Milwaukee,WI (WGNO) — It was kinda like eating at a reality tv show buffet while recording enough video and writing enough copy for a short documentary as you watch a family member do a face-plant after he asked you to hold his beer.
A co-worker of mine, one of the best photographers in the news business, and I spent 60 hours in Wisconsin following LSU fans across America’s Dairyland. The Tigers were taking on the Wisconsin Badgers on the hallowed ground of Lambeau Field. LSU went into the game, the first of the season, ranked 5th in the country. The Badgers were unranked but would enjoy having home-state advantage despite the estimated 30,000 Purple and Gold fanatics who would fly or drive (probably in a big RV) to watch their team play.
The adventure would begin at Armstrong International Airport. Tigers fans enjoyed hearing the team’s fight song as it was played over the Southwest Airlines plane’s intercom.
But the real treat came at 35,000 feet when a Wisconsin Badgers fan offered to buy drinks for the entire plane. I happened to be sitting next to him.
It was my first encounter of the trip with a Wisconsin resident. I found every last one of them to be similarly friendly and welcoming to their Louisiana guests.
After landing, I found a constant stream of Tigers fans across the airport and rental car area.
Even as the adventure was beginning, it appeared Coach Miles’ 30,000 fan estimate would be on target. Before the trip was over, it may have been the only the only call from the coach that fans agreed with.
In Milwaukee, there was plenty for fans to do. For many, a trip to the Harley Davidson Museum was a must.
By coincidence, the museum was also hosting its biggest rally of the year, so there was a steady stream of bikers and hogs to go with the Badgers and Tigers in town.
Lambeau Field is in the city of Green Bay which is about a two hour drive north from Milwaukee. Besides the legendary coach, Curly Lambeau, who the stadium is named after, Lambeau is a shrine of sorts that honors some of the most iconic figures in professional football history — names like Lombardi, Star, and White.
Outside the stadium, there are statues honoring Vince Lombardi and Curley Lambeau as well as a statue mock-up where people can practice the fan favorite Lambeau leap celebration. The stadium was a popular stop for fans, day and night.
As for tailgating, Tigers fans showed up en masse with at least one parking lot in the shadow of Lambeau Field rented entirely by LSU alumni. Luxury recreation vehicles lined the lots where there were also plenty of prepared dishes and drinks of all kinds. One RV crew boasted that they were preparing a badger sauce piquant. It looked suspiciously like red beans and rice.
At the other side of Lambeau field sits a similarly legendary spot, except this one is known for its food. Kroll’s West serves up some of the best known and loved sandwiches and cheese curds in the region.
Because of it fantastic food and available power outlets, Kroll’s West also served as the WGNO “Waayyy North Shore Bureau”. Chief Photographer Pat Thomas and I could stuff our faces while we edited our reports, uploaded them to the newsroom in Metairie, and crunched the growing list of deadlines.
On game day, the scene outside Lambeau Field was flat-out celebratory. Neither teams’ fans knew who would win the battle on the field, but everyone seemed to feel like they were just fortunate to be there.
As as for the game itself, well let’s just say Tigers fans were not expecting the outcome. But other than the ending of the game, Tigers fans were treated to an experience they will never forget by some of the post gracious and accommodating fans for any opposing team anywhere. The folks from Louisiana may return home unsure of the Tigers’ future this season. But as they catch up on sleep and review their photos, they’ll remember this trip as one of their great sports adventures.