"I've been a Green Bay Packer for a long time, but no one has been a Packer as long as Lee Remmel. . . I loved giving you a hard time and you always gave it right back to me. . . The NFL will miss you, the Green Bay Packers will miss you, and I will miss you. Good luck in retirement." -- Brett Favre, in a televised FOX pregame tribute before the Seattle-Green Bay game
When the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants meet at Lambeau Field on Sunday in the NFC Championship Game, Lee Remmel will be watching as usual.
The vantage point, however, will be different.
One of the most respected and popular figures in franchise history, Remmel, 83, will view the game from the comfort of his living room due to health concerns, along with his wife, Noreen, and their three cats. Otherwise, he would have been up in the press box at Lambeau Field -- the one that bears his name.
Remmel's amazing career officially ended Dec. 31, when he retired after a 62-year association with the team. He served the first 29½ years as a reporter with the Green Bay Press-Gazette, the next 30 as Green Bay's public relations director, and the last three as the Packers team historian.
The genial and humble Remmel has witnessed first-hand much of the Packers' storied history, having covered or worked with all 14 Green Bay head coaches, from Curly Lambeau and Vince Lombardi to Mike Holmgren and Mike McCarthy.
And Favre is not the only Green Bay legend with an iron-man streak.
Remmel was at the first 40 Super Bowls, and attended 121 straight games (122 overall) in the last seven decades between the NFL's greatest rivals: the Packers and the Bears.
He's watched Hall of Famers such as Don Hutson, Tony Canadeo, Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, and Reggie White win championships that earned the NFL's smallest city the moniker of "Titletown, USA."
"David vs. Goliath, the big market vs. the little market, was always a compelling aspect of the past Green Bay-New York championship games," Remmel said. "The Packers have won four of the five previous championship encounters."
The 1962 NFL Championship game was a brutal affair in which Green Bay prevailed 16-7 over New York at Yankee Stadium in minus-13 degree temperatures and 40 mph winds.
"It was a raw, physical game," Remmel said. "That was Vince Lombardi's greatest team, but the Giants were highly motivated to redeem themselves from the shutout the year before."
"There's some history there," Remmel quipped. "And contrary to popular belief, I didn't witness the championship games in the 1930s."
It was not unusual to see exotic words like primordial, invidious, and mellifluous in Remmel's press releases or website columns.
These descriptive modifiers and phrases are a Remmel trademark, and what distinguished him from his peers throughout the NFL. His extensive vocabulary and amazing memory for Packers facts are legendary.
One Green Bay icon paid tribute to another last month upon the announcement of Remmel's retirement.
"He's a Packers icon," Favre said in a team press release. "There will never be another like him. His knowledge of the team and its history has always been impressive. He is sharp as a tack when it came to those things -- truly impressive. He's always had a great sense of humor, too. We loved to give each other a hard time. I cherish our friendship."
Another Packer legend said Remmel will be greatly missed.
"He did what he loved," said Jerry Kramer, former Green Bay guard. "Lee Remmel is loyal, intelligent, prepared, consistent -- just a good solid human being. And a human library concerning the Green Bay Packers. The organization and fans will miss him."
For Remmel, his career and relationship with the Green Bay franchise has been a life-long love affair.
Growing up in Shawano, Wis., a small town 35 miles northwest of Green Bay, Remmel idolized the Packers and Chicago Cubs, listening to games on the radio with his father. As a teenager, he had two surgeries to remove tumors, which delayed his attending high school until 1940.
"I quickly discovered that the athletes get the girls, so if I couldn't be an athlete, the next best thing was to write about sports," Remmel said. "So I offered my services to the Shawano County Journal."
Remmel was paid 75 cents per article for his prep game reports -- which he wrote out longhand, as he had not yet learned to type -- and another 50 cents for a column. A sports journalist was born, for $1.25 a week and the opportunity to write on a regular basis.
He started with the Green Bay Press-Gazette in 1945 and then got his big break.
"I was a cub city reporter at the Green Bay Press-Gazette," Remmel recalled, "and my desk was next to George Calhoun's. That's the same George Whitney Calhoun who called the first meeting of the Green Bay Packers' team at the Press-Gazette in 1919.
"He asked me if I would like to write the team press book. Well, I said 'What's in it?' and he replied, 'Ten dollars and two season tickets.' I said I'd take it, and have been writing about the Packers ever since."
Remmel has been witness to sports royalty over the years.
"Nobody knew who Vince Lombardi was when he came to Green Bay in 1959," Remmel said. "He made quite an impression by telling the Packers' executive committee that he was in complete command. It didn't take long to find out he was. Lombardi made this franchise a winner again."
Green Bay became known as "Titletown" in the 1960s, winning five NFL titles, including three straight from 1965-67 to match three straight won in 1929-31 under Lambeau. Remmel has interviewed many of the all-time greats in team lore, from Hutson and Canadeo to Hornung and Favre.
The best Packer, in Remmel's opinion?
"Donald Montgomery Hutson," said Remmel, who saw Hutson score an NFL-record 29 points in one quarter against Detroit in 1945. "With due respect to the many other great players of our franchise."
And Remmel has been there for the historic games, from the legendary 21-17 "Ice Bowl" victory over the Dallas Cowboys 40 years ago and the first Super Bowl in Los Angeles to Green Bay's victory over New England in Super Bowl XXXI.
The greatest game in Green Bay history?
"The Ice Bowl," Remmel said, without hesitation. "Because of the extreme conditions (minus-13 degrees, minus-46 wind chill) and the dramatic finish, in a game of that magnitude."
Not only was Remmel inducted into the PackersHall of Fame in 1996, but the Lambeau Field press box was renamed in his honor in 2003 by team president Bob Harlan.
"Lee has been such a wonderful ambassador for this organization," Harlan said. "He's a very talented writer and the consummate professional, who was respected throughout the NFL. I saw how popular and respected he was in the league press boxes and at the Super Bowls over the years.
"Lee made a lot of friends in his career and developed such great relationships with the media and our fans. The Packers were his passion-a very important part of his life, since he was a young boy. I really enjoyed working with Lee and have so much respect for him."
Remmel considers himself fortuitous to have a 60-plus-year association with the Green Bay Packers and their fans. Like Lambeau, Lombardi, Starr, and Favre, Remmel will go down in Packer history as one of the all-time greats. And one day his name may fittingly grace the façade of historic Lambeau Field or appear in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
"I have been very fortunate to work for the Packers organization," Remmel said. "I wouldn't change a thing. I've experienced so many great moments in my career and met so many great people and Packer fans. The memories have been priceless."
Martin Hendricks is a freelance sports writer based in Eau Claire, Wis.