DULUTH – It's been a week since the Vikings suffered a season-ending defeat at the hands of the 49ers, but Twin Ports sports fans are still mourning the lost chance for an epic game at Lambeau Field.
The border battle between the Vikings and the Packers is even more intense in Duluth and neighboring Superior, Wis. In these towns, the purple-clad mingle more with those donning green and gold because a short drive across a bridge is all that separates the two.
Smack talk dominates offices Monday mornings. The local TV news stations get into it — two hosts on WDIO, Duluth's ABC affiliate, made a deal that whomever's team won the Vikings-Packer game in September would get to pie the other in the face, on air.
When a rivalry plays out in such proximity, a clash of the fans is inevitable.
Just ask Zach Schneider, who was born and raised a Packers fan in Duluth. The 31-year-old said that on Sundays, he likes to go watch football at restaurants and bars with friends. But he knows there's a good chance he'll have to accept some heckling for his green and gold gear, which he wears proudly even if he's the only Green Bay fan in the joint.
"This side of the border's going to be very, very pro-San Francisco on Sunday," Schneider said of the NFC championship matchup. For while Vikings fans may still be bitter about last weekend's defeat, at least they could say they lost to the champs if the 49ers beat Green Bay and go all the way. And they shudder to think what a Packers Super Bowl win would mean. "I'd be hearing about it forever," said John Gray, 32, a Vikings fan who lives in Superior.
Bruce Ciskie, the radio broadcaster for University of Minnesota Duluth hockey games and a Packers die-hard, grew up in Superior but now lives in Duluth. Though many might have enjoyed making the trek to Lambeau for a Green Bay-Minnesota NFC title game, Ciskie is glad his team is up against San Francisco on Sunday.
"Not because we thought the Packers might lose," he said. "It was that we were afraid the Vikings were going to win."
And if that had happened, Ciskie added, "we would never hear the end of it."