August 25th, 2013. The beginning of the end of Green Bay Packers Training Camp.
For almost a month, players and coaches have watched countless of hours of film, played in three games (with a fourth on the way), and prepared for the 2013-14 season. They’ve ran countless of drills, shouted countless plays, and spent one a few nights in college dorms nearby.
Packer players have also ridden bikes to and from the practice field every single day.
It is a Packer tradition that was started by Vince Lombardi in the 1960s. Packer players ride childrens bikes from Lambeau field to and from the Ray Nitschke Field for Training Camp practice. Every day, young Packer fans, ages 7 through 15, line up their bikes in the Lambeau Field parking lot in hopes that
there bike will be chosen by their favorite Packer.
The process of being chosen, however, isn’t easy. Most kids get to the field around 8 a.m. to set up their bike station. Some get there as early as 6 a.m. in hopes of snagging an autograph or two. There are also those that keep their bikes in a trailer, then pull them out when their family gets to the stadium. Either way, these kids know the importance of getting a prime position for selection.
After that, it is simply a waiting game. It may be an hour or two before the first Packer finally emerges from the Stadium. The minute that event happens, calm chaos slowly takes over. It is almost like watching batting practice before a MLB game. Some fans scream and bribe for the outfielder to throw them a ball while others just stand with puppy eyes. A similar thing occurs for the moment of selection. Some children holler while others quietly stand and pray any player, let alone their favorite, will come over.
By this time, fans have gathered along the fence to watch the players and their chauffeur come down the lane. They too have hopes and aspirations. Some watch to see if their child will be selected or their child’s friend. Others simply want a high five (as did a girl who was celebrating her 20th birthday), but most just wanted to see the tradition live on. They wanted to see BJ Raji ride down on a bike with pink handlebars and white tires or Clay Matthews on a Batman themed bike.
It’s a tradition that brings the team and fans closer together, which was exactly what Lombardi intended all those years ago.