In 1923 the upstart football team called the Green Bay Packers offered the citizens of Green Bay the opportunity to purchase stock in the team to help keep the team from going bankrupt. In essence, they asked the people who loved the team to pay to keep the team going. It worked. Instantly turning a private charter which was owned by local businessmen into a publicly owned and loved franchise for the rest of its existence.
Then in 1935 the organization needed to raise more money, so they sold more stock. For the second time in history, this idea worked. Fifteen years later, in 1950, they sold more stock, this worked as well. Then, forty-seven years later at the height of a resurgence of Packer fever, a new and shiny Lombardi trophy, the Packers once again sold stock to raise money for stadium renovations. This worked so well, the stadium was added on to and finished in record time. Lastly, in 2011, the organization did it again. For stadium renovations again. This worked as well as much as the other offerings.
The citizens of Green Bay and the rest of Wisconsin love their team so much that they have no problem answering the cowbell call of assistance whether the team was succeeding or failing. I was lucky enough to be able to purchase one share of the stock in its 1997 offering. A small piece of paper that I’m extremely proud of, yet it was a piece of paper I’d seemed to have misplaced over six years ago.
When my wife asked me to help her go through some boxes in our spare bedroom/junk room, in order to find a misplaced piece of paper she was looking for I balked at first. The last thing I wanted to do was to stand in a room, pick up a box of books or pictures or clothes or kitsch or who-knows-what but then I thought the better of it and went spelunking through our history. A history that was piled up in a dozen boxes with no labels on them. I didn’t find what she was looking for but I did promise I’d go into the attic and look in the boxes we’d stashed up there.
It took me several days to get into the attic, when I did, it was a cool early morning. I climbed the ladder, pushed the door aside and poked my head into the dusty, musty dried out space. The heat was still an hour away from melting my brains. I knew I didn’t have long so I crawled to the front of the house over Christmas boxes, small chairs and bags of stuffed animals.
For the next forty-five minutes I tore open more boxes of books, clothes and just crap I can’t understand why I still have. I suppose it’s because I had no clue as to what was up there. When the mercury rose to an almost unbearable level, with sweat rolling down my face and neck I was about to leave. That’s when I saw the first of four large blue boxes. Boxes I hadn’t seen in years but were very familiar to me. I opened the first one and saw my feelings were not wrong.
My Green Bay Packer memorabilia. Sorted, stored and tucked away for over six years. Every artifact wrapped with care and tenderly placed inside containers so they’d never deteriorate. I knew then I had to go through them all until I found my elusive piece of shareholder paper.
It was in the third container. Wedged in its glass frame between two super bowl plaques, I gently pulled it out so as not to break the glass or cut myself on the edges of the glass. When I looked at it, it was no worse for wear. No fade marks, no water marks and no chew holes from critters large or small. I smiled. Wiped the sweat from my brow and placed the frame on the furnace so I could close the box back up. I then made my way downstairs, drank 100 ounces of water and realized I stunk to high heaven and it was time for another shower.
Hours later, when my wife arrived home I told her I’d spent the day looking for her paperwork and I found something special. Her face lit up with hope thinking my hint was for her. When I held up my framed stock certificate, she frowned a bit and shook her head. I apologized for not finding her papers but told her this particular piece of paper had a history that goes deeper than sitting in a classroom for several years learning to recite cases and understand contracts and all that other mumbo jumbo that involve an entire profession of men and women who wear suits most every day.
No, this paper is earned through a lifelong love of a sport, a state, a town and a team whose history goes back almost a hundred years and whose players and tactics change. Win or lose you love them. Good years, and bad decades you love them. You need them in your life and you can recite the greats like the Pope can recite Cardinals.
Yes, my team and the fact that I am one of thousands of owners is like a religion to me. As I am sure it is for most of the owners. Going to Lambeau Field is like walking into the Vatican. Meeting the coach, current players and Hall of Fame players is a holy experience. Yes, I know these are just men who put their clothes on the same way I do, but I can say this with all honesty; Church has never been as entertaining to me as a Sunday in Green Bay.
My stock is now hanging on my wall in my office, I can look at it and feel as if I am an actual part of the great men who helped build my franchise. A franchise in the smallest venue of the NFL. A franchise that will never move because if the NFL tries to do so, they have to buy all of our stock back and all of that money will go to the local VFW. Which I think would be cool. How big of a building can a billion dollar franchise purchase for our vets? That would be ridiculous.
Okay, I could go on and on about the nostalgia I feel for my team and my hometown but the day is getting late and I’m sure I lost most of you readers in the second paragraph.
Have a great week.