The Fall Faithful
I drove to Lambeau field with my son last Sunday for the Vikings game and spent the evening trying to tune out the chatter of a loud Packer season-ticket holder who introduced himself as Ted Kreitzman. The avuncular, rotund, middle-aged Green Bay native sat one row behind us.
Dressed in green and gold, and wearing the ubiquitous foam rubber cheese hat, the mildly inebriated Kreitzman seemed the prototype of the modern Packer fanatic.
"You know, I still live in the same three-room apartment I was raised in," he told me. "Me and my ma, can you believe that? And I've only missed one game in 33 years. That was because Ma got assaulted in a little town up north called Waukanish and my brother was too drunk to go get her. I wanted her to lay low until Monday, what with it being game day and all, but the guy who assaulted her owned the only motel in town. I had to drive up there."
Kreitzman says the three pals he first met in kindergarten are still his best friends, so much so that they recently all agreed to have their first colonoscopy on the same day at the same clinic ("Only two of us had polyps," he bragged).
Kreitzman told me that for entertainment he and the guys often shoot crows with their wrist rockets or visit strip clubs. They prefer a DIY option owned by one of the three.
"We go to Gary's basement mostly because his mom and some of her friends from her trucking company's billing department take off their clothes for us. They just go down to their swimsuits, but it's cool because Gary has a strobe light. We don't have to pay them either—we just bring over hot dish and share it."
The night before a Sunday game Kreitzman says he and his pals often head to Otto Schmolke's house to "prime the pump."
"Otto is a Schnapps dealer in town, and after a few he lets us take his rider mower into the house. We get to drive it through his living room as long as we Saran-wrap the wheels so they don't make marks on the floor."
Kreitzman has almost a "spiritual" appreciation for the Packers, he says. He told me there are eight regular-season home games each year and that the number is "holy."
"Eight is the number of infinity, because the shape of the eight is never-ending. That's similar to regular-season games in that we record them and can watch them again and again from any year we want to. The season is eternal."
Kreitzman claims to be a devout Christian, though he only attends services when they're offered Saturday afternoons.
"Sunday is for football, but the game can be kind of like church. A game is a battle for survival, just like life. And we're outdoors, taking on the elements just like our ancestors did. I went to a Jesuit school in Green Bay, and they taught us that the flora and fauna of nature are the 'vestments of God.' When you think about the green of the plants and the gold of the sun, you sense His presence. Not that He only likes the Packers, but purple is hard to find in nature, for the most part."
Kreitzman says he always brings his vintage 1972 Burger King John Brockington "ice milk cup" to the games, claiming, "I've had all my beers from this cup since I first turned legal age back in 1977.
"After his playing days were over, 'Brock' lost money in a Ponzi scheme and then had some tough luck investing in a nutritional supplement company. I think the supplements poisoned some people. But back in the early '70s, that running back was a big deal around here, and his Burger King ice milk cups traded at a premium."
Kreitzman says his parole officer has encouraged him to stop drinking, but he says he can't, at least not entirely.
"I'm a reformed alcoholic and have been for years, but I do drink on game day. At my AA meetings they're kind of okay with that because they know in Green Bay you can't demand complete abstinence or you won't have anyone at your meetings to begin with."
With his favorite beer cup in hand, Kreitzman proposed a toast at the end of last Sunday's game, saying to my son and I, "Well, gentlemen, Packers win. Here's to the expected drop in domestic violence calls this week in our fair city. Gary's mom should be looking a little less rugged in her swimsuit."
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