A long-lived rivalry

Published 9:40 pm Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Loyal Vikings, Packers fans stand by their teams through it all

It’s a storied rivalry that has spanned many decades — a rivalry that has formed bonds among complete strangers and cracked relationships of close friends. What can only be described as one of the most fierce encounters in professional sports, it’s the rivalry of the Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers.

Vince Lombardi, Bud Grant, Randall Cunningham, Brett Favre, Randy Moss. The list of legends to have played or coached in the rivalry goes on and on.

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Filled with hard-hitting plays, great players and coaches, and controversial moments, this rivalry between NFC North foes is one of the most iconic in league history.

Jay Paul has his own Vikings tattoo. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

Jay Paul is a Minnesota native and diehard Vikings fan. Although he started out as a Cowboys fan, Paul changed his team to the Vikings at a young age.

“I guess it was in ’69, when the Vikings first went to the Super Bowl,” Paul said. “I really took notice and from then on I have been a diehard, loyal fan all the way.”  

Paul described his favorite part of the rivalry as the ’70s, claiming the Vikings always “whooped up” on the Packers. When speaking of the Packers, Paul put it as plainly as he could.

“I hate them,” he said.

Tony Schoepf has Packers gear throughout his bedroom. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

“Every time I run into a Packer fan, they’re so smug,” Paul said. “They’re smug because of all their championships. I just want to walk away.”

Living in Minnesota, one might think they are surrounded by Viking fans. However, you might be surprised to learn there are many Packers fans that call Albert Lea home.  

Tony Schoepf is one of those passionate Packers fans. Being a Packers fan has been a tradition in his family for as far back as he can trace. Like Paul, Schoepf doesn’t have a soft side for the division rival.

Scott Blanchard grew up rooting for the Green Bay Packers. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

“Don’t like them at all,” Schoepf said of the Vikings. “Every year they think they’re going to be so good. Even when they won the division a couple years ago — they still have no rings to show for it.”

Under no circumstances will Schoepf ever cheer for the Vikings again. The only time he ever has was when his hero, Brett Favre, led the team to the NFC Championship in 2009.

Schoepf has many great memories as a Packers fan, but the one that sticks out the most is the game right after Favre’s father had passed away.

“That Monday night after Favre’s dad died was just epic,” Schoepf said. “I still remember watching that with my dad, and we couldn’t believe what he was doing. I think everyone, whether they hated Brett or loved him, remembers that as one of the defining moments of his career.”

Dave Klatt has a number of autographed Vikings mini-helmets all around his office. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

The rivalry has had a number of players play for both teams at some point in their career, most notably Favre.

Another Vikings and Favre fan is Dave Klatt.

“I’ve been a fan of the Vikings since probably about 1960, when I was born,” Klatt said.

Klatt’s office is covered with Vikings memorabilia, such as signed jerseys and helmets. He even has a signed Adrian Peterson rookie jersey.

He also has many favorite memories from the rivalry, but one of them comes right before his worst memory.

“I remember we beat them in the last game of the regular season to win the division,” Klatt said. “But then in the first game of the playoffs, (Blair Walsh) missed the short field goal to win the game in the last minute.”

A second Packers fan is Scott Blanchard. Unlike the other three fans, Blanchard doesn’t really harbor any hatred toward the opposing team.

Blanchard has a collection of several autographed Packers media booklets. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

“I don’t have anything against the Vikings,” Blanchard said. “It’s a great rivalry game. If they didn’t have the game, it would be no fun. But I don’t have any issues with anyone being a Vikings fan. Everyone has their own teams.”

He recalls having family parties at his grandmother’s house when the Packers were on TV. His favorite memory as a fan was going to his first game and watching John Brockington. Although Brockington wasn’t a flashy player, Blanchard said it was etched in his mind forever.

In this long-lived rivalry, there are some fans who are indifferent toward the opposing teams, and there are some who love to hate each other. But there is one common theme among all of them — loyalty.

All of these fans have stuck with their team through everything. They’ve cheered in the high times and felt heartache in the low times, but they’ve never left their teams and never will.

About Tyler Julson

Tyler Julson covers sports for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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