To non-football fans, the National Football League’s recent lockout troubles may seem trite. After all, when the main disagreement is over how to split $2 billion of revenue, those affected usually don’t find a lot of sympathetic ears.
However, the NFL and its impending lockout will have a profound impact on the team that most people living here adore and the team that true Minnesotans despise. The Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers would feel a lost season a lot more than other teams in the league, albeit for very different reasons.
As any Cheesehead is more than happy to tell you, the Packers won the Super Bowl last year. Meanwhile, the Vikings raced to the bottom against the Detroit Lions during a season in which everything went wrong, including the transformation of the Metrodome into the Metrocrater.
The video of the stadium roof collapse was amazing and perfectly embodied a fact most people already knew; the Metrodome is done.
Currently the Vikings find themselves in the unenviable position of lobbying for a new stadium at a time when support for professional football might be at its lowest point and the city has built two new ballparks in two years with TCF Bank Stadium and Target Field.
The Vikings have given Minneapolis a proposal in which the city handles the majority of funding for a new football complex and the team would pitch in somewhere around 30 to 40 percentof the required money. Needless to say, with the current budget issues facing Minneapolis, neither Minnesota lawmakers nor their constituents are thrilled with the idea of spending money on a football stadium.
Meanwhile the Packers, fresh off of their Super Bowl conquest, find themselves in a rather awkward position. They are the only fan-owned team in America’s four major sports, which also possibly makes it the only team siding with players in the current argument.
Whether NFL owners get more cash or not means absolutely nothing for Packer shareholders, as they don’t get any profit returns anyway. There is no financial gain being a financial shareholder; most owners are proud to simply be part of the storied franchise.
The offseason is usually an exciting time for both franchises and fans. This year, Packers fans are left to bask in the warm glow of success while Vikings fans try to step back and pinpoint when exactly the wheels fell off and the car started on fire.
Unfortunately, the labor disagreement has put a hitch in teams’ ability to go through anything resembling a normal offseason routine — or, for the Packers, a little more celebratory offseason than normal.
Green Bay has the Super Bowl trophy sitting proudly at Lambeau Field, demonstrating just how good of a team they are. Next year the team could be even better, with the crazy-talented tight end Jermichael Finley getting healthy alongside a couple other key players the team lost to injury last year.
Although the team has the trophy, the players’ fingers are still bare. The Packers have not ordered their Superbowl rings yet because the organization cannot have any contact with the players. Meanwhile, Vikings’ new head coach Leslie Frazier hasn’t had a chance to start rebuilding from the rubble of 2010.
The Vikings and their fans would gladly deny the 2010 season ever happened. Nothing worked last year for the team that tried practically anything to stop the bleeding, including bringing back a fan favorite for three games with receiver Randy Moss and playing a game at TCF Stadium.
So far, teams have not been able to effectively function this offseason. Neither the Vikings nor the Packers are allowed to have any contact with their players and instead of scouring over free agent reports or working on throwing mechanics, the coaches are forced to twiddle their thumbs and hope the two sides work things out sooner rather than later.
Both the Packers and the Vikings have the good fortune to employ players at the very top of their positions. The Packers have one of the best quarterbacks in the league with Aaron Rodgers, while the Vikings were lucky enough to end up with Adrian Peterson, a running back who makes defenses hold their breath every time he carries the football.
Although comparing the two is an apples-to-oranges exercise, what links Rodgers and Peterson is the fact that they are both in the prime of their careers starting now. Peterson is just 26 and completed his fourth NFL season last year while Rodgers is 27 and won a Super Bowl in his third NFL campaign.
Both Rodgers and Peterson are at the top of their positions, entering the best years of their careers. It would be a huge blow to both teams if there wasn’t a season in 2011. Rodgers proved himself an elite quarterback with the Packers’ march to Dallas, while Peterson tightened up his fumbling problem and was one of the only bright spots in a season that was as bleak as a Minnesota winter for the Vikings.
The possibility of losing an NFL season is a major buzzkill for Packer nation, and it puts the Vikings that much farther away from a chance at redemption.
Of course every team will be affected if the NFL stops operations next year, but the rivals in the Midwest will feel the sting more than most squads. Thanks to completely different circumstances, both the Vikings and the Packers need there to be a season next year. Whether you bleed green and yellow or purple and gold, the lockout is one time when both a Packers and a Vikings fan are rooting for the same outcome. Well … now and whenever the other team plays the Chicago Bears.
John Grimley welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.