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‘There’s no place like Lambeau Field ...’

April 24, 2011
MATT WELLENS - Journal Sports Editor ( , The Mining Journal

Call me delusional, ignorant, naive, clueless or maybe just plain stupid.

But I truly believe that there will be a full, complete 2011 NFL season.

I know in my heart that on Sept. 8, I will be at Lambeau Field with my father and we will watch the Super Bowl XLV champion Green Bay Packers kick off the 2011 NFL season with a victory over the New Orleans Saints.

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I staked my claim to the NFL opener via a text to my cousin Andy - a security guard at Lambeau Field and Packers' employee - at 10:14 p.m. EST on Feb. 6, which was just minutes after the Packers reclaimed the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Me: "Pending a lockout, I call tickets to the season opener at Lambeau on Thursday night."

Andy: "10-4. I'll get you at least 2."

I confirmed my reservation on Tuesday at 5:22 p.m. EST again via a text, since it was very likely Andy may have been in a hallucinogenic, euphoric state on Super Bowl Sunday at Cowboys Stadium. I know I was back in Marquette while putting together the next day's sports section.

There was a big difference, however, between my original text and the one sent this week. I gave no reference to the lockout, as if the whole work stoppage had disappeared.

Me: "My reservation for at least 2 to the season opener still stand? Rumor is it's vs. Saints since Bears are opening vs Atlanta."

Andy: "Yup, I got u down for 2."

Then I put in a request for the Christmas Day game, which is more likely to actually happen right now than the opener. But still, what was I thinking? This lockout is nowhere near a conclusion.

Both sides have shown chinks in their armor, with the owners making huge concessions in a last-ditch effort before talks broke off and the players' union decertified and sued. This week we learned the "mid-tier" players want to potentially break away from the lawsuit filed by elite quarterbacks and multi-millionaires Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees.

U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson is expected to rule on the players injunction to halt the lockout possibly on Monday, but even if her judgement goes the players' way, there are still a plethora of legal hurdles that need to be cleared before we can even start talking about training camp or Sept. 8th's opener in Titletown.

Still, I couldn't help but become giddy on Tuesday as I pored over a Packers' schedule that contained three holiday games - Thanksgiving in Detroit scares me - and four primetime contests. I made my predictions - Packers go 12-4 and undefeated at Lambeau Field - and relished the fact that football would be played in Green Bay three of the final four weeks of the regular season.

I laughed at Chicago and applauded the league for punishing the Bears for their awful field by sending them on the road three of the last four weeks and four of the last six weeks.

The NFC North title is a lock for Cheesehead Nation, if of course the 2011 season actually happens.

Typically I'm a pessimistic person and I don't blame anyone that is with this lockout. The last major work stoppage in sports I followed was the NHL lockout in 2004-05 and this dispute between millionaires and billionaires is $9 billion-times worse.

That imaginable pie of money that the players and owners can't seem to agree on how to divide is just too lucrative to give up this year and that is why I believe the entire 2011 season will be saved at the last minute.

A man much smarter than me - Andrew Brandt, the cofounder of National Football Post and former Packers executive - has used a phrase throughout the lockout that has given me hope - deadlines spur action.

Chicago and St. Louis are scheduled to meet Sunday, Aug. 7, at 8 p.m. in the Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio. If the lights at Fawcett Stadium are dark come the second weekend of August, then I'll start to get worried.

Until then, expect a column on Sept. 11 detailing how awesome of a day Sept. 8 was for me at Lambeau Field.

Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is



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