The 1998 Season
Note: 1998 was the second season that I wrote down thoughts the entire year. Therefore, the 1998 season summary will come in multiple additions to my blog. Today's 1998 entry will be Preseason, at Carolina thoughts.
Preseason at Carolina: Vikings 25, Panthers 22
I committed the ultimate sin this weekend. I was not near a television or radio in order to enjoy the Vikings-Panthers game on Saturday. Now before you write me off as some kind of Odin atheist, just hear me out.
I took my wife and two dogs camping this weekend. We left the big city behind and headed west toward Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. Just north of Detroit Lakes lies a pristine body of water known as Strawberry Lake.
To give you a rough idea how old I am, this was the 25th straight year that I have made at least one visit to Strawberry. The dogs love to run along the shore; my wife reads and takes photos of wild flowers.
Me? I usually wake up around 5 a.m. I donít shower. I donít shave. I just pull on the same pair of Leviís I cleaned fish in the day before, put on the lucky flannel shirt and the lucky fishing cap, fill my mouth full with sunflower seeds and head for the dock.
I stow my gear in the 14-foot Lund boat with the "cool green interior" and wooden seats, cut through the usual morning fog and head for my favorite fishing spots. Sometimes I catch a lot of fish but mostly I just listen to the loons and enjoy the scenery. Oh, and I think a lot about the coming football season. Itís at times like this when the clarity of the open woods brings oneís gray matter into crystal clear focus.
On one such morning this weekend, the "bite" was off and I found myself peering at the shoreline thinking of the times growing up in North Dakota when I could not be without a radio or television if a Vikings game was on. Fortunately, I had a father who understood my passion for the Vikings.
On a typical Sunday my dad would plant the family closest to the exit door at church. Once the sermon ended we bolted for the door, raced to the car and turned on the radio to catch the opening kickoff. Weíd wait while my mother and sister caught up. Then it was the race home.
My father and I had mapped out a system to avoid as many stop lights and stop signs as possible. We could usually make it home eight minutes past noon. I believe our record was four minutes. Not bad for two-and-a-half miles on city streets. I was usually out of the car as it was still rolling into the garage, bounding up the stairs three at a time and switching on the television on the fly. We had no remote in those days otherwise I could have saved another 6.5 seconds. Iím sure of it.
The Nerf football had just been invented by Vikings kicker Fred Cox, and at halftime I would imagine myself kicking 60-yard winning field goals in the living room. Mom usually removed the breakable glassware at this time. Homemade pizza was served on TV trays, instantly instilling in me the great art of tailgating. Life couldnít have been any better.
After the game it was outside to play with the neighborhood boys. We played in an empty lot across the alley from my house until well past dark. I was always quarterback because I was the only kid in the neighborhood with a Fran Tarkenton jersey. We drew plays in the dirt and the worst injury was usually a jammed finger or two.
I lived and breathed Vikings football and was depressed for days following the very rare loss. If I went back to my old report cards and stuck my grades into an Access database along with the Vikings game results, Iím sure I would find a direct correlation between straight Aís and the typical 12-2 Viking season.
When I finally flew the coop for the East Coast and the suburbs of Washington D.C., I only lasted there for three years. You see, in all the years I lived there, I only saw the Vikings when they played the Redskins or were in the playoffs. That just didnít suit me. I followed that with a three-year stint in Texas. Again, I could only see Vikings games if they were playing the Dallas Cowboys or the Houston Oilers. The chorus of "Houston Oilers, Houston Oilers, Houston Oilers, number one" still wakes me up in the middle of the night as if from some horrid nightmare.
So I moved back home to the Upper Midwest. In fact, I didnít move home until I had purchased Vikings season tickets. When my then wife-to-be asked me about maybe getting a job and finding a place to live first, I simply said, "A Vikings fan has certain priorities that you just wouldnít understand."
And now here it is late on Saturday night. I know the Vikings have played Carolina but I donít know the score and I wonít know until tomorrow morning when I go to the little campground store to buy homemade caramel rolls and a Sunday paper. But I am never without the team in thought and never will be.
As the loons cry eerily in the distance like lost souls without a purpose, I realize that in one aspect of my life I will never be alone. I have the Vikings, even without TV or radio or the Internet. I have a lifetime of memories from following the team. I have the friendships of the Vikings fans from all over the world that Iíve been fortunate to meet. The Vikings will always be there for me. So if I miss a preseason game here or there, I have comfort that I only have to drive a few hundred miles home to Plymouth, Minnesota to see the Dome in the distance.
And this year I have seen the gleam in the eyes of youngsters who are probably telling their dads the fastest way to get home from church so that they donít miss a single minute of a Vikings game.Posted by maasx003 at November 12, 2004 10:59 AM