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Cold? When you’re watching the Packers at Lambeau Field, who cares?
GREEN BAY, Wis. — It’s not easy being Frozen Tundra Man.
Before he arrives for Packer games at Lambeau Field, Jeff Kahlow, a 62-year-old Wisconsin upholsterer, hot glues two pounds of icicles to his face and beard.
“It’s horrific,” he says. “It burns when you put it on, and it stings when you take it off.”
The pièce de résistance is the icicle stuck in his nostril. He calls it a “snotsicle.”
For the last 21 years, Kahlow has attended almost every home game where the temperature dips below freezing.
Frozen Tundra Man arrives four hours before this December “Monday Night Football” contest against the Los Angeles Rams and parks his car in a Buffalo Wild Wings parking lot. Walking to Lambeau takes time because everyone wants a selfie with the human icicle.
“I call it the eighth wonder of the world,” he says of Lambeau. “It really is beautiful.”
The tailgating scene is eclectic. Fans do “shotskis,” where they tilt a ski embedded with four shot glasses filled with cinnamon whiskey up to their mouths all at once. The smoke from bratwurst on the grill wafts higher than the 14-foot Vince Lombardi statue. Cheeseheads debate who makes the best cheese curds. There’s little debate about the best beer. It’s Spotted Cow, a cloudy cask conditioned farmhouse ale only sold in Wisconsin.
If you forget a beer opener, someone else will offer to open it ... with their teeth.
The human icicle patrols the tailgates, but he never eats or drinks. He fasts for 12 hours because his elaborate costume makes a bathroom break impossible.
In the late afternoon, the Rams team buses follow a police convoy through the raucous parking lots outside the stadium. Security holds up the crowds, but Frozen Tundra Man is allowed to pass with a pat on his turf-covered shoulder pads. He is a secret weapon. They want the Rams to know they aren’t in La-La Land anymore.
There’s a 7-degree windchill but the field is heated so cleats can dig in. Once inside, the human icicle sits on his front-row aluminum bench, near the end zone where Packers players do the “Lambeau Leap” into the stands after a touchdown.
Lambeau Field was named after Curly Lambeau in 1965 in memory of the Packers founder, player, and longtime head coach. Despite being the smallest NFL market, the Packers say they will never sell the naming rights.
Season tickets are nearly impossible to get. The renewal rate is over 99 percent. Aaron Popkey, the Packers’ director of public affairs, says the wait list has more than 140,000 people on it.
“It’s a family heirloom that gets handed down,” he explains. “We’ve had some interesting stories of families who split up and they’ve been able to settle the home, the furniture, the china, but not the tickets.
“We joke that the sun will extinguish itself before you get your Packers tickets.”
People walk around here like they own the place, mostly because many of the 77,269 actually do.
The Packers are the only publicly owned NFL team, with 539,000 shareholders. Last season’s offering price was $300 a share. The stock can’t be traded; it is mostly just for bragging rights.
Dan Deiler, a 23-year-old Army veteran, is a Packer stockholder here on a bucket-list wish. He just proposed to his girlfriend on the field during a Lambeau tour.
“It took her 60 seconds to say ‘yes’ because she was crying so much.”
There’s no place else in the world like this town. You drive by row after row of modest ranch houses and then ... boom, there’s the stadium, right in the middle of the neighborhood, the tallest building in Green Bay.
Cheeseheads come from all over to visit. Dr. Joseph Zappala of Newport Beach, Calif., is partying at a house directly across the street from Lambeau. He’s rooting for a blizzard.
“I want ice on my beard and so much snow that you can’t see the yard markers,” says Zappala.
TV announcers have been calling Lambeau Field “the frozen tundra” since the “Ice Bowl,” the 1967 NFL championship game between the Packers and Cowboys. The game-time temperature was minus 13 degrees; the windchill made it minus 48.
Fans behind the Cowboys bench kept pulling the plug to the heaters. Bart Starr scored on a quarterback sneak behind a Jerry Kramer block to give the Packers a 21-17 victory. When Kramer comes back, he’s met with chants of “Jer-ry! Jer-ry!”
Tonight, the cold doesn’t bother running back AJ Dillon, who scores two touchdowns to help the Packers beat the Rams, but skips the Lambeau Leap. Dillon is used to the cold. He still has his Boston College winter jacket in his locker.
“It’s an awesome place to play,” he says. “There’s just so much rich history.”
After the win, Frozen Tundra Man walks slowly and stiffly to his icy Ford Escape. Before his 70-mile drive home to Fond du Lac, he snips the glued-on icicles off his beard. He uses nail polish remover, a razor blade and scissors. The scene resembles a bad horror movie and can take up to two hours.
“The next day, it looks like a rabid dog attacked my face because there’s a lot of blemishes, there’s a lot of red spots from the hot glue,” he says.
“It’s worth it.”
Read more in this series
- Augusta National Golf Club
- Cameron Indoor Stadium
- Michigan Stadium
- Churchill Downs
- Indianapolis Motor Speedway
- Fenway Park
Stan Grossfeld can be reached at email@example.com.