Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Packed with Memories

“What with talk of possible player strikes, contract disputes, and player holdouts it's tough to be a football fan these days.” Some of the elements in that lead sentence still ring true, and yet I wrote it nearly 29 years ago in a freelance article I penned for the Manistique Pioneer Tribune. It was 1982 and I was just out of college. The feature article was about 75-year-old Norm Jahn of Manistique, a retired bar owner and lifelong Green Bay Packers fan. I though I'd revisit the article as the Packers prepare to play the Bears in the NFC Championship game.

Norm had at the time been to every Packers home game in Green Bay over a 43 year period. It was a span that began in 1939 and included watching games at Green Bay's Southwestern High School, which only seated 13,000 fans. During WW II when tires and gas were rationed he'd drive from Manistique to Escanaba (about a 55 mile trip) and then take a train from there.

Of course being a die-hard Packers fan there were times that demanded sacrifices. He'd close up his bar early on Sundays to get to the Packers game. One day while rushing to close he slammed the safe door on his finger and cut the end off. He put the finger tip in his pocket and took it to the doctor to have it sewn back on. The doctor said,”You're not going to the game?” Jahn's answer, “Like hell I'm not.” He went to the game gory finger and all.

When I spoke to Jahn for the article Aaron Rodgers hadn't been born yet, and Brett Favre was barely a teen. Jahn's favorite quarterback moment came at the frozen tundra. He was there for the Ice Bowl. “It was 35 below,” he recalled “Starr went in to score and win the game in the last three seconds. I'll tell you, that was some ride back to Manistique.”

You could see the memories warm him as he spoke about his love affair with the Green Bay Packers. His most prized possession, a football autographed by Coach Vince Lombardi and his players. I'm not sure how many more games Norm attended during the rest of his life, but he told me,” As long as I can still go to the games I'll go.”

He's gone now, but his sons and grandsons inherited his love for the team and I'm sure there are similar stories out there about the pride fans have in the Green and Gold. Hopefully on Sunday another pleasant future memory will be born for Packer fans that they can relate from their easy chair when they turn 75.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Perfect Christmas

The Perfect Christmas

I had about as “perfect” a Christmas as you could have this year. Somehow I managed to take care of my familial obligations and enjoy myself at the same time. The week of Christmas included watching nephew Derek in his school Christmas pageant, seeing nephew Max score about a dozen points in a big jayvee basketball win, time watching a funny movie at my brother John’s house while munching on venison sausage, and the day after Christmas seeing a big Packer’s win over the Giants.

I even managed to help my Mom make some of her final Christmas cookies of the season and attend Christmas Eve mass with her. That night we had a small gathering of family during which we watched Christmas movies and ate pork pie and sipped egg nog. Christmas Day itself was nice and I can’t remember when family stayed as long or seemed as continent.

I think the events leading up to Christmas helped to underscore the holiday. My cousin Doug died of cancer this fall and the same day he passed away my Mom underwent what was supposed to be routine surgery. She nearly died after she was overmedicated. My brothers and sisters got her back to the hospital in time where they found out she was barely getting enough oxygen. Take my word for it without getting into all the details, we were lucky to have her around for this Christmas.

She commented Christmas Day she thought it was one of the best she can remember having. I mentioned that to my sister Diana the day after and she said “it wasn’t that perfect.” I guess I’ll have to inquire if the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future are available after the holidays.

I really have a difficult time taking down Christmas ornaments after the holidays. They are usually up through New Year’s and then they come down. I waited a little longer this year figuring I’d take them down during the Packers playoff game with the Eagles this past weekend so I wouldn’t be fretting too much over what was taking place on the field. I decided to leave an ornament in my front window, a bronze star that my sister Kathy slipped into my Christmas stocking. It will stay up through the year. Christmas is about giving and I want a symbol of that to occasionally remind me.