Favre and loathing in a Packer bar
We caught arguably the most ballyhooed regular season NFL game in history at Gabe's Roadhouse in St. Paul. Why? Because it's the largest Packer bar in the Twin Cities and the dismal weather had us battling a momentary bout of contrarianism.
We had high expectations going in. Figured we'd witness at least one shoving, or at least shouting, match by halftime. Maybe the cops would have to be called in at some point. Favre's about-face has summoned some fierce emotions throughout this part of the country-- if ever there were a potent flash point in the Viking-Packer rivalry, this was the time/place.
We walked in to find a crowd comprised of about 55 percent Packer fans, 35 percent Vikings fans, and 10 percent overwhelmed bar staffers scrambling to accommodate patrons' monstrous orders (It was as if we all subconsciously wanted our drink and food orders to match the immensity of the game). It probably goes without saying that every one of the 13 plasma televisions was tuned in to the game. If there was a "Dancing with the Stars" contingent, they weren't about to pipe up.
The ambiance was dimly chic (especially for a sports bar), the mood anticipatory. You know you have a rapt audience on hand when they cheer/boo the talking heads' pregame predictions. The night unfolded raucously enough... but also more agreeably than first assumed. Contrary to our inflated expectations, there were no fisticuffs, no shirtless arguments over whose team had paid off which ref, not even one audible allusion to Benedict Arnold. Chalk it up to Upper Midwest politeness or the passion-extinguishing drizzle outside, but the place was downright friendly. If anything, the bar's atmosphere was embodied by a trio of polite green-sweatered ladies who absently ate mozzarella sticks, as if their food choice were subconsciously influenced by the abounding hat wear.
There were emotionally charged moments to be sure. Near the end of the first half, when rookie linebacker Clay Matthews stripped Adrian Peterson of the pigskin before taking it to the house near, a grizzled gent in a green Aaron Kampman jersey suddenly looked to be three "THAT's what I'M talking about!"s away from a heart attack. Forget the police. Get an ambulance.
The gist of the night came down to this (as it undoubtedly did across all of Wisconsin): dozens of sullen cheeseheads looking on as admitted Republican Jared Allen relentlessly outflanked Daryn Colledge and bull rushed Aaron Rodgers to the turf. Again. And again. And again. By the end of the night, the preposterously mulleted Allen's post-sack hog-tie celebration had grown noticeably irksome to the assembled green clads.
"It was funny the first time!" shouted a gray-bearded man in Paul Hornung jersey.
He was right. By the fourth time, it was hilarious. Especially to the outnumbered Vikings fans who, for the first time in more than 10 years, can openly discuss their team's Super Bowl chances without feeling like they're fooling themselves.
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