The Green Bay Packers take on the Atlanta Falcons this weekend for the the NFC Championship and a trip to Super Bowl LI in Houston, TX.
My history with both teams goes back a long way.
The Falcons were my first team. Back before the Jaguars came to Jacksonville they were the closest thing we had to the NFL. My dad is from Atlanta and I still have a lot of family up there, so we were fans with good reason.
However, my grandfather in Atlanta preferred the Green Bay Packers over the home-town team. He wasn't much of a sports fan, but he loved that Green Bay is a town-owned team; that the players jump into the stands after a touchdown; and that Lambeau field is always full of fans. Rain or shine, snow or wind, the stands are always packed.
Lambeau became this mythic place in my mind. The Frozen Tundra. Titletown, USA. The place where football was played how it was meant to be - with heart and a devoted fan base.
I finally got the chance to visit Lambeau in December 2012. It was a wet and snowy day. Not too cold, but cold enough for this Florida girl with a waning winter wardrobe. Luckily, the one beanie I owned at the time was a bright yellow “Nikon” cap, so I fit right in with the Packers fans in their green and gold.
Sports Illustrated was working on a book on Lambeau Field - Green, Gold and Glory - and sent Bill and I to take portraits of the fans in their winter best. We took a portrait of as many fans as we could and did short interviews with each for caption information. I talked to people who haven't miss a home game in 40 years. And others who had - like me - always dreamed of making the pilgrimage to Lambeau and had finally found their way into its hallowed hallways.
For the editors in New York to know who was who, we had everyone write their name on a piece of white paper and hold it up for a frame or two. That system worked pretty well, but one person in particular - Becky Fazer - was too excited to hold still long enough, so I stepped in and held it for her.
Becky's expression says it all. She was a lifelong Packers fan making her first trip to Lambeau Field and her elation was infectious. She didn't make the Sports Illustrated book - only a few people did - but she made one epic, dirty-set photo with me.
I don't know where Becky is now, but I hope she watched that incredible finish against Dallas last week. I don't know if I'll be rooting for the Packers this weekend - I will be in London and far away from football - but I'm willing to bet she will be, and with enthusiasm.