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Attending the Packers Shareholders Meeting

Yesterday, the Green Bay Packers held their annual shareholders meeting at Lambeau Field. At 9:30 on a Tuesday morning in Green Bay, this event was not overly accessible but 12,500 Packers fans/owners ultimately made the pilgrimage anyway. Only one of these attendees, however, slept outside in the KMart parking lot a block away. (But seriously, the Days Inn in Appleton–a half hour away–would have cost $160, which is close to what my rental car, gas, meals, and drinks totaled. That being said, this piece required a quadruple shot of espresso this morning to start writing.)

Even though I was pretty sure the actual shareholders meeting itself would be sort of boring–and my suspicions were later confirmed–I never turn down the opportunity to spend a day (and especially night) with Packers fans, whose unique blend of passion, loyalty, and niceness never cease to amaze.

Here are my takeaways:

Dispelling Cynicism

Much has been made by non-Packers fans about these shares’ not having any value. On ProFootballTalk, Mike Florio wrote:

Though most stock purchases arise from a desire to invest money so that the money will grow in value, Packers’ stock represents a rare type of memorabilia.  No other team can sell it, and no other fans can own it.

Coincidentally, the shares have become available less than three weeks before Christmas, during what has been so far the most magical year in franchise history.

What’s that, you say?  I’m being cynical again?  Consider this line from the team’s press release:  “Stock in the Packers does not constitute an investment in ‘stock’ in the common sense of the term. . . .  Anyone considering the purchase of Packers stock should not purchase the stock to make a profit or to receive a dividend or tax deduction or any other economic benefits.”

So, other than a piece of paper that you can frame in your living room, what do you GET for your $250?

You get the Green Bay Packers.

Without this model of collective ownership, the Packers likely would have folded or moved dozens of times since their first stock offering in 1923. Boston, Dallas, Oakland, Baltimore, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Houston, and St. Louis have temporarily lost franchises (another will exist in LA soon enough) while Green Bay–and its population of 104,057–has not.

The Packers don’t merely exist, they are thriving right now–on the field and financially–and they’re investing in the infrastructure at and around Lambeau Field to ensure the franchise’s survival long after we’re gone. This continuity–from Curly Lambeau to Vince Lombardi to the 25 dark years that everybody skips over to Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers–is directly attributable to voluntary public sponsorship. It engenders a communal sense of pride that is palpable every time you walk through the gates of Lambeau and emerge into a sea of green and gold.

I would DEFINITELY pay $250 for the right to take my (distantly far off) children to Lambeau Field and would not sell that experience for all the money in the world.

Lambeau Field Construction

The Packers are adding 7,000 new seats in the south end zone (to try to create a “wall of sound”), which will be a massive eyesore this year before they are ready for the 2013 season:

They’ve also already added massive new HD video boards (108 X 50 ft.) in both end zones which are significant upgrades over the “Tundra Vision” screens that we used to have to strain our eyes to see.

Due in large part to the recent share offering, the construction requires zero taxpayer funding. 92% of the construction workers are from Wisconsin. The project is providing $70 million in wages.

Best T-shirt

Karen traveled to the event from Oregon (the state, not the Wisconsin town) and HAD to buy this shirt when she saw it in a Menominee, MI store last year. She makes it to Green Bay about once a year.

Most Surprising Moment

Addressing Packers fans on the state of football operations, Ted Thompson, the Packers’ notoriously soft-spoken general manager, began, “I think there’s a lot of people here for the first time. As the old folks will tell you, you won’t get a lot of proprietary information from me because I don’t say a lot.”

I…I…I think that qualifies as a joke?

How TED THOMPSON is it that his most charismatic moment of the decade came from a joke made at his own expense about his lack of charisma?

What Did I Eat?

Glad you asked! On Monday night, I had a double butter bacon cheeseburger from Kroll’s:

On my way back to Chicago, I stopped by Charcoal Inn in Sheboygan for their butter bratwurst patty. Next time I go there (and there WILL be a next time), I’m definitely getting their butter brat/burger combo sandwich. With cheese and bacon.

 

Best Drink

The ARodg shot, which consists of Goldschlager, Apple Pucker, and a splash of pineapple juice. This round was bought for me around closing time on Monday night at Anduzzi’s by members of the Chedderhead Pack of Houston.

They were extraordinary people. Tony, one of the leaders of the Pack, owns A SHOVEL SIGNED BY GILBERT BROWN! Each week, they told me they go through untold amounts of Johnsonville Brats, which now exist in Houston primarily because of the amount their crew consumes.

All in all, it was a wonderful 24 hours in God’s country. Can’t wait to be back.

Training camp starts today. Who’s ready for some football?

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