Along with the changing of the leaves, the shortening of days, and the chilling of the air, fall is also guaranteed to renew the heated rivalry between the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings. For some not native to the greater Minnesota-Wisconsin area, the tensions between the two fanbases may seem bizarre and uncharacteristic of the stereotypical Midwestern/Minnesota nice. All niceties certainly disappear when the neighboring teams take the field.
Understanding the National Football League (NFL) playoff system helps explain the resentment between the teams. Both are members of the National Football Conference (NFC) North, a
division that also includes the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions. Between those four teams, the one with the best record at the end each season punches their ticket to the playoffs. 12 of the last 14 years either the Packers or Vikings have won the division putting extra competitive weight to their matchups. The teams within the conference are also guaranteed to play twice a year, fanning the flames of resentment by pitting them against each other more than other teams.
Historically, the rivalry goes back 50 years to when the Vikings entered the league in 1961, and promptly dropped nine of their first ten games against the Packers in their first five seasons. The Vikings then flipped the script by reaching the Super Bowl in 1969, 1973, 1974, and 1976, but fell
short in each championship. In contrast, the Packers were victorious in the first two Super Bowls in 1967 and 1968, before tacking one on in 1997 under Brett Favre, and most recently in 2011. This disparity in championships has been a talking point amongst fans for years. Another factor adding fuel to the fire between the two teams was Favre, who led the Pack for 15 years before briefly retiring and then finding his way to the rival Vikings, who together nearly reached the Super Bowl in 2008. The betrayal of Favre mixed with the success of the Vikings only fueled the resentment between the fan bases.
Beyond the competition that plays out on the field, there is an equally intense battle off the field between the fans. I have experienced the rivalry directly, having grown up in Wisconsin directly on the Minnesota-Wisconsin border. With families of students spread across the two states, every week you would see a mix of purple and green jerseys throughout the halls. The Monday after the two teams would play, you wouldn’t have to watch the game to know who won. To the victors went the spoils, as the winners had the right to show off their apparel the next day and berate those who supported their opposition. This bragging added gasoline to an already roaring fire, with the losers eagerly awaiting the next game when they could potentially return the favor.
Born and raised in Wisconsin, I’ve bled green and gold for as long as I can remember, living by the philosophy that the only thing close to as fun as a Packers win is a Vikings loss. I’ve heard my share of grief about the Packers losing in the NFC championship game four times in the past seven years, but have returned it in full force by noting the Vikings have still never won a Super Bowl.
As of now the Packers sit atop the NFC North with a record of 9-3 with the Vikings in second place at 5-7. The Vikings won a barn burner against the Packers
in their first meeting on Nov. 21 and spirits were high amongst the Minnesota faithful. “I’m very happy with the outcome. I really hate the Packers,” explained self-professed Vikings fan Matt Kompelien ’24. The two will meet again on Jan. 2 in Green Bay, where, despite the frigid temperatures, the heat of their long standing rivalry will no doubt be on full blast.