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Louis Villaume

Hamel, Minn.

Villaume: Thankful for Vikings

"so much death, what can man do against such reckless hate." .. King Theoden, Lord of the Rings.

It is everywhere. I am constantly reminded how angry everyone is with each other. We are angry at police officers, despite the fact they risk their lives every day for our safety. We are mad at Black Lives Matter, because they go too far in their right to peacefully protest. We are mad at the rioters in Ferguson and Baltimore. The truth is they speak for injustice. And it is there.

We are mad at politicians. If you are a Republican, you are mad at Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. If you are a Democrat, then you get George Bush (still) and Donald Trump. We spend hours and hours discrediting them in turn. From natural tragedies, to terrorist attacks, lies, to threats of removing illegals... both sides toss hatred at a steady pace through our tilted media, who has become seemingly the National Enquirer on every station, site, and paper.

It makes one tired. And bitter.

And then along comes football...

Ancient governments knew long ago, give the people a catharsis. Or a cynic might say a divergent. Whichever, growing up in today's world billions of people put their thoughts and emotional energy into their team. Be it soccer, rugby, baseball, basketball, hockey, or football... We attend games. We wear jerseys. We watch on television or internet.

For some, they are rewarded with the chance to root and win. Fans of the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago Blackhawks, Manchester United, or Pittsburgh Steelers are used to winning. Regularly winning a title in their sport allows the fans great release of pride, joy, and community. Hugging total strangers. Pointing a finger at your rival. Knowing your team is better than another.

For others it is like a pit of despair. The Chicago Cubs for example, can never win a World Series. Or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where they started with a big losing streak and it kind of never stopped. Their .385 franchise record the worst in the NFL. By far. Or more locally, the Minnesota Timberwolves. Or the Minnesota Wild. 

Or maybe the Minnesota Vikings.

When Minnesota lost last week 30-13 to the Green Bay Packers at TCF Stadium it returned the anger. The hate. Never mind that the franchise had won only 12 games the previous two years. Never mind that the team has only one winning season in the last five. Fans expected a win, or at least a better performance, and were let down.

A true Vikings' fan could hold much anger. There has been so many close calls to winning or getting to a Super Bowl. The incredible talent that has been a part of our history: Paul Krause, Fran Tarkenton, Alan Page, Chuck Foreman, Randall McDaniel, John Randle, Randy Moss, Adrian Peterson. That is only scratching the surface.

So when we are 7-2 we gather hope. To have it dashed on national television at the hands of our most-hated rivals disheartening. We are prone to anger. We let go of the optimism and replace it with cynicism. How many times have you heard in the last week that this loss was the start of our downfall? Now we are going to play tough teams and we will lose.

Sometimes it is a greater curse to be good and lose, than to be bad and lose. Bucs fans will never know a Minnesotans angst toward football. Fans from Houston, Detroit, and Atlanta not only do not win Super Bowls, but they also regularly lose. When they have a winning record the whole city rejoices.

This Thanksgiving, as I read the Turkey of they Year Award goes to the recently deceased Flip Saunders (a childhood idol), as I stare at the morning news of video of a kid with a knife killed in the street, and knowing how it stirs both sides up, I am saddened. How I see flags at half-mast for losses in terrorist attacks in our ally countries, news channels seemingly promoting war, angry citizens pointing to immigrants even though our motto used to be "give us your tired...". Media vs. Politicians. Media vs. Truth. Safety vs. Kindness.

It is a cynical world.

And so yes, I was angry when we lost to the Packers. I was mad at coaches for leaving the blitz in the red zone. Mad at officials for one-siding the calls early in the game (not that I had much proof they were wrong). Mad at fumbling. Mad at bone-headed head butts. Mad at offensive play-calling. Really mad at penalties.

Just angry.

And by the next day I was better. Others were still upset. "How could they let us down like that?" they would say to me. "We were not who we thought we were" others said, in a distortion of a famous Denny Green quote. The fingers kept pointing. 

Suddenly I got it.

There is so much bad in this world. The good in the world long ago lost out in the media. That is why the National Enquirer grew, and became a powerful part of our world. That is why "news" channels like FOX, MSNBC, CNN ... have grown in power and stature. This world gobbles up the bad. The world would rather hear who died than who was born. More important what our enemy believes than what we believe.

Thank the heavens for football.

Football is pretend. Win or lose it is a game played for our entertainment. Our thoughts and prayers can be answered in the positive simply by throwing a touchdown. If the Vikings beat Atlanta this Sunday they will open a two game lead in the wold-card hunt. The playoffs would suddenly look much closer, and the fans will be happier.

In real life it is not that easy. And every action is scrutinized by the other side and then discussed for days and weeks. There may not be an answer to all the violence in some of our communities. There may not be a peaceful way to avoid groups like ISIS. The protests in our own country starting to re-divide us by race. Or were we ever united? Build a wall, forcibly remove illegals, deny others entry .. or feel unsafe?

I am tired of politics. I am tired of Americans being on opposite sides of everything based on their loyalty to a party. I am tired of a few people forcing sweeping generalizations of others be it religion, race, or our beloved police officers.

OK, Green Bay whupped us good last week, We fell to 7-3 and a tie in the division. There is a tough schedule ahead. We may lose more games. We may not be as good as we hoped.

That is fine, for I love cheering for the Vikings, and I do not mind a little adversity. I take the bad with the good.

That is life. Real life.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Villaume: Cheese Era Melting?

There is no more contentious, bitter rivalry for Minnesotans than the Vikings and the Packers. Certainly the University of Minnesota has longer standing rivalries, including the longest continuous in the NCAA Football history with Wisconsin, but it does not have same intensity. The Twins have had a few rivalries built, but hating the Yankees does not make a rivalry. Our hockey and basketball teams at the University level have some wonderful rivalries with North Dakota, Wisconsin, Iowa... But they pale comparatively to Green Bay and Minnesota.

We do not like each other.

I am fortunate to have grown up following the Vikings in the late 1960s. The early 1960s were expansion years for the Vikings, and they took a few years to build a winning program. I do not remember them. I am told Green Bay was great, and won many championships and a pair of Super Bowls, but I do not care to keep that a part of my memories.

My memory's introduction to the rivalry was a stretch where Minnesota went 19-3-1 from 1968 to 1979. The Packers were patsies. We beat on them with a defense that had them switching quarterbacks like coffee filters at the office. In the 1970s alone the Packers had a dozen different quarterbacks start games. For comparison, from 1993 to 2012 Green Bay started three different QBs. I sometimes felt sorry for guys like John Hadl, David Whitehurst, Jerry Tagge, or Scott Hunter. They were bad. And we hurt them. The Vikings went to four Super Bowls in an eight year frame.

Thus I will always remember Minnesota as the stronger team.

The Packers nearly dominated in the 1980s as easily as we dominated the 1970s. Green Bay went 14-5-1 in the 80s, led mostly by Lynn Dickey and Don Majkowski. But most do not recall this as the Chicago Bears seemed to upstage the rivalry with their ultimate Super Bowl win in 1986. Jim McMahon, the Fridge, Mike Ditka, the "46" defense...

The 1990s saw a return to power for Minnesota. Minnesota won the series 12-8, the 1998 sweep with the 15-1 team being the warmest memory. Unfortunately, smack dab in the middle of our success, Green Bay went to two Super Bowls and won one in the 1996-97 seasons. And Brett Favre was the reason.

Still, Minnesota split their series with the Packers the year they won their Super Bowl. Sure they were the best team in the NFL, but they did not beat us. The following year the Packers swept Minnesota. But then they lost that Super Bowl to Denver. As great as Green Bay was with Favre, Minnesota found ways to beat them enough to win the decade.

No real damage.

In the 2000s Green Bay won the head-to-head series 12-9. Favre gave way to Aaron Rodgers in 2008. While Favre went 11-6 versus the Vikings in the decade, Rodgers lost three of his first four games against the Purple. Those 2009 games where Favre wore purple for the first time against the Packers will be a memory that makes he smile when I turn ninety, god-willing. That was probably the greatest two games of the rivalry... and we won them both. With their Hall-of-Famer.

As if God came down and said you may hurt the Packers' fans feelings as much as you want in 2009.

And we did.

Of course the story sours as we enter the 2010s. Green Bay goes 9-1-1, blah, blah, blah. They somehow get to the Super Bowl and win in 2011 with their new star QB, blah, blah. Minnesota has not won in the rivalry since Adrian Peterson nearly beat them single-handedly in 2012 with Christian Ponder at the helm. There was hope for another playoff win against our hated rival, but Ponder's injury kept him out of the most important game to Vikings' fans in years. 

And then we turned on him.

Luckily, this decade is not quite over. Green Bay, three weeks ago, was the class of the NFL. They were undefeated, Aaron Rodgers was in his usual fight with Tom Brady/Peyton Manning for MVP, and only Carolina looked to stand in the way of possibly a second trip to a Super Bowl for Rodgers and this latest Packers' team. 

But then things started to change. Nay, melt.

Aaron Rodgers had a rough game at Denver. Minnesota had just played the Broncos to a close 23-20 loss earlier that was in doubt until the end. Green Bay lost 29-10 and Rodgers finished with 77 yards passing. The Pack fell to 6-1, but were ahead of Minnesota at a surprising 5-2. It was easy to rationalize losing to a powerhouse like Denver.

The following week Green Bay faced Carolina, in Carolina. The Panthers proved tough and looked the stronger throughout the game. Rodgers helped Green Bay fight back in the end and they nearly pulled off a great comeback against a very good team. A loss dropped them to 6-2, but again it was to one of the best the NFL had to offer. Meanwhile, the Vikings continued to face non-winning teams like the Rams. They were also 6-2.

Last week Green Bay sank like a block of cheese in a pizza oven. They lost for the first time in Green Bay to the Lions in 25 years. Rodgers threw 61 passes, and was seen limping at the end of the game, Eddie Lacy, and all his extra self, watched from the sidelines. Never did the team look like they missed Jordy Nelson more than last Sunday. They fell to 6-3, and now own a three game losing streak as well as suffered an important divisional loss for potential tiebreaker sake. Minnesota, beat another .500 team and looked good doing it.

Now Minnesota is a game up in the division. The Packers are reeling.

This 111th meeting has a different feeling. For the last few years Vikings fans entered this game knowing that Aaron Rodgers had too many weapons for our defense. Green Bay spread the field and picked apart our weak defensive backs. Our quarterbacks made mistakes when we had to pass to catch up.

Things are different.

Minnesota boasts an aggressive defense that hits hard and keeps points off the board, even against strong passing offenses. Adrian Peterson is revving up like the starting cars on a raceway. The only concerns of late seem to be a tight end who dropped a sure TD, and a young quarterback who will have some growing pains. Injuries could have been an issue, but Coach Mike Zimmer has found adequate replacements all over the field so far.

No, things are definitely not the same.

I fully expect Minnesota to deliver us from the hands of the green and gold. The recent stretch of badness needs to go away. The Purple need to relive times when we struck fear in them.

And when those Cheesheads shut up at work. Or school. Or the bars. Or churches..

They are everywhere.

Please Purple, for the love of all things Minnesota, give us ammo to strengthen our battle in this, the greatest of all rivalries.

Watch it melt: Minnesota 31, Green Bay 17