Note: I first published the following interview with former Vikings Marketing Director in 1996. I am still trying to locate my Mike Tice interview...but it seems to be lost. Remember people, back up your files!!!!
So just who has set the most Minnesota Viking records in the past three years? Warren Moon? Cris Carter? John Randle?
If you had guessed any of those three prestigious members of former and current Viking teams, you would have been far off base. Many fans forget the people behind the scenes at the Viking headquarters at Winter Park in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Names such as Frank Gilliam, Jeff Diamond, Nick Valentine, Bob Hagan, Lois Martens and Mary Ann Dallas mean nothing to the layman on the street but have everything to do with the success of our team in purple.
Add to this list the name of Stew Widdess, Vice President of Marketing/Business Development. In 1994, his first year with the Vikings, Stew helped the Vikings set a team-record home crowd in a 38-35 victory over the Miami Dolphins on his way to setting a franchise record for home attendance. Last season, a record crowd of 64,168 came to the Dome to watch the Vikings defeat the Packers 30-21. Thatís your record breaker, folks.
For forty-five minutes on a day when players were arriving for player development camp, I sat down with the former Dayton Hudson executive to discuss a wide range of topics.
VU: When you first took this job, did you have any idea what you were getting in to and how emotional selling the Vikings is? This has to be a big change from marketing department stores.
SW: The answer is none. I had absolutely no idea what I was headed for. Retail had been tough, Brian, as you well know, and I had been looking around anyway, contemplating to see whether I should consider doing something different.
I got a call from a friend of mine who said there was a job with the Vikings, and I said I donít know anything about it and at first didnít want to even bother interviewing. I did agree to sit down with Roger Headrick, and we met for about four hours at a restaurant out in Wayzata [Minnesota]. And listening to him talk made me think there were some things I could do to help the club, and I decided to try.
But the answer to your question is I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into. Other than being a fan like everybody else. I like sports of all kinds.
VU: You served as Chairman of the Skyway Committee for the Super Bowl XXVI Task Force. Did that help you prepare for this position and introduce you to the ins and outs of the National Football League?
SW: Well, you know what it did for me? It got me twenty-two tickets to the Super Bowl [laughter].
People from the NFL kept coming in to see me, and every time they talked to me theyíd say, ĎAre you okay? Do you have tickets to the Super Bowl?í And of course Iíd say ĎNo, Iím a little shortí [laughter] and so I ended up being able to buy twenty-two tickets.
Ah, you know, what I did for the Super Bowl was a special event. Iím very familiar with that, having done a lot of special events throughout my career as a part of retailing. And, you know, I basically just looked at what was missing, in my opinion, from previous Super Bowls. We had a chance to review everything that the previous Super Bowls had done. The thing that impressed me the most was there was no cohesive opportunity for the teams to have major rallies, to get all their fans together in one location and be supportive of the team.
That became one of the focuses of what we did in the skyway. We had the rally for the Washington Redskins in the IDS Center, and security actually had to close the doors we had so many people. We had a rally for the Buffalo Bills in the Pillsbury Center, and the floor was going up and down so much I was afraid we were going to break something. But it gave an opportunity for people who would normally disperse and go play golf or other things - you couldnít in Minnesota. So we decided that a party under glass made sense, and a rally before the game made sense. The idea was to give people a lot of opportunities to enjoy Minneapolis and to stay inside.
So in effect it was a special event as opposed to a football event. We had bands. We had entertainment throughout the skyway system. We had things going on for the entire weekend. But I think the one thing it did probably help me realize is that football is not much different from other things in that in effect. Itís entertainment and what you build around a game is as important as the game itself. So it probably helped me. If anything it helped me realize that what was happening in football was not a lot different than what I was doing in retail.
VU: Being a student in Minnesota, high school in Hopkins, college at Carleton, did you grow up a fan of the Minnesota Vikings?
SW: Oh yeah, oh yeah. I remember when Daytonís ran the ad with the Viking ship outside Met Stadium when they first came here. I used to go down to Parade Stadium, they had a game, probably a pre-season game - it was a long time ago, to watch them. The answers yes, Iíve always been a fan of the Vikings. I was very close to the University of Minnesota football, loved that and of course went to all of their games. But I guess Iíve always been a good fan of the Minnesota Vikings.
When I came back here from California, I was like everybody else. I assumed you couldnít get seats to the Vikings, and so I was not a season ticket holder. Much to my chagrin when I came in and found out we had a lot of tickets to sell.
VU: Youíve had some tremendous crowds at the Dome since 1994 when you took over. What did you change or implement to bring in those 64,000 plus crowds?
SW: Thatís an interesting question [pauses]. You know weíve done a lot around the game, Brian, to make the experience more fun. Iím not sure thatís what you would say has been a key factor. Weíve been lucky in that weíve played some pretty good teams. The Miami game was huge. Green Bay is huge all the time.
Last year I basically kept looking at the huge picture of the Dome that youíve seen on our wall [at Winter Park]. I kept looking at those blank spaces between the field and the stands and decided that we could probably put some more fans in there and that got us our biggest crowd ever last year against Green Bay.
But I think the key factor, quite frankly, is the team youíre playing and the quality of your own teamís play. Particularly in this market. We donít seem to have the loyalty that they seem to have in Green Bay, in Pittsburgh, in Denver and now in Kansas City, although Kansas City has come upon it recently, where thereís a hard core of fans whoíll come regardless. And that thereís enough of those to make sure the stadium gets filled.
Thatís been my biggest disappointment, quite frankly, an inability to get more people into the stadium than we have. Weíve had some real highs. We had our largest attendance in 1994. But for Minnesotans itís got to be a winning record, a team that they think is going to do well. Particularly with the sterile atmosphere at the Dome, which is what weíve spent two and a half years attacking.
Itís [the Dome] not a stadium, that given an inferior game, people will come down anticipating enjoying the game. Theyíd rather watch it on television. You know the greatest example of that is the Minnesota Twins. Theyíre really having a lot of trouble getting people in. Unless, in fact, theyíre going to be the World Champions or reigning World Champions from the year before.
Thatís been a big disappointment to me, but by and large, weíre adding the things in the Dome that create the excitement that will help turn the game into a major event. Thatís one of our key objectives in marketing. We obviously need help from the team. The teamís got to do well.
VU: Can you tell me about the partial-season ticket plan that you and Viking ticket manager Gina Dillon are bringing out this year?
SW: Ah, yeah. We had a meeting, and itís interesting because weíre going around the issue of what has worked well for us. Well, our sponsorships have continued to grow. We have doubled the sponsorships every year for the last two and a half years. And when we began to analyze exactly why some of the sponsorships had been going so high, we found out a lot of it was related to Green Bay tickets.
Thereís tremendous, tremendous interest in [the] Green Bay [game]. We could sell the stadium out twice. Iíve been holding off fan clubs from Green Bay who want to buy huge blocks of tickets. In the past they were able to do it. When I came here I said we better stop filling the stands with Green Bay fans and see if we canít get more Viking fans in.
Then the idea that Green Bay can become a hook, if you will, to help get other things done, like sponsorships, became real important to us. We decided this year to basically take Green Bay and put it into a five game package so that we have the first two games of the regular season, which are Tampa Bay and Philadelphia, and the last two games, Detroit and Indianapolis, coupled with the Green Bay game in a five game package. And to see if that isnít something that can get people to become at least partial-season ticket holders and come down to the Dome. If they like the Dome, my guess is next year theyíre going to go up to full season ticket holders.
It also gives an opportunity for us to go out-state. We did the Arctic Blast [snowmobile rally] in Ely, Minnesota, and I spent a lot time talking to the people up there about what it would take to get them to buy season tickets. They basically said ĎHey, weíd buy season tickets but we canít come to every game.í A lot of them are in the mining industry. The mining industry is twenty-four hours a day and the work schedule is not such that they can get off.
That really triggered a lot of thinking on our part. I thought if we can come up with three-game packages, which we have two of, or a five-game package, you know thatís attractive to them because they can come down for a few games and not have to miss games because their work schedule wonít permit them to do it.
So Iím hoping that itís going to help us tremendously out-state. One of our largest season ticket holder [bases] right now is in Sioux Falls, [South Dakota]. Happens to be a tour company, and itís not the same people coming every time. They [tour operator] buy the tickets, and then they get people in South Dakota who want to go to a few games and sell them on a individual basis.
I hope this helps to solve the problem we have of getting the base season tickets seats up to a high enough level that we can sell out every game. The objective obviously is to sell out every game, not just to sell out Green Bay or Chicago. But get every game sold out and get every game on television.
I donít think thatís ever going to happen until we get our season ticket base up. Last year it was 42,000. My guess is we need to get it up between 50 and 55,000 to be comfortable, and Iím hoping that partial-season tickets will be the start in getting that process done. Nothing else has worked particularly well, except for the Thunder Zone. And thatís almost the same premise where the same person doesnít have to go to every game. That you can pick and choose a few games. But the Thunder Zone bar [involved] takes the entire season [of tickets].
VU: You had bleachers at the Dome last year for the Packer game. At this time, do you feel you might have any more bleacher seating at the Dome this year?
SW: Well, we got a lot of heat [laughter]. You know, I tried to sell the tickets to the Viking fans, actually I got a lot of help from you, Brian, in selling them to the Viking fan clubs. We did not advertise other than on e-mail, and we still ended up with a few Packer fans [laughter]. There were some complaints about it.
But, yeah, I think the answer is if the game is sold out far enough in advance, I would probably try and do that because number one: it allows more people to get into the stadium, and number two: itís obviously more revenue to the club. And the only condition would be that Iíd like to figure out how to make it Viking fans [only] because theyíre [the seats] real close to the [opposing] team benches.
VU: Weíll work on that. There are ten board members that serve as owners of the Vikings. Who is serving as head of the audit/finance committee?
SW: The finance committee is Bud Grossman.
VU: Who is serving in charge of the public affairs committee?
SW: The public affairs committee is Wheelock Whitney.
VU: Has any progress been made into the NFLís request to have a controlling owner?
SW: I think theyíre working on a program and a plan now. The League has basically said that this year is the year that things have to be resolved. But Iím not aware of any specific plan.
VU: Can you tell me how the stadium issue, renovation or otherwise, stands at the moment?
SW: Well, we made a significant effort at the beginning of this legislative session to take our message to all of the key leaders of the legislature. Roger Headrick and I went with our current financial situation. Went with concept boards on both the idea of the renovation of the Dome to make it a better football stadium and the concept for a new dual purpose stadium which would move blocks of seats around to create a 42,000 seat baseball stadium and a 70,000 seat football stadium.
Rogerís been at this, frankly, since 1992, I think. He started talking to the Sports Commission. We did get a hearing. We talked to all the important leaders of the legislature. The answer we got back was basically, ĎYou have to wait until we solve the Twins situation.í And at this point weíre kind of waiting to see what will happen.
The Sports Facilities Commission is, I think, in agreement with us finally that the problems the Twins have are consistent with the problems the Vikings have. Both of us suffer from the fact that the Dome does not generate revenue and what ever revenue it does generate is all going to the Sports Facilities Commission.
We do own the suites, which has been a issue. We built the suites. We spent about five million dollars to construct the suites. We pay one million dollars in rent to the Sports Facilities Commission out of our suite revenue, and the suites generate about two million dollars a year for us currently.
But the issues beyond that are the lack of club seating, the concession stands being too small and infrequent to handle the crowd, and the concourse being too small. Any Viking football fans having been in the stadium trying to get a hot dog or something at half-time know that its almost impossible. And that if you get in line, you end up watching most of the third quarter on the monitor next to the concession stand.
Both the Twins and ourselves need to have revenue that weíre currently not getting. Weíre in about the same position with regard to an inability to compete. For the Twins, obviously with Major League baseball. With us, not having enough cash coming in to compete effectively for free agents. And to keep the players that are key for us, down the line. That problemís only going to get worse.
So we think that like the Twins, within the next year or two there has to be some kind of solution. The legislators have listened. They have not turned a deaf ear. They understand our problem. They basically are saying at this point, ĎWait until we solve the Twins problem first.í So thatís where we stand.
VU: Where do you stand in comparison to the other teams in the league?
SW: Well, weíre 30th out of 30 teams in rent paid. In other words we pay more rent to play in the Dome than any other team in the league. We are currently twenty-seventh in local revenue. And what is most of the revenue in the National Football League is shared. So that the TV, which is the bulk of it for example, is shared with the thirty teams.
The differential gets down to local revenue, what you can generate out of your stadium. Weíre currently 27th out of 30 in local revenue. And the teams below us, we think, are Houston, who has made an agreement to move to a new stadium in Nashville, [Tennessee]; Tampa, who are going to get a new stadium; and Indianapolis.
In all three cases theyíre going to improve their positions, and weíre going to be left at the bottom of the league in local revenue. And itís local revenue thatís allowing teams like Dallas and San Francisco to sign free agents and to plug in the holes in their teams to create Super Bowl champions. We need to be able to do that.
VU: What would have to take place in order for the Vikings to leave Minnesota?
SW: Thatís a tough question. I donít think any of us want to leave Minnesota. I donít think the owners do. Certainly the people on the staff donít want to leave Minnesota. So I think the issue is how we work it out within the confines of either the Dome or a new stadium. A new dual-purpose stadium.
VU: Let me rephrase it a little. What would have to take place to keep the team here?
SW: Well, you know, either a new dual-purpose stadium or a renovation of the Dome. And the question right now is what type of renovation? If we were to go back to the Dome and do something, what type of renovation would make it effective for us and make it a revenue producer? And thatís a real issue.
The Sports Commission has consistently said they want to spend 50 million dollars to renovate the Dome and that they realize that there are some problems. The 50 million dollars really will not do much more than change the concourse, add some rest room facilities which are needed, add some concession stands and create a small stadium club by moving the press box to the upper deck. It will not generate enough revenue, in and of itself, to allow the team to be significantly affected and allow us to be more competitive.
So I think if itís going to be a renovation of the Dome rather than a new stadium and the Twins get their stadium, obviously itís designed to be a baseball-only stadium, then there would have to be fairly significant renovation of the Dome to allow it to generate revenue.
Then thereís the additional idea that right now the Dome is supported in its operation, pretty much by the Vikings. We paid the Commission in 1995, the last time I had actual figures, about 6.1 million dollars in revenue. The Twins paid 1.7 million, the Gophers paid about 600,000 [dollars] and there was about 2.8 million dollars of miscellaneous which would be concessions and other events. So the Vikings are the primary supporters of the Dome.
Thatís why one of the things the legislators have said is, ĎLetís just give the Dome to the Vikings and the Twins.í Well, if they did that it wouldnít alter our situation, without there being more revenue streams coming in, because they need us to support the Dome, to keep the roof up. Weíre kind of in a tough position in relation to this whole stadium issue.
VU: In your opinion, has Dennis Green gotten a fair shake from the fans and the media?
SW: The answer to that is no. Dennis has not always handled things well. I think the club has not always handled things well. I think we need to improve our handling of public relations. And we have made a lot of strides in doing so. Youíll never see a Ďno commentí on any issue that arises from the club any more, at least as long as Iím here.
Dennis has made some mistakes. But heís apologized for those mistakes, and he really has changed his life. I mean, Dennis today is different from Dennis two years ago. Heís married to a wonderful lady that we all like very much. Heís got a wonderful daughter. And heís as proud a papa as there is.
There were a lot of issues. Itís interesting; the investigative reporter that did the story on Dennis was the same investigative reporter that did the recent article on [Twins owner] Carl Pohlad. And the paper made, I think, a classic mistake from an editorial standpoint, in having the two beat writers participate in the investigative reports.
There were a great many innuendoes. There were a great many issues raised to which there were two sides to the story. And only one side appeared in the article. So the answer to me is I donít think Dennis got a fair shake at all.
The original story on Dennis ran when he was out of town. The reporters came to me and said ĎWe want to talk to Dennis.í As we do in all cases, I said, ĎGive me a list of questions so I can get him prepared,í and they refused to do it. Finally, at the eleventh hour, they came in and agreed to tell me what the story was about. When I heard what it was about, I asked that they delay the story so that we could respond. We wanted to respond but we wanted adequate time to do it, and you canít do it if youíre going to press at three oíclock the next morning. And we honestly werenít given that opportunity.
So I think Dennis never got his side of the story out. I donít think we handled it particularly well, but I donít think the news media handled it particularly well either. Dennis is, however, a little bit of a different person today. I think heís much more comfortable with some of the media today than he would have been in the past.
The public takes their cue from the media, and thatís one of the problems that any public entity such as ourselves has to deal with. No amount of advertising, no amount of self publicity can be strong enough to overcome a hostile press. And I think Dennis has had that ever since the article has appeared. Heís been judged and sentenced without ever having his side of the story coming out.
VU: Well Dennis does more charity work than, I think, any other Viking coach has done in the past.
SW: Dennis is very strong in charity. He pushes the players to do charity work, community work. Heís active in a personal basis in the community. But he still has this situation where the press is still somewhat mean spirited towards him. And I think, you know, the criminal part of it all, the difficult part of it all, is heís very well liked by his players. Heís very well liked within the organization. And we canít get his personality out into the press.
Iíve started having season ticket holder meetings as a way of at least getting our best fans who are our season ticket holders, both get them involved with the club and give them a chance to ask the tough questions. ĎWhy did you let Jack Del Rio go?,í which came up often when we did it last year, and we respond to that.
And we talk about our situation and we talk about public relations, the media and so on, and invariably the people leave the luncheons in a pretty good state of mind and with, by the way, an open conduit to the club. The last things I say to them is ĎYouíre like owners of the club. You pick up the phone and call me if weíre doing something that you think is crazy.í And give them a chance to listen to the clubs explanation.
Thatís worked really well. Iíve had a lot of calls from season ticket holders. Weíve gone through about 600 season ticket holders so far. Weíll start them again shortly and continue them to try and have a communication that isnít done through the prism of the press where sometimes it can get distorted. I think ultimately Dennis and the organization as a whole have got to get in the playoffs and win a game to get the monkey off our back. And, uh, weíre working hard to try and make that happen, believe me.
VU: You had mentioned the Arctic Blast earlier. How did that go over this past winter?
SW: Fabulous. Fabulous. I think over 2,000 snowmobiles. You know the first one a year ago really opened up my eyes. Because when you get up into northern Minnesota, people arenít colored by the media in Minneapolis. And theyíre great supporters, you know.
If thereís a difference between the Twins and ourselves, for example, is we bring many more people in to games from outside the metropolitan area and from outside the state than baseball does. You canít buy a hotel room in Minneapolis the night before a Vikings game is on. We sell on an individual ticket basis 30,000 tickets in Iowa and 30,000 tickets in Wisconsin. So we could sell out one entire game with people from Wisconsin and Iowa. And we do not go to the public on games with Green Bay, so they are Viking fans that are coming to other games. It really has opened my eyes.
We followed it up this year with a Draft Party in Fargo [North Dakota] that was patterned off the Draft Party we did here at the Mall Of America that weíve done here for several years. The nice thing about the Draft Party in Fargo is it coincided with the all the flood problems they were having there so we had eighteen players, cheerleaders, and former players and a few staff people along. We sent four of them to the hospital to visit with the kids, and the rest of us went and worked on the dikes. And I gotta tell you, do you know who the hardest worker was?
SW: Bud Grant. Bud was a hit both in the snowmobile ride in Ely and in Fargo. And the people love him up there. They love the Vikings up there. Itís great for us to get into that environment after you feel so sheepish about opening the paper everyday to see what shot youíre gonna get from a columnist or something. To be up there and get that kind of warm reception, it really is fun and weíre going to do a lot more out-state.
VU: A month or so ago you told me about the possibility of a Viking caravan traveling to the Dakotas and western Minnesota. Is that still in the works?
SW: Weíre working on it. I think itís going to be a little more limited this year than I had envisioned it just because of the timing and because of the need to find a sponsor. With our economic situation, just about anything we do we try and find sponsorships. But itís something I want to do every year.
You know, Iíve watched the Twins the last two years, and I think what they do out-state is outstanding, far better than what the Vikings have ever done in taking their show on the road, if you will. We canít do it to the extent that they do it and as many locations, but we can certainly do it in the key cities. It may not be as aggressive this year, but next year Iíd like to get it all the way up to Winnipeg, [Canada]. Iíd love to take Bud Grant up to Winnipeg. You know we sell 2,000 tickets in Canada. And probably try to take it as far south as Des Moines, [Iowa], and begin to build an audience in southern Iowa.
VU: Nick Valentine, the Viking Finance Director, lurks on our e-mail discussion list. Do any other Viking staff have e-mail capabilities?
SW: We have e-mail capabilities in the public relations department. Oddly enough, a gal named Kari Olivadotti, and youíll recognize the name because Tom Olivadottiís one of our coaches, sheís a graduate of English and in between jobs, so I had her involved in helping us getting up our own pages on the Internet. And Iím looking around now, I think Iíve found somebody. Iím going to go back and talk to the league in May about the whole issue of the Internet and each clubsí use of the Internet. And we will have somebody who will be available, both to post our own pages and then to pick up e-mail and respond.
VU: Is the staff aware of our efforts through the Viking Underground and Viking Fans On-Line and if so, how are those efforts received at Winter Park?
SW: Oh, I think the staff is very much aware of it. We were proud of the award [NetGuideís Best Personal Web Site Of The Year] that was won by Dan Hildreth. So the answer is we are aware of it. You know, the more people we have talking about the Vikings and the more support we have for the Vikings the better off we are. I think thatís critical to our success long run.
I consider us a public entity. Weíre like an utility company. Everyoneís got an opinion on the Vikings. The more involvement we allow people to have with the club, similar to what you and I are doing right now, I think the better off we are. The more people understand what the clubís position is, what our problems are, what our opportunities are, I think the better off we are.
I really couldnít be more encouraging of whatís going on now on the Internet. We get a lot of ideas. I tell you, Nick, he has the fastest printer here [laughs]. Heíll bring in things that come off the e-mail list and weíll talk them over. What I need to do is set up a way to respond quickly and become a part of the discussion. But I certainly encourage it.
The thing that impresses me the most when we travel around the country and play a game is the number of Viking fans in each area. I think itís wonderful.
VU: Since youíve been here at Winter Park, what has been the most memorable home game for you?
SW: Thatís a good question. Well, Iíd have to say that it would have been last yearís Green Bay game just because of the largest attendance in [franchise] history, and weíd done some things to make it so. Winning the game, by the way, was a big help too.
But, you know, there have been a lot of games that have been a lot of fun. We have done a lot surrounding the game to make the whole experience more fun. We added tailgating down on Washington Avenue. The Plaza parties have been huge and are going to get bigger because weíre going to expand them this year. We have a VIP tent in place which is something I stole from Kansas City and that has worked out very well. But I think every game is enjoyable for me.
Obviously, Iím like any other fan. I would like us to get by the first round of the playoffs and Iíd like that to be a home game. So Iím really hoping that weíve put together a decent enough team this year. That not only are we going to get into the playoffs, but those games are going to be at home.
VU: Finally, Stew, is there anything youíd like to say to the members of the Viking Underground and Viking Fans On-Line?
SW: Yes, I do. We need vocal fan support. Those of you who are in the Twin Cities understand that the media is not always on our side. And sometimes itís difficult for the club to step up and try to counter what we consider either misleading information or false information or inadequate information where the entire story isnít told.
We need others to step up and support us in that way and thatís where Viking fans everywhere and particularly Viking fans who are associated with the Internet become important to us. We need supporters. You know itís tough for us to get up on a soap box and say, ĎHey, theyíre not as bad as everyone is making them out to be.í We arenít, but sometimes if you say it yourself, people tend to discount it.
This is an organization thatís cohesive. The staff is cohesive; the players and the staff are more supportive of each other now than I think weíve ever been. The chasm, if you will, between the organization and the players and the coaches, weíre all working together.
Last year I instituted a pizza party every Friday. And the entire organization goes down and watches practice Friday morning in order to support the team and have the team understand that everyoneís behind them. But to make sure that we all understand that weíre about football. That our objective is to field a great football team that is going to win the Super Bowl. And thatís been fun. Itís fun for the staff. I think itís fun for the players. And I know itís fun for the coaches because a lot of them have commented on it to me. So weíre a fairly cohesive organization.
We need people outside; we need Viking supporters outside to help us improve our position with the media, to get our message out. Iím always grateful when thereís a letter to the editor thatís supportive of the team that appears unsolicited by the club. We donít always do things right. But the one thing I will guarantee you is that we always have a reason for what we do and weíll always respond to people who call and want to talk to us and want to know why weíre doing this or that.
Itís important that Viking fans everywhere feel like theyíre close to the team and have a understanding of what the teamís doing, both our problems and our opportunities.
So I guess that the one thing Iíd like to say is that youíve been a great help in the past. I encourage you to get more involved in the future and to be supportive. Weíre all about trying to win a Super Bowl. I think thatís what everybody is about. I think thatís what the fans want. I know thatís what all the Viking fans on the Internet are pushing for, and we will do it the best way we know how, in a way thatís economic within our ability to deliver the results that people have to have.
But we need support. Too often thereís a siege mentality thatís created by the way weíre treated in the media. I donít think itís healthy. I donít think itís good. Iím not sure how much we can do other than be open as we are now to counter it.
This is a good team. Itís a good organization. Dennis Green is, in my opinion, a great coach who has done some things with teams that probably shouldnít have made the playoffs. I donít think anybody in their right mind, looking at what happened last year, would have said we should make the playoffs. But we did and you have to say that was great coaching.
Dennis was aggressive beginning with that Oakland game after we lost the battle in Seattle. He made a decision that we had to change if we were to survive. He was really aggressive after Seattle in coaching that team to a win over Oakland and playing Brad Johnson and bringing in Leroy Hoard that took us all the way to the point where we started getting banged up again.
I think Dennis Greenís a great coach. I tell you, I have talked to players and Iíve talked to the coaches around here, and everyone is supportive of him. Everyone is supportive of him. We need that kind of support from [Viking] fans on the Internet. We need other people to speak up for the club, not just the club trying to defend itself or trying to get points across that would put us in a more positive light.
You know, Iím doing an annual report right now on our committee relations activities because I think it will surprise people. We donít do things in the community purely to create a better image for the club. We do things because we think itís right to support the community that supports us. The Viking Childrenís Fund every year for the last two and a half years has increased its grant making and is at the highest level in its history this year.
Dennis Green pushes the players and encourages the players to get out into the community. A lot of that is done in the inner city in mentoring programs and school programs in ways that donít normally get a lot of publicity.
This year at least Iíve decided Iím going to do an annual report that will outline exactly what we do in the community in hopes that people will understand that weíre about a lot more than just fielding a football team.
And to try to get the fans to understand that the players on the team are human beings and that weíre all dedicated to one cause, and thatís to win the Super Bowl.