Lambeau West

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Yesterday, I checked off a long standing “Bucket List” item.  I attended my first ever NFL Football Game, and my first Green Bay Packer’s game at that.  For the record, the Packers lost to the Rams by 2 pts at the LA Coliseum, but to be honest, the outcome was the afterthought.

At my core, I am a sports fan.  Played some, mostly in high school, mostly with little success, but I’ve love nearly every sport there is (and if I don’t love it now, I loved it once, before it got suffocatingly boring … I’m look at you NBA).  That all being said, Football … American Football … that is my passion.  More than that, the Green Bay Packers is my one true love.  The only sports team I live, die, and study in detail all season long and all off-season long.  In my life, I’ve attended tons of baseball games, loads of hockey games, soccer, rugby, volleyball, even rolled my eyes through 2 hours of an NBA game.  I’ve watch my share of college football games as well .. but to say I have gone my entire life without seeing an NFL game live is incredible really.  At first it was because tickets were so hard to come by for a guy who lives nowhere near where the Packers play.  Then it became wanting to have my first game be special, like really special … this offseason, with Packers coming to LA, I decided to rip the band-aid off and see them live and in person.

The LA Rams have become quite a popular team here since they moved back from St. Louis a couple years back.  It helps that they are pretty darn good – coming into yesterday undefeated.  The joke around us is “The Ram Bandwaggon is blowing all it’s whistles for people to jump on board.”

The LA Coliseum is pretty accessible (mostly) to the whole area, so you would expect that it could draw well.  Still, it’s a massive stadium with few luxury boxes, so sell-outs are rare – and average ticket prices are nothing compared to other places.  Not for this week – Packers fans invaded.  Ticket prices jumped, with the cheap seats going for over $180 a piece … and I payed over twice that, for middle of the price range places; but for the tens of thousands of us who don’t get to park and ride to Green Bay’s home stadium of Lambeau Field, we were willing to pay it more than the average Rams fan.  As a result, the paid attendence of over 75,000 people was over 12,000 more than their average — and the place was as much green as it was blue.  Packers made the LA Coliseum into “Lambeau West”.

The place was buzzing for hours before the game.  Tailgating was happening on the severely limited parking lots (reportedly costing $350 per spot).  I arrived (after parking 5 miles away for $8 and taking the metro for nearly an hour) just as gates were opening up nearly 2 hours before game time.  Fans were slowly dripping in … Rams fans taking the Dodger approach of not showing up until after game time … all while competing cheers between the different team fan bases built up.  By the kickoff, the noise was incredible.  Players noticed it, many times waving their arms to encourage the Packer fans rallied at the closed end of the stadium where I sat.  Most noticeably, the crowd would erupt on big Packer plays.

As far modern football stadiums are concerned, no one mistakes the Coliseum to be anything like that.  With just 5 years left before it’s 100th anniversary, the Coliseum is currently the only stadium to have hosted two Olympics.  It’s a classic horseshoe bowl design, with the famous torch and arch way facing the east.  Amenities that we are all used to with any football stadium just doesn’t exist here.  Big scoreboards are there, but more or less as after thoughts to the current architecture.  There are no food vendors inside the building, and exist only as tents outside of the bowl.  The structure doesn’t even have bathrooms … instead a few buildings built outside the bowl that clearly have been updated recently.  There is a renovation going on that is redoing the press-box side of the place, but for the most part it holds itself consistent with its style going back to the early 20th century.

So getting around it kinda sucks.

The irony about the game to me was a cheer the Rams fans used.  I guess it’s recent, but it was an odd choice by the team.  Basically someone would shout: “Who’s House”, which is responded with “RAMS HOUSE”.  What’s odd about it to me, is some simple facts:

  • The Rams Don’t Own that House.  It’s officially owned by the State of California & Los Angeles City … so the Chargers have probably as much right to the place, and arguably the Niners and Raiders too.
  • The Rams are only there temporarily.  A new stadium is scheduled to be completed for the 2020 season in Inglewood, a good distance away.
  • The Coliseum is officially noted as the home of University of Southern California (USC) Trojans football.  If you want proof, it takes only a couple screen shots of the game yesterday to still see the USC bleeding through the endzone colors.
  • The Packer fans were clearly louder, more present, and just plain more!

So … when asking “Who’s House?”  my answer was “Good Question!!”

Still, it was a great time.  Everything I thought I would hate about watching an NFL game live seemed unimportant; and everything I liked about watching an NFL game from home I loved watching it live.  While I can’t see my self running off to catch every little game that might be available around town, I am keeping on eye on my options and may try to make other things happen in the future now the band-aid was torn off.  Like one of the beer vendors I met (one of the many beer vendors, many  many beer vendors) had mentioned to me, I had a smile from ear to ear from the moment I arrived to the moment I left.  Yeah we lost, but it didn’t matter.

I saw my first NFL Green Bay Packers Game live & in person.  And no one can take that away from me.

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