paul Yaeger, an Air Force fireman who gotback from Baghdad a year ago. "Me and my buddies went to a game and had thebest time. And we made a pact that day that we'd all put our names on thewaiting list. We figured we'd have them by our senior year."
Maybe they meantsenior years. Yaeger finally got his four tickets this spring, 33 seasonslater. Tickled, he called up his old buddies to compare seats. On the otherend, he heard only sheepish grunts. Uh, we never signed up, they admitted. Nowthe Pack is 4-1. Sucks to be you!
"I put my nameon when I was 18," says Gary Larson, a custodian in New Franken, Wis."I never dreamed it would be 37 years."
The waiting wastorture, because Larson grew up six blocks from Lambeau Field. As a boy heworked at Sneezer's Snack Shop, on Ashland Avenue, where the Packers held theirteam meetings in the cellar. "I used to sit there by the basementwindow," says Larson, now 55, "and listen to [coach Vince] Lombardichew those guys' asses."
Larson lived soclose to Lambeau that his teenage necking ground was the football field itself."Let's just say the 50-yard line was consummated," he says. So closethat he worked on the grounds crew for 17 years. "[Placekicker] ChesterMarcol came running into my arms after his touchdown!" he says. So closethat he put each of his two sons on the waiting list 25 minutes after they wereborn.
Now Gary's reallyclose. His seats are in Lambeau Leap territory.
I love the Packersbecause they're like a one-horse buggy on I-95. Los Angeles, the second-largestcity in the U.S., doesn't have an NFL team, and Green Bay, the 257th largest,does. It's like putting the United Nations in Ogallala, Neb. The Packers are afranchise that couldn't be, shouldn't be, but miraculously is. It's not justyour team, it's your life. More than any other pro team's, a Packers ticket isprecious.
The club does notsell single-game tickets, which means the only way to get in, short ofparachuting, is to buy a season ticket. The problem is, season tickets can betransferred within families, even to first cousins, which means the line movesslower than the one at the Kabul DMV.
For instance, ifyou put your name on the waiting list today, you would be number 74,659. Anaverage of 70 people give up their tickets every year, which means you'll haveyour tickets by the 3074 season. Luckily you'll still catch Brett Favre's lastyear.
"Here's howdumb we were," says Monica Johnson, a 64-year-old beekeeper from TwoCreeks, Wis. "We had three little boys when we got on the list in 1971. Wefigured that each Sunday my husband and I would take one of the boys. You know,as a treat." As if. Thirty-six years later she got the tickets, thoughthose boys now have boys of their own, one of whom plays on a Green Bay highschool freshman team.
For one person onthe list, though, the tickets didn't bring all that much joy. "My dad putall his kids' names on the list when I was 11," says Tom Stoller, 46, ofAlgoma, Wis. "Didn't tell us, either. Just wanted to surprise us." Thatwas in 1972. Last year Tom still wasn't in, but he was getting close enough tosmell the brats. The Packers' ticket office sends all people on the waitinglist a postcard every October telling them where they stand, and Tom's cardsaid 11. He was so pumped that he took it over to show his 68-year-old dad,Joe, who was thrilled. "Next year for sure, son," a beaming Joesaid.
But just beforeChristmas, Joe died in a car accident. Six months later Tom got the gift hisdad had picked out for him 35 years before. He hasn't been to a game yet—partlybecause he's been busy following his son's college football team and partlybecause it's not as much fun to open a present when the one who gave it to youcan't watch.
When Tom finallygoes, "it's going to be kind of bittersweet," he says. "Kind ofemotional. I don't know when I'll go exactly. I mean, my dad took me to myfirst-ever Packers game."
Guess some LambeauLeaps are harder than others.
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If you put your name on the waiting list for Green BayPackers season tickets today, you'll have them by the year 3074. Luckily you'llstill catch Brett Favre's last season.
PETER READ MILLER