Green and gold and proud of it

Packer fans aren’t afraid to support their team in Viking country.

Andrew Johnson

Last year, Minnesota Vikings fans grieved over their teamâÄôs lost chance at a Super Bowl appearance. This year, Packers fans are celebrating the opposite.

Despite being just miles from the site where their rival Vikings play their home games, the presence of the Packer-faithful is still felt on the University of Minnesota campus.

“You get made fun of all the time,” sophomore Drew Bilyeu said about being a Packers fan in Minnesota. “I could care less now though âÄî weâÄôre in the Super Bowl.”

Nicole LaVoi, associate director of the UniversityâÄôs Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sports, said a number of elements factor into why fans invest so much into their teams, like group affiliation, entertainment and team identification.

“For people that identify with and support a team, they feel theyâÄôre better than people that support the rival team,” LaVoi said.

Highly invested fans consider the team an extension of themselves, she said, and the teamâÄôs successes play into their self-confidence.

In short, they feel better about themselves when the team wins, she said.

Traditionally, the Packers have a strong following outside the city of Green Bay and the state of Wisconsin.

Even though it is by far the smallest city with an NFL team (the next smallest city, Buffalo, has nearly four times as many people), Green Bay consistently ranks among the league leaders in devoted fans.

In 2008, ESPN.com ranked Packers fans as one of the leagueâÄôs best, second only to the teamâÄôs Super Bowl opponent, the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Vikings fans came in 19th.

Much to the chagrin of Vikings fans, the Packers have historically outdone their Minnesota rivals on the field, too. TheyâÄôve won three Super Bowls compared to the VikingsâÄô zero.

But even with the championship disparity, the Packers and the Vikings have always had a competitive rivalry.

The two teams last met on Nov. 21, 2010, marking the 100th matchup. The overall series between them only slightly favors the Packers with a regular-season record of 51-47-1 (Vikings won one playoff matchup).

Tensions between these two teams arise from playing in the same division since 1970. Formerly the NFC Central Division, the NFC North now forces both teams to play twice in the regular season.

The rivalry was heightened when longtime Packers quarterback Brett Favre returned from retirement to play for the Vikings in August of 2009.

Nevertheless, it has not quieted support for the Packers around campus.

“Packer fans have definitely been coming out in force more to support their team,” said Eric Stanton, general manager of Buffalo Wild Wings Station 19 in Stadium Village. He has noticed a high turnout of Packers fans over the course of the season, especially during the playoffs.

“With the Packers in the playoffs and the Vikings not, there are two specific groups that come out on game days: Packer fans and the people that want to cheer for anybody except the Packers,” he said.

It is pretty easy to tell which customers are Packers fans based on what theyâÄôre wearing, he said.

“Usually Packer fans donâÄôt come out in secretive support âÄî theyâÄôre out to show support for their team,” Stanton said.

The Packers will play the Steelers on Sunday in Arlington, Texas for Super Bowl XLV. Stanton expects another great turnout from Packers fans once again.

“Especially with having people from out of state come to school here,” Stanton said, “itâÄôs nice that they can have a place to congregate and support their Packers with their fellow Packer fans.”