MINNEAPOLIS – Thirty years ago, the Minnesota Vikings traveled to Gothenburg, Sweden, to face the Chicago Bears in a historic preseason game for the National Football League. It was the first contest ever to be played in continental Europe.
More than 33,000 fans saw the Vikings edge the Bears 28-21 at Ullevi Stadium on August 14, 1988, including a man named Magnus Olsen, who was witnessing his first American football game that afternoon.
He was hooked.
For the next three decades, Olsen followed the Vikings as closely as a native Minnesotan would, living through the highs of four NFC Championship appearances, the lows of eight losing seasons and everything in between. Over the years, he occasionally traveled to a few other pro games in London, but Olsen never did make that 4,000-mile flight from Sweden to see his beloved Vikings play on their own turf.
Then he realized something about the year 2018.
“This is the 30th anniversary,” Olsen said, “of being a Vikings fan.”
So, Olsen recruited his brother and nephew to fly to Minneapolis, where together they saw their first-ever Vikings game in the United States on Sunday against the Green Bay Packers, of all teams.
Wearing a #22 Harrison Smith jersey and clutching the Swedish flag, Olsen and his family even managed to find a tailgate spot near 3rd and Portland before the game, where they mingled with fellow Vikings fans and befriended a few enemies in green. In the same lot, a group of rowdy Canadian Packers fans from Ontario were grilling hot dogs and dancing to music.
“The people are so good,” Olsen said. “We don’t have this in Sweden. The tailgating, the culture, the atmosphere, the fans. It’s awesome.”
It’s not always a friendly rivalry.
Todd Goggleye, a Vikings fan from Elk River who tailgates with the same group at every home game, refuses to shy away from the fact that he cannot stand the sight of green.
“The green is horrible,” he said, decked out in purple and gold from head to toe. “We don’t like Wisconsin at all. It makes me sick to my stomach.”
The feeling, of course, is mutual.
But there are signs of humanity within the rivalry.
In the next breath, Goggleye admitted that he enjoys tailgating at Lambeau Field and aims to treat all Green Bay fans with respect when they come to U.S. Bank Stadium.
And Steve Tate, a longtime Packers fan and team shareholder from the Madison, Wisconsin area, has made many connections within the Vikings community during his frequent trips to Minneapolis. Before Sunday’s game, Tate tailgated with his cheesehead proudly, but he quickly credited Minnesota fans for their generosity and kindness. Many of them are even eager to assist Tate with his many charity efforts during the off-season.
“It’s about the relationship. It really is,” Tate said. “We want to win. It’s a competition, but then we have lives together. I go to their homes, they come to mine. We’re involved.”
Talk about intertwined: Ashley McCormick and her husband, Jason Sieg, are both from Wisconsin but rooted for different teams on Sunday. Sieg embraced the Vikings from an early age because his dad grew up in Minneapolis, but McCormick always stuck by her home state as a Packers fan.
“Somehow,” McCormick says of her husband’s family, “They let me in. And I’m trying to take the grandkids over.”
She’s making some progress. They have two kids: A son who loves the Vikings and a daughter who loves the Packers.
“At the end of the day,” McCormick said a few blocks from U.S. Bank Stadium before the game, “we all go home to family, still.”
Magnus Olsen and his family will head home to Sweden at some point, too.
But not yet.
“We're flying off to Boston and we’re going to watch the Vikings beat the Patriots next Sunday before we go home,” Olsen said. “This is the Swedish Vikings tour!”