Throughout the 50-year history of the Packers-Vikings rivalry, there have been some special moments, but probably few that lived up to recent events of November 1st, 2009. An aging Viking leader returned with a new band of men, looking to plunder the very homeland he once ruled.
The word Viking is Scandinavian for “raider” or “pirate,” an appropriate description of our former hero gone astray. Like the Vikings of the eighth and ninth centuries, Brett The Grey and his band of marauders embarked on a 2009 invadsion to claim a foreign land for their own — in this case, Lambeau Field.
Residents of Minnesota and Wisconsin certainly have a deep-rooted interest such events. Packers fans and Vikings fans have always had a special dislike for each other. As bordering states, there is a natural competitiveness between people of the two states. When close-to-Wisconsin Minneapolis-St. Paul suddenly became host to a professional football team in 1961, many fans, including those in Western Wisconsin, had a difficult choice to make.
As fans made their choices, resentment built and friends became enemies. The Green Bay loyalists sneered at the Vikings converts and the new Vikings fans became jealous of the Packers as their dominance of the 1960s became a sore point.
The Minnesota Vikings entered the NFL in 1961 as the 14th franchise in League history, but not without a few interesting twists. The Minnesota team was originally slated to be one of the eight charter members of the new American Football League, and had even completed the AFL college draft.
But the NFL saw great potential for a team in Minneapolis, and the prospective owners were lured away from the AFL by the promise of an NFL franchise. The Oakland Raiders took Minnesota’s place in the AFL and automatically inherited all of their draft choices.
Bert Rose, the first GM of the Minnesota franchise, chose the Vikings nickname to embrace the area’s heavy Scandanavian population and then set about looking for a head coach. Ara Parsegian was his first choice, but when that didn’t work out, he hired Norm Van Brocklin, who had just beaten the Packers in the NFL Championship the year before and had retired as a player.
The irony of that choice was not lost on Vince Lombardi, and beating Van Brocklin and the Vikings became another obsession for Vince. They were fierce rivals as coaches, engaging in many shouting matches, as both teams occupied the same side of the field in those stadiums.