If you ever go to Green Bay, Wisconsin, make sure you visit Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers. Take a guided tour of the stadium. And, for sure, you may also find it only fitting to pay homage to one of the legends of American football, Earl Louis Curly Lambeau.
In 2018, I traveled to Green Bay with my daughter, Phylicia, to check off one of her bucket lists items. Our road trip felt like we were on a pilgrimage as I watched her experience one of her happiest days at an almost empty stadium. I had bitter-sweet memories of those times she sat in a corner like Jack Horner, eating humble pie. At the same time, the rest of the family celebrated with our heroes during the Niners’ glory days. Yes, game days were challenging for the family whenever the packers were in town. But, while she was cheering for the Packers, everyone else was for the forty-niners.
That day she was all smiles as we admired the trophies and magnificence of Lambeau Field. The many Super Bowl trophies with Lombardy’s words of wisdom adorning the walls of the stadium. One that stopped me dead in my track: “There is only one way to succeed in anything, and that is to give it everything.” Still, I kept thinking, where did I go wrong as a father? But, as the tour progressed and the story of Curly unfolded, I was reminded of one of my first parenting lessons. We make our kids, but not their choices. That day, I was the one eating crumbs off my daughter’s humble pie as our tour guide spoke about the life and loves of Curly Lambeau. His coaching philosophy was simple; when you think like champions, practice like champions, and play like champions, you are champions.
Curly Lambeau was an outstanding player at Green Bay East High School, where football was like a religion. And curly was very religious. After graduating from high school, he fulfilled his childhood dream of playing college football at Notre Dame for the legendary coach, Knute Rockne. However, curly returned to Green Bay after only his first season with Notre Dame and never returned to the college. Some say it was because of injuries; others claimed it was because of his inadequate finances. But I believe it was because of his love for his girlfriend Marguerite, who became his first wife. Oh, Curly was known to be quite a lover and could sell snow to Eskimos. He even had two more wives before his sunset in June of 1965. When asked in what was his final interview if he had any regrets in life, he said: “My only regret was that I didn’t start two teams back in 1918.”
The story of the Green Bay Packers dates back to 1918n when Curly returned to Green Bay from Notre Dame. Curly took a job at the Indian Packing Company but continued his love affair with football. You see, Football was not a profession until the mid-1920s. Salaries for the top players were between 100 and 300 dollars per game. Still, in 2017, Curley jumped at the opportunity when he learned about a Community League that was about to begin in Green Bay. The fee to join was $50.00. Curly, with his smooth-talking, convinced his management at the packing company to pay the startup fee, which they did reluctantly. And, the Indian Packing Company Football Team was born to boost morale at their meatpacking facility.
Sadly, the novelty soon wore off, and in less than two years, it was curtains for the league and the team. The following year, Curley learned about the formation of a National League. However, the signup fee for that league was a whopping $150.00. Curly again approach his management, who politely told him to get lost. Who wouldn’t have loved to be a fly on the wall to hear his pitch, as he was told: “Come on, you waisted our $50.00 just a year ago!” But Curly would not be denied. Finally, his management relented when they learned about a plan, Curly and his buddy from his high school, George Whitney Calhoun, who was in the newspaper business. The Indian Packing Company Football team was restarted and admitted to this newly formed football league called – The NFL. Yes, the same NFL we know today.
The team needed Additional funds to purchase uniforms, gear, and other necessities. So together, Curly and Calhoun came up with a genius plan, selling Zero valued shares. The shared offer nothing to the buyers, only bragging rights, nothing more, nothing less. To this day, Green Bay is the only sports franchise that is of the people, for the people, and by the people. There is even an ongoing waiting list of prospective buyers today. That startup fee that was about $500.00 is also known as one of the most significant ROI – Return on Investment in the world of sport and business. The Green Bay Packers as a franchise is now worth over 2.7 billion dollars. Ironically, the name change from the Indian Packers was initiated by Margarete when she shouted – For goodness’ sake, Curly, why don’t you call the darn team the Green Bay Packers and stop this? “Indian Packing business – You are now a professional ballplayer man.” The new name stuck, and the team became – The Green Bay Packers.
In case you are wondering, who is still the Packers fan? My daughter Phylicia still is. But after that tour, I now have nothing but respect and admiration for the Green Bay Packer. Yes, I am still a Niner. On our way home, I had to ask my fabulous daughter again why – what on earth made you such a fan of the Green Bay Packers. Was it because of your favorite play Bret Favre, or was it Curly? What was the attraction? Still clutching her single share certificate offer, which added her to their waiting list, with a smile, she said: Dad, who would not like to be part of a team owned by their fans. Players will come, and players go, but the true fans will always remain. Is there any other team that is of the people, for the people, and by the people? It’s not just the players. Dad, it’s the fans and the community of Green Bay that make their team true Champions.