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Every Picture Tells a Story. Sometimes You Hate That Story.

Do you have a personal photo that you wish could not only be erased from the physical plane, but from the memories of all your acquaintances as well? You know the ones: wedding photos where the fashions, surroundings and the union itself are no longer current; family sessions where Mom just insisted on monochromatic shades of denim; every questionable Halloween costume that was “funny at the time, you just had to be there.”

Each of us, if we’re being truthful, has photos of ourselves that we’d will out of existence if we could, and I, to the shock of no one, have some real chestnuts. We could point to the nadir of my photographic history as the earring-and-highlights phase of the early aughts, or perhaps the full decade where I apparently didn’t think shirts should have sleeves. But no, I can live with all of these, albeit sheepishly.

The photo that I most wish I could punt into the sun can be described thusly: the year is 2009, and I’m in the midst of my first trip to Lambeau Field. I’m in the bleachers surrounded by the family of my now-wife, and each person is adorned in various green and gold apparel. And there, smack in the middle of an otherwise-ordinary scene, you find me, draped in the vintage #7 Vikings jersey once made famous by Randall Cunningham. This photo, ten years removed, still won’t let me go.

You can find it framed in various family members’ homes throughout the country, and it’s asked about at every family function. People I’ve never met know this photo, and refer to me smirkingly as “The Viking Fan.” I have truly explained (or made excuses for, depending on your interpretation) this photo more times than I’ve seen the actual picture.

The explanation I’ve always given for the photo -- that I’d always loved Brett Favre, it was his first game back at Lambeau, and I bought the jersey on eBay because I was and am something of a contrarian idiot -- really doesn’t matter. What matters is that it exposes me as an unserious, superficial fan, and all the photos of me as a frothing Cheesehead won’t do a thing to change that.

So maybe it’s time that I respond to that question -- “Did you used to be a Vikings fan?” -- with less political waffling, and a little more sobriety. “Yes, I was,” I will say. “I’m from North Dakota, and we don’t have tons to choose from. But a lot has happened since then.”

Because that’s the truth: I was something of a Vikings fan, but many things indeed have happened since then.

The first year I lived in the area was 2010, the Super Bowl season, and my girlfriend’s dad (now father-in-law) was fully respectful of the fact that I was on the fence about this whole Packer thing. So he was smart about it, never once suggesting I pick a side. Instead, he invited me to every game to let me see it for myself, and that was certainly the year to do it.

In the time since, we’ve gone to more games than I can count, and as a relatively new addition to the fold, I can promise you that there’s nowhere like Lambeau Field. Some of the moments we’ve seen in that span -- Bart Starr congratulating Favre when his number was retired, Jerry Kramer’s Hall of Fame induction, beating the Cowboys in the playoffs -- are as vivid today as they were then.

So I’m at peace with the photo in question. It’s more a reference point for how much better life is today than it was then, particularly as it applies to football fandom.

It was an embarrassing costume that was funny at the time. You just had to be there.

August 2019

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