Scott Mansch: NFL's best regional rivalry returns
The Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers meet again on Sunday at the start of a new NFL season
SLAYTON — In the coming days one of the all-time great athletes in Minnesota history will be visiting Worthington for King Turkey Day.
The featured speaker that day will be former Vikings’ superstar Chuck Foreman.
I know several fine teenagers on Murray County Central’s exceptional football team, and when I mentioned Chuck the other day one of them said:
“Is he the man known for the little barbecue grills?”
If we were in Wisconsin, this case of mistaken identity would be akin to young Cheeseheads who, when being asked about Packer legend Jerry Kramer, wondered if he was that clown on Seinfeld.
But no matter. Time marches on, in both the real world and the NFL. And come Sunday one of the premier regional rivalries in pro football history will be renewed as the Packers and Vikings get after each other at U.S. Bank Stadium.
It will be a season opener for both teams, of course. And what a way to kick off the football season for NFL fans.
I am certainly one of those.
The anticipation for Sunday’s big game brought back memories of several Packer-Viking games that I was fortunate enough to see in person. I’m a rare bird here in Skol Country, for the Packers are a favorite. I have an excuse, for though I’m a native Slayton boy and love Minnesota through and through, our family lived in Milwaukee from 1963-73.
Young folks have no choice but to back the Pack when living in Wisconsin, and it’s been a difficult habit to break.
Anyway, as a tribute to the start of the NFL season and a salute to the best rivalry that borders the Mississippi, here are a few of my memories from Purple-Green games I’ve witnessed personally.
*October 22, 1978, at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington—Fran Tarkenton throws three touchdown passes, including one of 16 yards to Chuck (not George) Foreman, as the Vikings win 21-17.
It’s a fact: This was Minnesota’s seventh straight victory over Green Bay. As young college students with little wherewithal, my brother and I sat with tickets purchased by our father. Thanks, Dad.
*November 23, 1980, at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington—Gerry Ellis and Eddie Lee Ivery each run for more than 100 yards as the Packers win 25-13.
It’s a fact: Attending the game with Worthington Daily Globe credentials for the first time, I was a young sports writer in the Met’s press box. Sitting in the next row over was former Viking star fullback Bill Brown. He looked like he could certainly still play.
*September 27, 1981, in Milwaukee—Tommy Kramer throws for 253 yards and two touchdowns, including one to Ahmad Rashad, as the Vikings win 30-13.
It’s a fact: This game is a few days after the Packers had acquired John, JJ, (not George) Jefferson, who was supposed to team with superstar wideout James Lofton and gifted thrower Lynn Dickey to form a high-powered Green Bay offense. It didn’t turn out that way.
*October 23, 1981, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay—Benny Ricardo’s 32-yard field goal in overtime gives the Vikings a 20-17 victory in a wild game. The Packers tie it at 17 on a Lynn Dickey touchdown pass to halfback Mike Meade with two seconds left in regulation.
It’s a fact: I organized a road trip for about seven Slayton buddies — all Viking fans — and myself and brother to hallowed Lambeau Field. It was a good van trip home for my Viking pals.
*November 13, 1983, at the Metrodome in Minneapolis—Though outgained in total yards, 419-343, the Packers build a 19-0 halftime lead and hold on for a 29-21 victory.
It’s a fact: No Viking buddies along for this one, just my folks. It remains a highlight of my football-following days as Dad was able to take a photo of Packer coach Bart Starr, who later autographed it for my brother.
*December 21, 1991, at the Metrodome in Minneapolis—Mike Tomczak relieves an injured Don Majkowski and leads the Packers to a 27-7 victory in a battle of two teams going nowhere.
It’s a fact: The next day, both Minnesota coach Jerry Burns and Green Bay coach Lindy Infante are fired. The next year, the Packers trade for an obscure young quarterback named Brett Favre.
The Packer-Viking rivalry has always been dramatic and competitive. Green Bay now leads the series, 64-56, with three ties. In the last 11 meetings, the teams have each won five times with one tie.
By the way, Chuck Foreman starred for the Vikings from 1973-79. He scored a total of 11 touchdowns against Green Bay and helped the Vikings go 11-2-1 against the Pack.
Upon his arrival in Worthington we’ll be sure to ask him about his Packer-Viking memories.
Enjoy the NFL season, everyone.
Scott Mansch can be reached at Smansch5rockets@gmail.com