Bright cold days, hard cold nights

[December 15, 1929]

Word of the great victory reached Green Bay on the wires Sunday evening, and a wild celebration filled the streets soon thereafter. As the team train approached Green Bay on Monday, police cleared the way as 20,000 enthusiastic fans crowded the station in the freezing cold, waving lit emergency flares and playing a wild jazzy fusion of various musical instruments. Someone even brought a piano. Whistles, hoots, automobile horns, shrieks, fire alarms, sirens, explosions, gunfire and general jubilation rocked the tracks and platform upon arrival in the NFL's smallest city.

Curly Lambeau's Packers became the first undefeated team in NFL history, behind a first-rate offense and a defense that surrendered just 22 points all season (1.6 points/ game). The defense pitched eight shut-outs, and held several opponents to negative yardage.

Here in Green Bay, this was not just a welcome of curiosity. Each and every person at the rail-yard tonight was here in heart, fully invested. We had learned this from Curly. We were all neighbors, neighbors help you shovel when the snow gets deep. The team was soon huddled into buses, sleighs and wagons for a parade through downtown Green Bay. Spirits were high. Eventually the sun came around and made everyone go take a nap.

Tuesday night was the city-wide banquet at the luxurious Beaumont Hotel. Every class, from mill hand to mill owner, was present. The entire city met here in celebration. Team supporters raised more than $5000 cash, and each player and coach on the Packers received a shiny watch and $220 dollars folded inside a brand new leather wallet. It was grand. The players were touched by the community's gesture.

"Some of the early years were lean ones," said veteran lineman Jug Earp. "On those rainy days when they asked us to go for half fare, things looked dark, but we would look at one another and decide that we could stall the landlady for another week or two."

Green Bay Mayor John Diener thanked the players and coaches for representing the Badger State with such pride. "Green Bay may be the 241st city in size, in these United States, but it is the first city in football," said the Mayor.

Huzzah! HUZZAH!

A week later, we were all still giddy, sore, in shock, the city buzzed with energy. Now we all had a taste of it, we wanted more. Coach Lambeau promised we would have more. Something had changed in our attitudes. We had a twinkle in our eyes, we had his twinkle. We believed the good times would never end.

But as a team we had read Hemingway's A Farewell To Arms during the season. It was an odd book to read on a winning streak. The ending still bothers me. It always will and that's the point, I think. On the ends of the spectrum we have love and we have war, this is humanity.

After we got back to Green Bay, after the banquets and parades and celebrations, things quieted down a bit but it never felt normal again. The expectations became enormous, but that was what they should be. It felt right, this optimism. One night I was sitting by the wood-stove, in my favorite rocking chair. What would I write about now? I put another log on the fire. Maybe I didn't have to write about anything anymore. That would be alright.

I still had her number, I put it next to the telephone. The Packers had won, we were all on a roll, where would I take her to dinner? Sometimes when I catch a big fish I get so excited I can hardly even remember it, I never look the fish in the eye. This felt like one of those moments. Hemingway would want me to slow time and enjoy the good in life. It wasn't always good but it was good right now. That was all that mattered. Outside in the cold night I saw big snowflakes quietly falling, there was a thin and fragile pane of glass between us, and my heart warmed with possibilities.

Packers Book Club quote of the week:

By the middle of January I had a beard and the winter had settled into bright cold days and hard cold nights.
-Farewell to Arms