It’s my job to arrange the annual pilgrimage to Wisconsin with my friends Pam, Del, and Carla—the trip that provided the basis for my book, Incomplete Passes. “How hard can that be?” you ask. “You pick out a game, pick up the phone, and there you are.”
Well, it’s not that easy. Which game should we see? Should we catch a division rival—Chicago, Detroit, Minnesota? Should we stand by as Tom Brady leads the New England Patriots into town? Frankly, we pick our games by the weather.
My BFF Pam is sixty-seven years old, and she’s spent about forty of those years in Louisiana. That’s a long way and a long time removed from our Wisconsin girlhood. These days, she considers fifty degrees frigid. It’s not just Pam—none of us can take the cold the way we used to. But the NFL is into this “frozen tundra” mystique. They pack the schedule with November and December games at Lambeau Field. Brrrrr.
I survey September. The Packers have only one home game, on the fourteenth against the Jets. The Jets from the AFC? Who wants to see the Jets? It might have been fun to watch our old quarterback Brett Favre play for the Jets, but he hasn’t been with them since 2008. Looks like we’re stuck with them. At least it’s a 3:25 start. The Packer Fan Tours tailgate party begins three hours before the game, so we can eat bratwurst at lunchtime, not 9:00. “You’d eat breakfast sausage at 9:00 AM, wouldn’t you?” I’ve asked. “What’s the difference?” My friends shook their heads and made faces.
The 3:25 start also means I can transport Pam to and from mass before they start closing streets. Atheist driver thanks God!
Can we snag hotel rooms within walking distance of the stadium? After a two-and-a-half hour bus ride a few years ago, over a distance we’d have covered in ten minutes any other day, we’ve decided that’s essential. We’ve stayed at the Springhill Suites for several years now. The pool is tiny—Del takes three strokes one way, three back—but the rooms are big. Hope they’ll have rooms left with two beds. I won’t name names, but one of us snores. We’d save money by booking a room for four, but four boomer women and one bathroom? Forget it. We’d never get out of the room.
Now I just have to wait until Packer Fan Tours posts the prices on their website. I’ve probably checked the website thirty times today, but the prices aren’t there yet. At least this is easier since the advent of e-mail and on-line booking. I used to make phone call after phone call—and I hate making phone calls.
I’d hoped to see a second game this year. The Packers go to Seattle, and my son lives there. But the NFL made Packers-Seahawks the Thursday night opener, the premier game of the season. Not only will there be super hype for the defending Super Bowl champions with their record as yet untarnished, prices for this game and everything around it will be super high. And it’s the week before I go to Green Bay; I’d have to neglect everything else in my life. There’s no way I can do it. See? The NFL hates me.
Time to check the website again. Nope, still no prices. They’ll probably put them up tomorrow when I’m busy volunteering at the animal shelter. Then other people will grab all those rooms with two beds.
Hmm … home opener is traditionally the Alumni Game. I can’t help wondering if Mr. A will be back in town. The player I carried a torch for, the year I turned seventeen—and the object of my unusual midlife crisis. I’m not sure what I’d say, but I’d still like to run into him. I think about it every year. I haven’t talked to him since 1965, and I’m still looking for closure. It’s stupid, yeah, I know.
Wonder if those prices are up yet. … Nope.
But with all the frustrations, this is the time I wait for. In spring, a season of renewal, I look forward to renewing ties with my hometown and three of my dearest friends. Every trip has been fun, but maybe, just maybe, this one will be the best ever. How many more of these reunions will we all be able to attend? How can I make this one special?
Wonder if those prices are up yet …