The Free Press, Mankato, MN

December 29, 2012

Packer-Vikes game should be a big bar draw

By Dan Nienaber
Free Press Staff Writer

MANKATO —  Every Sunday when the Vikings have been in action this year a loyal crowd of purple-clad fans have filled the tables at the downtown Buffalo Wild Wings.

Todd Joyal, the bar and restaurant’s general manager, said he’s expecting more Vikings fans than usual this Sunday for two reasons: If the Vikings win, they will be a wild card team in the playoffs and, if running back Adrian Peterson has a big game, he could break Eric Dickerson’s NFL rushing record.

There’s also a good chance Joyal’s Sunday regulars will be sharing their seats with a bunch of cheese-topped people dressed in green and gold. That’s because the one thing standing between the Vikings and the playoffs, as well as Peterson and his record, is the Green Bay Packers.

“When we do get the Packers playing, I’d say it’s 30 percent Packers and the rest are Vikings fans,” Joyal said. “I expect a full house. Obviously it’s a big game because if the Vikings win they go to the playoffs.”

Vikings fans aren’t the only ones who will be having their turf invaded during the afternoon game Sunday. People in purple have been known to invade Spinners Bar and Grill in North Manakto, the area’s unofficial Packers hangout, when the Vikes and the Pack are playing each other.

“They try to show up early so the Packer fans can’t get in,” owner Shawn Ange said. “We still serve people in purple, we just charge them double.”

Carrie Schmillen, a Packer fan who grew up in Le Center, is a regular at Spinners during Packer games. She said she doesn’t mind having Vikings fans show up because it’s fun to give them a hard time. She also said Ange puts out extra tables to make sure there’s room for everyone.

Schmillen’s justification for being a fan of the green and gold is a bit weak, though.

“My cousins are from Wisconsin and they’re all huge Packer fans,” she said. “I guess they warped my brain.”

Spinners is Packer friendly because Ange lived in Wisconsin before moving to Minnesota. The Packers have already earned a trip to the playoffs by winning the NFC North Division.

Ange doesn’t think his team will go easy on the Vikings and Peterson by giving key players a rest. He wasn’t conviced the Packers will win even with their best effort, however, since the Vikings have the home field advantage.

“Both teams are playing well,” he said. “I was at the Packers-Vikings game at Lambeau a few weeks ago. If they can stop Peterson, the Packers will be OK, but that’s a tough task — especially at the Dome.”

Joyal and Ange said they both have tricks to keep the rivalry fun. Ange serves up some green beverages when the Packers score and purple beverages when the Vikings score. Buffalo Wild Wings has NFL trivia games during every timeout where fans from both sides can win prizes.

Hitting a sports bar will be the best option for those who want to watch the game with a large crowd. Asking prices for game tickets on the Vikings Ticket Exchange website were as high as $1,000 Friday.