A 'Packer Backer,' for just one night
My name is Jed and I'm a Vikings fan.
It's probably not the most popular thing to admit in this county, I know. But I'm originally from west central Minnesota. I own a purple horned helmet with yellow braids. I miss Cris Carter and was happy to see Daunte's small hands roll out to Miami. That being said, I was a little apprehensive about my Tuesday assignment to cover the "Green Bay Packers' Tailgate Tour Stop" at Wessman Arena.
As I waded into the sea of Packer fans, I saw it all; little girls in Packer cheerleader outfits, middled aged men with faded jerseys of players from the early 90s and people wearing Styrofoam trivial pursuit pieces on their heads -- wait, those were cheeseheads, my mistake. There was enough green and gold in Wessman Arena to make any Vikings fan ill.
I made my way over to where the Packer players were signing autographs, stood against the hockey boards and just watched for awhile. Children were beaming as Aaron Rodgers, Nick Barnett and Mark Tauscher signed their Packer helmets, posters, hats and football cards. Adults also lined up for autographs, photos or even to give a handshake and a few words of advice for the upcoming season. I heard a few people tell Rodgers to put in a good word for recently released receiver Keyshawn Johnson.
As I was watching the festivities, I thought about my buddies from home and how horrified they'd be to hear about this green and gold assignment.
Funny thing was that I wasn't horrified; I was having fun. Granted the Vikings are my team, but the Packers have always been my favorite villain team. They're the team I love to hate. For every great hero, there has to be a great villain, and the Packers fill that role. How does the saying go? "keep your friends close and your enemies closer?" Well I was certainly in enemy territory.
As it turns out, the enemies aren't so bad. I witnessed Rodgers, Barnett and Tauscher interact with all the fans on a very human level.
Lynne Gunnon of Superior told each player and chairman Bob Harlan about her son, John, who was serving in Iraq. She talked about how the members of his squadron gave him the call sign, "Fav-Ray," a mispronunciation of Packers quarterback Brett Favre, because they know how big a Packers fan he is. Gunnon had the players at Wessman sign a 2007 Packers schedule that she'll be sending to her son in Iraq. Aaron Rodgers wrote an inscription to 15-year-old Superiorite Spencer Szymonowicz: "Spencer, Follow your dreams."
The players were all smiles as they listened to some old timers talk about the Packers of the 1960s. During a question and answer session, a young fan asked if they were going to beat the Vikings this year. Linebacker Nick Barnett assured the young fan of a Packers victory, and cheers erupted in Packerland. We'll see, Mr. Barnett, we'll see.
As I was driving back to the Telegram, I was thinking about how impressed I was with the players on the tour. They were so humble and great with the fans. I began to question the villain status that I've given to Green Bay. Am I wrong about the Pack? Could I cheer for the Vikings and the Packers? Would I look good in a cheese hat?
At that moment, my mind became clear. No -- I can't cheer for the Cheese. I'm lactose intolerant. Go Vikings!
Jed Carlson is the Daily Telegram photographer. E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (715) 395-5024.