|[A Vikings bar in Kentucky.]|
Yet the good thing about football in particular, and sports in general, is that it provides easy access to connection, community, and shared affect of victory or defeat. And this is doubly so if you're an expatriate living far from home, a foreign land or new city.
Witness Louisville, Kentucky, where Gerstle's Place, a Vikings bar, thrives in a first ring suburb. Here's my friend Andy's description of a its origins:
I am referred to a fellow in a purple Santa Claus hat named Dan McGowan. McGowan has been involved with the Derby City Norsemen for many years. In the past, that's meant handing out gear, collecting donations for charity, and arranging fundraising raffles (though not meat raffles, surprisingly!). They’d brought in many Vikings over the years, including Carl Eller and Chuck Foreman. Dan was born in Owatonna – “I tell people here I’m also from the south, because I grew up south of the Twin Cities” – and came to Louisville by way of the Army and nearby Fort Knox. He points out the other Minnesotans in the room, and explains that in the global economy, there are in fact some obvious Minnesota-Kentucky connections I’d not considered: UPS’ hub is in Louisville, bringing in people from all over, and it’s also the home to a large Ford assembly plant. About half the room seems to be Minnesotans brought to Louisville by work.
There's a similar story from the slightly-above-average sitcom, How I Met Your Mother, an episode where one of the characters is plays an expatriate Minnesotan who gets homesick and hangs out at a New York City Vikings bar. The episode has a few good scenes of NYC Vikings fans cursing the name of Gary Anderson
Of course, like most coastal representations of Minnesota, many details are off (e.g. Bemidji Pale Ale's, "Twin Cities" high fives). But the principle of the thing is sound! For an ex-pat, there's nothing like a hometown bar in a strange land. And more than anything else, football can bring ex-pats together.
|[The Packers/Vikings state line is the only wholly contiguous allegiance fracture outside of New England.]|
That brings us to the Green Bay Packers. I wish it was easy to forget that 'sconnies live among us, but it's not. Of all the nearby sports watersheds, the Packers are the closest to the Twin Cities. And Saint Paul, because it's closer to Wisconsin, has the greater number of Packer bars. (In other words, Saint Paul is the "Wisconsin" of the Twin Cities.)
Along the way, I'll tell you the "origin story" of the different Packer bars, and we can talk about rivalry, why football sucks, Aaron Rodgers, or anything else you like. We will witness strange Wisconsin camouflage and hear their wistful cheers. And we will watch the Packers (hopefully) defeat the Carolina Panthers.
What: Bicycle tour of three Saint Paul Packer bars
When: Sunday November 8th, 11:45 AM
Where: Tiffany's Sports Lounge in Highland Park
Distance: 7 miles
Why: To witness Packer fans in their non-native habitat
We'll meet up at Tiffany's, watch the kickoff and about a quarter of the game, head to Billy's for the middle, and end up at Gabe's for the inevitable Packer victory. Come along for all or part of the tour. Wear anything you like.
|[Sconnies somehow in their element in Saint Paul.]|
|[Packer fans throwing a football in Saint Paul.]|
I thought about it for a long time. Here are the top 8 reasons to root for the Packers:
#8. Their season ticket waiting list.
#7. The Super Bowl trophy is named after their first coach.
#6. They don't have official cheerleaders.
#5. They're nicknamed after a working class profession, not an ethnicity, bird, or animal.
#4. They play in the smallest city of any major US sport: Green Bay, Wisconsin (pop 104,000).
#3. They play outside, which is hard-core and awesome.
#2. They are the only major US sports team to at least pretend to be community owned.
#1. They have actually won the Super Bowl. Multiple times.
Note that you don't have to be a Packer fan to come on this ride. I only ask that you be slightly intrigued by the concept of Saint Paul Packer bars. Feel free to gawk at the Wisconsin weirdness in all its glory.