Tonight the Minnesota Vikings square off against the Green Bay Packers in what should be an interesting game regardless of the outcome. Most of the people in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin will have their eyes on this game either by choice or by force. And the rest of the nation will at least give it some attention as the outcome determines which team plays next week in the division games against teams with better records than either the Vikings or the Packers. As I clearly have little working knowledge about how the next few weeks in football work, I refer readers to nfl.com for more information about the importance of this game.
Readers of this blog may find it curious that I am writing about this, but I am emotionally invested in this game and feel like I have to write about it before I burst.
I will admit that I am not typically a football fan.
I like baseball and love the Minnesota Twins. I have been known to put off social plans when the Twin make the play-offs so that I can sit at home and watch the games. This often involves paying for cable television again for a time which is different than our typical way of working as a family. If you think I’m a fan, though, you should meet my Grandma Lois. She took it personally when Torii Hunter was traded, and she has been known to watch re-runs of games just because she enjoys them regardless of the outcome (it is possible that she doesn’t know that they are re-runs, but that is not as good of a story).
The sport that really gets me going is hockey, and I am very specifically a UND (team formerly known as the) Fighting Sioux fan. I come by this pretty naturally as most Grand Forks natives are fans. I even had a pillow in 7th grade that had buttons of #14 and #15 from the 1986-1987 team. When I found out that Jim Archibald (#15 – who also holds the record for time spent in the penalty box) coaches high school hockey in Brainerd, I was tempted to go watch a game there. I know the rules in hockey, and they make sense.
Football doesn’t make sense to me.
It is strange then that I am invested in tonight’s game. I realize that this is the case, but – as often is the case in all things in life – this happened by a slow brainstorming of sorts as the season occurred this year.
Step One – the Photo
On August 13, 2012, the huz changed his Facebook profile picture to the one at the left. After a few people liked the photo, he added the following statement, “[The photo] will stay up as long as the Vikings are at .500 or better.” It was as if he was daring the Vikings to have a mildly successful season. Last year’s season ended with a record of 3-13-0, so a season of .500 or better seemed like a lofty goal to me. But the photo has stayed all season. *jaw-drop*
Step Two – the College Kids
When I resigned from being the church nursery “Sunday School teacher,” I took on the privilege of driving a van to Northwestern College to pick up students for the service. I often drove the return trip as well, and I quickly learned which station played the Vikings game each week. Trust me when I say that we have some pretty die-hard fans in this group. One Sunday, on a ride home alone after a few weeks of doing this, I found myself listening to the game without needing to do so. I started caring if Blair Walsh kept up his awesome field goal record. I started caring about Adrian Peterson’s “run” toward the record. I was sucked in.
The Last Straw – The Packers
I love a good sports rivalry. As a (team formerly known as the) Sioux fan, my blood burns against the gophers and the badgers. I wouldn’t cheer for their hockey teams in any situation. I am for the Sioux and for anyone playing against the gophers and the badgers (good Sioux fans – even English teachers who know to capitalize the names of teams – do not capitalize these names). The only time I have any trouble choosing whom to cheer for is when they play against each other. In that case, I default to how the game will influence the Sioux’s chances of advancing in the play-offs.
Therefore, it simply follows that last week’s game – undoubtedly the most important game so far in the Vikings’ season (beyond the fact that their season would have ended if they had lost) – became one of distinct interest to me. A good rivalry is something I can get my mind around even if I don’t understand what is happening (let’s face it, if you can see the ball go in the end zone, you know it is a touchdown. Any other rule isn’t all that important, is it?). So we invited a bunch of friends over, made good food, and cheered on my team. Some of my family members (even the pastor!) wore purple to church last week.
And now we are back again today: the same teams, a different field, and a lot at stake. The winner goes on to play another game. The loser goes home in shame. We have invited the same group of people over, we will make some good food, and we will all cheer for my team.
Some may call me a fair-weather fan.
And I will not argue that with them. But consider this: when the weather is fair, why would I not be a fan?