If you are a football enthusiast whose career involves a significant amount of travel, one of the challenges you face is how to keep up with your favorite team while on the road. And how to enjoy the Sunday games when you are far away from those you love:
Your comfy couch
The pantry where your favorite snacks are stored
Your large capacity refrigerator located within 20 feet of said comfy couch.
You can of course sit alone in your hotel room and watch the games, but Green Bay Packers fans tend to be sociable creatures who seek out others of their own kind. And, it seems like those hotel room mini-bars can get depleted so quickly, almost as though the beverages disappear right before your eyes.
Another alternative is to find a sports bar and watch the games there. But, unless you can find one of the enlightened bars that cater specifically to Packer devotees, you may face a sticky diplomatic problem: What do you do if you encounter a Minnesota Vikings fan?
One time I found myself in just this situation. I was visiting one of America’s Great Cities on a Sunday afternoon, getting ready for a book signing event for my novel, OVER TIME, and found a wonderful sports bar with a reputation for excellent food and featuring large screen TVs. The crowd there was a mixture of many different teams’ fans, quite a few from the NFC North. I was sitting at the bar and just about to plunge into a bowl of terrific chili. It had the three necessary ingredients to all great sports bar chili:
1. Lots and lots of cheddar cheese (I always appreciate it when a restaurant tries to make me feel welcome)
2. A generous amount of spice (causes the pale Seahawks fan’s complexion to turn an amusing shade of red)
3. More meat than beans (reducing the possibility of unpleasant fourth quarter emissions from Bears’ fans)
I was just about to plunge into the aromatic bowl when I noticed a menacing purple figure next to me. I looked over and (NO!) it was a Minnesota Vikings fan.
He looked at me at precisely the same time, scrutinized the Green and Gold attire I had on and scowled. After what seemed like a long time, a thought formed in his head and he uttered in a growling voice:
“I hate the Packers and I hate Packer fans.”
Strong words, those. You don’t hear the word “hate” very often in your life—especially directed at you. For a moment, I had that incredulous look of a Malibu cop encountering a liquored-up movie star late at night on the Coast highway. I simply didn’t know what to say. Nothing snappy or clever came to mind.
If this ever happens to you, here are some strategies to defuse a potentially ugly situation:
1) Avert your eyes. Seeing the Vikings colors and garb can bring about an overwhelming urge to giggle. Put another way, if historical Viking explorer Erik the Red had been named Erik the Purple, would he have been such a feared warrior?
2) Never, ever mention the terms “NFL Champions” or “Super Bowl” to a Vikings fan. Alas, the trophy case at Vikings headquarters remains barren, and it would be bad form to remind him of that. Packer people are above such behavior.
3) Maintain the high road. Don’t come back with insults like, “How come your team’s owner’s name sounds like an ineffectual comic strip character?” This will bait him into blurting out, “Well, your owner—“ And you’ll have to interrupt with, “Is 110,000 people from all 50 states.” This will just lead to more unnecessary conflict. After all, when you’re America’s Team, there’s no need to brag.
4) Compliment his city. You might say, “The arts and culture scene in Minneapolis is amazing! You’re so lucky to live there.” He will recall the last visit he made to a downtown strip club, drift off in pleasant remembrance, and probably forget you are even in the room.
5) The ultimate olive branch: say something positive about his team. No, no, I don’t mean a snide remark like, “Way to go, guy! I see the number of your players arrested has dropped 50% this year.” I was thinking of something much friendlier such as, “You must have a helluva offensive line to be able to protect a quarterback as old and brittle as Brad Johnson.”
So, when confronted by the surly Norseman, what did I do that day? I smiled, offered to buy him a beer and said, “I completely respect your opinion.” And then he and I watched as the Packers beat the Vikings.
I’ve always believed that, in the final analysis, actions speak louder than words.
Before I left the bar that afternoon, I gave Mr. Viking Fan an autographed copy of my novel. Surprised, he thanked me and asked, “Is this book about football?”
“The best kind of football,” I replied, as I walked out into the crisp October air.