New Jersey Packers Fans Brave Cold to Cheer Team in Green Bay
Legions of fans are hunkering down for Sunday night's face-off between the New York Giants and the Green Bay Packers.
For two New Jersey couples and one nine-year-old boy, the game is sure to be a memorable one.
They sacrificed a lot for their beloved Green Bay Packers — that's right, Wisconsin's Packers. These New York area football fans are there to see their team play the New York Giants at Lambeau Field in an historic NFC championship that will determine who goes on to the Super Bowl.
They endured a 16-hour, overnight, cross-country road trip, forked over $400 apiece for game tickets and found the last two available hotel rooms in Green Bay.
But perhaps the biggest challenge for them will be braving brutal sub-zero temperatures. The game has been forecast to be the third-coldest NFL game ever played.
"It's a dream come true," said Barbara Burggraf of Cedar Grove, N.J., whose husband, Drew, has been a Packers fan since he was eight years old. "It's so cold, it's ridiculous, but we're so thrilled we don't feel it," she said.
It is the Burggrafs first trip to Green Bay, but their traveling companions, Sharon and Richard Fredericks of Belleville, have made the trip 10 times and are proving to be expert tour guides.
They've got seat warmers, hand warmers, foot warmers, face masks, hats, hoods and scarves, long johns and thermal socks and insulated boots.
"You have to bring Styrofoam or cardboard to stand on because even with insulated boots, your feet will freeze if you stand on the cement," Sharon Fredericks said.
Fearing the weather forecast, Sharon Fredericks even considered giving her ticket to her Giants-loving son-in-law. The discovery of an old down sleeping bag her husband used on hunting trips changed that.
"I'll be the one wearing the brown sleeping bag," Fredericks said.
The Fredericks' nine-year-old grandson, Daniel Fagan of East Hanover, N.J., who usually accompanies them on their Green Bay trips, will be wearing four full sets of Under Armour, a hooded Packers' sweatshirt, long johns, fleece pants and his ski pants, a face mask, two pairs of socks and insulated boots — plus a sleeping bag, just like his grandma's.
For Barbara Burggraf, sitting in cold like this will be a first.
"I'm absolutely petrified about the cold," Burggraf said. "But I didn't come all the way here to watch the game on TV!"
If the cold proves to be unbearable, she can blame herself for getting involved in a bar bet with a couple of strangers.
The local bar where the Burggraff's catch Packers games on Sundays — Jim Dandy's in Cedar Grove, N.J. — is deep inside Giants territory, so when the Burggraffs found themselves sitting next to the Frederickses during the Packers-Seahawks game, an instant friendship was born.
As the couples watched the Packers pull out a 42-40 win over the Seahawks, Richie Fredericks made a bet with his wife. If the Giants beat the Dallas Cowboys, they'd make the trip to Green Bay to see the Packers play the Giants.
Sharon Fredericks turned to their new friends, whom they only knew by their first names, and invited them along.
"We said absolutely," Burggraff said.
On Saturday morning at 1.25 a.m. the five climbed into the Frederick's Expedition, packed with food and supplies. To keep stops to a minimum, the adults took four-hour shifts behind the wheel, with Daniel sleeping most of the way.
They also watched with each mile as the outdoor temperature reader inside the Expedition got lower and lower.
"Once we got out of New Jersey, the temperature started to drop," Fredericks said. As they drove into Green Bay at 5 p.m. Saturday, they were welcomed by temperatures of minus 5 degrees.
But, she said, in Green Bay, it's only the air that's frigid. It was minus 13 degrees when they ventured out for breakfast Sunday at 10 a.m., with a wind chill factor of minus 35. In the local bars and restaurants, which are packed, the waitresses greet you with hugs.
Escaping the freezing cold for some pre-game lunch at Fuzzy Thurston's — a Green Bay institution owned by the legendary Packer — they met none other than Thurston himself, who posed for lots of smiling pictures.
They've also been to Curly's Pub — originally owned by Curly Lambeau, the Packers' first coach — and have tickets to a tailgate party... an outdoor tailgate party... at Brett Favre's Steakhouse.
The town is one big party where even two conspicuous Giants fans sporting red and blue New York-themed Cheeseheads are welcomed.
"The Giants fans are embraced here. It's not like in New Jersey," Fredericks said.
And for those less hearty souls who will watch the game inside one of Green Bay's many friendly establishments, there are drinks on the house for everyone every time the Packers score.
"Green Bay is like nothing else," Fredericks said.