It's hard to know just what you're looking for on the day of one of the biggest local sporting events of the year — Vikings vs. Packers, opening of U.S. Bank Stadium for real — but then a friend sends you a message about an airport bartender wearing a Brad Johnson jersey and suddenly you're onto something.
Namely: quarterbacks. Vikings quarterbacks. So many of them. And so many of them represented by fans. Just driving into downtown I spot four Teddy Bridgewaters, three Brett Favres, two Fran Tarkentons and a Daunte Culpepper for good measure.
And then walking up the grassy park — not far from where my desk at the old Star Tribune building used to be — there's the jackpot: a homemade Sam Bradford jersey.
But it gets better. Engaging its wearer in conversation — Nick Branson of Lakeville, who is there with a group of old college friends — one comes to find this isn't just any makeshift jersey.
No, this masking-tape masterpiece is covering up a No. 7 Vikings jersey. And it's an autographed Christian Ponder jersey. Oh, we have so many eras covered now. It's amazing.
Branson and his friends were in the area since around noon, meandering from spot to spot. Wherever they went, he was the center of attention. His friends wouldn't have wanted it any other way.
See, Branson was trying to go to the game in a normal, collared shirt. Everyone else had a jersey, including Bob Ernst of St. Paul in a Fran Tarkenton. They decided quickly that if Branson was going to go to the game, this was not going to stand.
They fetched the old Ponder garb and went to work.
"The price of your ticket," Ernst told him, "is wearing this jersey."
For his part, Branson didn't seem to mind the attention.
"That will be the only Bradford jersey in the stadium," Ernst predicted, and as far as I could tell he was right. How strange, right — but at the same time making perfect sense — that the starting QB for the Vikings in one of the biggest games in franchise history would be so new that this would be the case.
We parted ways, and no more than 30 seconds later Gary and Andrea Mayeux of St. Paul asked to have their picture taken. Sure, of course.
It only dawned on me a minute later that he was wearing a Bridgewater jersey and she was in a Vikings Favre jersey. So they were chased down for another shot, this one from my phone.
I said to them, "I love the representation of the past and the future." Gary, in the Bridgewater jersey with maybe a wound too fresh, said back, "I guess it's more like the past and the distant past now."
It's way too early for that kind of talk, but it's also hard to deny how quickly the Vikings moved on — by choice or by circumstance — from so many quarterbacks in the past.
It stood in contrast to the green and gold Rodgers (and Favre) jerseys also in the crowd. The purple past is inescapable on the backs of the fans who ushered the Vikings into their future inside a new stadium Sunday night.