Tom Ross: Citizens of Cheesehead Nation
February 8, 2011
Steamboat Springs — If you were impressed with the performance of the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night and consider them a favorite to repeat as Super Bowl champs in 2012, as I do, perhaps you should consider becoming an owner — of the team.
The Packers are an anomaly in all of professional sports in that they're a team owned by their fans. They are the NFL team that embraces the small, overlooked cities of America. It's why this week, America is Cheesehead Nation.
But you'll have to be patient if you want to buy into the Pack, and you shouldn't plan on reaping any cash dividends.
If you're ever fortunate enough to buy a few shares of the Packers, you'll be among about 112,000 shareholders, according to the Green Bay Press Gazette. But don't hold your bratwurst breath. You can't just jump on E-Trade and buy shares of GBP. The stock doesn't trade on the New York Stock Exchange.
The last time the NFL club offered stock for sale at $200 a share was in 1998, when it sought to raise funds to expand Lambeau Field. The stock offering sold out in about 11 days. People who own shares can sell them back only to the team, and they don't appreciate in value.
So why would anybody bother to buy shares in the Packers? It's all about pride of ownership. That and the fact that ownership of shares in the Green Bay Packers provides single guys and gals with one helluva pickup line.
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"What do you do for a living?"
"I'm a member of the Green Bay Packers ownership group. Would you like to meet Aaron Rodgers?"
Shareholders also receive a nifty certificate of ownership and an invitation to the shareholders meeting in Lambeau Field.
More symbolically, the public ownership of the Packers gives the team's fans confidence that their favorite squad always will be true to its humble roots in northeast Wisconsin and never be moved to Los Angeles.
Packers fans never will sell out and they'll never be sold out.
If there's such a thing as America's team in the NFL, it cannot be found in Dallas. It's in Green Bay, a city of fewer than 150,000 souls. How does a city that small support an NFL team? Well, naturally, on game days fans pour into Lambeau Field from nearby metro areas like Kaukauna, Sheboygan, Manitowoc and Sturgeon Bay.
The Packers organization has been fiercely rooted in its working-class ethos ever since Curly Lambeau was forced by a case of tonsillitis to leave the University of Notre Dame football team. He went home to Green Bay after one semester to have surgery and never left.
Lambeau took a job in a meat packing plant in Green Bay and in 1919, he and a rascal of a newspaperman, George Calhoun, assembled a group of sturdy athletes and the Packers were born. Lambeau convinced his employer to put up money for uniforms and equipment in exchange for naming rights. Players salaries came from passing the hat after home games.
They played teams from Northern Michigan, Wisconsin and Northern Minnesota.
In 1919 the Packers went 10-1. They defeated the Marinette Northerners, 61-0, demoralized the Racine Iroquois, 76-6, bashed the Oshkosh Professionals, 46-0, and suffered their lone defeat at the hands of the Beloit Fairies by a score of 6-0.
You can look it up at the Wisconsin Historical Society.
— To reach Tom Ross, call (970) 871-4205 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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