32 Fans, 32 Countries: Stephan Kornberger, a Minnesota Vikings Fan in Germany

Stephan Kornberger is not the only NFL fan in Ludwigshafen, Germany, a town across the Rhine from the more populous city of Manheim. But he has to be the only Minnesota Vikings fan with a son who became a fan of the Green Bay Packers.  To pile on, Kornberger also has a daughter who morphed into a Broncos fan in spite of the fact that the Chiefs are her father’s favorite AFC team. Apparently she is an animal lover who prefers broncos over say, lions and bears.  ”When she found out I really disliked them [the Broncos], that only encouraged her,” Kornberger said.

Even though the Chiefs and Vikings are engaged in divergent current seasons, it is the men in purple that are Kornberger’s first love.

His fandom started in the 1980’s when there was a small German television network that exposed locals to “sports around the world.”  Kornberger had read about the Bears winning the ‘85 Super Bowl and grew intrigued by the sport. As a chess player, Kornberger naturally felt a kinship with the tactics and strategy involved in professional football. He watched his first Super Bowl in 1989 when the San Francisco 49ers defeated the Cincinnati Bengals in a rather thrilling game and hasn’t missed a Super Bowl since.

In the 90’s, Germany’s Sky Network started airing playoff games, further fostering Kornberger’s knowledge and passion. It also helped that he is an IT man who was Internet literate before 99% of the world. Even in the early days of the World Wide Web, Kornberger was able to ingest copious amounts of information about the rules, schematics and history of the NFL. However, he learned very little from the local broadcasters.

“You guys have difficulty with some of your announcers. Believe me, the German ones are way worse, “Kornberger said, “ You don’t opt to watch a football game at 2 A.M. local time and need a commentator to tell you that a field goal is worth three points.”

After a healthy period elapsed in which Kornberger watched random games, he knew a big decision was on the horizon “Unlike the opera or theater where you could enjoy the overall experience, to enjoy sports you have to root for someone,” he said.

That someone was the Vikings. On an innocuous Sunday in the mid-90’s Minnesota beat Chicago. Kornberger was taken with Cris Carter and the Vikings offensive style in general. He was hooked.

Since solidifying his fandom, Kornberger has traveled to the United States five times to cheer alongside his fellow Norseman. Unfortunately, his success in doing so has rivaled the success of Minnesota’s current crop of quarterbacks.  In 1999, Kornberger bought Super Bowl tickets in the week leading up the NFC Championship on the assumption that the Vikings would destroy the Falcons. They did not. In November of 2007, Kornberger took his Packers loving son to Lambeau Field where the Vikings not only lost to Green Bay, but then rookie Adrian Peterson injured his LCL and was subsequently sidelined for a month.  And finally in December 2010, Kornberger traveled to Minneapolis expecting to attend the Giants/Vikings game. That was the weekend when in the midst of a snowstorm, the Metrodome roof collapsed.

Perhaps Kornberger should stick to staying put in Germany, where unlike most European countries, he has had no trouble finding likeminded passionate NFL fans.  Professional football has, in fact, been quite popular in the country for more two decades, starting with the inauguration of NFL Europe in 1991. The Frankfurt Galaxy were the now defunct league’s most popular and successful team, drawing crowds in the 30 to 40,000-person range.

In terms of local popularity, Kornberger suggests that the NFL falls well behind soccer, handball and ice hockey, despite its exponential growth since the sport first piqued his interest in the 80’s.

But those ranking get jumbled for Kornberger. Two distinct familial rivalries and an excess of Euros spent of NFL-inspired travel tell you plenty about his sheer to devotion to the sport.

Kornberger and kids

32 Fans, 32 Countries is a look at the global reaches of the NFL. For this project we have attempted to interview 32 different fans of all 32 teams in 32 different countries all around the world (UK, Canada, and Mexico excluded). As readers will find, the paths to fandom are as varied as the cultures and customs of each country. Check back regulary for new profiles.