Athletic Aesthetic

Border Rivalry Heats Up Even More

recent allegations have Vikings fans in a rage

Luc Anthony |

    The Upper Midwest is a land of pseudo-rivalries. Rivalries that do exist, yet lacking the passion of the better-known battles across the country’s landscape. Considering the violence and other assorted bizarre behavior that can result from other such rivalries (involving the NFL in the Northeast, or college football in the South), our sense of Minnesota Nice – which is also quite commonplace throughout Wisconsin – is a blessing.

Our lives do not depend on whether or not our favorite team beats our hated enemy. We don’t dread the following 365 days if the Badgers lose Paul Bunyan’s Axe to the Gophers. Badgers fans aren’t exactly happy, and Gopher fans like me are thrilled, but by the following Tuesday we’re thinking about the next game or the next sport to follow.

When the national media hypes Yankees-Red Sox for the 3,796th time in a given season, we Upper Midwesterners try to shout “Hey, Brewers-Cubs is a big deal! Didn’t you see how many showed up at Miller Park?” The national folks reply “We can’t hear you from 35,000 feet while we’re flying to Los Angeles to see how Manny Ramirez (ex-Red Sox) is doing in L.A.” We then forget our complaint and go back to watching our games.

The Packers and Vikings will challenge this sedate rivalry dynamic this autumn. Packers/Vikings has always been the most intense rivalry in western Wisconsin. Of all the reasons to want to stay home from school growing up in Eau Claire, the No. 1 reason was usually: Packers won, Vikings lost, and I’m going to get teased to death. You actually worry about these things when you’re 11. When you’re a Vikings fan growing up in enemy territory, you think you have good reason.

I have a little more concern for today’s 11-year-old Chippewa Valley Viking fan, particularly after the events of this summer. You know the Favre Saga: Brett Favre retires, decides to come back, chats with Vikings coaches (who happen to be his friends), Packers claim tampering, NFL decides nothing happened.

    For those not familiar with the tampering charge in the NFL, it is one of the most serious accusations of wrongdoing in the league. A team’s draft picks – the building blocks for that team – can be removed when tampering with another team’s players is discovered to have taken place.

Want to know how devastating losing draft picks can be? Look west to the Timberwolves, who lost three draft picks because of a questionable contract arrangement. Their declining success throughout this decade can likely be attributed to that lack of new talent due to reduced draft picks.

That’s why we Vikings fans took offense to this tampering charge. You throw a bomb like that, you better have evidence for the toss. Turns out, the charge went nowhere. Were the Packers trying to distract from their poor public relations appearance during the thick of the Favre Saga in July? Were they trying to take the Vikings – an improved team this season, the most likely threat to win the NFC North Division – down with them, at least psychologically?

I’m sure Packer fans believe there was nefarious activity on the part of the Vikings to try and pull Favre to Minnesota. Vikings fans like me were amused by the Favre Saga until the tampering charge; now, we’re angry. Trying to drag our team through the mud was a bush league approach.

Reflect on what you just read in the previous two paragraphs. This is what makes for a passionate atypical Wisconsin rivalry – a rivalry that can compare with the best nationwide. With the sizeable number of Viking fans amongst the Packer majority in the western part of Wisconsin – and vice versa in eastern Minnesota – we can claim to be at the center of one of the hottest battles in sports. Maybe this time, the media will hear us from 35,000 feet.