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Wind doesn’t chill fans’ enthusiasm

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GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — The c-c-cold couldn't stop Herb Kochon, who took as many pictures as he could at his first game at Lambeau Field.

Kochon, a lifelong Packers fan from Atlantic Highlands, N.J., said he made the pilgrimage to Vince Lombardi's grave in nearby Middletown and had the photos to prove it.

"I've always been a Packer fan. When I was younger, the Packers were the team in the 1960s, TV just started getting popular and whenever I'd turn it on the Packers were playing," said Kochon, decked out in a Ray Nitschke jersey and Miller Lite lounge pants. "I'm like a little kid on Christmas Eve."

Kochon was dressed appropriately for the Packers' 23-20 overtime loss to the New York Giants in the NFC Championship game last night.

At kickoff, the temperature was 1 below zero with a wind chill of 23 below, the second coldest home game in Packers' history. A local group handed out 30,000 packets of hand warmers, while videographers had quilts and blankets over cameras in an effort to keep them functioning.

It was 2 below by the second quarter and 3 below to start the second half.

Giants quarterback Eli Manning ran in place at times and kept his hands buried in a pouch, while his teammates were huddled in overcoats.

On the Green Bay sideline, right tackle Mark Tauscher bent down and rubbed his hands directly in front of the giant yellow heaters — two were at each end of the bench. Later, safety Atari Bigby put his helmet nearly inside one.

Fans seemed to be having fun in the stands, taking what little snow wasn't shoveled out to make snow balls.

By comparison, it was 23 degrees in North Pole, Alaska, and at kickoff in the New England Patriots' 21-12 victory over the visiting San Diego Chargers in the AFC Championship game in Foxborough, Mass. Though warmer than Green Bay, it was the lowest temperature for any of the three championship games played there over the years. The wind chill was 9.

But big rewards awaited those who endured last night's bone-chilling temperatures — a Super Bowl berth in balmy Glendale, Ariz.

Despite below-zero temperatures, Kochon and thousands of other fans continued the time-honored tradition at Lambeau Field's tailgates — beers, brats and cheese.

Some, however, were finding conditions somewhat daunting. Several fans couldn't quite get beer out of their bottles because they were frozen.

"It's one of our colder days, but we didn't set any records or anything," National Weather Service meteorologist Jim Skowronski said. "We deal with this type of weather. It's not a constant thing up here, but on a typical winter, we will have a couple of days that are comparable to what we have now."

Many players in the AFC Championship game wore short sleeves, and several, including linemen, wore gloves. In Green Bay, Packers offensive linemen and some defensive linemen have a rule that they do not wear sleeves in any weather.

"If you're over 300 pounds you can't wear sleeves, so that's pretty much all of us," Ryan Pickett said.

Brett Favre took the field without gloves despite the cold, and Manning wore a red glove on his nonthrowing hand.

One person who knows all about that cold is Bart Starr, the Packers' quarterback during the Ice Bowl game against the Dallas Cowboys on Dec. 31, 1967, when the temperature was 13 below with a wind chill of minus-46. One fan at that game died of exposure.

Starr said the key for players dealing with the elements is their approach.

"I don't want this to sound trite, because it's not — it's attitude," Starr said. "It's a mental thing, and you, an individual, regardless of what's coached to you, you have to put it out of your mind and focus on what the purpose and what your objectives are. You have to push it away."

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