Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Fan's Notes II: The Second Team

As most readers of this feature know, I grew up in Appleton, Wisconsin, a city about the size of St. Cloud, Minnesota. Appleton is 30 miles southwest of Green Bay and, not surprisingly, most people who live there are Packers fans, assuming they care about football at all.

I also came of age in the 1970s, a time when the football gods were not smiling much on the Badger State. The Packers were, in the main, a terrible franchise: ineptly run, poorly coached and lacking in NFL-caliber talent. For much of the 1970s, they were able to coast on the goodwill of a rabid fan base and the memories of glory from the Lombardi era. That didn't make it much easier to watch the product on the field.

Since the Packers were doomed most years, many of the kids I grew up with adopted a so-called "second team," a more successful team they could cheer for once the Packers were eliminated from contention, usually around Veteran's Day. A fair number of kids chose the Cowboys, others picked the Raiders. More than a few followed the Steelers, especially since local hero Rocky Bleier was an important member of those teams. My second team in that era was the Redskins, who were a factor but generally second fiddle to the Cowboys in those days.

There was another aspect to fandom in those days: the team you hated. For me, it was the Cowboys. They would beat my Packers and also beat "my Redskins." They always struck me as corporate and smug in that era. They even dared to call themselves America's Team. Couldn't stand them at all.

Despite that, the team that tormented the Packers and their fans the most in the 1970s was the Vikings. Oh, those were frustrating days. Fran Tarkenton, Chuck Foreman, John Gilliam, Alan Page, Paul Krause -- a true rogue's gallery. I can still see Tarkenton bobbing and weaving, leaving a gasping Mike McCoy in his wake, then tossing a bomb to Gilliam. Or watching Foreman catch a screen pass and run through the befuddled Packer secondary. And when the Packers had the ball, it was only a matter of time before Eric Torkelson would get 2 yards, Barty Smith would get 1 and Lynn Dickey would be sacked on third down.

Even so, I don't remember really hating the Vikings. My dad would always tell me that it was up to the Packers to get better and that Bud Grant was someone to admire. And looking back on it, he was right.

So why bring all that up? It's always been very interesting to watch the reaction that the Packers receive from this side of the St. Croix. Among a lot of Vikings fans, there's a hatred involved that seems almost puzzling, especially these days. The modern Packers are everything the 70s era teams weren't -- talented, well-coached and thoroughly professional. They aren't an especially colorful team and they don't trash talk much.

So I have a question for the audience, especially the Vikings fans. What is it about the Packers that you hate? And if you are in the process of choosing a "second team" for this week's game against the Bears, would you choose the Packers or the Bears? And if so, why?


Brad Carlson said...

What is it about the Packers that you hate?

For me, hands down, it's the fans (present company excluded, of course). It's this haughtiness that says if you're not a Packers fan, you're nothing. I've been dealing with this all my life with my Dad's side of the family, as they're all Wisconsin natives.

I also went to college in WI, and it was even more insufferable there. The funny part was my college classmates weren't alive when the Packers won a championship. Nevertheless,they still yapped about what a winning franchise they were, even though it was a veritable rumor to them.

I will say that if the Packers get to the Super Bowl and play the Jets, I will be a Packers fan for a day. That pompous ass Rex Ryan must never win a title.

Night Writer said...

I'm a Vikings fan pretty much due to time and exposure. In fact I really didn't care for the Vikings when I was a kid growing up in Indiana because I thought they were boring to watch. The typical Viking game, in my mind, was Fred Cox kicking a field goal with a minute left to win the game 10-7.

I don't mind the Pack. When I first started playing football in elementary school the Pack were fresh off two Super Bowl wins and my first team was called the Mini-Packers. I remember cheering for Bart Starr and later, Donnie Anderson. I was a big fan of the John Brockington-MacArthur Lane backfield. I rooted for the Packers in their Favre Super Bowls.

Today (at least for a couple more weeks) I live in a divided household. As Baby Moose posted on his blog a little while back: "It's kind of stressful. Poppi wants me to be a Vikings fan. Daddy wants me to be a Packers fan. The one thing we can agree on is that we all hate the Bears."

W.B. Picklesworth said...

I hated the Packers with a healthy passion all through my growing up years. The hatred was along the lines of, "Yay Coke! Boo Pepsi!" It was just important to know where I stood. And it was important to hate your rivals as a general rule.

Or, another way to express it is the tautological explanation. Why did I hate the Packers? Because they were the Packers.

Anonymous said...

A bit off topic but if Minnesota doesn't get the stadium deal done, the Vikings will move to LA (much like another Purple & Gold team did in a different sport years earlier) and Football lovers in Minnesota will be left with a bitterly difficult decision: Root for the Packers as they would be the closet team, root for Kansas City as a wimpy AFC (Which we all know stands for the almost football conference) alternative, or quit watching football altogether.

My advice for Viking Fans is to take their passion to their legislators, so that the Vikings don't leave.

my name is Amanda said...

Anon - Good advice. Having pro teams in MN can only be advantageous to MN. We need to keep the Vikes.

If they moved, I would switch to the Chargers, prob (bc I will soon be living in San Diego again), or regionally, root for the Bears. Or the Colts.

To answer Mr. D's question - I don't hate the Packers. It's the fans that bother me. I had a TON of WI-born friends/coworkers, and they were intolerable when talking about football. It was grievous to me that they would act/speak scornfully of the MN team, when they chose to build their lives in MINNESOTA - NOT Wisconsin! (Although, if *you* don't hate the Vikes, perhaps this doesn't apply to you!) Also, usually their favorite thing was to taunt Vikings fans about how many Superbowls their team had won - I mean, when they weren't admiring Brett Favre, that is.

Until of course, Favre has the AUDACITY to continue to desire to play football after leaving the Packers. Now the Pack fans HATE him - the nerve of him, right?! Doing what he wants to do with his life, without regard to other people's (esp strangers') opinions on what he should do with his life! So selfish.

Fans may just be satisfied this year, however. It seems unlikely that he would go to any team. Which makes me sad (well, as sad as I can be about sports), because he really should have taken the Vikings all the way through the playoffs last year. If it was ever going to happen one last time, it was going to be last year.

It's really hard right now, because I HATE the Jets. HATE HATE HATE. Their a-hole of a coach is to blame, there. And I hate the Steelers as an organization for being Rape Apologists/Deniers. But I don't know if I could take the taunts of Packer fans, if the Pack made it to the Superbowl. Tough call.

(Mr. D, if this comment looks like I deleted it, then it just didn't post.)

Mr. D said...

Lot of interesting points, Amanda. I guess I'd say this:

1) I would be the first to acknowledge that some Packers fans are pretty obnoxious. Those of us who suffered through the bad years tend to be less so, I think.

2) As for Favre, it's complicated. While I wouldn't speak for every Packer fan, I think a lot of people got tired of the drama, especially the ugly scene in 2008 when he first left. He didn't handle it well and he put the Packers in a bad position. His going to the Vikings was irritating, especially last year, but it doesn't really matter anymore.

Last, I completely agree that losing the Vikings would be very bad for Minnesota.

And for what it's worth, I don't hate the Vikings, although I find them irritating.

Anonymous said...

Amanda you made some good points, but I find it interesting that you cut Mr. Farve slack when its appears to have turned out that he is a fillandering egotist who sees no problem with filming his junk and sending it to unwanting females via text. This behavior falls short of Big Ben's but not by much.

As a Packer Fan, I sincerely hope that the Vikings get their stadium and stay in Minnesota. Every team needs their foil, and the Packers and Vikings and their fans may not realize it, but they need each other. Perhaps Slim Shady put it best with his line "It seems so empty without me."

When it comes to sports, obnoxious behavior goes across partisan lines. I find most Minnesotans to be enjoyable caring people, with a culture that is so similar to mine that the difference is almost un-noticiable. It's a different story when some people put on the purple and gold, just as it is when some Cheeseheads put on the Green and Gold.

I do worry about any Packer Fans who go to Soldier Field on Sunday. If the Packers win, I think that there are some Bear Fans who may get violent. Some of those Bear fans are an entirely different class of people, and it's ironic that I used the term class in the same sentence.

Gino said...

you 'men' ought to be ashamed of yourselves when a lady can comment here showing more passion, and substance, over a sports team.

amanda, i nominate you an honorary Bears fan.
(and the Chargers are one of my 2nd teams, too.)

Mr. D said...

amanda, i nominate you an honorary Bears fan.

Wow, that's the most horrible thing anyone has ever said on this forum. How do you sleep, Gino?