First things first - I have been a Green Bay Packers fan all of my life. I was blessed having parents that brought me up that way. My love affair with the historic team from northern Wisconsin began in 1962. My favorite player was running back Paul Hornung. The reason I was so fond of the future Hall of Famer was that we shared first names, he wore number five and I was five years old at the time. Therefore he was my favorite. Hey, it made perfect to sense to me.
You might have noticed that I said my “parents” brought me up to be a Packer fan, not just my father. That is because my Ma provided me with one of my most vivid memories of the 13-time World Champions. It was on December 31, 1967. Bart Starr had just scored the go-ahead touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys in the legendary “Ice Bowl” game and Ma was sitting on the floor hooting and hollering. She was on the floor because she had fallen off the davenport with a loud cheer the moment the Packer quarterback scored.
Of course, it is a given that my Pa directed me down the straight and narrow when it came to which football team to support. His brothers, my uncles John and Joe were also there to lend a helping hand teaching me what was right and good when it came to football. It was always the Green and Gold for the Vagnoni family. But Pa was always the number one guiding force when it came to the Packers.
That is why Pa was the first one I took up with me to watch the Packers train in July prior to the season. That was in ’88 or ’89, I’m not quite sure, all those championships have somewhat blurred my powers of recall. The next year I went with my brother Mike. The following year, the Fishers joined us. After that, it was Reenie, the Szalapskis and various other friends adding to the group. It had become a tradition. And this was well before attending Packers training camp was the avant-garde thing to do. We were definitely trendsetters.
It was always a good time visiting Green Bay to watch our favorite team working out, preparing for the upcoming season. We had certain customs we observed every year, but like I said, my recollection isn’t what it used to be and the years have begun to run together. However, certain events will always stick in my mind.
It was the fourth or fifth year. The group was larger than usual. People came and left at different times. It was on a Sunday when the remaining women decided that they had had enough and they were heading back to Kenosha. Brother Mike, Vern and myself decided to stay one more day. The ladies said fine.
Except for Reenie. She wanted to stay.
The trio of us told her that we didn’t have a problem with that, but we planned on going to a “gentlemen’s club” after dining at Bart Starr’s restaurant. Her response was, “Ya, right! You guys ain’t going to a strip joint, I’m staying!” We said no problem.
After the Kenosha-bound friends had left, Reenie and the three of us went to have dinner at Bart Starr’s place. Afterward, we informed our female companion that we were now going to the Body Shop. The gentlemen’s club. The strip joint. When she realized that we weren’t joking around, she sheepishly asked us to drop her off at the motel. We obliged.
When Mike, Vern and I arrived at the Body Shop, we weren’t impressed. It wasn’t much more than a big neighborhood-type bar. The crowd was mixture of young and old “gentlemen”. There was even a table of older couples in attendance.
The dancers performed on top of the bar, stripping down to a G-string or a thong. Nothing too tawdry. Enjoyable, but not tawdry. While Mike and Vern were transfixed with the entertainment on the bar, I happened to notice three large men entering the bar. You see, I have very good peripheral vision for my size.
Upon further observation I noticed that one of the men was none other than Packer linebacker, Brian Noble. The other two I didn’t recognize. They must have been rookies that Noble was chaperoning because they were definitely players. They dwarfed Noble who stood 6’3” and weighed 250 lbs. His two companions were several inches taller and a good fifty pounds heavier.
Anyway, after determining that it was indeed Brian Noble, I poked Mike and Vern and said in a semi-hushed voice, “Hey! It’s Brian Noble!” To which Vern said, “Ya, right.” My brother gave me the “don’t be yanking my chain look.” They went back to ogling the performer seductively making her way across the bar.
Again, I prodded my associates and told them, “Hey! It’s Brian Noble!” Mike didn’t even look at me this time, just telling me to shut up. When Vern turned to admonish me, he saw the three immense men taking a seat at the bar. After realizing who they were, he shouted out, “Hey! It’s Brian Noble!” Half the bar turned to look.
I was a bit embarrassed, but not my brother Mike. Although a bit star struck, he announced that he was going up to the bar to get us another beer. He then mustered up enough courage to belly up right alongside Noble and the two rookies to order our beers.
Mike returned smiling from ear to ear with three Pabst Blue Ribbons. Composing himself, he told us that he was listening to the Packers talking at that bar. I said that’s cool, what were they talking about? He said he wasn’t sure what the rookies were saying, but they were asking Noble something. When Vern asked what Noble said to them, Mike reported that the veteran told the rookies, “Shut up, I’m watching the girl.” It was so impressive the way Noble provided the two newcomers with that sage advice. Just one more reason that I’ll always be a Packer fan.
See what you missed, Reenie? Until next time…from the booth.