A lot of the story writes itself. The Minnesota Vikings stunk last season but have turned things almost completely around and are 9-6 at this point. This is the last game of the season and possibly the last game ever in the current Metrodome (Mall of America Field). For the first time in ages, the final regular season game has a plethora of meaning and the opponent will be the Green Bay Packers. For the Vikings, it’s win and play on or lose and go home. For the Packers, it’s win and obtain a first round bye, lose and play the Vikings again in a week in Green Bay.
This is one of the NFL’s fiercest rivalries. It’s what football is all about. The Packers were already great when the Vikings joined the NFL in 1961. Green Bay, Wisconsin, is geographically closer to Chicago and those teams are embroiled in their own rivalry. But so many Wisconsonites live and work in the Twin Cities that it often feels like an infiltration. Things are calm all year long except for two Sundays a year–Packer Sundays. There is no gray area on these days. It’s either Purple and White or Green and Gold.
The drama builds slowly during Packer week. On Monday or Tuesday, the television trucks start to roll in along with the advance crews. They have to set up cameras, test equipment, review and update stock footage and perform a multitude of related duties.
By Wednesday, the on-air crews start to show up to do interviews with coaches, players, etc. The “A Team” of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman generally arrive in town early to get in on the set-up process and the interviews. If they’re not in town by Wed. evening, they are by Thursday when the Packers arrive to start pre-game workouts.
The big whigs from the NFL start to filter in during the week but they’re all in town by Saturday morning. This being a holday weekend, it’s more important to arrive early because Tom Izzo is bringing his Michigan State Spartans to Minneapolis to open the Big 10 season this coming Monday. Hotel rooms will be at a premium and the NFL Commissioner himself might be planning to attend the Vikings’ game.
For the fans, the excitement and nervous anticipation also builds slowly. The Vikings have problems but it’s been a great season, especially watching Adrian Peterson come back from knee surgery. He is now 208 yards shy of the rushing record set by Eric Dickerson. By Saturday afternoon, the parts are all together and then…
It’s Sunday. Packer Day. Open with a wide-screen shot of downtown Minneapolis, panning toward the Metrodome with various cuts to the traffic coming into town off the freeways. As the Metrodome comes into focus, there are more cuts to the crowds in various parking lots, tailgating, laughing, chowing down on brats and burgers, drinking beer and sporting their Purple and White.
Fade to a tracking shot into the Metrodome itself as the seats fill up. There are people everywhere. Fans finding seats. Camera crews plugging in wires Various television and radio personalities conducting interviews. Vendors prepping their cases and counting change. Long lines near the bathrooms. Security guiards watching for trouble. It’s organized chaos until the teams take the field.
The din grows louder and louder and the camera remains focused on the field. Following the national anthem and the Vikings’ team song, the ball is kicked off and it’s bedlam. The dome is the loudest venue in the NFL and the fans there get it. It’s one of those days when everyone wearing Green and Gold is the enemy and the rivalry is renewed in all its fury. It’s the culmination of a week of water cooler discussion and radio speculation and talking heads on television making their picks. It’s on the field now and the story is writing itself. There are other games going on elsewhere but no one in this building cares about them. This is the only game that matters and this year it is everything to a team that embarrassed itself last year.