Rivalries, it's something we have grown accustomed to in the sporting world. Whether it's the Boston Red Sox vs. the New York Yankees, or the Boston Celtics vs. the Los Angeles Lakers, being a fan of a team caught up in stiff competition adds to the entire experience.
Yes, those are all fierce battles, however the most anticipated match up of recent times would have to be the Minnesota Vikings vs. Green Bay Packers. Loud, over dramatized and downright hostile, the double occasion of Green Bay vs. Minnesota each year promises to draw in the fans.
But why has Minnesota vs. Green Bay become so fierce in the span of two or three years? Of course there was a rivalry long ago, however it seems in recent times fuel has been added to a seemingly smouldering fire. Well realistically, there are a few reasons.
The Brett Favre Saga
This is the obvious one that people think of straight away. With Brett Favre's departure from Green Bay, to his arrival in New York, to a short lived retirement, to Wrangler Jeans commercials, to the Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packer fans more or less felt a wide range of emotions in the span of a year.
Heartache, anger, worry, and most importantly fear, Packer fans had no idea just how Brett Favre would do in a Minnesota Vikings uniform this time last offseason. Now though, we know the answer to that question, and it's an answer that Packer fans don't like at all.
Very damn good, is the easiest way to sum it up. The gunslinging arm is still as active as ever, and when Brett Favre strolled into Lambeau Field accompanied with a chorus of boos and "This Is Rodgers' Neighbourhood" signs, saying that the defeat was embarrassing would be an understatement.
With all of this going on though, it was Brett Favre's disregard for the Packers that seemed to hurt the most. Sure he acknowledged that the Packers were still a great team, and was very friendly during the five second handshake between former protege Aaron Rodgers, but when Favre went as far as to supposedly say or claim that "I want to stick it to Green Bay", well there was a definite cause for an uproar.
Aside from that minor controversy, it was also the fact that Favre acknowledged Minnesota as one of the best teams he's ever played on. Besides disregarding his 1996 Super Bowl winning year with Green Bay, it almost appeared that former Packer greats had been replaced by the mere image of Adrian Peterson. Which brings me to my next point.
It was almost destiny for Adrian Peterson to succeed in this league, however when he fast became the number one running back in the entire NFL, Packer fans were stunned to realise that Minnesota finally had a powerhouse running game.
Gone are the glory days of Ahman Green, and we arrive at the present time of Ryan Grant's inconsistent play. Sure, in 2009 Grant did pick up the slack a little and gave Packer fans a glimmer of hope for the future, but since his rookie years Grant has caused Green Bay fans some definite grief.
As for Adrian Peterson though, he did add that extra hump that Green Bay needed to overcome to beat the Minnesota Vikings. That hump was easily overcome back in 2008, when Green Bay beat Minnesota early in the season.
Now though, Adrian brings a new sort of talent to the rivalry. Speed and brilliance, and a threat that is constantly there. He may not be at his 100% best every game, but he has made Packer coaches reconsider the defensive scheme whenever the occasion that All Day Peterson is set to arrive.
The Chicago Bears Fade-Out
Ten years ago, this opening statement would have gotten me into some serious trouble. However, time has passed and although Chicago is still considered a strong rival of Green Bay's, there is no longer that hostile hate between the two.
Yes, there are still arguments among fans and there are often fights during the games, but the rivalry for the most part has become civil and there is some mutual respect. Perhaps it's due to the history of both teams, or maybe it's because Chicago hasn't been too hot in recent years, but Chicago and Green Bay no longer calls for a Doctor Phil type character to mediate arguments.
At the end of the day though, Chicago vs. Green Bay no longer tops Minnesota vs. Green Bay. Jay Cutler vs. Aaron Rodgers or Lovie Smith vs. Mike McCarthy, it doesn't matter, whichever way this match up goes, the sense of respect and sportsmanship is often felt afterward.
Minnesota Becoming Favorites
In the past few years, Minnesota have shown promising signs of making a run toward the Super Bowl. Hell, they were one game away in 2009 if it wasn't for Brett Favre's last minute repeat of 2007.
However, since Minnesota have become the favorites for the first seed in the NFC North, a stick has been stuck in the craw of Packer fans that is hard to pull out. For years Green Bay were majority favorites, even if there was the odd chance of an upset.
With Brett Favre leading the way, number 4's name alone was enough to make most fans think "Green Bay will take it".
Since 2007 though, Minnesota's chances have improved dramatically. Tavaris Jackson out and Brett Favre in has made the Vikings legit contenders for any title, and although they continue to fall short, the threat is ever so constant.
For those preparing to write a nasty comment stating that the Chicago rivalry is still fierce and indeed isn't lacking at all, you'd be 100% right. That is not my point. My argument is that Minnesota are Green Bay's number one enemy, and until a Super Bowl win occurs for Green Bay, it may stay that way for a while.
With Chicago looking promising for 2010, and the threat on defense looking promising there will of course be some rivalry at both Soldier Field and Lambeau Field come five months time.
However, none of that will top Brett Favre vs. Green Bay, because it simply is the most unrealistic circumstance anyone could dream up. Perhaps when Favre finally retires things will cool down a little, but right now Minnesota vs. Green Bay is a cause for a five alert rivalry that is set to go the distance.