Sunday slant: Decision time for fans

The Metrodome crowd could be a conflicted mix of Vikings fans who want their team to win (many of whom also want their coach gone) and Packers fans wanting to help secure Brad Childress' future in Minnesota. This has the potential to be another can't-make-it-up moment in a bitter rivalry.

Today marks the 100th meeting between the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers, a storied rivalry featuring last-second field goals, last-second touchdown catches, moons over Lambeau and the Dishman blunder.

There are so many tales of come-from-behind wins, excruciating losses and good-natured barbs between fans (and a few ugly incidents), but Sunday's game in the Metrodome will be decision time for Vikings fans. Will they cheer their team and try to make life difficult for the 6-3 Packers or will fans turn their frustration on the head coach Brad Childress from the outset.

Jared Allen said he knows fans are frustrated with their play on the field. He understands. So are the players, but he's hoping their dome continues to hold a home-field advantage for the defense.

Childress has pretty much seen and heard it all. He's been booed at Mall of America Field on different occasions over the last couple years. The crowd during the last home game on Nov. 7 was clearly conflicted. They searched for the right opportunities to fire up the "Fire Childress!" chants and had a few occasions to break them out. But at the end of the fourth quarter, when the offense went on a furious five-minute run to put up 14 points and the defense brought the pressure on Cardinals QB Derek Anderson, the supportive, boisterous crowd returned. The result was four sacks in the last six offensive snaps for Arizona, and a Vikings victory.

Since then, Minnesota dug its divisional hole a little deeper. They are buried and in their own dirty play of the last two months. Before the Arizona game, fans were irate at Childress for releasing Randy Moss. Now it's just more frustration because the Vikings are a talent-laden team with a record to match also-rans like the Browns, Broncos and 49ers. From championship contenders to underachievers, Childress has his team and his job teetering on the brink of elimination.

Fans haven't always been kind to him, and he had conflicting things to say about Minnesotans in an story this week.

"Minnesota's a different place," Childress told ESPN. "A different part of the world. You know what I mean? The 'Minnesota nice' thing is real. But there's a steely veneer that's the backside.

"If you move here, you're a short-timer. I'm a short-timer. I'm not a Minnesotan. [But] I love it here. It's a great place. … A Minnesotan will give you directions everywhere. Except to his house."

With a loss to their ultimate rivals, Minnesotans will want to give Childress directions to the next train out of town. But there could be an interesting dynamic breaking out at Mall of America Field if things go bad for Brad. It's possible Packers fans in attendance – and there always seems to be plenty of those in bad and mediocre times in Minnesota – start supporting him.

Can't you just see it? Vikings fans start the "Fire Childress!" chants and Packers fans start the "Keep Childress!" chants in an attempt to drown out the Minnesota mutiny.

You see, Packers fans remember Childress taking the Vikings' job at the same time their team had an opening. Green Bay's management wanted to talk with Childress too, but he was offered enough money and power by Vikings owner Zygi Wilf that Childress never made the trip to Green Bay. He called the Vikings' opening the "plumb job" in the NFL and effectively started to rub dirt in the Packers' face. Good for him. That's what the rivalry is supposed be about.

It's supposed be about the Vikings taking advantage of the Packers' frugality and signing Darren Sharper and Ryan Longwell. It's supposed to be an attitude that portrays "we don't like you and you don't like us; now let's settle it on the field." It's supposed to be about grabbing the icon of the Green Bay franchise and putting him in purple and sweeping the series in Brett Favre's first two times playing the team that shunned him.

But now, suddenly, we have Packers fans hoping that Childress stays in Minnesota? Heresy!

Here is the mission statement from a blog,, obviously run by Packers fans:

"We are dedicated to making sure that Brad Childress has a long and fruitless career as head coach of the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings have lost an NFL record 4 Super Bowls and Chilly has done a great job of keeping it that way."

The site has a background picture taken at Childress' opening press conference in 2006, when he looked much younger, full of hope and a thicker mustache. Wilf looks younger, too, with pride beaming forth at the hiring of his new general.

The "Save Chilly" site incorrectly insinuates that Childress only had 10 players on the field during a fourth-and-1 goal-line play against the Patriots – a myth that should have been shot dead by any fan willing to take the time and look for himself, but in this rivalry errors of fact can help propagate the vitriol.

Packers fans have been through the Dan Devine, Bart Starr, Forrest Gregg and Lindy Infante coaching malaise for two decades of doldrums. Just don't patronize Vikings fans by trying to influence their leadership in the future. A certain segment of a fan base is always going to want the head coach gone. Childress has sunk to embarrassingly low approval ratings. But the ultimate insult will be if Packers fans drown out the ranting from 50 years of frustration.

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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