The Green Bay Packers were the centerpiece of the NationalFootball League (NFL) in the mid-1960s.

After struggling through the 1950s, the team had turned itself around with the hiring of coach Vince Lombardi and the acquisition of players like Bart Starr, Ray Nitschke and Paul Hourning.

And it was against this backdrop that a young Jim Gevens began to rebel against his parents.

“My brother and I were rebels in the family,” Gevens said. “My mom and dad absolutely loved the (Minnesota) Vikings, and we were not going to jump on that bandwagon. We liked the things that were going on in Green Bay, and the players with Nitschke and Bart Starr, so we took on the Packers.”

A Great Start

The Packers had been no strangers to success when Gevens began following them in the mid-60s, capturing nine NFL Championships by 1965.

However, Gevens would be lucky enough to see sports history as the NFL set the wheels in motion to merge with the American Football League (AFL). Though the merger was officially set for 1970, starting with the 1966 season, the two leagues would see their respective champs meet up in a game with an uninspired name — the AFL-NFL World Championship Game. The game would later become known as the Super Bowl.

The Packers would win the first two.

“Watching the first couple of Super Bowls with Kansas City, I remember huddling around the TV,” he said. “It was just a black-and whiteTV. Did not have color back then, but it was just as great in black-and-white as it was in color.”

The Bay Of Pigs

Following the team’s successes in the ‘60s, the 1970s and ‘80s were letdowns for Packer fans.

“I’ve lived and died with them because there’s been middle times when they had no magic at all and it just was ugly,” Gevens said.

Between 1968-1992, the Packers only made two playoff appearances with a single win. For a time, games between the Packers and then divisionrival Tampa Bay Buccaneers were dubbed the “Bay of Pigs” in reference to the failed invasion of Cuba as the two teams jockeyed to stay out of last place in the NFC Central.

But Gevens said there were certain things that helped during these times. “You just have to go with what they do and what they stand for,” he said. “You look at the Green Bay Packers and they don’t have one particular owner — they’re owned by multiple people. It’s not a Jerry Jones-type thing that says, ‘We’re doing this, this and this. They have stockholders and general managers that take care of all that. That’s one of the things that’s always been exciting about the Packers.”

Another constant has been the ongoing rivalry with the Minnesota Vikings.“There’s always been a great rivalry between the Vikings and the Packers,” he said. “It’s always fun to do some little betting on the side or doing some kibitzing or harassment to those darn Vikings fans. One good thing we can always say about being a Packer fan — ‘Look at our Super Bowl rings.’

You ask the Viking fans that and they always just kind of go, ‘This is our year. This is our year.’ We’ve heard that for many years.”

Favre 4 Ever

Brett Favre threw a single touchdown as an Atlanta Falcon in 1991 — to Washington Redskins linebacker Andre Collins. It would be Favre’s only season with the Falcons.

When Favre had to replace an injured Don Majkowski early in the 1992 season, Gevens thought things would change very little.“You always look at those little flash in the pans,” he said. “You can name some of the quarterbacks that came on, they played a couple of games really well and just kind of folded and didn’t do anything after that. Even the Packers had some of those in Don Majkowski and a couple of those others, ‘Ok, this is our savior. This is the guy that’s going to come and take us to the Promised Land.’ They kind of fizzled out.”

This situation was different.

“Favre came on board and he worked his magic,” he said.

Gevens said it was all a lot of fun to watch.

“Watching Favre play has been a lot of fun,” he said. “I’ve had Favre license plates on my vehicles ever since he came to light. As a Packer fan, you knew even if you were down in the fourth quarter with only two minutes to go, Favre steps out there and works his magic and throws a long bomb or has to do something to end up winning that football game. It’s been fun to watch.”

Gevens recalled one of the highlights of the Favre era — a victory in Super Bowl XXXI.

“We had a lot of people at the house watching and rooting on the packers,” he said. “We even had a couple of people that were cheering for the Patriots. … It was just the culmination of a lot of years of being so close but not always getting there.”Even during Favre’s brief tenure with the Minnesota Vikings, Gevens still rooted for him.

Just not as hard.

“First of all, I’m a Packer fan,” he said. “Second of all, I like Brett Favre, what he did, what he stood for, how he played — it was just magic to watch. When he decided to go to the Vikings, and the Vikings and Packers played against each other, I cheered for Brett Favre to do well. I just didn’t want him to actually win.”

A Trip

Gevens has been to a number of games over the years, including a dozen at the fabled Lambeau Field.

“It’s a trip that you love to go to, but coming home it’s a long trip back home,” he said. “Whenever we’ve been there to watch the Packers play, we get good seats, do the tailgating early in the morning, we’re there for the game, we leave and it’s just a lot of fun.”

He added that Lambeau is the home of some true super fans.

“You see a lot of crazy people,” he said. “Some people think I’m crazy with what I do with the Packers. There’s a lot of other Packer fans in Yankton that think they’re kind of crazy. You haven’t seen anything until you’re actually at a football game and see some of the people and how they dress and react.”

Despite its reputation of being the Frozen Tundra, Gevens said he opts to go to games during warmer times.

“I’m not going to be one of those crazies, though, that goes in the middle of December to take my shirt off and put a number four on my chest for Brett Favre,” he said. “I’ll go to an early game in September when the weather’s still nice and in the winter time, I’ll sit at home in the comforts of my recliner.”

While he may have rebelled against his parents’ chosen team, Gevens said his family is a little different.

“With me being so into the Packers, it’s rubbed off onto my son and my daughter,” he said. “My son and my daughter are Packer fans too.”

The Shrine

Over the years, Gevens has accumulated LOTS of Packer memorabilia. There is no mistaking his truck with the “Favre4” license plates. In addition to the usual penants and flags, clocks and Christmas ornaments, some of the more unusual items are a box of  “Jordy” Flakes cereal, a “Packer” candy bar, and an autographed mini-helmet by Bart Starr. And of course he wouldn’t be a true-blue Packer fan if he didn’t have a cheese head. If he had to guess, Gevens would say he probably has close to 500 Packer items. So of course, he has turned his office into a “Packer shrine”.

He’s got one of the easiest Christmas lists around…… “Anything Packer”!