packers redskins 2001
Screenshot: tsimos jones YouTube

For better or worse, football is America’s sport. If that wasn’t clear by the ratings and revenue, it became undeniable after 9/11 – when the country dried their eyes long enough to come together for the first Monday Night Football game after the terrorist attacks. And there was no better place to do that than Lambeau Field, in America’s heartland in little Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Vince Lombardi

Vince Lombardi and Curly Lambeau keeps eternal vigilance over their home turf. | via Wikimedia

A Nation in Mourning

In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the entire country was in mourning. Americans found it hard to even believe such a thing could happen. Yet, we found ways to comfort each other, even if it was only a sense of being together.

The NFL postponed its games for a week, giving everyone a chance to reflect and grieve. When football did return, it was different. It was more than just a game; it was a symbol of unity and defiance against those who had sought to divide us.

The uniquely American sport allowed us to set aside our own differences for something greater. And nowhere was this more apparent than the first Monday Night Football game after the attacks.

9/11

An unknown firefighter at Ground Zero | via Library of Congress

Fast forward to the evening of September 24, 2001. The country couldn’t find themselves gathering at a better place, even if just by a screen, than legendary Lambeau Field.

By far the smallest market in professional sports, Green Bay, Wisconsin showcased the best of America and who we are as a people.

The home team Packers were set to host the team from the nation’s capital, the Washington Redskins. While there was excitement and mourning and anger, understand that people also felt a clear and present danger, especially in a very large, nationally-televised gathering.

Lambeau Field

Packers fans love honoring America. Lambeau in 2011 | via Wikimedia

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Chris Gizzi Carries America

Through the mourning and suffering, one unsung hero sought to put the entire country on his back, and get us on our feet again.

Green Bay Packers linebacker Chris Gizzi, a member of the Air Force Reserve, exploded out of the tunnel with a big, beautiful American flag. We were on our feet.

The flag billowed behind Gizzi, followed by the rest of the Green Bay Packers, and Gizzi ran clear across the field to wave the flag as hard as he could. There wasn’t a dry eye or a butt in a seat.

Watch below:

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The Game Itself

Once the game got underway, it was football as usual, but with an added layer of meaning. The Packers and the Redskins battled fiercely on the field, but the camaraderie and sportsmanship were palpable. It was a contest, yes, but it was also a reminder that, in the face of adversity, we can come together and find strength in each other.

Unfortunately for the Redskins, Brett Favre and company also came to defend the Frozen Tundra, on top of everything else.

The Packers won the game 37-0, but that was hardly the most important outcome of the night. Lambeau Field, filled with fans wearing red, white, and blue, had become a symbol of hope and resilience.

Packers 9/11

Screenshot: Packers History Twitter

The first Monday Night Football game at Lambeau Field after the 9/11 terrorist attacks wasn’t just about touchdowns and tackles; it was about a nation finding its footing again. It was about coming together in the face of tragedy and finding solace in the things we love.

Chris Gizzi’s iconic run with the American flag, in that stadium and in that city, symbolized the spirit of America and the strength of a nation determined to move forward. It was a moment that transcended football.

Here’s to Chris Gizzi – the right man for the job at exactly the right time. We are forever grateful.

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