How Deep Is Fan Loyalty?

On Sunday, Zygi Wilf faces one of the hardest days of his life. He's the owner of the Vikings, but was raised a Giants fan. When he comes into the Meadowlands Sunday, he's the enemy -- even though he grew up a fan of the team he hopes to beat. Conflicted loyalties are understandable -- and should be understood by Vikings fans.

Vikings fans should be able to feel a sympatico with Zygi Wilf tomorrow. The Vikings play the Giants in the Meadowlands – where Wilf's family had season tickets long before Jimmy Hoffa was assumed dead, giving new meaning to the punting term "coffin corner."

A win against the Giants would keep the Vikings more than just alive in the NFC North title chase, it would be a win that no NFL "expert" would anticipate. But it would be understandable if Wilf accepts a Vikings loss Sunday – unlike any of the other 15 games on the Vikings schedule. Why? Because he's a fan – no different than any of us. But the one difference is that he grew up as a Giants fan.

Being a fan is a badge of honor that many people wear with pride. In my circumstance, I was told the first curse word I ever heard was when Otis Taylor was at the 10-yard line going in for a touchdown at Super Bowl IV. I was too young to know what Dad was saying, but Mom remembered it forever – and blamed Pops for dropping that particular bomb forever. Dad, as was his wont, dismissed his indiscretion by saying he was a Vikings fan. Wilf is a Giants fan with similar stories and memories.

My only brother lives in St. Louis and, as of recently, has lived there longer than he lived in Minnesota. Yet, he remains a Vikings fan. He has relayed the folklore of the Vikings – Drew Pearson pushed off suffices – to people who could care less. Why? He was raised on the Vikings and still bleeds purple – even though blue and gold are the local blood types. When the Vikings lost to the Rams in January 2000, my brother, Bob Lurtsema and I shared a couple of adult beverages and he professed his love for the Vikings. Keep in mind that he had witnessed one of the greatest seasons from the fan perspective that any football fan had – Kurt Warner was a grocery bagger-turned-MVP – but, when push came to shove, he wanted the Vikings to win.

Zygi goes into the Meadowlands tomorrow in unfamiliar territory. Officially, he wants the Giants to lose. But don't hold it against him if he isn't too salty if the Giants win. He's a fan – just like us.

SATURDAY NOTES
* VU would like to remind Vikings fans to take part in the Campbell's Soup "Click For Cans" promotion. For those unfamiliar with the program, Chunky Soup, one of the league's official sponsors, donates a can of soup for every click on the company's website to a foodshelf designated for each of the NFL's 32 teams. To take part in the program, go to www.chunky.com and hit the icon "Click For Cans." Many of VU subscribers and readers don't live in Minnesota, so if you would prefer to click on the team closest to where you live, that's fine. As long as kids get food, we all win. Bookmark the page and go back once a day – there's a one-click-per-day-per-computer rule. The promotion runs for another month or so. If you click once a day, that's 30 cans of soup that will feed families in need. If you get nine friends to do the same, that's 300 cans. If they do the same, we're talking 3,000. Pay it forward and get it done – it's free and it helps those that need it most.
* Daunte Culpepper is expected to have his knee surgery next week. James Andrews of Birmingham, Ala., is going to do the procedure. Andrews has become a favorite of professional athletes and, if you're unfamiliar with his name, Daunte is in the best of hands – literally.
* Mewelde Moore practiced with a wrist splint Friday, but is expected to start Sunday. That being said, expect to see a serious dose of Michael Bennett as well. But, with neither being an accomplished blocker and the Giants expected to blitz often, don't expect either to be a major factor unless the Vikings get off to a fast start.
* Moe Williams and Spencer Johnson have been ruled out of Sunday's game and will be de-activated – something that has become commonplace this season.
* In the fallout of the Twin Cities television sweeps report on the Vikings boat scandal, which turned out to be a dumpster dive with largely unrelated "evidence" being unearthed, tight end Jermaine Wiggins has cut his ties with KSTP-TV – the local ABC affiliate. The station carries a Vikings pre-game show in which Wiggins was a weekly contributor. KSTP also has exclusive rights to Coach Tice, who remains contractually bound to the station through the end of the season.

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