“When I dream of afterlife in heaven, the action always takes place in the Paris Ritz." — Ernest Hemingway
My father used to claim that the French exported haute cuisine, chain smoking, and insouciance to the United States and I countered that other than liberation from the Nazis, we only gave them McDonalds and Starbucks.
We were both wrong.
I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to Paris with some frequency, and I find the French to be warm, friendly and — most recently — fans of American sports. As a journalist, I’ve written extensively about sports and it’s always been my favorite topic of discussion as a radio host.
In June 2017, I was having breakfast alone in Paris at the Ritz, when a waiter approached me and asked if I was a fan of American football. I’ve been a Jets fan since childhood and showed him a photo of me on the field with my journalist credentials at Met Life Stadium. He responded by opening his jacket to reveal suspenders bearing the logo of the Green Bay Packers.
“I am a cheesehead,” said Nicholas Mellier (pronounced Mel-yay), who proceeded to discuss the NFL with me in great depth. Nicholas was born in Paris and resides in the town of Gagny, about 10 miles away. When I got home I mentioned this to my friend Andy, who grew up in Wisconsin and is himself a cheesehead.
A few months ago, Andy visited the Ritz and had the good fortune to meet Nicholas, who has befriended many Americans with his suspenders. “It’s a great way to meet people from America,” he said. “Except people from Chicago.”
(Caption: Nicholas wearing a Packers hat with his daughters.)
I was in Paris on June 6 and sat down with Nicholas at a table in the Ritz bar, to learn more about his obsession with the Packers.
“The NFL was introduced to France about 20 years ago,” said Nicholas, who first learned about U.S. sports on Canal, a French cable channel. “We get Monday Night Football on Wednesday afternoon in France,” said Nicholas. “That’s when I saw the Packers play the Bears, and I learned about the history of Green Bay,” he said. “There’s something mythical about them because the fans own the team — it’s like a fairy tale.”
Nicholas’s wife and two daughters are fans and he described his home as “a Packers museum.” I presented him with a wool Packers cap to go along with his wallet, jackets, ties, hats, jerseys and other memorabilia. “Every day I wear something different,” he said. “It’s become an addiction.”
Nicholas loves football because he likens the strategy to a chess game, and he claims to know at least 200 other Packers fans in Paris, who all gather regularly at Wos Bar, to watch the Packers live whenever possible. “It is called the official Packers bar of Europe,” he said. “Everyone there is wearing gold and green.”
Unfortunately, professional football has recently been embroiled in a great deal of controversy regarding the national anthem, which I consider an unnecessary trumped up battle. Football has always been an important part of my life and I’ve particularly enjoyed the tribal aspect that brings disparate groups of fans together in solidarity, and to see it happen internationally is especially fulfilling for me as both a fan and journalist.
Many people — myself included — consider the Ritz to be the best hotel in the world. It’s not only because of the facilities and the history, but because of people like Nicholas Mellier, who make it a special destination indeed. He’s worked there for 15 years and calls it “a family hotel where we know our guests and they know us.”
I hope Aaron Rogers stays at the Ritz when he visits Paris. He’s in for a treat.
Rob Taub has enjoyed an eclectic career in film, television, radio, and journalism. He has interviewed everyone from pop stars to presidents and he has written more than 250 articles for People Magazine, FoxNews.com, SI/Cauldron, The Huffington Post, and Thrive Global. Rob is a respected Diabetes Advocate and Obesity Ambassador, writing and speaking regularly about Type 2 diabetes and health. Follow him on Twitter @robmtaub or at www.RobTaub.com. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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