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I’m excited for football season to begin at area high schools, colleges and even the NFL.

To me, the beginning of football season marks the end of summer and the beginning of my favorite season: fall.

I’ll admit, I’m a diehard Green Bay Packers fan. They are the only football team I will ever support — in good and troubling times. Remember the Dan Devine, Bart Starr and Forrest Gregg years? Bart and Forrest were great players for Vince Lombardi … but were not exceptional coaches. Devine couldn’t seem to find his footings as an NFL coach, but excelled at Notre Dame after leaving the Packers.

I do have a few loves in my life. The first is newspapers, the other … the Green Bay Packers.

I have been to several games inside Lambeau Field. Some before the remodel and others were after the remodel. The first time it was cold – darn cold be exact. I think the temperature was 10 degrees. But when you’re packed into the stands with other Packers … it seems a bit warmer. Just have to make certain you dress in layers and have plenty of instant Hothands hand warmers along.

Like most diehard Packers fans, I own Green Bay Packers stock. Plus … I have a Green Bay Packers’ Christmas tree. I even have a Green Bay Packers’ Christmas Village.

And if you must know, I own a Cheesehead plus a cheese and sausage fomation necklace. I won’t begin to tell you how many Packers jerseys I own. Just know … it’s probably too many.

I once owned a huge inflatable Green Bay Packers player that stood outside my house, when I lived in Hibbing, Minn. The inflatable only lasted a couple of seasons until a disgruntled Vikings fan (I think it was my sports editor) decided to steal it. I know it was him because his wife told me about when she was cleaning out their garage for a garage sale she found something resembling a football player inflatable.

My infatuation with the Packers’ began at an early age when our parish priest, Father O’Brien, used to recite favor one-liners from the famous “St. Vincent” (AKA Vince Lombardi). After religion class on Sunday mornings, Father O’Brien invited whoever wanted to watch the game over to the church rectory and to enjoy for his mother’s famous sticky popcorn and homemade root beer.

His mother was his housekeeper and she knew how to keep a crew of 26 rowdy kids in line. She nicknamed us the Green and Gold Brigade. And when the game was over, she’d call our parents to come and get us.

My mother said Mrs. O’Brien truly was a saint for putting up with us. She was 70 plus years old when I knew her. When she died, the church was packed with all those children who once adorned her living room and stuffed our faces with her homemade goodies. As a tribute to the Packers (a team she also loved) we wore green and gold.

When my rural school merged with a neighboring school, Packers’ fans outnumbered the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Viking fans, thus our school colors became green and gold. And … when the football team started to design its new uniforms, the athletic director knew someone inside the Green Bay Packers organization. The Packers’ staff member sent us an official uniform for us to help with design and proper color selection. To this day, my high school’s football team uniforms still resemble the Green Bay Packers.

Love or hate the Packers, they are part the last of the small-town teams. They are the only non-profit, community-owned major league professional sports team in the U.S. It’s part of the Packer mystique.

Plus in late summer, all stockholders are invited to a community meeting at Lambeau Field to learn about Packer operations. I’ll miss the meeting this year … darn.

Of course, one can’t forget to mention the Packers have long-standing, bitter rivalries with their NFC North opponents: the Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings and the Detroit Lions. The Bears-Packers rivalry is one of the oldest rivalries in NFL history and I can’t wait for the game scheduled to kick off the season on Thursday, September 5.

Needless to say, when someone at the office suggested I should change my allegiance to either the Dallas Cowboys or the Arizona Cardinals, I scoffed at the idea. And if you think I’ll answer my phone when the Packers are playing … think again. I have priorities in life … the Green Bay Packers get top billing when they are playing.

Yes, I’ll admit it my heart bleeds green and gold. Whether they win or lose, I will always remain a diehard Green Bay Packers fan.