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.

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