"Packers or Vikings?"
It was literally the first question anyone asked me when I walked in the door at KARE 11 my first day on the job.
It was December 1, 1997. I walked into the morning editorial meeting, which was already in progress. I had no idea yet how seriously people take their pro football around here.
"Hey, it's the new guy!" someone announced. Then someone pointed at me and asked me to choose sides in a bitter rivalry that spanned decades.
"Packers or Vikings? Who are you pulling for tonight?"
"Oh.. well.. uh."
It turned out the arch rivals were to meet that very night in the Metrodome for a Monday Night Football game. The Packers had lost five straight at the Dome, but were the better team in 1997. Vikes fans were rightfully on edge.
"The Packers beat the Chiefs in Super Bowl One," I responded. "And the Chiefs beat the Vikings in Superbowl Four. So, I guess, I kind of.. uh.."
"Uh-oh! He's a Chiefs fan!" someone blurted out before I could finish.
I grew up in Kansas City as a kid who lived and died by the Chiefs during the fall. In the 1960's and 1970's a KC boy could easily become a Raider-hater or a Dolphin-hater, but I never developed strong feelings either way about the team Minnesotans loved to hate.
I approached that "Packers or Vikings" question through the lens of guy who remembered my Chiefs meeting those NFL powers in huge games with major implications.
Were the AFL teams good enough to play the best of the NFL? We were embarrassed by the Packers in Super Bowl I, and shocked the Vikes in Super Bowl IV.
"So.. I suppose I have more reason to like the Vikings," I continued.
A chorus of moans and groans followed.
The Packers fans in the room knew they couldn't count on me, and the Vikings fans weren't happy either. They couldn't imagine how anyone could reached adulthood without forming a solid opinion on the Vikings-Packers question.
I changed the subject.
"Boy, that Lowry Tunnel is something else, huh? That was the first time I tried to get through it in morning rush. I probably lost 10 minutes in that thing."
My new boss shot back very firmly, "I suggest you choose an alternate route if it's going to make you late!"
"Sure thing," I responded, wishing I'd stuck with the football theme.
I actually thought I was ten minutes late to the 9:00 meeting, but it turned out I wasn't scheduled to start until 9:30 that first day. I was actually 20 minutes early. But I still felt late.
And I felt about two quarts low on Purple Pride.
Brett Favre led the Packers to a 27-11 victory over the Vikings on that Monday night game in 1997. Our furniture hadn't arrived from Phoenix yet, so I watched the game on a little portable radio/TV combo my wife has had since college.
It has 5-inch black-and-white screen. But it still goes in the record books as my first game pulling for the Vikes.
Brett's in the Shower
Minneapolis stations typically devote a fair share of their news block to coverage of the rivalry, and fan reaction. Normally that ends on game day, but it didn't work out that way in 1997.
KQRS radio prankster Lee Mroszak, who went by name The Cabe (pronounced Kuh-BAY), pulled off a hoax that made headlines and gobbled up TV time for much of the week.
Mroszak came up with a bit that Monday morning that Packer-haters really wanted to believe was true. He claimed to be reporting live from inside the Marriot City Center in downtown Minneapolis, where Favre spent Sunday night before the game.
"Hi, is this Brett Favre's room?" Mroszak asked.
"Yes," a female replied.
"Hi I'm Cabe from they KQ morning show.You must be the lovely Mrs. Favre." Mroszak continued.
"No, I'm not his wife. He's in the shower. But he's not married," the woman answered.
"Yes he is. Brett is married."
"Oh my God!"
Mroszak had just created the impression he caught the Packers' star QB spending the night with another woman. It escalated when KQRS stood by his account.
That's when it went beyond water cooler talk to a real news story. Either Favre was cheating on his wife or the report was a complete fabrication. Had a radio station been duped by one of its personalities? Or worse, had the station been a willing partner in a hoax?
Favre's agent wasn't laughing. He told KARE at the time, "My first call Monday morning was from a major sponsor of Brett Favre. He said, 'I heard our boy got caught in bed with a hooker in Minneapolis last night'."
By Wednesday KQRS has finally conceded it was a hoax, but had been carried out by Mroszak without the station's consent or knowledge.
By the end of the week Mroszak was sent packing, and went on to become a recurring guest on Howard Stern's radio show.
Favre would spend the final two seasons of his NFL career with the Vikings, forcing long-time Favre haters to root for him. In 2010 he took the Purple to the brink of another Super Bowl.
In 2011 he played hurt, and was no doubt a little distracted by a texting scandal. The Cabe would've had a field day with it.
(Copyright 2011 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)