By Thom Gerretsen
LAS VEGAS – When Packers’ fans converged on Sin City for Oct. 9’s 17-13 loss to the Raiders, they had no trouble winning their challenge: to party like it was Aaron Rodgers Super Bowl-winning season in 2010.
For this crowd, the mistakes and growing pains of a team with a 24-year-old quarterback appeared to brush off their backs much easier than some of my best friends in Wisconsin who wonder why Jordan Love can’t be the Brett Favre & Rodgers they’ve long been used to seeing since the 1990s – or at least more often than we’re seeing now.
My wife Jean and I made this a week-long vacation. But five days before this game, we saw mostly Milwaukee Brewers gear among the Wisconsin faithful. That was the day the Crew was crushed and eliminated from baseball’s Wild Card round.
The green-and-gold didn’t make a real presence on the jam-packed Las Vegas Strip until the weekend before this Monday Night battle. The night before the game, the team’s Packers Everywhere group put on a party and pep rally at PKWY Tavern and Taphouse on Flamingo Road.
“It never ceases to amaze me about the crowds we get,” said Packers’ President and CEO Mark Murphy. “I’m told there’s 3,000 people here.”
That sounded about right, considering where they came from – England, California, Ohio, New Jersey and of course, Wisconsin. Cheeseheads are legendary for traveling well. They’ve never been able to see their team in such a party-and-playland as Vegas.
1990s Super Bowl Champion Bernardo Harris and 2000s linebacker Na’il Diggs talked about their Packer teams past and present. But mostly, they were just grateful to be with an organization with fans of this kind of loyalty, appreciation, and knowledge about Packers football.
3,000 may sound like a lot of cheese, but it was a relative few compared to those who turned the 65,000 seat Allegiant Stadium into a defacto Green Bay home game by decibels if not by body
When I boarded a tram after leaving Monday night’s 17-13 Packers’ loss to the Raiders, I invited a guy in a green Brett Favre jersey and gold Zuba-type pants to take the last few available inches of a bench in our crowded car.
The first thing I told him was, “Jordan wins this game in 2 years.” And he knew exactly what I meant. Cornerback Amik Robertson found position in front of Green Bay’s second-year receiver Christian Watson like count. From my corner seat in the third deck, I estimate that two-thirds of the stadium’s noise came from Packers’ fans on plays such as Rudy Ford’s interception, the Pack’s only touchdown by AJ Dillon, and the missed goal attempt by Vegas’ Daniel Carlson which gave Green Bay one final chance at victory until Jordan Love’s third and final interception of the night with 44 seconds left.
There might have been half the crowd in Raiders’ gear, certainly no more. But at no time did they match the verbal intensity of the Packers’ partisans.
When the game ended and the mixture of Packers’ and Raiders’ fans walked away, I didn’t hear a single unwelcome cheap shot from either side. While it’s true that Vegas is a natural place to attract visiting fans, I want to believe that at least fans who can remember Vince Lombardi’s and John Madden’s coaching days are more likely to respect the long, rich football histories of both clubs.
Also, I noticed more than a few Packers’ fans wearing Brett Favre’s No. 4 jersey. A couple mentioned it was a good way to honor Favre’s tribute to his father. Irv Favre died Dec. 21, 2003 and his son just one night later threw for 399 yards and four touchdowns in a 41-7 rout of the Raiders at the silver-and-black’s then home in Oakland, California.