October 2004 Archives
October 31, 2004
1997 Summary Continued: Playoffs, at N.Y. Giants

The 1997 Season

Note: 1997 was the first season that I wrote down thoughts the entire year. Therefore, the 1997 season summary will come in multiple additions to my blog. Today's 1997 entry will be Playoffs, at N.Y. Giants thoughts.

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Playoffs: at New York Giants

“Luck is what happens
when preparation meets opportunity.”
Unknown

The New York team known as the Big Blue turned three shades of blue Saturday while slowly asphyxiating during the second half of the wild card game between the Minnesota Vikings and the New York Giants.

There was one huge difference in the game. Recently-named NFL Coach of The Year Jim Fassel coached his upstart Giants for fifty-seven minutes. Viking head coach Dennis Green coached his team for a full sixty minutes. And got some luck along the way.

During the second half of this game it was Lady Luck who reminded me of a long-ago incident which took place on December 27, 1969. Our Vikings were in a playoff game against the Los Angeles Rams. Coming out of the locker room at half time, our boys in purple trailed 17-7 and the Rams had been unstoppable.

Sitting by the television, my usually quiet grandfather simply said, “A man always has the right to try to change his luck.”

He said that right after I told him that I thought the Vikings never seemed to get any breaks. Grandfather had never been a sports fan but seemed to respect a similarly stoic and quiet man on the field coaching the Vikings: Bud Grant.

“The right to try to change his luck,” he said again, in a kind of distant, satisfied way, as if he liked the sound of what he had said. That’s one thing about grandfathers; they can be awfully repetitious. I guess they’ve got a lot of time on their hands in their retirement years, with nothing much to do but store up these wise sounding little one-liners.

But Grandfather was correct as the Vikings got some luck and won the game 23-20, sealing the victory when Viking great Carl Eller bulled his way into the end zone and tackled Rams quarterback Roman Gabriel for a safety. The offense had moved the ball when it needed to, led by quarterback Joe Kapp who had replaced the starting Viking quarterback at the beginning of the season, Gary Cuozzo. And Grant had his first NFL playoff victory after two previous playoff loses.

So it was no stretch of my imagination to hear my now-deceased grandfather whispering in my ear, “A man always has the right to try to change his luck” as I watched a coach get his first win in the playoffs due to a defense playing exceptionally well and an offense led by back-up quarterback Randall Cunningham.

What goes around, comes around.

Posted by maasx003 at 10:55 AM
October 30, 2004
1997 Summary Continued: Week 15, Detroit

The 1997 Season

Note: 1997 was the first season that I wrote down thoughts the entire year. Therefore, the 1997 season summary will come in multiple additions to my blog. Today's 1997 entry will be Week 15, Detroit thoughts.

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Week Fifteen: Detroit

There are terrible disasters in history, and there are always great catastrophes just waiting to happen.

But the most unbelievable one this year, the thing we’ve been holding our breath against, the capo de tutti capi of impending disasters, has happened to the Minnesota Vikings.

Like the Titanic steaming for its chunk of polar ice, like the Hindenberg looking for its Lakehurst, like the guy at Chernobyl wondering what that switch would do, it was inevitable, inexorable, a psychic juggernaut.

The once high-scoring Minnesota Vikings have not led in a game for sixteen straight quarters, not since winning against the Chicago Bears on November 9. Four straight games of trailing the opposition. Once tied atop the NFC Central division, they now are fighting for their playoff lives.

The latest NFL playoff possibilities show the Vikings can clinch a playoff berth with a win. Either beat the Detroit Lions or the Indianapolis Colts, and we are in the second season where everyone starts 0-0.

So why am I not leaping for joy? Look at the injury list alone: Cris Carter (broken finger and probable), Jeff Brady (neck and doubtful), Orlando Thomas (hamstring and probable), Brad Johnson (herniated disk and out), Jeff Christy (broken ankle and out), Scott Dill (back and doubtful), Todd Steussie (ankle and probable), Fernando Smith (various ailments and questionable) and Robert Smith (ankle and probable).

The Lions come to town this coming Sunday with an offense in full gear ready to take on a Viking defense that seems more adept at giving a tongue-lashing after plays than a good old butt-kicking during them.

The Colts arrive the following Sunday with a team that has nothing to lose and will let it all hang out, already having upset the team in green and yellow to the east and the New York Jets...at the Meadowlands no less.

So why have hope at all? Because with two Viking wins and one Tampa Bay loss, we are hosting a wildcard playoff game. And with the ankle injury that Buccaneer starting quarterback Trent Dilfer sustained Sunday coupled with an away game against the Jets (who Tuna WILL have ready to play) and a home game against the Bears (who have defeated the Bucs already this year), the odds seem good.

What can we do as fans? Put away the paper bags. Buy a ticket to the Lions or Colts game, and whenever the Viking defense is on the field, make as much noise as you may be able to generate short of a initiating a stroke. Let’s make those paper dragons into a fire-breathing, slashing, attacking force that will set up a playoff run reminiscent of the 1987-88 season.

One and we are in. Two and some help and we are at home to start.

Tailgate Jottings

Outside the Metrodome, early on during the Viking Underground Tailgate Party on a beautiful December day, Mindy Luczak of Fort Wayne, Ind., joined our festivities and immediately served up her famous Viking Venom drink.

Approximately four hours later, waking from a hallucinogenic-laced trip wherein I imagined the Viking defense playing their best game of the season, I looked up to the scoreboard to discover the Vikings had lost the game to the Detroit Lions, 14-13.

Special note to Mindy: Please break your vow of secrecy as to the recipe for this venomous drink. We all will have to do a lot more drinking before next Sunday just to keep our sanity and to keep track of the playoff possibilities for the Vikes which include the very real possibility of hosting a first-round game.

Also, send the recipe to the team. They need some venom in their game plan. The Vikings need to get back to their earlier state when the killer instinct was still very evident. If they had played like they did in Buffalo way back on Aug. 31, when they scored a touchdown while appearing to set up a field goal, they would have come away with a win yesterday, turning Eddie McDaniel’s fourth quarter interception into the play of the game. Instead, a missed Eddie Murray 37-yard field goal gave the Lions a second chance and the win.

So who do we blame? Was it the fans who started to leave after the McDaniel interception and thereby caused air currents to push the ball wide right as they left the Dome? Was it poor and questionable calling by the professional referees late in the game? Was it the decision to go into a prevent defense when pressure on All-Cafeteria Lion quarterback Scott Mitchell had him wishing he was downing cheeseburgers instead?

You can debate each of the above but it all boils down to a lack of killer instinct…no Viking Venom.

Mindy, I’ll expect that recipe soon so that I can personally deliver it to the front office and bring some bite back to the team.


Posted by maasx003 at 12:16 PM
October 29, 2004
The Stadium Voters Guide

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Have you checked out the Greet Machine's Voter's Guide? I encourage you to do so.

Quoting the site, "The goal of this voter's guide is to list candidates for the Minnesota House of Representatives that are stadium friendly, especially Twins stadium friendly.....This list was created by using any resource I could find including newspaper endoresements, debate transcriptions/reports, newspaper and magazine articles, past voting records, Google searches, the Taxpayer's League of Minnesota web site, and my own knowledge of the subject. As you will see, the list is not finished, and it is far from perfect. This issue, like many other issues, has turned highly partisan as Republicans that once opposed stadium financing are now supporting it (Pawlenty), and DFLers that once supported stadium financing now seem to oppose it (say it ain't so Dean Johnson!)."

If you know how your specific legislator may vote, then let the Greet Machine know so the site can be updated!


Posted by maasx003 at 9:22 AM
1997 Summary Continued: Week 14 at San Francisco

The 1997 Season

Note: 1997 was the first season that I wrote down thoughts the entire year. Therefore, the 1997 season summary will come in multiple additions to my blog. Today's 1997 entry will be Week 14, at San Francisco thoughts.

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Week Fourteen: at San Francisco

The hottest horse will oft be cool,
The dullest will shew fire;
The friar will often play the fool,
The fool will play the friar.
Old Folk Song

There are terrible disasters in history, and there are always great catastrophes just waiting to happen.

But the most unbelievable one this year, the thing we’ve been holding our breath against, the capo de tutti capi of impending disasters, has happened to the Minnesota Vikings.

Like the Titanic steaming for its chunk of polar ice, like the Hindenberg looking for its Lakehurst, like the guy at Chernobyl wondering what that switch would do, it was inevitable, inexorable, a psychic juggernaut.

The once high-scoring Minnesota Vikings have not led in a game for sixteen straight quarters, not since winning against the Chicago Bears on November 9. Four straight games of trailing the opposition. Once tied atop the NFC Central division, they now are fighting for their playoff lives.

The latest NFL playoff possibilities show the Vikings can clinch a playoff berth with a win. Either beat the Detroit Lions or the Indianapolis Colts, and we are in the second season where everyone starts 0-0.

So why am I not leaping for joy? Look at the injury list alone: Cris Carter (broken finger and probable), Jeff Brady (neck and doubtful), Orlando Thomas (hamstring and probable), Brad Johnson (herniated disk and out), Jeff Christy (broken ankle and out), Scott Dill (back and doubtful), Todd Steussie (ankle and probable), Fernando Smith (various ailments and questionable) and Robert Smith (ankle and probable).

The Lions come to town this coming Sunday with an offense in full gear ready to take on a Viking defense that seems more adept at giving a tongue-lashing after plays than a good old butt-kicking during them.

The Colts arrive the following Sunday with a team that has nothing to lose and will let it all hang out, already having upset the team in green and yellow to the east and the New York Jets...at the Meadowlands no less.

So why have hope at all? Because with two Viking wins and one Tampa Bay loss, we are hosting a wildcard playoff game. And with the ankle injury that Buccaneer starting quarterback Trent Dilfer sustained Sunday coupled with an away game against the Jets (who Tuna WILL have ready to play) and a home game against the Bears (who have defeated the Bucs already this year), the odds seem good.

What can we do as fans? Put away the paper bags. Buy a ticket to the Lions or Colts game, and whenever the Viking defense is on the field, make as much noise as you may be able to generate short of a initiating a stroke. Let’s make those paper dragons into a fire-breathing, slashing, attacking force that will set up a playoff run reminiscent of the 1987-88 season.

One and we are in. Two and some help and we are at home to start.

Posted by maasx003 at 6:45 AM
October 28, 2004
Phantom Fan Noise Issue Once Again

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Dome, Sweet Dome

Back in the 1998 season there was a myriad of complaints from various NFL teams that the Vikings were manufacturing artificial crowd noise as a deterrent for opposing offenses.

The racket helped rattle Arizona quarterback Jake Plummer into three turnovers that led to 17 points for the Vikings in their 41-21 victory in the first playoff game that season. The decibel level wasn't the difference for Minnesota, its offense was, but it helped. At one point just before kickoff, Cardinals tackle Lomas Brown and some teammates tried to communicate by screaming while standing next to each other. They couldn't hear.

Neither could LeRoy Hoard or Robert Smith, who were side by side on the Vikings' side of the field. Plummer said there were times during the game when he couldn't hear offensive coordinator Marc Trestman, who was speaking directly into his helmet from the coaches booth via microphone. "With the loudspeakers and crowd noise, our communication was messed up all day," Arizona center Aaron Graham said. "It was almost non-existent. It forced us into trying things we haven't tried before."

The most annoying, and some say most disrupting part of the dome noise, is the roar through the speaker system. The Vikings blast heavy metal music and other canned noise into the arena to help whip the fans into a frenzy.

The Packers complained loudly about the piped-in noise after their 28-14 loss at the dome Nov. 22, 1998. Their biggest beef was about on-field speakers the Vikings say they use to channel the music to the cheerleaders.

Then Vikings vice president of business operations Rand Gottlieb contends the team stayed within league rules for stadium noise, including turning off all artificial sound when the opposing offense broke the huddle.

But that's when the fans took over, with 64,000 screaming as the quarterback slips behind center. That helped the Vikings go 9-0 at home in the 1998 season, winning by an average score of 36-13.

That's the dome-field advantage, something the Minnesota Twins used to win World Series titles in 1987 and 1991.

Now comes another complaint. A league source has leaked that the Minnesota Vikings have been accused of pumping fake fan noise into the Metrodome during one or more of their three 2004 home games.

In theory, the NFL is supposed to monitor, and prevent, this kind of stuff.

The complaint is that at least one of the teams the Vikings played at home this season believes that tape recordings of fans yelling and screaming have been played in the stadium at key moments to augment the natural din created in the domed stadium.

So with the Twins it is the air currents that can be changed in the late innings to work against the opposing team. With the Vikings it is artificial crowd noise that is winning the games.

I don’t know. When my voice comes back from cheering too loudly at last weeks win over the Tennessee Titans, maybe I’ll have something to say about it.

Posted by maasx003 at 2:24 PM
1997 Summary Continued: Week 13, Green Bay

The 1997 Season

Note: 1997 was the first season that I wrote down thoughts the entire year. Therefore, the 1997 season summary will come in multiple additions to my blog. Today's 1997 entry will be Week 13, Green Bay thoughts.

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Week Thirteen: Green Bay

I rather imagine that I am quite mad. Nothing spectacular, you understand. Nothing calling for restraint or shock therapy. I can live on, dangerous to no one but myself.

The chair I sit on at the Metrodome is quite comfortable. During pre-game warm-ups I sit in the chair and watch the players go through their drills and think of Joe. He probably wouldn’t like the way I look today. My fingernails are chewed off and broken, my blonde, braided wig a disaster. Late last night I looked at myself in the mirror and my eyes were dead.

It was then that I decided that it might help for me to write all this down. I have no idea what I’ll do with it.

You see, I shared Joe’s dreams.

I now know those dreams are no longer possible for this season. I wonder if he learned how impossible they were in the final few seconds of a football game held on January 11, 1970.

There have always been people like Joe and me. For thirty-seven seasons our kind has looked at the stars and thought of reaching the ultimate goal. This team was to be the new frontier, the new world upon which our kind could expand and find the full promise of the Viking soul.

I never thought much about it until I saw Joe for the first time. Twenty-eight years ago. At that time I was a lad in front of the television on a Sunday afternoon. It was 1969. The year before, the Vikings had been the NFL Central Champions.

Joe Kapp. I thought I’d figured him out. A good looking man with dark hair and a careless grin and a swagger. That’s all I saw in the beginning. It was January 4, 1970, the NFL championship game against the Cleveland Browns. Kapp then showed me why I would be a Viking fan all my life as he rolled out of the pocket on a pass play.

The Brown’s linebacker, Jim Houston, awaited Joe down field. Joe didn’t head for the sideline or slide feet first when he saw Houston approaching. Instead he tried to hurdle him, the result of which was a knee to Houston’s jaw which knocked him out of the game. Kapp stayed in, the grin a little larger, the swagger a little more pronounced. The Vikings won 27-7. It was the season for 60. Forty men playing together for sixty minutes.

The following week the Vikings lost to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl IV. As I sit here at my desk, I can imagine how it was for Joe those last few seconds of the game, :00 looming up large on the fourth quarter scoreboard. He must have given up reluctantly, calmed by the belief his team would be back again next year. 40 for 60.

Before last night no one else knew what I know. Maybe now they will guess. And then there will be an end to the proud dreams of a trip to San Diego. We are mired in mediocrity, a team of individuals. There will be no Super Bowl trip for us this year. We have made a mess of this season, and it is something that we cannot leave behind us. We must stay here and clean it up as best we can.

Maybe a few fans had already known. Maybe they had guessed it. Maybe they had guessed, as I did, on the basis of the dead eyes I saw as I walked past the Viking bench during the loss to the New York Jets. Yes, I saw the faces on the Viking players that day and last night. I looked into their hearts and saw the flaw. No 40 for 60.

There is no divisional championship this year. There is no home playoff game. There is only a team that, due to an unknown influence, is constantly deteriorating.

For a little time this year the team avoided that influence. That is why we all believed so much, why we couldn’t avoid the coming crash, and why I am quite mad.

Posted by maasx003 at 7:56 AM
October 27, 2004
1997 Summary Continued: Week 12, at New York Jets

The 1997 Season

Note: 1997 was the first season that I wrote down thoughts the entire year. Therefore, the 1997 season summary will come in multiple additions to my blog. Today's 1997 entry will be Week 12, at New York Jets thoughts.

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Week Twelve: at New York Jets

He was there on Friday. He was there on Saturday. Standing on the corner of 45th and Broadway in the heart of New York City. The first time my wife saw him, she laughed until tears streamed down her face. The second time she screamed in astonishment.

At first glance, all seemed normal enough: a middle-aged man wearing a Minnesota Vikings jacket. But to finish off the wardrobe, he chose to do the tourist thing…khaki shorts and black knee-high stockings. In late November.

We dubbed him the Viking Nerd. And little did I know at the time but he was an ominous portent for the way the lads in Purple would play that coming Sunday. Like nerds without a clue.

This is going to be one of those very rare columns wherein little of positive substance will be read. It is my hope that the team and coaching staff somehow get wind of what I’m about to say and come out against our bitter rival Green Bay next Monday and play the way we know they can.

For you see, late in the second quarter on Sunday with the team down to the New York Jets 20-7, I noticed something in common amongst most of the players as I walked behind the Viking bench. I saw disbelief amongst the young players and defeat among the veterans. Disbelief and defeat aren’t attributes that will win too many football games in the NFL.

During team warm-ups the players seemed normal enough. First on the field were John Randle and Robert Smith. The two found a place of solitude in one corner of an end zone and stretched together. Brad Johnson, still in street clothes, came out of the tunnel, took a few steps onto the turf and knelt down to test the damp Giants Stadium carpet. Seemingly satisfied, Brad went back in to suit up. On a bitterly cold day with the wind picking up, Chris Walsh decided to come out in shorts to warm up, a throwback from the Bud Grant days. The team went through a spirited workout and seemed ready to keep the losing streak at one game.

A Jets fan, showing himself a superior half-wit, decided to verbally attack Randle. Meadowlands security personnel at first seemed mildly amused but soon realized that this verbal attack could have an adverse reaction on Big Dog. Namely, it could fire up the Viking sack leader to the extent that he could dominate the game.

The security people turned to the fan and told him to shut up lest he fire up an already quarterback-hungry Randle. The fan didn’t shut up. But he soon ran out of vocal cords, and Randle was animated beyond belief. Unfortunately, so were the Jets’ special teams.

On the first punt of the game, Walsh, now in pads instead of shorts, missed his tackle and the Jets were up 7-0. Walsh was beside himself on the sideline and probably would have imploded had not several teammates intervened to settle him down.

The Vikings then drove for the end zone, quieting a boisterous Jets crowd along the way. I positioned myself along the goal line and knelt to take a photo of what I hoped to be a touchdown. Noticing Jake Reed lining up on the near side, I concentrated my lens on him. Reed made such an exceptional catch that I was left with my mouth open and camera unused; the shot missed but the game tied. I turned to sneer at the New York crowd as if to say, “In your face!”

Word of my defiance must have gotten to the Jets sidelines. Early in the third quarter I was kneeling on the 30-yard line with my lens focused on Keyshawn Johnson and Corey Fuller running an out pattern right towards me. The pass from Neil O’Donnell was thrown and I stayed with the players, not noticing that the ball’s slightly overthrown trajectory was taking it straight to me. The hard-thrown ball landed squarely on my upper right thigh. Four more inches upward and I would be a soprano unable to keep up certain contractual wedding vows to my lovely wife....namely, children.

It was at this point that I saw the defense start to take back some control of the game and some light comes back into the offensive players’ eyes. Reed made another great touchdown catch, dropped another one, but played a solid game and, unlike the week before, was one of the few players to give his all.

Let me try to summarize the last two minutes of the game, chaotic as they were, from my sideline perspective. Because from down there, my Purple Faithful, the game moves at lightning speed compared to the comfort of your easy chair and the great television camera angle.

Did the team seem hurried or unorganized? My assessment: no, not in the least. Communication from sideline to huddle was clear and without panic. Did Cris Carter cross the goal line on the 33-yard pass play? From my perspective he did before he fumbled and I was right on the goal line. I have yet to see any television reply and, frankly, I don’t care. I saw what I saw. Did Brad Johnson score on the one-yard quarterback sneak? Same answer and situation as I distinctly saw the ball cross the line with Brad’s right hand reaching forward.

It was at this point that I lost my professional demeanor and began barking at the side-judge, and everything became a blur that stretched out in slow motion. I remember Jeff Christy in severe pain and Walsh bending over him, screaming for Christy to get up and off the field. Christy struggled valiantly to do so with a strong will but an unresponsive body. Finally, just a few yards from the sidelines, nose tackle Jason Fisk assisted Christy off the field.

More images: The touchdown toss to tight-end Andrew Glover. The extreme joy amongst the Viking personnel on the field. Exchanging high-fives with fellow Viking photographers. The sudden realization that a two-point conversion must be made. The thought that the Vikings had not failed a two-point conversion all season long. The hand off to Robert Smith. A hole on the right side suddenly closing. The look on Robert’s face as he lay on the turf. The dejection apparent on David Palmer’s face on the sidelines.

The feeling that somewhere in New York City, the Viking Nerd is still out there, stalking the streets.....

Posted by maasx003 at 7:09 AM
October 26, 2004
Trivia

Found my old trivia games on-line in case anyone has some time to waste. Here are the links:

1990
1991
1992
1993
1994
1995
1996
1997
1998
Moss

Posted by maasx003 at 2:36 PM
Jottings: Week of October 25

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Trouble In Indy?

A team should never look ahead one week to its next opponent but in this case I just can’t help it. After the Vikes play at home against the New York Giants they travel to Indianopolis for a Monday night showdown with the Colts. After recently speaking with a fellow Hall of Fame Colts fan, here’s why the Vikes might be in a good position to win that game.

The folks in Indy are in full spin cycle when it comes to the topic of Peyton Manning and his sideline scuffle with receiver Reggie Wayne during this past Sunday’s game against Jacksonville. Rumors circulating in Indy as of Monday night are that Wayne's shout-and-shove of Peyton reflects an undercurrent of resentment toward Manning for his cap-busting contract.

The thinking, is that Manning was a "pig" when he didn't have to be. With eight starters slated to become unrestricted free agents after the 2004 season, more than a few players are getting antsy about the effect of Manning's deal on their own ability to get paid. The players know that it's going to impact all of them in coming years.

Meanwhile, it turns out that Wayne isn't the only guy who was in the face of Colts quarterback Peyton Manning on Sunday at the end of the team's loss to the Jaguars. Peyton also was told to stifle himself by the game officials, whom Manning apparently was trying to instruct on the finer points of handling an instant replay review.

The fan went on to say that Manning was acting like a "f--king baby, and like he was the Commissioner or something."

In Indy it's heresy to dub Manning a big phony. But I've heard it enough now to persuade me that there must indeed be something to it. And with some of Manning's own players mustering the guts to take him on in the public eye, Peyton's authority over the team could be crumbling.

So the Vikes could go into Indy and find team dissention. Especially if the Kansas City Chiefs light up the Colts this weekend.

Posted by maasx003 at 8:07 AM
1997 Summary Continued: Week 11, at Detroit

The 1997 Season

Note: 1997 was the first season that I wrote down thoughts the entire year. Therefore, the 1997 season summary will come in multiple additions to my blog. Today's 1997 entry will be Week 11, at Detroit thoughts.

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Week Eleven: at Detroit

In the living room the clock sang, Tick-tock, three o’clock, game’s over, time to get moving, time to get up from the couch, three o’clock!, as if it was afraid I would never move again.

The afternoon house lay empty save for one human and two dogs sprawled motionless in front of the television. The clocked ticked on, repeating and repeating its song into the emptiness. Game’s over, time to get up!

I finally moved, getting to my feet, my dogs following. I was angry. I did not even try to adjust my blood away from anger by attempting to remain calm. I stomped across the room by judgment, not by sight because I was blinded by fury. I could tell by the tails between my dogs’ legs that I must be broadcasting my anger throughout the house. I tried to calm down for their sake.

The television then burped that the Indianapolis Colts had won their first game of the year by defeating the Green Bay Packers, and I went back to being angry. A chance to be alone atop the division squandered.

Considerable poetry has been written about what happens when love for a team turns to anger. Psychologists could explain the cause as well as the effect, the mechanism of displacement. Energy has to go somewhere, and if one channel is blocked, another will be found.

Not that I have definitely rejected the Vikings as so many bandwagoners will do this coming week, and certainly my emotion for my team has not suffered a transformation.

Call it reorientation. I have never let myself believe that the Vikes would run the table the rest of this season. But my ego has been damaged and consequently the team will have to provide some justification, some assurance, that they will not fall into a tailspin with three very tough games approaching.

This, the sixth season of Minnesota Viking head coach Dennis Green’s high-hearted quest to reach the Super Bowl, has become more intense and perhaps more essentially heroic than the preceding ones.

This season, the Viking team has had to come to grips with a merciless opponent: itself. No longer as four-time playoff losers but as a team at 8-3, the team has learned to reshape itself out of its own inner resources, for there must not only be an end to a Super Bowl-winning season but also a beginning of team togetherness.

When there has been honor and winning, it has been shared. When there has been shame and losing, it has been faced. This balance is important for it takes as much strength of heart to share the one as to face the other.

Today, however, was a day of shame. Knowing that it was important to win all remaining division games to stay in contention for the division title and home-field playoff games, the Boys in Purple came into the game resting on their laurels and past victories instead of showing up to play the game.

The scene at Detroit today was one of unobstructed desolation. Dismal Viking faces struggled to show signs of life here and there, some with the pathetic air of striving for the type of enormous comeback seen previously this season.

But again and again the team found itself betrayed at odd times and in odd places. Kick-off returns to mid-field were followed by three-and-outs. The Lions, too rugged and too emotional to let the Vikings back in the game, suggested that the Vikings were no more than the desiccating remnants of the Les Steckel season.

And over all this loomed a ghastly final score.

Now and then, there will come soft rains.

Jottings from Detroit

Who’s the most valuable Viking free agent to sign next year? In my opinion it’s head coach Dennis Green. If the Vikings let Green go, look for Oakland maverick owner Al Davis to acquire Green and for Green to bring free agents John Randle, Todd Steussie, Robert Smith and Jake Reed along with him. If the Vikings keep Green and this year’s crop of free agents, it won’t get any easier after the 1998-99 season as Cris Carter, Ed McDaniel, David Palmer, Korey Stringer, Orlando Thomas, Corey Fuller, and Robert Griffith become free agents.

Joe Schmidt will be airing an hour-long pre-game show prior to Monday night’s Viking-Packer game. The beginning segment is not to be missed as yours truly takes on a Cheesehead in heroic games of one-upmanship including the trading of barbs, thumb-wrestling, head-bashing, and electric football. We taped the segment this past Wednesday night. Who comes out on top? All I will say is they had to bring in a back-up Packer fan after I wore the first one out!

Posted by maasx003 at 7:34 AM
October 25, 2004
1997 Summary Continued: Week 10, Chicago

The 1997 Season

Note: 1997 was the first season that I wrote down thoughts the entire year. Therefore, the 1997 season summary will come in multiple additions to my blog. Today's 1997 entry will be Week 10, Chicago thoughts.

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Week Ten: Chicago

We rose before dawn and broke our fast. We donned leather and purple, helming ourselves with iron and strapping steel to our hips. We slung heavy wooden shields over our shoulders and bound our arms and legs with hard leather. We loaded our vehicles, formed the ranks, and then moved silently through the streets to the field of battle. We are Viking fans.

Before daylight we assembled to tailgate below the hulking whiteness of the Metrodome and looked long upon the approaching storm swirling above it. I raised a horn to my lips, sending forth a long, ringing call to the forces. This weekend we gathered from the nearby lands of Iowa, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New York, Montana, and Wisconsin and from faraway Norway and England.

We are Viking fans. We are the team’s strong arm, their shield and spear, their blade and helm. We are the blood in the players’ veins, the hard sinew of their flesh, the bone beneath their skin. We are the breath in their lungs, the clear light in their eyes, and the song rising to their lips. We are the sound and fury to their opponent’s ears.

When feasting was complete, we moved to surround the battlefield. Our warriors were attacking to hold the Bear clan at bay. Our defensive leader signaled to us and was greeted with long blasts on great Viking war horns, those blood-chilling harbingers of doom. The din across the field was deafening.

The opponents danced their defiance, taunting. This was soon regretted as the purple-clad warriors attacked in a swarm, chaos in motion. The sight of the churning mass rolling toward them caused the front rank to draw back involuntarily. So determined were our warriors that they forced the foremost rank back upon itself. Their leader screamed in rage.

From the first blow, the battle blazed. The Viking faithful breathed so much fury, the roof glowed white hot. Our world filled with the shattering sound of pad against pad, then bone against bone.

Our superior strength began to tell. Once the first wind of battle passed and the combatants settled into fighting rhythm, our warriors pushed out around their flanks. Our enemies were forced to steal men from their center to keep the Purple from closing behind and surrounding them entirely. But the Bear-clad opponent kept on.

Their leader had no sense of danger. He could not weigh one risk against another, causing him to do things in battle which, counted as courageous in certain situations, became foolhardy in others.

Then came the Viking warrior known as Big Dog. I have never seen a man so gloriously innocent in battle. He was a joy to watch. He became a terror.

A terror, for it fell to the opponents’ front ranks to protect their leader, and this was an impossible task. The enemy crumbled before Big Dog. We grew more frenzied with this sight and redoubled our vocal efforts. With every yell, we gained and the enemy lost. We were Viking fans.

We were the storm battering against their shore, dragging them grain-by-grain and stone by stone into the foaming maelstrom. I felt each successive sound grate in my bones. I waited for the shock of Big Dog’s hit on their leader to send me into the familiar, curiously distorted, battle frenzy. It came as I saw their leader surrounded, with their front line being forced into a circle. The death circle, we Vikings call it, for once adopted there is only one outcome for an opponent’s leader.

While there is no honor in slaughtering a fleeing foe, it must be done. Caught between forces on the field and in the stands, the enemy found itself unable to advance or retreat. Confusion seized them and shook them like a dog shaking a rat. Chaos closed its fist around them, and they gave in to it.

It is a curious thing with these Bear-clad opponents, but capture their leader, and the fight quickly goes out of them. They become confused and dismayed and are easily overcome. And our offensive warriors had yet to see battle.

Our offensive leader took the field. Their defense chided his attributes. The one known as Johnson took up the call and drove toward them. Into his path leaped two Bear-clad warriors. One thrust a arm past his ear; another jabbed toward his chest.

Johnson knocked them aside, kicking himself free as they thrashed at his feet. He ran forward to face two more warriors. One of them gave a shout and rushed at him.

Johnson saw the enemy move toward him, saw their faces dark and grim, their eyes gleaming hard like sharp iron. Sweat misted their faces, and cords tightened in their necks. He saw it all and more, with dreadful, heart-stopping clarity as the speeding flow of time dwindled to a bare trickle.

Every action slowed, as if all around him was suddenly overcome with an impossible lethargy. He saw the warriors edging towards him. He let the force of their blows spin him away so that as his attackers fell forward behind their quarry, he was gone.

Johnson looked first to the left, then to the right, and threw a ball of leather, which became as a shining circle of light. The one named Carter received this light, and men toppled like cordwood in his wake as he forced his way to the goal.

The Bear-clad warriors dared not come within the arc of this light the rest of the day. Their defense became leisurely, almost laughably so, each action non-determined and slow. Johnson had time not only to react, but to plan his next move and the one after that before the first had been completed. Once he fell into his fighting rhythm, he found he could move with impunity among the absurdly sluggish enemy.

In the stands we knew the battle was won. A wave of exultation rose within us. We began a high keening call, a war chant, a victory cry, and I recognized my own voice soaring from my throat.

The reaction of the enemy was immediate. They turned to meet the source of this unnerving sound, and I saw, in that extraordinary clarity, black despair fall across their features. They were undone. We were victorious again.

We are Viking fans.

Tailgate Jottings

What a fantastic weekend for Viking fans! Saturday morning I conducted a tour of Winter Park for our Viking friends who came from across the pond. Representing England Mike Salmon and Geoff Reader (a season ticket holder, no less) found themselves sitting in the comfy purple chairs of the Board Room and decided then and there to buy the team. No word yet if they are keeping the team here or moving them to London. We also talked shop with Viking Director of Research and Development, Mike Eayrs, who said to keep watch on the Viking offense the next few weeks for a special goal-line play that is sure to be “the featured story on ESPN the following day”. Recent Viking stadium developments have the team considering a deal with the University of Minnesota to build an open-air stadium on the U of M campus. Another possibility hinges on the outcome of the Twins initiative to be decided November 13. After that decision, the Vikings will gather the forces to make a determined pitch for a dual-purpose stadium once again.

Posted by maasx003 at 7:57 AM
October 24, 2004
1997 Summary Continued: Week 9, New England

The 1997 Season

Note: 1997 was the first season that I wrote down thoughts the entire year. Therefore, the 1997 season summary will come in multiple additions to my blog. Today's 1997 entry will be Week 9, New England thoughts.

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Week Nine: New England

“You go back and tell them that I’m coming and I’m bringing Hell with me!” Kurt Russell in Tombstone.

Early Sunday morning I had a dilemma. I noticed that NFL Films was doing a special on John Randle at 10:30 a.m. I was due to begin tailgating at 8:00 a.m. Then I looked outside, discovering a fresh powder of snow already on the roads. It was still falling in a heavy, gusty, bitterly cold wind with temperatures in the lower 30s and dropping. The decision was then easy.

No, I did not wrap myself up in a nice little blanket with a cup of the International Coffee flavor of the month. I set the VCR, then ran downstairs to kick my guest for the weekend, Mark Gresbach, out of bed.

We loaded up the Jeep and out the door we went, each sporting Russian fur hats, a cooler full of ribs and beer, and, oh yeah, a John Randle attitude.

Three hours later we grudgingly headed inside, not for warmth, mind you, but for the sheer delight of knowing that New England Patriot quarterback Drew Bledsoe would soon be splattered like the snowballs we had been throwing outside just hours earlier.

From my front row position in the mighty Thunder Zone (the original), whom did I spy immediately but one Henry Thomas, former Viking, and now Patriot, warming up in the end zone. Welcoming Henry back to his former haunt with some choice words that had several nearby fans blushing, I then focused on the line judge.

Explaining ever so politely that this individual in front of me had a tendency to hold and generally play dirty football, I pointed out that he, as an NFL referee, should pay particular attention to Thomas during the game. The line judge gave me a thumbs up, and the game was in the pocket before it even started.

Bledsoe sauntered over to chat with one of his teammates. Once again, engaging myself with a member of the enemy, I used my best poker face to explain to Bledsoe that in no way shape or form could he possibly be ready to play this game. Getting a quizzical look from Drew, I explained, “After all, Drew Baby, you can’t practice being miserable.” He soon found out what I meant.

As the team captains met at the 50-yard line for the coin flip, one of the team captains in purple held back a ways. Several Patriot captains attempted to shake hands with him. The purple-clad figure refused.

They couldn’t have known better. You see, the Patriots didn’t have a chance to see the NFL Films special that morning either. Otherwise they would have known that the man known to many as Big Dog or Knightrider or Road Warrior or Ruler of the Wasteland or even Lord Humongous does not shake hands with anyone before the game. John Randle had to go to work, and no one gets close to Randle when he’s on the job.

Defensively, Randle had help today with outstanding efforts from Stalin Colinet who quickly had Mark and I grabbing our Russian hats and doing a wild Cossack dance. Duane Clemons showed that the loose change in my pocket moved better than Bledsoe did in his. Fernando Smith and Derrick Alexander, both injured, played inspired football every play they were in. And Jason Fisk and Jerry “I’m Full” Ball kept Patriot running back Curtis Martin well in check through most of the game, holding him to a whopping 11 yards in the first half.

But it was in the second half, with the Patriots going for it on fourth-and-one deep in Viking territory, that the Viking defense displayed more character than at any other time this season. Simply, they held. As they left the field, they signified their thanks to the crowd whose decibel levels reached the loudest I have heard at the Dome in six years.

Last week, I told you that Brad Johnson has only one thing to keep in mind each game: When Cris Carter is covered, he’s open. This proved true once again when Johnson found Carter covered by Patriot’s defensive back Willie Clay and threw the ball anyway.

Seconds later, Carter was dancing in the end zone, the recipient of a 28-yard touchdown pass to seal the Viking victory. Keeping in tune with the defense, Carter recognized the fans’ efforts by running the length of the end zone, arms outstretched as if to thank the Purple Faithful for another strong show of support.

Returning home after the game, I rewound the VCR to see what I had missed that morning, John Randle on NFL Films. I learned something new, that John is a huge movie buff who earmarked Tombstone and Mad Max: The Road Warrior as some of his favorite flicks.

This leaves only one question for next week’s game against the Chicago Bears. Just who among the Bears will be Randle’s next huckleberry?

Posted by maasx003 at 7:43 AM
October 23, 2004
1997 Summary Continued: Week 8, at Tampa Bay

The 1997 Season

Note: 1997 was the first season that I wrote down thoughts the entire year. Therefore, the 1997 season summary will come in multiple additions to my blog. Today's 1997 entry will be Week 8, at Tampa Bay thoughts.

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Week Eight: at Tampa Bay

“We’ve got no place in this outfit for good losers. We want tough hombres who will go in there and win!” Admiral Jonas Ingram, 1926

The Minnesota Viking offense has dozens of different ways of delivering destruction via running and passing of one sort or another or scoring so widespread, so unselective, that the game is won because the opposing defense has ceased to exist. Because of this, sometimes a professional NFL referee will give the Vikes a touchdown even when it’s not clear if it was, in fact, one.

The Viking offense can also be selective, precisely applying the necessary play at the designated moment to make the game as personal as a punch in the nose. Vikings offensive coordinator, Brian Billick, has never had to tell his unit to march down the field by running only to the left, but if he told them to, they could. They will. They did. Ask Leroy Hoard.

Head coach Dennis Green has built a team in which he can tell the boys to go to a particular place at H-hour, occupy a designated field, stand on it, dig the enemy out of their locker room, and force them then and there to surrender or die.

You see, the definition of an atheist in the Viking locker room is a player who doesn’t believe in Coach Green. Green wins because he coaches people, not football.

One of those people is running back Robert Smith. Earlier this week, a Buccaneers fan I work with asked me just how fast Smith runs the 40-yard dash. I simply replied, “You should know. He’s run past your secondary enough times.” Smith, unfortunately, left the game with a slight ankle sprain. Let’s hope it’s not a high ankle sprain and we’ll see Robert back on the home field next week.

Occasionally, just for kicks, the Vikings decided that the running game and time management were going so well, why not try passing? All quarterback Brad Johnson needed to keep in mind during the first half was this: When Cris Carter is covered, he’s open. During the second half, it was Jake Reed making the Buccaneers try to cover him with eleven players and prayers.

A lot will be made of the huge amount of possession time the Vikings had. Remember the old adage “Time of possession only counts in jail.” The Vikings came up short today once they reached the red-zone. The armchair quarterbacks will be jumping all over that fact this week rather than relishing the reality that, pending the outcome of Monday night’s contest between the Packers and the Patriots, the Purple are alone in first place. The important thing about this game is we got another “W” in the win column and we got to keep the game ball.

Viking special teams could have won or lost this game. Eddie Murray, such a steady kicker that he practices missing field goals, apparently forgot that this was a real game day situation and missed an early 30-yard field goal.

But the sawed-off shotgun known as David Palmer blasted down the sidelines on a 57-yard punt return in the second half to set up a Viking score. Considering that Palmer wasn’t even going to play this game because of injury, he was limited to just two speeds–here he comes and there he goes.

Keep in mind what the soon-to-be-next-Viking head coach (written with heavy sarcasm), Lou Holtz, said a few years back. Lisping Lou said, “There isn’t anything wrong with winning ugly. As a matter of fact, there isn’t anything wrong with being ugly–as long as you’re successful.”

Posted by maasx003 at 6:29 AM
October 22, 2004
1997 Summary Continued: Week 7, Carolina

The 1997 Season

Note: 1997 was the first season that I wrote down thoughts the entire year. Therefore, the 1997 season summary will come in multiple additions to my blog. Today's 1997 entry will be Week 7, Carolina thoughts.

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Week Seven: Carolina

I had been tailgating since 10:00 am., grilling brats, smoking cigars and playing catch. Maybe I should mention it was also pouring rain with wind gusts up to forty miles per hour. Life was good.

A group of us, now thoroughly soaked, walked into the Dome about one and one-half hours before kick-off. Hanging our wet garments over the concrete barrier to dry off, we were soon honored by having Stalin Colinet and John “Big Dog” Randle warm up in front of us.

Several Carolina Panther players were just coming onto the field to stretch. Randle began to swing his arms like machetes, slicing the air slowly. He laughed. The Panther players looked over but said nothing.

All these things, the stormy weather, the rowdy Viking crowd, and the big man himself, were neatly woven together like the elements of a honorable legend, the one in which Randle goes on safari...for Panther meat.

Late in the fourth quarter, Carolina quarterback Steve Beuerlein had been watching from the Panther huddle for several seconds before he registered the Big Dog’s presence. It seemed at first that a scrap of shadow had fallen onto the field and was being blown by a fitful breeze. Then he saw it was Randle who was inching along the line of scrimmage as if stalking prey.

Randle leaped high into the air, twisting and turning, and began to race up and down the line of scrimmage: a ribbon of purple color flowing across the green field. Beuerlein had never seen a defensive lineman taunting him quite like this before, and this alone was cause for concern. Most of all, Beuerlein wondered at the fact that here was his worst nightmare come to life.

Meanwhile in the stands, the Viking fans had been peering out onto the field of play, spying on Randle as if he was a magical creature. Their fear of the Panthers scoring on a last minute drive was swept away by the sight of the Big Dog. Like children pressing their noses against glass, they tried not to blink, anxious not to miss a single moment.

Back on the field, Beuerlein’s fear welled up. He tried to banish it, to tell himself that the presence of Randle could not possibly be what he thought. Randle snarled, a razor stroke of sound that slit the roar of the crowd as the Panthers came to the line of scrimmage.

Sensing Beuerlein’s fear, Randle sprang along the line, waving his machete arms. In a whirl of connected movements, Beuerlein took the snap and Randle leaped forward. Shouting at Beuerlein, Randle worked his arms and sprinted straight towards him.

Turning left, Beuerlein slipped behind a offensive lineman and staggered backwards. Something crashed behind him. Turning again, he glimpsed a huge purple shape struggling to free himself from a tangle of Panther linemen. Beuerlein darted around and braced for the hit, assuming the fetal position.

Beuerlein held his breath, his heart pounding. Listening, it seemed to him the whole world was holding its breath as well. The noises of the fans and players seethed behind him. The Metrodome roof poured a white radiance onto his helmet, and the Panther offensive linemen froze like peels of wallpaper left on a floor. He swallowed.

Then the air over him exploded, shattered by a giant paw. Splinters of pain spread throughout his body, and he screamed. The sleek wedge of Randle’s helmet thrust through the previously outstretched arms of a Panther lineman. Roaring, a gateway of gleaming teeth came right at him.

Half-paralyzed, Beuerlein jabbed weakly with one arm. Randle reached in with one arm, and seconds later a heavy thump resounded. Beuerlein, the once mighty Panther, fell back, yowling.

Randle had bagged another Panther, one more head for his trophy wall.

Tailgate Summary

In spite of heavy rain and high winds, the Viking Underground Tailgate Party went on as scheduled. Doug Sharp and the boys from Ohio were there as was Geoff Reader who came all the way from England just for the weekend. Also attending were Mark Gresbach, over from Milwaukee.

John Randle was on the KFAN Monday night radio show live from Joe Senser’s restaurant in Bloomington. Asked if he was going to try to test the free agent market after this season, Randle simply replied, “I like it here. I want to stay here. I want to end it here.”

Posted by maasx003 at 8:15 AM
October 21, 2004
Vikes new role: Embarrass opponent, fire coach

There are now rumors that Saints owner Tom Benson could make Jim Haslett the first coach to be fired this season.

Benson supposedly is sulking over the team's embarrassing loss to the Vikings, and the fact that the Saints allowed a franchise-record 605 yards. Last week, Benson sent a memo to Haslett reminding him that the Saints are 1-3 against the team owned by Benson's car-bidness colleague, Red McCombs.

Current speculation (from fellow fan Hall of Famer Lionel Alphonso “Da Pope”) is that Benson could fire Haslett if the Saints lose to the Raiders on Sunday. Da Pope also said connected to the Haslett rumor is speculation that defensive coordinator Rick Venturi will go, too, and that offensive coordinator Mike McCarthy will become the interim head coach.

I wonder who else the Vikings could get fired this year? Mike Sherman, anyone?

Posted by maasx003 at 7:35 AM
1997 Summary Continued: Week 6, at Arizona

The 1997 Season

Note: 1997 was the first season that I wrote down thoughts the entire year. Therefore, the 1997 season summary will come in multiple additions to my blog. Today's 1997 entry will be Week 6, at Arizona thoughts.

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Week Six: at Arizona

Early Sunday afternoon I was standing along the Minnesota Viking sideline inside Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona. And I was shaking and shaking like the filament in a light bulb just before it blows.

You see, in a stadium with no roof but the blue sky above and a red mountain in one corner behind its walls, I was next to the Big Dog himself. John Randle. He was wearing his trademark black war paint on his face, standing just inside the line designating the player boundary.

I had barely stepped inside from a tailgate party, and my life was suddenly clipping along just fine. This wonderful stadium was crammed with many Viking fans, young and old, skin tan and dried. In between them and me, this enormous man in purple was holding a football in his oversized hand, his eyes scanning the Arizona Cardinals while warming up.

“OK, don’t stare,” my wonderful life said to me. “Don’t ruin his concentration now. Try and talk to him later.”

I took a stroll around the field and then I was back where I started. I took out my cameras and began taking pictures. Mostly of Randle. So much energy. I hoped it could somehow be captured on film. The game began and the photos I took were of Randle. The second quarter started and still I concentrated my lens on Randle. Coming out of the tunnel after half-time, Randle spied me and said, “Nice to see you again.”

The rest of the third quarter this went on, trying to get up the nerve to say a few lines to the Big Dog. “Okay,” I told myself. “It will be the fourth quarter.” Then, late in the fourth quarter, with a scrap of wind coming off the mountain and the red desert sunset quickly approaching, I saw him huddled over a cup of Gatorade.

When he looked at me, he brushed away the sweat from his eyes with the back of his hand in the way I’d seen him do it so many times before. He was so huge, you would notice him in a very large room or in no room at all.

“Mr. Randle,” I said, going up to him, those words a stone in my throat, “Mr. Randle,” I said, “I’m out of film.”

Trip Reflections

My trip to the desert could be summed up by my flight back to Minnesota. The America West airplane was full of Viking fans returning to the homeland, proudly wearing purple hats and Cris Carter jerseys, and standing by their seats talking with people around them about the game.

Then a Cheesehead appeared. First there was one boo, then came a flood. Cat-calls followed, “Hey buddy! This is a cheese-free flight!” And, “When’s Holmgren bringing back T.J. Rubley to replace that bumblin’, stumblin’ idiot you got now?”

Unity. Pure, unadulterated Viking unity, the likes I have not seen since childhood. A new breed of Viking fan is coming. Present sideline season-ticket holders need not apply.

Observing from the field on Sunday, I witnessed a wondrous thing. Half of the 45,550 fans filling Sun Devil Stadium were Viking fans, and the great majority were behind the Viking bench, giving them the best sideline support they’ve had in quite some time, including home games. Chief amongst these purple faithful was Mike England of the Arizona Viking Fan Club, although he caught me taking pictures of the Cardinal cheerleaders at several points during the game.

The Cardinals fans there chose an easy target to pick on: Mitch Berger, especially after his botched hold on an Eddie Murray field goal attempt. “Hey, Cheeseburger! Way to go,” was called over and over again. (I didn’t say these were highly witty fans.) Finally, I walked over to Mitch and told him he would have another chance. He just smiled and shook his head in the affirmative.

The field conditions were unbearably hot. The thermometers read over 120 degrees and would have gone higher had they not already been maxed out. The Cardinals, also desiring a new stadium, gave free tickets to all the Phoenix media, placing them on the sunny side to let them roast.

Ingenious, I thought. I only wish they had given free tickets to our favorite Minneapolis media All-Negative team of Dan Barrerio and Bob Sansevere. Then, when they would have passed away from dehydration and sun stroke, the Vikings road-trip would have been a complete victory.

By the way, Phoenix wants the taxpayers to foot the bill for a proposed $600+ million sports complex which will include a retractable-roof football stadium. And the Arizona legislature decides the fate, not the taxpayer. Sound familiar?

The field was in good shape but the grass was cut short, and as Dewayne “Toast” Washington said during warm-ups, it was “tight.” I thought it felt almost like Astroturf. Two huge cooling fans were placed at each end of the Viking bench, with the hierarchy effect placing John Randle closest to the fan when the defense was off the field and Cris Carter nearest when the offense was off.

Then there was my man Chris Walsh who laid out Cardinal reserve safety Tommy Bennett twice right in front of me. The second time he was knocked cold, Bennett finally regained consciousness when smelling salts were applied. And I have the pictures to prove it.

After the game I talked to Chris about the hits as he posed for photos for the Viking Underground. He just smiled, reiterating what he had already said in the locker room. He had run a route with Cris Carter catching the ball and running up the field while Bennett gave chase. And then, lights out.

Carter enjoyed this victory a great deal. The Cardinals fans had started to express their collective dislike for him when they thought they had the game in hand. I’m sure Cris, now an ordained minister, did not appreciate what was coming out of their mouths. Carter held court in the locker room, enjoying every moment of the aftermath, and was the last person to board the bus.

It was a very enjoyable day for Brad Johnson, as well. Brad’s father made the trip to see his son play a game in which Brad talked his offense into the confident mindset needed to make the comeback. Outside after the game, the two hugged, mingled, and soaked up the victory.

Also posing for pictures afterwards for the Viking Underground were Jeff Christy, Charles Evans, Todd Steussie with his victory cigar, David Dixon, Robert Griffith, and Mitch Berger. The mail service and my photo shop willing, begin looking this weekend for these and other selections from the 396 photos I took from the sidelines.

I also meet with Stew Widdess, the Vikings’ V.P. of Marketing, in the locker room following the game. Stew is not going to give up on the fight against the decision by the Duluth Fox affiliate to show the Viking game against the New York Jets on November 23. Scheduled to be shown instead is the Green Bay game.

Stew told me that he has spoken with FOX headquarters in New York, and they would intervene on the Viking’s behalf if, and only if, the Viking fans speak out.

Posted by maasx003 at 7:13 AM
October 20, 2004
Did Jerry Rice Cross the Line?

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Under the guise of tossing something against a wall to see if anything sticks, I offer this topic up for football fans.

An interesting footnote to the Rice trade to Seattle story. He asked Seahawks legend Steve Largent if Largent would allow his No. 80 to be unretired. Largent did agree to it. But I can't believe Rice had the grapefruits to make the request himself based off all we’ve heard about the surly receiver over the last few years.

I wonder if in the future the 49ers ever pick up a guy who used to be a star player and who wants to wear Rice's "80" in San Fran. What's the chance of Jerry smiling and offering to help the guy pull the shirt over his head?

With jerseys 11 through 19 now available for receivers, why didn't Rice do something fresh, like donning Joe Montana's No. 16? Okay, so punter Tom Rouen already wear No. 16 for Seattle. But he's a punter! Do they even need numbers? (Does Minnesota even need a punter!?!?!)

My question is simple. Did Rice cross the line in his request?

Posted by maasx003 at 8:23 AM
1997 Summary Continued: Week 5, Philadelphia

The 1997 Season

Note: 1997 was the first season that I wrote down thoughts the entire year. Therefore, the 1997 season summary will come in multiple additions to my blog. Today's 1997 entry will be Week 5, Philadelphia thoughts.

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Week Five: Philadelphia

My idea of the pessimistic arm-chair quarterback is an individual whose ideas on running a football team are dressed up with a glib, mechanistic pseudo-psychology based on the observed orders of precedence among barnyard animals and on Pavlov’s famous conditioned reflex experiments on dogs. This person fails to note that football players are neither dogs nor livestock.

Viking offensive coordinator Brian Billick, had correctly ignored these armchair know-it-alls, as he has ignored so many others who have blindly and foolishly blathered about the meaning of his important, and unlimited, game plan.

“Billickism” had not taken hold at once. During his tenure as Viking offensive coordinator, almost everyone, from snowplow driver to housewife, has had a scheme for setting the perceived Viking offensive woes right in one easy lesson. A surprising percentage manage to get their schemes voiced through sports radio talk shows.

The “Can Billick” philosophy had managed to gradually spread early in 1997. This call to fire Billick was particularly popular amongst the bandwagon pessimists everywhere who persuade themselves that their particular game plan is the indispensable one. Therefore, under the “natural order of the NFL,” they should be top dog.

With so many different, untested game plans available, such self-delusion was easy. These people had an underlying belief as armchair quarterbacks that their game plans would be preferred to Billick’s. Any other game plan, other than their own, is silly, visionary, and contrary to the team’s strengths.

Against the Philadelphia Eagles, the effort to can Billick took three steps back. Billick came in with the recipe for a masterful game plan: Take the best wide receiver tandem in the NFL today. Add the silky smooth speed of one Robert Smith. Heat to boiling with an over-abundance of exuberant Viking fans. Flavor with Viking ingenuity. A certain NFL defense in Tempe, Arizona, now is shaking in their cleats.

While one bird defense was trying to figure out how to stop the Viking offense on the field, and another bird defense watched on national television dreading the thought of attempting to do so the next Sunday, a particular referee, specifically Back Judge #135, was doing everything in his power to win the game for Philadelphia.

This particular inDUHvidual was involved in every controversial call of the game. Finally, mid-way through the third quarter, the Thunder Zone fans had had enough. To the right of the Viking team bench, the end-zone became literally covered with cups of available every color and size, some empty, some still full. It took a crew of eight people to clear the end-zone while play continued on the other end of the field.

My guest for the game and I took it upon ourselves to berate this sorry-excuse-for-an-official until game’s end. At one point this idiot smirked and gave us a thumbs-up, only increasing the amount of “Your mother is a …” type of response coming from the stands. I could only hope that the officiating crew was severely reprimanded for what was an embarrassing show on national television.

Many thanks to Ragnar and Vikadontis Rex for appearing during that Sunday’s tailgate party. We had another good turnout.

Posted by maasx003 at 7:50 AM
October 19, 2004
Jottings: Week of 10/18

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And I Shall Call Him MeMo

Though RB Michael Bennett could play this week, rookie Mewelde Moore will get his third straight start -- and he might have won the job outright; "Production is production," said offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. "You get an opportunity, you go produce. You've earned yourself more and more opportunities. That's life."

I’m happy to see Mewelde (aka MeMo) get another start for a couple of reasons. One, MeMo reminds me of Walter Payton. Sweetness was always getting yardage even while being tackled. Payton always had a knack to fall forward getting that extra yard or two. Also, MeMo is like Payton in that he delivers hits, not just taking them. Secondly, I was able to pick up MeMo for my fantasy football team which finds itself alone at the top of the Beer Brotherhood Fantasy Football League with a 6-0 record.

Setting Up for A Return On Sunday?

Vikings coach Mike Tice says that Randy Moss's strained hamstring is "more than mild," which means that Moss might indeed miss the first game of his seven-year career when the 4-1 Vikings host the 2-4 Titans on Sunday.

According to Tice, the Vikings won't make a final decision on Moss's availability until Friday at the earliest.

If it were up to me, I'd continue to play it coy all week, forcing the Titans to plan for the Vikings both with and without the guy whose year-in, year-out stellar performances likely have more to do with Jerry Rice trying to hang around and stretch his records than Rice would ever admit. Heck, I'd take the whole thing one step farther and dress Moss for Sunday, put him on the field for the first series, and take advantage of the attention he's sure to receive.

Then again, Moss knows a thing or two about playing in pain. He's battled ankle and foot problems over the years, with no adverse effect on his play. My guess is that Moss will, at a minimum, be on the field. More realistically, he'll find a way to contribute as the team tries to climb to 5-1.

Posted by maasx003 at 9:01 AM
1997 Summary Continued: Week 4, at Green Bay

The 1997 Season

Note: 1997 was the first season that I wrote down thoughts the entire year. Therefore, the 1997 season summary will come in multiple additions to my blog. Today's 1997 entry will be Week 4, at Green Bay thoughts.

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Week Four: at Green Bay

Beating the Green Bay Packers has for years been called a Minnesota Viking fan’s “crowning glory”, but to every Viking fan who speaks of his intimate relationship with this rivalry, a loss can be a nightmare.

I don’t know any Viking fan who really takes a loss to the Cheese well. They usually just cope. This rivalry can be a living, powerful, mercurial, metaphysical energy force to be respected, reckoned with, and reconciled to, but the game’s outcome cannot be controlled any more than atomic fusion.

Occasionally, the game can be cajoled into becoming a rout (we refer to these lapses as “the ball’s bouncing our way today”) but it can never be coerced. Think of all the time, money, creative energy, and emotion we invest in our football team. Yet most of the time it insists on expressing its wishes, not necessarily ours. I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted from battles waged every weekend on the gridiron, and the battle in Week Four was not the least of them.

Most football fans exist under a collective hallucination termed “on any given Sunday.” We have all been brainwashed that if we can get the right quarterback, running back, middle linebacker, place kicker, coach, and owner, our team will finally behave like it should and win a Super Bowl. Each year we would have a Super Bowl champion if we could just have certain key elements filled in. But that’s not real life for me, nor probably is it for you.

On any given game day, the Vikings never look the way they did the week before. They had yet to learn how to simultaneously play a good game offensively while doing the same on defense and special teams and vice versa. They can pass and score, run and score, intercept and score, but never on the same day, let alone the same half. Some days the team looks wonderful; other days, woebegone. Yet the process is virtually the same. Losing humbles us, and we need to make peace with it.

The way we do this is to accept the defeat and acknowledge the Vikings whether they lose by one or by thirty. Getting to know your team and working with them instead of constantly fighting them is the first step toward rapprochement and peace of mind.

While my alter-ego wears his hair in shoulder-length, Scandinavian blond braids, I’ve had to reconcile myself to the fact that the Vikings aren’t going to win every game this season, and I will be heckled at home and away for the way I dress at games. We will all have game days when we will scream, “Fire the owner, fire the coach, get rid of the place-kicker,” but those aren’t the days on which to do it.

Remember, the team you know is easier to handle than the team you don’t. But be open to change because there are few joys in life that can equal finally achieving the perfect season. And if the worst happens, after you dry your eyes, remember it’s only a game. It will come around again and you will be wiser. And so will our players.

While I’m sure many of you turned off your television or radio at half-time to do Sunday chores, thinking the game was over, the Viking players went to the locker room and obtained a self-confidence potion that was heavily scented with attitude, optimism and faith; later they gained experience, knowledge and wisdom through a loss.

But today we now know that every new challenge awaiting our team will be meet by an attitude of self-confidence even while most Viking fans’ self-confidence will be hanging in a closet. So next time we fall behind, act as though you are self-confident and the team will take you as such.

Above all, learning to accept the occasional defeat is part of the process of learning to love your team. A poet once said, “Your thorns are the best part of you,” and she was right.

Posted by maasx003 at 7:57 AM
October 18, 2004
Jottings: Week of 10/18/2004

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Will Vikings Miss Moss?

No Moss? Panic amongst the Purple faithful? End of the football world as we know it? Nah!

For the first time in his seven-year career, Randy Moss suffered an in-game injury that caused him to miss playing time. But arguably for the first time since 1998, the Vikings have a supporting cast with enough juice to permit the team to not miss a beat without the centerpiece of their offense.

Then again, perhaps the real centerpiece of the Minnesota offense isn't Moss, but quarterback Daunte Culpepper.

Culpepper threw for a career-high 425 yards, with five touchdown passes for the third time this season. Previously, no one had thrown five touchdown passes in three games in any season. Culpepper has done it in only five games. “Pepper” is serving up some hot sauce right now.

I wonder if the typical East coast bias will prevent Culpepper from receiving the accolades he deserves. Should he keep up this torrid pace, he is deserving of being names NFC Pro Bowl starter at quarterback along with MVP honors for the NFL. But one man alone can’t win games.

Coupled with the steady running of rookie Mewelde Moore and veteran Moe Williams, the Vikes rolled up 605 yards of offense, the second highest total in team history and the most since 1969. For the Saints, the 600-plus-yard gashing was the most yardage the franchise ever has allowed.

Back to Moss, he pulled a hamstring in the second quarter of the 38-31 win, and he's listed as questionable for next Sunday's game against the Titans. If he misses the game, it'll break his streak of 101 straight starts.

But with Culpepper on track to register the most completions (on pace for 432), most yards (on pace for 5,651), and most touchdowns (on pace for 58) in NFL history, it's not as dire as it would have been in past years. Though the Vikes don't have another guy who can duplicate Randy's full complement of skills, Marcus Robinson has his height and jump-ball ability, Kelly Campbell can stretch the field, and Nate Burleson can make tough catches in traffic and along the sidelines. And let’s not forget pass catching specialist in tight-end Jermaine Wiggins.

There's still a lot of football to be played, but as of now it looks like the Vikings and the Eagles are on a collision course for a late January rematch of their Week Two Monday nighter. Home field advantage will be important but not crucial as the Eagles have proven the last three seasons.

Trade Bait?

I'd like to see the Vikings package Chris Hovan and Michael Bennett together and try and get some immediate defensive help. If the Vikings defense could just improve from "awful" to "OK", this team could be unbeatable.

Hovan would not be missed. Steve Martin has done a fine job this season. And with the plethora of running backs in the Vikings stable, Bennett could be spared for the greater benefit of the team.

The trading deadline is Tuesday. Let's see if the Vikes decide to work the phones over the next few days.

Posted by maasx003 at 11:38 AM
1997 Summary Continued: Week Three, Tampa Bay


The 1997 Season

Note: 1997 was the first season that I wrote down thoughts the entire year. Therefore, the 1997 season summary will come in multiple additions to my blog. Today's 1997 entry will be Week 3, Tampa Bay thoughts.

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Week Three: Tampa Bay

J. H. Payne once said, “Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.” On Week Three of the NFL season, we invited a guest into our home who ended up acting like everyone’s least favorite relative, the one who overstays his welcome and always mentions our weaknesses.

When the guest finally leaves, we breathe a sigh of relief from the agony of spending time with a person who would be otherwise despised, had he not been somehow related. By 3:00 p.m., over 60,000 sighs of relief were audible when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers finally left the Metrodome field.

The question to explore is whether the Bucs are really that good or did the Minnesota Vikings just have an off-day? It was an argument that could be made either way.

After all, Tampa quarterback Trent Dilfer fumbled twice, but each time Lady Luck ruled in his favor when the ball bounced immediately back to him. Another Bucs fumble on what proved to be their first scoring drive was saved by Viking Robert Griffith, as television replays showed, and incorrectly ruled as out-of-bounds by the referee.

Viking quarterback Brad Johnson seemed to be out of his groove yesterday, not finding a comfortable niche all day long. Normally sure-handed Cris Carter, perhaps trying a bit too hard, fumbled on a possible scoring drive in the second half. In short, the offense just wasn’t clicking.

But truth be told, the Buccaneers were a solid football team in 1997. They had an incredibly fast running back in Warrick Dunn, and in Mike Alstott, they had a full back whose heart and determination to never quit was seen in his second-effort touchdown run in the first half. The Bucs defense had three sacks on Johnson who seemed to have trouble reading the varying coverage patterns played out by their defensive backfield.

Earlier in the morning, at the Viking Underground Tailgate Party, I spoke to the group present on what I saw as the keys to a game win. I told them that we needed to pressure Dilfer into passing situations and make him throw more than 25 times. I believed the Vikings could establish a complete running game either up the middle or outside, utilizing Leroy Hoard or Robert Smith, knowing that the Bucs could not defend both. Instead it was the Vikings quarterback being harassed and throwing more than 25 times and the Tampa running combination, Alstott inside-Dunn outside, that burned up the running yardage.

The Viking players were obviously frustrated. At one point in the game, Hoard, after running into a pile of players for no gain, picked up the ball and threw it directly at Viking offensive coordinator Brian Billick. Hoard, nursing a sore hamstring, was seen little after that.

It was my opinion that Billick was perhaps over-coaching the offense too much, trying hard to draw attention away from NFC leading rusher Robert Smith by utilizing Charles Evans and throwing too much on first down. We had the tools to be a high-scoring offensive team, and with a relatively young and inexperienced quarterback, perhaps a simpler approach would have been the answer.

The thing to keep in mind is that the Vikings were still 2-1 going into Green Bay. A win at Lambeau Field, ending the Packer home winning streak at 24, would renew the Viking confidence we saw in the closing minutes of the Chicago Bears game earlier this month. The Packers would not be at full strength and would not have nose tackle Gilbert Brown or strong safety LeRoy Butler available for the game. After losing to the Philadelphia Eagles the previous week, the Packers did not look good in their win over a mediocre Miami Dolphins in Green Bay.

It would be a real gut-check for the Vikings after such a loss at our home opener. We were all interested see if they wanted to come back to the Metrodome as a 3-1 team or a 2-2 team.

The Viking Underground Social at the Atlas restaurant on the Saturday night before the home opener was mildly successful with about 15 people turning out over three and one-half hours. The food received many compliments, especially the steamed mussels. The Viking Underground Game Day Tour consisting of pregame access to the field was hugely successful with nearly 40 people joined by another group of 40 from Kentucky. The Viking Underground Tailgate Party was also highly successful with fans from California, Georgia, Indiana, Wisconsin, South Dakota, and Iowa attending. Ragnar told me afterwards that he had heard about the tailgate party and planned to make an appearance at the Philadelphia game party in two weeks.

Posted by maasx003 at 8:27 AM
October 17, 2004
1997 Summary Continued: Week 2 at Chicago

The 1997 Season

Note: 1997 was the first season that I wrote down thoughts the entire year. Therefore, the 1997 season summary will come in multiple additions to my blog. Today's 1997 entry will be Week 2 at Chicago thoughts.

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Week Two: at Chicago

The clock read :37 on the scoreboard at Soldier Field. Minnesota Viking quarterback Brad Johnson was approaching the offensive line, and I spied Chris Walsh setting up on the left side. I turned to Jason Neuhring, my gracious Chicago host, and mouthed “touchdown.” The entire crowd was on its feet, the Bears fans expending as much energy to rally their defense as they did in spewing every epithet known to mankind in my direction.

In spite of the verbal assault on my appearance, my mother, my heritage and my team affiliation, I stood as Johnson did at the line: proud, poised and confident. This cock-suredness I had obtained the day before at Jason’s house during my visit to his Viking shrine.

We had spent the afternoon watching old NFL films of the Vikings. One in particular, the 1977 regular season game against the San Francisco 49ers, brought back a flood of memories. That game was significant for many reasons in addition to being the NFL Game of the Week. Down 21-0 late in the third quarter, then-coach Bud Grant brought in a young, proud, poised and confident quarterback to spark his team to a seemingly impossible victory. And the legend of Two-Minute Tommy was born as Kramer led the Vikings to a 28-27 come-from-behind victory.

As Jason’s youngest daughter, Autumn, signaled “touchdown” at the last Kramer score, I knew the stage was set for the next-day battle with the Bears. I knew that whatever the circumstances, the Vikings would win the game.

Later that afternoon we traveled to the O’Hare Hilton to see if the team had arrived yet. Parking my car, I looked into my rearview mirror only to see a Wisconsin plate reflected back. I began to complain to Jason that I can’t seem to travel anywhere without having some Cheesehead in my face.

Then I looked closer and read that Wisconsin plate. “GO VIKES” is what it said. That could only be one person, I thought to myself, then Viking E-Mail discussion list administrator Mark Gresbach. After greeting each other, our attention quickly turned to the sidewalk where Randall Cunningham and David Palmer were hanging out. We expressed our good wishes to them and proceeded to the lobby to greet Corey Fuller dressed to the nines: a killer on the field, a lady-killer off.

Quickly dumping off bags in our room, we moved to the Hilton sports bar to set up shop for the Viking Underground Social. Towards midnight we bid offensive-line coach Mike Tice and special teams coach Gary Zauner good night and good luck, then stuck around some more until we finally got kicked out ourselves at closing time. Still at the table were Jason; Mark; the just-flown- in-from- Salt Lake City Todd Grove; the nine-hour road trip gang from Nashville: Gordie Niles, Tom Brunsvold and John “Juice” Hewitson; and me. Earlier in the evening we had been joined by Dan Hildreth and his father and Scott O’Connor, Jon Mielke and their wives. Viking talk was non-stop. Viking trivia was played and stories were told, the best perhaps by Jon.

Jason and I had been talking about the 1996 Viking NFL Films clip in which Randle wore a microphone during last year’s Carolina game. During one segment, Randle is seen in pre-game warm-ups, stomping around his teammates and yelling, “Big Dog gotta eat, Big Dog gotta eat!”

Jon overheard us and began to tell of the time he had shown up very early for a Viking home game and was waiting outside the players’ entrance, intent on getting some autographs. The very first player to arrive was Randle. Finding the door locked, Randle began to pound on the door with his big paws, yelling, “Big Dog gotta got to work! Open up! Big Dog gotta go to work!” Jon thought they eventually had to replace the door because it had taken such a beating.

The next morning we were up at 5:00 a.m. and on the road at 7:00 a.m. Spying another Viking flag in the south parking upon our arrival at Soldier Field, we quickly headed for it and set up camp, only to be joined by many more Viking fans. As Gordie began cooking for the group, showing off that southern hospitality, I spied an older gentleman nearby wearing a Vikings cap. I grabbed one of the Viking shirts I had to give away and went over to him. We began to chat. Finding out I had stayed at the team hotel, he asked if I had seen Pete Bercich. I told him that I had but it was hard to recognize him since his haircut. Laughing, the gentleman said that the haircut had been about time. You see, he was Pete’s father.

Back at the Viking Underground Tail Gate Party, it was time for breakfast. It was now about 8:00 a.m., and the lot was almost completely full. The verbal abuse was just beginning and would not stop until the gun sounded in the fourth quarter. But we dished out enough of our own trash talk to make Orlando Thomas and Corey Fuller proud. Only once did it turn ugly when a fight broke out nearby after the game. Believe me, the parking lot was a powder keg ready to blow, and no Viking fan was allowed to run the Bears gauntlet to the bathrooms without having at least two other Viking supporters with him or her.

At the same time, a common thread amongst Bear and Viking fans was found: mutual hatred of the Packers. During the post-game tailgate party, Viking and Bear fan alike listened to the Packer-Eagles game with great interest. One Bears fan had a life-sized Packer doll strung up on his flag pole, and after the game, placed it on the ground and allowed everyone, be they Viking or Bear, to stomp the effigy to our hearts’ content.

Later that evening as I filled up my truck with gas, I listened to the Pack line up for what could be an eventual game-winning field goal. I was nauseated as much with that possibility as I was with the Packer announcers who are as cocky as the players on the team. I heard them refer to the kicker as having the “eye of the tiger.” When the kicker missed, not only did I yell, so did everyone else filling up with gas just outside of Chicago. The Packers didn’t have the eye of the tiger after all. Neither they nor the Dallas Cowboys later that evening could triumph in a game they were suppose to win on the road. When it came to crunch time, they both folded.

Johnson had taken that snap from Jeff Christy and looked right towards Jake Reed and Cris Carter, then immediately turned to his left and threw a perfect pass to his roommate Chris Walsh.

A big pressure game. A big drive at the end. Three playoff teams from last year found themselves in the same scenario yesterday. Only one came away victorious.

The slogan “Have YOU checked out our Johnson yet” was born?

Posted by maasx003 at 9:48 AM
October 16, 2004
1997 Summary Continued: Week 1, at Buffalo

The 1997 Season

Note: 1997 was the first season that I wrote down thoughts the entire year. Therefore, the 1997 season summary will come in multiple additions to my blog. Today's 1997 entry will be Week 1 at Buffalo thoughts.

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Week One: at Buffalo

A seemingly impossible case to solve. A call goes out for Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson? No, for this was no literary case but instead a mystery of the sporting kind: The Buffalo Bills 3-4 defense that up until opening day of the 1997 season had remained unsolved by the Minnesota Vikings.

Instead of Holmes, we found Viking offensive coordinator Brian Billick. Playing the surgeon, Dr. Watson, was the young quarterback Brad Johnson.

The strong, masterful personality of Billick dominated the play calling from the sidelines. The surgical preciseness of Johnson’s arm dominated on the playing field, and all the supporting cast were equally puppets in his hands.

We could imagine the following conversation on the Viking sideline right before kick-off:

BB: Come, Dr. Johnson! The game is afoot!
BJ: My good Billick. Have you solved the singular case of the 3-4 defense?
BB: Elementary, my dear Johnson, elementary!
BJ: Enlighten me, old boy!
BB: Inside to CC in the first half, then let Robert Smith run all day in the second.

Sherlock Billick’s game plan went as planned in the first half as Dr. Johnson threw at will to Cris Carter for seven first half receptions and one touchdown. In the second half, Robert Smith took any remaining steam out of the Bills’ defense when he ran untouched for a 78-yard touchdown, the longest run of his Viking career. Smith did receive a tongue lashing from Carter, though, for laughing towards the end of his run as Cris was busily blocking, ensuring the Smith touchdown.

Then, as from a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle novel, came the “Hounds of the Sackervilles” defense. John “Big Dog” Randle, Ed “Mad Dog” McDaniel and Robert “Junkyard Dog” Griffith all delivered memorable hits on various Bill players that they undoubtedly felt well into the next week. But the game was put out of reach when Jeff “Hound Dog” Brady went sniffing for a fumble and came up with his first NFL touchdown on a 30-yard fumble recovery when Bills quarterback Todd Collins dropped the snap from center. Orlando “Howlin’ Dog” Thomas and Dewayne “Huntin’ Dog” Washington came up with interceptions for the Vikes while Dixon “Pretty Dog” Edwards had a fumble recovery as the “Hounds of the Sackervilles” defense came up with four Bills’ turnovers. “Big Dog” Randle came away with two sacks to lead the team.

The first challenge of the season was accepted and met by Sherlock Billick and Dr. Johnson and impressively so. And it made for a good read.

Posted by maasx003 at 6:30 PM
1997 Summary Continued: Kick-Off Luncheon

The 1997 Season

Note: 1997 was the first season that I wrote down thoughts the entire year. Therefore, the 1997 season summary will come in multiple additions to my blog. Today's 1997 entry will be Kick-Off Luncheon thoughts.

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1997 Kick-Off Luncheon

In August of 1997 it was my pleasure once again to attend the annual Viking Kick-Off Luncheon held at the Minneapolis Hilton on Monday. All the players and coaches were in attendance with a good time had by fan and Viking alike. In years past I had the good fortune to sit with Vencie Glenn, Scottie Graham and Jack Del Rio.

This year I was able to reserve a table for the fellow Viking fans in my company, and we were honored to have the pleasure of dining with none other than Chris Walsh. Chris, like all the previous players, was a great conversationalist and gentleman letting everyone get in questions and comments, answering each and every one with the same seriousness as the question before. Here were some comments from Chris:

On the cuts: Everyone gets cut eventually. My advice is to try and prolong it as long as possible.

On being compared to Fred Biletnikoff: (laughs) I hear that and I hear Steve Largent a lot. Steve Tasker too.

On what he says to the defensive backs he scores touchdowns on: I say, “Don’t feel bad. I do it to all you guys.”

On playing special teams this year: I think they’re [the coaches] going to put me into the ground this year, playing special teams and third receiver (laughs). We were just talking about that. It’s a lot of plays to be involved with doing both.

On the 3-4 defense: Yeah, we’ve been having some difficulties because they’ve been going with the quicker linebackers out there. We end up having Todd Steussie who is like 330 pounds on a linebacker who is 200 to 250 pounds. We can get around that with a good run game but with the passing game, it makes it harder for a guy like Korey Stringer or Todd to keep up quickness-wise with those speedy linebackers. Kind of give-and-take a little bit.

On the game plan: We always try to take advantage of the other teams’ weaknesses. Every week we have between 80 and 100 plays that go into a game plan. We probably have 200 to 300 total offensive plays. We just vary depending on what the opposing defense does. The game has become so specialized it’s become a game of mismatches. Who can you get the best advantage on a mismatch? Like David Palmer. There’s no linebacker in the league who can cover him. If they bring in a defensive back to cover Palmer, which means a linebacker will be on Cris Carter. That’s a mismatch. If they bring in six or seven defensive backs, we’re going to run the ball on them. It’s like a chess game, they make a move and we make a move and they make another move to counter it and we make another move to go against what they do.

Cris Carter also got up to speak mid-way through the luncheon. Here’s the best part of what he had to say:

“Good afternoon. How’s everyone doing? (smattering of applause) Come on, let’s get more excited! (louder applause) As Denny [Green] said earlier, it’s nice to be associated with the Vikings. It’s nice that we do have a very wide variety of young gentlemen on the football team who not only play well on the field but who are involved in the community. We love the community.

And we do realize, being Minnesota Vikings, that we are role models. We don’t have the Charles Barkley philosophy that ‘he’s not a role model’. I’m glad he said that because I don’t want him to be a role model for our kids. But I think as Vikings we understand that, yes, we are in the community; yes, we are a big part of the community; and yes, we do have a lot of young people who are looking up to us.

But that’s only a part of it. The other part of it is when we go onto the field, we have to be able to throw on those helmets, throw on those uniforms and let people know that, yes, we are proud to be part of Minnesota and the Vikings.

We have a very exciting team this year. The good thing about this year’s team is that the core of our team is effectively our draft picks of the past four or five years. We don’t have that many veterans. We don’t have that many younger players but the core of our team comes from Todd Steussie, Korey Stringer, Orlando Thomas, Corey Fuller, Dewayne Washington and those people who as younger players had to play key roles probably before they were ready to play key roles. Because the system now in the NFL is as soon as you draft a player he has to be ready to play.

And now those players, Derrick Alexander and Fernando Smith and those players, are the core group of our team. They’re going to lead our team to the successes that we expect from one another. And even the expectations that the community has for us are nothing compared to the expectations the 53 players on the final roster have for one another.

When we take the field this weekend, we’re taking names and we’re kicking butt (loud applause and whistles). Even the people in Minnesota aren’t convinced that we can win a championship. But don’t be concerned because the people that we do have on the team, the coaching staff, and the organization realize that this is the most exciting team that we’ve had in the six years since Denny’s been here. We’re going to take the field and do the best we can.

And just because you lose games don’t mean you lose the battle. We know that there will be potholes along the way. We know it’s going to be a long, hard journey, but we’re willing to sacrifice and do what ever it takes so that we might be able to win a championship. And trust me, we don’t look at the Packers and look at them as the champs. Because they are going to have to come here and win, and we’re going to Lambeau and win this year.

Get excited about the Vikings this year and we’ll bring a championship to you (loud applause and whistles).”

We also heard from Dennis Green throughout the luncheon. The following is what Denny had to say about Buffalo, which was the opener in 1997:

“For us it starts this Sunday at Buffalo, a team that we’ve played before in the regular season and a team that we’ve played before in the pre-season. The pre-season and regular season are as different as night and day. We have determined in our minds that when we go on the road for three of the first four games, we have to have the kind of mental toughness that will enable us to really deal with it.

There’s going to be 80,000 fans at Rich Stadium in Buffalo. Those 80,000 fans really support their team. Their team has been to the playoffs seven of the past eight years. They’re going to come out onto the football field ready to play.
We’re going to go on a business trip. We’re going to get on an airplane and fly out there with one thing on our mind. We’re not going to be worrying about if the steak’s cooked right or the airplane ride. We know from the time we leave Minneapolis what we’re going there for. We’re not going to Buffalo for a trip. We’re going for a business trip to win a football game and it’s going to be a great football game.

Get your favorite chair or spot and sit down and watch this football game.”

Needless to say, everybody left this pep rally anxious for the season to begin.

Posted by maasx003 at 8:33 AM
October 15, 2004
1997 Summary Continued: Summer & Training Camp

The 1997 Season

Note: 1997 was the first season that I wrote down thoughts the entire year. Therefore, the 1997 season summary will come in multiple additions to my blog. Today's 1997 entry will be Summer & Training Camp thoughts.

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June

During the first few weeks of June you’ll find the Maas family busy at work cultivating flower and vegetable gardens. For the he-man reading this article and thinking he’s about to be turned off by the thought of gardening, keep this in mind: the more gardens you have, the less you’ll have to mow.

The structure of landscaping gardens often evolves from practical needs: you may want to view a variety of hues as you sit under an ivy-covered terrace. You may want to put in wild grasses that you romped in as a youth or trees and climbing vines to block the putrid team colors of your non-Viking fan neighbor.

But, no matter how you satisfy it, even the most mundane requirement of gardening can add meaning to your life. My wife and I plant based on our family histories and the beloved colors of purple and gold. We have created contrasts of wild and cultivated scenery to offer an experience suggestive of the endless life cycle. Thus, memories and metaphor find expression in the earth.

One of the richest metaphors in planning a successful garden, and in building a successful football team, is the journey. Both need stopping points for observation and insight. In gardening, the ritual of walking a garden path acknowledges our life and its gifts. A garden path often wanders in and out of sunshine, uphill and down, past art-filled and empty spaces. The walk can have an air of mystery, obscuring views, then offering glimpses of brilliance through the hedges. The garden path can help you recount the things you’ve read and places you’ve been, and in the process, find inspiration for future possibilities. The best of gardeners is always in motion.

With free agency and the lack of player loyalty to any one football franchise, Dennis Green, the Viking gardener, found himself and his coaching staff in constant motion. His garden walks at Winter Park, home of the Minnesota Vikings, found him wandering in and out of sunshine as the team has a terrific regular season winning percentage but no playoff wins. There were the cloudy days of off-field allegations coupled with the sunny brilliance of the birth of a beautiful baby girl. The Vikings have had an uphill time against the bigger NFC East teams while thoroughly dominating the NFC Central with the result being two years of wild-card entries in hostile domains and two upsets at home, smacking of an air of mystery as to just how good this team can be.

Seasonal injuries to key players, which can obscure the view of the entire team, have often led to glimpses of brilliance yet to come, something I observed while peering from the sidelines at Winter Park. Scottie Graham, James Stewart and Leroy Hoard fertilized the need at running back as the injury bug infested Robert Smith’s knee. Brad Johnson, the seedling planted and cultivated by Green, had matured into a mighty oak, ready to be admired by the masses of football fans everywhere.

Walking the path to his office, Dennis Green must each day recount the things the Vikings have done and the places they’ve been, giving him inspiration for future possibilities. Team photos from the dominating seventies and late eighties, the Hall of Fame photos of Fran Tarkenton, Bud Grant and Alan Page, give constant reminders of a winning program. Everyday Green stopped along that path for observation and insight and to reflect on his coaching journey of cultivating a successful football team.

July

In July of 1997 I treated Jeff Dohn, head football coach at a Missoula, Montana high school, to a private tour of Winter Park, home of the Minnesota Vikings. As we waited in the lobby, Cris Carter’s wife Melanie, told the receptionist to let Cris know she was there to pick him up and joked that he should be out “within five minutes or take a taxi back to the hotel.” Well, guess what? Cris, liked any married man, obeyed and appeared in the lobby sooner than the five minute allotted by his beautiful wife. While waiting for Cris to appear, Melanie renewed an acquaintance with another football wife, Mrs. Randall Cunningham.

Jeff’s biggest thrill was to visit with Strength and Conditioning assistant coach Jeff Friday as we observed DT Jason Fisk and QB Todd Bouman go through a series of reps. Fisk looked to be in excellent shape as he moved through the various drills. Roger Headrick was hard at work behind his desk, but all of the coaching staff was on vacation except for retired head coach Bud Grant who made an appearance in one of the hallways

Training Camp

Training camp finally rolled around and it appeared that Lady Luck had finally swung back to the side of the Minnesota Vikings. She had been missing the past few years and had finally tired of wearing cheese on her head and opted instead to wear a more regal purple crown. Case in point during early preseason games: Moe Williams caught a 65-yard touchdown off the shoulder pads while Green Bay Packer (The Team Formerly Known As The Super Bowl Champions) lost its starting running back, Edgar Bennett, for the season.

While other teams were having trouble just attempting to bring players into camp, the Vikings had all its players reporting, including the rookie crop from the past two years. And what a crop it was.

The left side of the offensive line: Todd Steussie and Randall McDaniel would prove to be a formidable foe for the defense. Having worked together for four years, they had become one unit and would serve Brad Johnson well.

Cris Carter: One early football rag had said Cris was on the declining side of his career. Cris served up notice to that writer that he should do more research before putting pen to paper.

Leroy Hoard: Shades of Bill “Boom-Boom” Brown, the best north to south runner of all-time? The Vikings did well to resign Leroy as he would break many a linebacker’s resolve that season.

First down play calling: Brian Billick came to a game well-prepared, and it showed in the amount of turf the Vikings ate up on first down.

Brad Johnson: Brad had worked hard that off-season. He wanted to prove the previous year was not a fluke and that he deserved the millions he signed for.

Defensive Backs: Dennis Green was justifiably concerned about the state of his defensive backfield going into the season. With slight injuries to Corey Fuller (hamstring) and Dewayne “Toast” Washington (back), his fear was solid. But Fuller and Washington had several outstanding plays during the preseason to tell me that their play would be elevated that coming season.

Robert Tate: Qadry who? Tate was burning up the sidelines in training camp and in preseason games.

The drives: A 93-yard and a 98-yard drive, pre-season or not, is nothing to laugh at. These drives were sustained by key plays, and for the most part, penalty-free. It set the tone for a ball control offense in 1997.

Of course I would be remorse to not mention some problems the Vikings would worry about in 1997.

Right side of offensive line: Yeah, Korey Stringer and David Dixon are big, over 700 pounds of beef, but they only got passing grades on pass protection and failing grades on run blocking during preseason games. They both needed improvement by the time the regular season began.

Second down play calling: Every so often the Vikings failed to pick up ten yards on first down. Maybe it was just pre-season experimentation, but Billick’s play calling on second down was atrocious. Especially the use of David Palmer out of run formation. But Billick never shied away from using Palmer in the backfield and it actually worked during the ‘97and ’98 seasons.

Delay of games:. If the play or formation isn’t sent in fast enough, the result is delay of game. Billick and Special Teams Coach, Gary Zauner, still had some major work to do in this area.

Drive-stopping penalties: Johnson had several preseason drives stopped because of stupid penalties, especially inside the red zone. This was something that haunted the Vikes n 1996 and is something that Dennis Green would not tolerate again in 1997.

Place kickers: Anybody got Fuad Reveiz’s home phone number? Anytime that our place kickers took the field, I just shut my eyes. The 1997 season would end up with journeyman Eddie Murray kicking for the Vikings.

Preparing for the 1997 Season

Around the Minneapolis area and around the country many Vikings fans were gearing up for the coming season. There was the Second Annual Viking Fan Club Convention fast approaching. Jim Allgren of Youngstown, Ohio, reported a great Viking turnout at Canton for a preseason game as the Vikings participated in the Hall of Fame game to open the preseason. NFL Films caught the purple fans in action. It was one of the very last times ol’ Jim got to have that much fun as he was married on August 24. Viking Underground shirts went on sale with a portion of the proceeds going to the Viking Children’s Fund.

In 1997 the Vikings could actually go into the season with an air of cockiness at the quarterback position. You know all those pennies you saved and saved for a rainy day? Remember the feeling you got when those pennies paid off, and you finally obtained what you’d been thinking about for an extended length of time? Well, my Purple readers, Brad Johnson was starting to look like the pay off for all our savings.

Ask Viking fans to describe their emotions when Brad trots onto the field, and you hear many a splendored thing. As for myself, each time he took the field, I felt confidence.

Back in the early 90’s I knew Sean Salisbury was taking the field because my heart was pounding, my palms were sweaty, and my mouth was dry. I wasn’t confident. When Brad jogged to the huddle from the sidelines, my heart beats slowly, I have two thumbs up, and I wore a confident smirk on my face. This was not a random sensation.

During my first year in college I took a class in which I studied randomness. I learned that building a machine to generate truly random numbers is impossible. Most people probably feel that the universe is not only random; it is perversely so. Most football fans feel that acquiring a truly great NFL quarterback is also random, a roll of the dice. But serious mathematicians all know that there is no mathematical trick, no equation, capable of producing a truly random series of numbers. The current Viking coaching staff understood there was no draft day trick, no hope capable of producing the truly random discovery of an NFL quarterback who could dominate the league.

The birth of a great NFL quarterback isn’t a big machine built cunningly by the Cosmic Coach nor is it a roulette wheel where the atoms rattle around like white balls, settling each team’s fate by chance alone. No. The birth is something else, something in between, something weird, something completely numerical that remains quite unpredictable.

For example: Pour a glass of quarterback DNA into the ocean and wait a few years for that DNA to mix with all the other DNA in the ocean. Go down to the beach again and scoop a glass of DNA back from the sea. The water you scoop out will contain several molecules of DNA you poured in several years back.

Surprised?

The explanation is simple. There are far more DNA molecules in a single glass of water than there are glasses of water in the ocean. Brad Johnson was our single glass of DNA in a sea of Salisbury’s, Rich Gannon’s, Jim McMahon’s and Warren Moons. What the Viking coaching staff had done with that single glass was amazing.

The development of a great NFL quarterback can be looked at as a random event without cause. Think of it as a veil through which we, the fans, cannot pass, an ephemeral, flimsy veil, a barrier more mental than physical, yet totally impenetrable.

I can imagine this veil to be like a curtain blowing in an open window on a summer night. The Viking coaching staff is the warm breeze making the veil dance. The veil begins to whisper to us. It tells us something special is being born. All we have to do is listen with all our attention and the veil will tell us all we need to know.

The Viking coaching staff behind this veil was still at work, crafting the emerging Brad Johnson, solving for the first time the great puzzle of the offense. Just like us, they were eager to find out what will happen next.

Posted by maasx003 at 8:55 AM
October 14, 2004
1997 Summary

The 1997 Season

Note: 1997 was the first season that I wrote down thoughts the entire year. Therefore, the 1997 season summary will come in multiple additions to my blog. Today's 1997 entry will be Key Draft Picks and Off-Season thoughts.

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1997 (9-7): Fourth in NFC Central
Head Coach: Dennis Green

8/31 W 34-13 @ Buffalo 79,139
9/7 W 27-24 @ Chicago 59,263
9/14 L 14-28 Tampa Bay 63,697
9/21 L 32-38 @ Green Bay 60,115
9/28 W 28-19 Philadelphia 55,149
10/5 W 20-19 @ Arizona 45,550
10/12 W 21-14 Carolina 62,625
10/26 W 10-6 @ Tampa Bay 66,815
11/2 W 23-18 New England 62,917
11/9 W 29-22 Chicago 63,443
11/16 L 15-38 @ Detroit 68,910
11/23 L 21-23 @ N.Y. Jets 77,716
12/1 L 11-27 Green Bay 64,001
12/7 L 17-28 @ San Francisco 55,761
12/14 L 13-14 Detroit 60,982
12/21 W 39-28 Indianapolis 54,107
NFC First-Round Playoffs
12/27 W 23-22 @ N.Y. Giants 77,170
NFC Divisional Playoffs
1/3/98 L 22-38 @ San Francisco 65,018

Key Draft Picks

The first day of the draft for 1997 found yours truly sitting in the VIP section of the Minnesota Viking Draft Party at the Mall Of America. While everyone and their mother, and grandmother, gave their two-cents on who was drafted, I attempted to build a story on how Viking alumni and current players spent the day behind the scenes at the Draft Party.

I must briefly touch on the satellite Draft Party held in Fargo, North Dakota, in one of the few dry establishments to be found because of the massive flooding by the Red River that spring. On the Saturday morning of the draft a weary sandbagger could look up to see the likes of Dave Osborn, Carl Eller, Mick Tinglehoff and Bud Grant filling hundreds of sandbags in a effort to save an already devastated town. Ed McDaniel visited local hospitals to help spread smiles all around. A bone weary Bud Grant called into the Minneapolis radio station WCCO late in the day to talk draft but instead spoke on the hearts and courage of the local residents in Fargo and nearby Grand Forks.

At the Draft Party locally, I found myself alone in the VIP section at 9 a.m. The main doors had yet to open so I decided to catch up on reading the expert opinions. But halfway into the first paragraph, in walked former Viking great Bill Brown and current Viking center Jeff Christy. After exchanging pleasantries, Jeff and I found ourselves in the middle of another of those great Bill Brown stories that only he could tell.

The subject of training camp had come up and Bill told us that the ride down to Mankato could be an exceptionally exciting one if you happened to find yourself sitting shotgun with one Jim Marshall. Seems Marshall had a penchant for driving fast and his car had a dashboard full of every radar detector known to mankind. Brown remembered one such drive, speeding along at 85 mph himself when he spied a fast moving car quickly approaching him from behind. It was Marshall. Going about 130 mph according to Brown. Marshall always took back roads because Bud Grant would have had a fit if Marshall would have been caught. Another player, according to Brown, had purchased a Jaguar just to outrun Marshall. The player was picked up one night returning to the Twin Cities, the Jag alongside the road, both rear tires blown out, trying to keep up with Marshall, the unnamed player muttering to himself.

I asked Jeff Christy which position he wanted the Vikings to draft for, which position was the greatest need. “Guard”, replied the young center. Christy had talked with fellow offensive lineman Everett Lindsay the night before about his play in the WLAF. Lindsay had been player of the week for his outstanding play. Lindsay had reported back that the league was somewhat of a joke but that he was getting into great shape and was awaiting training camp with much enthusiasm.

The draft started and Viking players and former greats filtered in and out of the VIP area all day long. James Manley, Duane Clemons, Jeff Brady, Greg DeLong, Brown, Christy, Leo Lewis, Ricky Young and Mike Morris to name a few. When the Vikings announced their first pick, Dewayne Rudd, Morris looked up from his table and muttered, “Who?” and when told it was an outstanding linebacker from Alabama he proclaimed that it was a great pick for the Vikings. Meanwhile, starting middle linebacker Jeff Brady quickly left the VIP area with his agent, which I was unable to confirm. Brady was later on WCCO radio touting the pick as a great one for the Vikings and that Rudd would be an outstanding addition to the team.

Off-Season

Ownership

After the 1996 season ended the Viking board of directors submitted a proposal to the NFL laying forth their plan to comply with the NFL’s request that at least one member of the ten member Viking board own at least 30% of the team. The plan stated that the end of 1997 would complete the process. The NFL agreed, and everyone started to look for a real power struggle between Roger Headrick and the team of Wheelock Whitney and Jaye Dyer for that 30% ownership.

Questions About The Coach

During the off-season much of the discussion amongst Viking Fans On-Line members was focused on Dennis Green as the head coach. This topic has annually popped up after each season and it usually signifies the midway point of the off-season when Viking fans look for anything to talk about. This topic usually lasts two weeks until the focus then turns to the NFL draft, traditionally one of Green’s strengths.

By the 1997 draft Green had proven that he knew talent as proved by the players his coaching staff had developed since 1992. The names were many: Brad Johnson, Robert Smith, Jake Reed, Hunter Goodwin, Andrew Jordan, Todd Steussie, Korey Stringer, Jeff Christy, David Dixon, Fernando Smith, Derrick Alexander, Corey Fuller, Robert Griffith, Orlando Thomas, Dewayne Washington and Mitch Berger.

I wrote in 1997 that I was hard pressed to come up with a Denny bust unless you looked at the loss of Gilbert Brown who the Vikings lost when they tried to slip him through the waiver wire.

It had already been established that the players loved playing for Green. Cris Carter, R. Smith and F. Smith had all been quoted as saying they’d play for no other team as long as Denny was coaching the Vikings.

So why were the message boards filling up with any debate whatsoever about Denny? It boiled down to the team having a great wealth of young talent and veteran leadership, dedication to a coach and not a single playoff win. How could this be corrected? I met with Stew Widdess, Viking VP of Marketing, in early January and the topic came up. The problems, which were clearly evident, included the lack of revenue for signing bonuses to bring in those one or two big name free agents that could bring the right mix for playoff victories. It also had lead to the decrease in ticket sales over the past two seasons.

In 1997 the Vikings lease agreement with the Metrodome ranked thirtieth in the league for income and only two teams were worse off financially than the Vikings. The Vikings lost money in 1996 so how could they compete financially with Dallas and Carolina who seemed to have deeper pockets? Person A off the street says in order to plunk down forty dollars to see a game at the Dome, the team must first win. But the team can’t win unless it has the income to sign more talented football players and keep the young talent it has. Do we put the horse before the cart or the cart before the horse?

In spite of the small decrease in season ticket sales the Vikings were doing everything possible to accommodate ticket purchasers. Five thousand season tickets were upgraded to better locations in 1996. Roger Headrick had installed a budget into the organization, which benefited front office expenditures. Before that, Mike Lynn had to approve everything from the Herschel Walker signing to a new light bulb for the broom closet that served as Bud Grant’s office. Widdess had become more aggressive in selling corporate sponsorships and ticket sales. He would have liked to see more media control through production of their own radio broadcasts and implementing phase two of his marketing plan to increase suite sales. Prior to Widdess, the Vikings had no such marketing strategy.

In a follow-up meeting with Gina Dillon, Viking Ticket Manager, I found out that season ticket sales were ahead of 1996 despite the modest increase in price amongst the higher priced seats. The implementation of partial season ticket packages was announced when the schedule rolled out in April. This added to an increasing revenue stream and kept the number of television blackouts to a bare minimum or none at all.

So let’s return to our original topic, Dennis Green. We had young, playoff-experienced talent. We had a coach committed to a winning program. We had office personnel aggressively marketing the Vikings to stimulate ticket sales and fan interest. We had an owner aggressively pursuing $140 million to renovate the Dome in the face of the Twins’ proposed stadium plan. All that was needed for the mix were wins, and Minneapolis would be purple crazy once again. The feeling at Winter Park was when that first game rolled around in September, the Metrodome doors won’t be able to open up fast enough.

Free Agents

There are many games in which a professional sports player can go from hero to scapegoat and back again faster than slicing a piece of mozzarella. Ask a Minnesota Viking fan to name such a player in the ‘90s and the unanimous name you’ll hear in return is that of the speedster out of Syracuse: the Missile, Qadry Ismail.

Fans in purple can recall the games in which Qadry played to the crowd as he awaited the kick-off, only to fumble it moments later and turn the ball over. Then, when the game was on the line, Qadry would make a miraculous play to win the game. Such was the case on November 6, 1994, when the Vikings beat New Orleans at the Metrodome with five seconds left after Warren Moon threw a eleven yard touchdown reception to Ismail. The hero.

But there were also those times when Ismail was to be found riding the pine. Ismail was an elite member of Dennis Green’s doghouse, the result of too many ill-timed fumbles, dropped passes, and pass routes run incorrectly. The goat.

This off-season found Ismail shopping his wares around the League, another victim of a team unable or unwilling to meet his salary demands. This is something not uncommon to football fans over the last decade. A marginal player with some impact abilities packing his bags and shuffling off to another team. In fact, it wasn’t all that uncommon in the good old days. But the one thing you hardly every saw in the good old days was a player switching allegiances to play for the hated opposition.

Had Ismail gone to the New Orleans Saints as was initially rumored, I wouldn’t have had a problem with it. In fact, the Q-Man most likely would have been welcomed warmly on a return visit back to the Metrodome.

Had Ismail gone to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which was also reportedly in the works, I would have winced slightly, thinking that Qadry would have had better fashion sense than to be seen playing professional football in the obtrusive colors of the Bucs. On a return visit, he most certainly would have heard a smattering of the boos expected for a player jumping to another team in the Central Division, albeit the Hapless Buccaneers.

But on Friday, May 30, Qadry Ismail committed a capital crime. He signed with the Green Bay Packers. Ismail must have understood what he was doing and that he would get what was coming to him on September 21 and December 1 of the coming season when the two teams collide. Being crazy enough to sign with the most hated rival in Viking history is considered a sickness. And they shoot mad dogs right? But it was not meant to be as the Packers cut Ismail before the season even started.

Posted by maasx003 at 11:21 AM
October 13, 2004
Funny of the Week

Hit a man when he's down, I always say. Yes, I am relishing in the fact that the Packers are pathetic. Even more so, I loved the torrent of boos raining down on Lambeau Field this past Monday night. This from Packers fans who've always told me, "We'll always support the team, no matter what the record." Bah! Take a gander at this photo Cheeseheads:

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Posted by maasx003 at 11:27 AM
1996 Summary

The 1996 Season

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1996 (9-7): Second in NFC Central
Head Coach: Dennis Green

9/1 W 17-13 Detroit 52,972
9/8 W 23-17 @ Atlanta 42,688
9/15 W 20-14 @ Chicago 61,301
9/22 W 30-21 Green Bay 64,168
9/29 L 10-15 @ N. Y. Giants 70,970
10/6 W 14-12 Carolina 60,894
10/13 L 13-24 @ Tampa Bay 32,175
10/28 L 13-15 Chicago 60,774
11/3 L 6-21 Kansas City 59,552
11/10 L 23-42 @ Seattle 50,794
11/17 W 16-13 OT @ Oakland 41,183
11/24 L 17-21 Denver 59,142
12/1 W 41-17 Arizona 45,767
12/8 W 24-22 @ Detroit 46,043
12/15 W 21-20 Tampa Bay 49,302
12/22 L 10-38 @ Green Bay 59,306
NFC First-Round Playoffs
12/28 L 15-40 @ Dallas 64,682

Key Draft Picks

The 1996 draft could be selected as Green’s worst draft in his tenure as the head-coach of the Vikings. With the 16th overall pick the Vikings selected a tweener defensive lineman/linebacker out of California, Duane Clemons. Defensive tackle James Manley was chosen in the second-round. Kentucky running back Moe Williams was selected in the third-round and was followed in the fourth by tight-end Hunter Goodwin.

Season Summary

Kansas City

By the time the Vikings played the Kansas City Chiefs at the halfway point of the 1996 season they were 5-3 and had just lost two straight. But that day proved to be a turning point for the organization as it proved the Vikings had not only national but worldwide appeal as well. Glenn Christian and Greg Steed hopped an overnight train from Little Rock, Arkansas. Ike House of Louisiana surprised his wife Robin with airline tickets to watch the Vikings play in person for the first time from the comfort of seats on the 25-yard line. But topping them all was Geoff Reader, a season ticket holder, from Bedford, England. After watching the Purple defeat Green Bay in September, Geoff also witnessed the defeat at the hands of the Bears. Fitting in a short trip to sunny California to escape the flipping (English slang for bloody but more polite) cold weather, Geoff returned to sit alongside this writer to watch our beloved team take on the Kansas City Chiefs.

After escorting the House’s to the ticket office for a personal tour of the sacred playing field, Geoff and I were off in search of several pints of bitter. After muddling through several pints we went in search of Chief’s fans that were dressed as bad as Sloane Rangers. We found several mucking about outside Gate B and they began taunting us, feeling confident because of recent Viking injuries and thinking the Chiefs had the Vikes by the short and curlies. Not being afraid to say boo to a goose, I quickly engaged in a colorful rhetoric with these toffee-nosed fans dressed in red. Having arrived the night before from Kansas City, they soon discovered they were trying to teach someone’s grandmother to suck eggs. In short, you can’t teach Albert Einstein about the theory of relativity and you can’t shake Mr. Cheer Or Die with tripe. They walked away quickly, wishing they had come better prepared.

The Vikings soon wished they had come better prepared as well. For the Chiefs were animals that day as I’m sure the national viewing audience noticed. They were indestructible creatures made of sticks and stones and ball bearings. Their mission was clear: win anyway possible. The overspill of boo’s erupting from the stands voiced the fans disappointment as the Vikings suffered a malicious wounding.

The Vikings had found themselves in a sticky wicket as a result of three bad calls on a Kansas City drive shortly before half-time. The letters on the back of this particular zebra’s jersey said “SJ” but I found out afterwards it wasn’t for Side Judge but rather the letters stood for Schottenheimer’s Judge. The calls were horrendous, but the play of the Vikings offense in the second half was even worse.

It seemed that offensive coordinator, Brian Billick, had no clear game plan. At times there was mass confusion on the sidelines as tight ends, running backs, full backs and third receivers were standing wondering whether to go in or go out of the huddle. And although the line only allowed one sack of Brad Johnson today, giving him time to throw, the routes were not finished or the passes were thrown poorly.

After the game came rumblings out of Winter Park that spelled discontent between coaching, the board of directors and the Player Personnel department. Several members of the board of directors were busily shopping for head coaching replacements upsetting the present coaching staff and the rest of the board.

Seattle/Oakland

The next Sunday the Vikings lost 42-23 in Seattle and the wheels appeared to be coming off the bus. Grumblings about Green’s immediate dismal could be heard in the media and radio call in shows. That Friday, Minneapolis was hit with sleet and snow and bitter, burning wind. The lake nearby my home was frozen hard, and its icy grip beckoned me to visit. The sleet cut through my coat, chafed at my cheeks, brought tears to my eyes, and froze them as they trickled down my face. The wind howled around the empty vastness of the lake, forcing itself through every exposed pore of my body.

Out upon the frozen lake, the wind and ice shrieked and snapped as light snow was sent running and swirling over the ice like a strange white beast, a ghostly animal all asparkle, wearing first one shape and then another, changing constantly as it ran. And then, as the Ice Beast slowed momentarily, I recognized the malleable creature. And I smiled, savoring the fury of the Ice Beast being unleashed. For the beast had taken the shape of John Randle. And at that moment I knew the Vikings were assured a victory that Sunday night at Oakland. Jeff Hostetler got to know the Ice Beast too. For when the Ice Beast cometh, there is no protection against his wrath.

On a night when the Viking offense had over 400 total yards but only scored 16 points, the defense once again buckled down and relinquished very little turf. The Ice Beast continually unsettled the Oakland offensive line and sent them backward time and time again. Oakland was powerless to make any changes and was doomed to see the Ice Beast in its backfield again and again, as the game moved to its inevitable conclusion.

It’s safe to say that John Randle is more than the sum of his parts. It’s also safe to say the Vikings would not be playing a part in any postseason activity without him. Close your eyes and picture him drumming his fingers on the turf, moving over one lineman then another. You’d think getting to the quarterback was quite a fashion these days with the Ice Beast. John Randle realizes he is different. He doesn’t want to cause harm but causing a disturbance is something he feels he has to do. And he doesn’t give up until that’s done.

The Vikings had a problem of appearance before this game. Dennis Green knew this and implemented a game plan to change the way Oakland perceived them. That night against Oakland those changes worked and the Vikings weaknesses were not so noticeable. A message had been sent to the teams remaining on the Vikings 1996 schedule. The Ice Beast awaits you.

It was following the Oakland game that Lou Holtz and the ten-headed hydra that served as the Viking board of directors discovered that using the media could be fun. It was not only fun for both of them but there was also a major advantage. Had they discovered that season ticket holders disliked the thought of Holtz becoming Viking head coach, they’d suddenly remember that neither the board nor Holtz had any interest in the first place. If, on the other hand, they had discovered that the fans were clamoring for such a move, they’d announce that nothing immoral or wrong was done during the season. It would be risky to say they had been collaborating all along and the announcement would have been presented in a way to express genuine surprise of Holtz being available. A surprise to all, but fans and media alike.

Coaching is a harsh mistress in the NFL. And Lou Holtz discovered that he was not needed at Winter Park among the ragtag collection of mavericks that then presided on the board. What was needed was for the NFL to present an adrenalinizing, mind-stretching, conviction testing ultimatum to the ten-headed hydra; 30% ownership by one individual and a clear voice to the fans of the Minnesota Vikings. The search for majority ownership had begun but would not be resolved until 1998.

Denver

In week twelve the Vikings hosted a Super Bowl contender, the Denver Broncos. The Vikings lost 21-17 but played the Broncos tough. The leader of the Broncos had done his best to stay out of the vicinity of the Viking onslaught. He was constantly having arms shoved into his shins in the backfield, his feet trod on everywhere, his ribs painfully struck by helmets or shoulder pads. His jersey was so frequently roaming from one defender to another that he finally asked his mentor for a change in formation so that he could stand alone for at least three seconds.

John Elway has found a certain satisfaction in being able to ignore the nuisances of opposing defenses. And for the gazillionth time he rose above the constraints of time perpetrated on him with massive and complete disdain. Elway knew the Vikings knew exactly what he was doing, and there was nothing they could do to thwart him.

A considerable and silent Viking crowd lined the ramps to the Metrodome exits. Previously, a curious rippling groan came from them as if they had been expecting the worst and had been steeling themselves. Viking fans stared straight ahead, lips pressed firmly together, but the redness in the face was evident. John Elway had won again. Plain and simple to me although most fans immediately started talking of bad spots, bad breaks, poor use of time-outs, and batted balls. The Broncos and their followers had come expecting an easy victory. Instead, they found the Vikings had exposed glaring weaknesses. Just as the Purple had done to that other so-called Super Bowl team, the Cheeseheads, in week four.

The Vikings and Dennis Green raised their heads and realized they had a real playoff chance. To one side they could see a spectacular playoff run, the other the crushed pride of a team teeming with talent and half-trapped by what went on behind closed doors at Winter Park. The Broncos had aspirations of a playoff run of their own. But that Sunday, their hearts all but stopped when their motion was almost abruptly turned back by our lads in purple...and what must have seemed like a lot of unnecessary noise coming from the followers of the Minnesota Vikings. Noise, that is, that would continue to build as the decade continued.

Tampa Bay

In week fifteen the Vikes hosted the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Early in the second half Buccaneer quarterback Trent Dilfer came within a cry of The Thunder Zone at the snow covered Metrodome. The purple clad fans found within unfurled their banners, blew upon their horns, and a sarcastic cry of DIL-FER rang out and sent a message for John Randle to unleash his fury. Randle and company did not disappoint.

One could debate the big play of the game. Mitch Berger’s open field tackles or his 64-yard punt that went out on the one-yard line. Leroy Hoard’s avoidance of a safety. All-Pro Cris Carter’s game winning catch late in the fourth quarter. All admirable plays and important in the outcome, for this writer, the outcome was decided by the fans of the Vikings. Their cries were loud. Their hearts were filled with certainty in times of darkness. They beleaguered Dilfer to such an extent that he continually signaled to the sideline that he could not hear. The sounds coming from Viking fans drove against Tampa Bay, piercing their offensive press with the thrust of doom and defeat. The Vikes won their third straight 21-10.

Green Bay

The last week of the season found the Vikings playing at Green Bay. In week four the Vikings had embarrassed the Packers 30-21 to start the season 4-0. Vikings fans knew that a win would carry the Vikings into the season with a four game winning streak. Instead the Purple Faithful tipped their collective hats to the NFC Central Division champs for coming out in the second half of what was, until that time, a very close and hard fought contest. In the first half both teams slugged it out reminiscent of the old black and blue days of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Except for an inexcusable incident by Corey Fuller, the fans at Lambeau Field loved seeing both teams playing their hearts out. And since both teams were playing for little if any playoff significance, they enjoyed seeing players play for the thrill of defeating a hated, yet respected, division rival.

Playoffs

Arguably the toughest division in the NFL in 1996, the NFC Central would be sending two top-flight teams to the playoffs. Packer and Vikings fans were hoping to see the Vikings take on the Pack one more time in a rubber match for the ‘96 season. A defeat of the Dallas Cowboys in a NFC Wild Card game coupled with a win by the 49er’s over the Eagles in the other Wild Card game would lead to such a ballyhooed game and bragging rights for the entire off-season. Alas, it was not to be. Brad Johnson as “tight,” “nervous,” “intimidated.” Such were the dismal adjectives spouted by the buffoon crew of ABC sports consisting of Al “I Hate Minneapolis” Michaels, Frank “I Love My Wife” Gifford, and Dan “I Don’t Deserve to be in the Hall of Fame” Dierdorf in their description of the Minnesota Viking quarterback’s play during his lackluster performance in the early stages of last season’s playoff loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Personally, I was grateful for the sharing of these expert insights, as, silly me, I’d assume the unhindered Cowboy pass rush and run stoppage might have had something to do with Johnson’s predicament.

Then, midway through the first half, Johnson led the Vikings towards the end zone. Dierdorf dutifully observed, “It looks like Johnson is loosening up some.” But then Amp Lee fumbled on a sure touchdown. And the word from the ABC booth? The Cowboy secondary was “pumped.” Meanwhile, faced with a dagger through the heart, the poor Vikings, quoth Gifford, had “tightened up again....”. Game over and Green was now 0-4 in the playoffs and many of us were starting to whisper the F word.

1996 Significant Events

Another significant event happened off the field during the 1996 season. The early precursor to the Viking Underground Fan message board, Viking Fans On-Line, was formed. By seasons end Viking Fans On-Line boasted 500 strong and was represented by members in 47 states and 9 countries. It was directly responsible for the Vikings setting a single day attendance record on September 22, 1996. The Viking Underground web site, begun by Dan Hildreth, was honored in The ‘Net magazine as the best personal NFL football web site. The Viking Underground & the Mr. Cheer Or Die web sites were honored with The Gold Start Trophy award honoring the best in NFL related web sites. Viking Fans On-Line assisted in initiating, creating and developing the very first Viking Fan Club Convention during the 1996 training camp.

Posted by maasx003 at 9:19 AM
1995 Summary

The 1995 Season

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1995 (8-8): Fourth in NFC Central
Head Coach: Dennis Green

9/3 L 14-31 @ Chicago 63,036
9/10 W 20-10 Detroit 52,234
9/17 L 17-23 OT Dallas 60,088
9/24 W 44-24 @ Pittsburgh 57,853
10/8 W 23-17 OT Houston 56,430
10/15 L 17-20 OT @ Tampa Bay 55,703
10/22 L 21-38 @ Green Bay 60,332
10/30 L 6-14 Chicago 61,238
11/5 W 27-24 Green Bay 62,839
11/12 W 30-24 OT @ Arizona 51,342
11/19 W 43-24 New Orleans 58,108
11/23 L 38-44 @ Detroit 74,559
12/3 W 31-17 Tampa Bay 52,879
12/9 W 27-11 Cleveland 47,984
12/18 L 30-37 @ San Francisco 64,975
12/24 L 24-27 @ Cincinnati 34,568

Key Draft Picks

Eight of the Vikings nine selections from the 1995 draft made the final team. Defensive-end Derrick Alexander was a extra first round selection that was part of the Chris Doleman trade the previous season. Also selected in the first round was a huge offensive tackle from Thee Ohio State University, Korey Stringer. Safety Orlando Thomas and cornerback Corey Fuller came along in the second-round. Quarterback Chad May was selected in the fourth-round. Miami running back James Stewart was selected in the fifth-round and was followed by defensive tackles Jose White and Jason Fisk in the seventh.

Season Summary

When David Palmer returned a punt for a touchdown on that ill-fated Thanksgiving Day game against the Detroit Lions, FOX announcer John Madden gushed, “Palmer clearly made up his mind that no one was going to catch him!” A fascinating proposition implying that on prior punt returns, Palmer had chosen to let himself be tackled. The more obvious conclusion: maybe Palmer was, like, faster?--probably never occurred to Madden whose number one priority was to discuss, instead, the proper number of turkey legs on a Thanksgiving Day turkey.

Posted by maasx003 at 9:13 AM
1994 Sumary

The 1994 Season

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1994 (10-6): NFC Central Champions
Head Coach: Dennis Green

9/4 L 10-16 @ Green Bay 59,487
9/11 W 10-3 Detroit 57,349
9/18 W 42-14 @ Chicago 61,073
9/25 W 38-35 Miami 64,035
10/2 L 7-17 @ Arizona 67,950
10/10 W 27-10 @ N.Y. Giants 77,294
10/20 W 13-10 OT Green Bay 63,041
10/30 W 36-13 @ Tampa Bay 42,110
11/6 W 21-20 New Orleans 57,564
11/13 L 20-26 OT @ New England 58,382
11/20 L 21-31 N.Y. Jets 60,687
11/27 L 17-20 OT Tampa Bay 47,259
12/1 W 33-27 OT Chicago 61,483
12/11 W 21-17 @ Buffalo 66,501
12/17 L 19-41 @ Detroit 73,881
12/26 W 21-14 San Francisco 63,326
NFC First-Round Playoffs
1/1/95 L 18-35 Chicago 60,347

Key Draft Picks

The Vikings had two first-round draft choices in 1994. With the 18th overall pick they selected cornerback Dewayne Washington and with the 19th overall pick they selected tackle Todd Steussie. The Vikings had two selections in the second-round and used them to pick wide-receiver David Palmer and defensive-end Fernando Smith. Other 1994 draftees that eventually made the final cut were cornerback Shelly Hammonds, tight-end Andrew Jordan, and linebacker Pete Bercich.

Posted by maasx003 at 9:09 AM
October 12, 2004
Jottings: Week of 10/11/2004

Somebody Punch the Dope

Back in 1997, I was on the field with a photographers pass to see our beloved Vikings take on the New York J-E-T-S! J-E-T-S! J-E-T-S! I recall that during that game Todd Steussie had been called for about 16 or 17 offensive offsides infractions. Immediately after one of these penalties in the second half, center Jeff Christy walked up to Steussie and delivered a right hand punch squarely to Steussie's jaw. Steussie did not jump offside again.

This past Sunday our beloved Vikings were taking on the dreaded rivalry known as the Houston Texans. Daunte Culpepper had just thrown a 50-yard TD strike to Randy Moss to give the Vikings a 28-14 lead. Kelly Campbell was on the sidelines because of injury but thought he should join Culpepper on the field to celebrate. A flag was thrown for illegal group celebration and the Vikings found themselves kicking off from the 15-yard line. Houston scored to give them momentum and eventually tied the game.

The Vikings pulled this one out but Campbell’s inexcusable behavior almost cost them the game. What did Campbell have to say for himself afterwards? Get a load of this quote.

"It'll get expensive (ensuing fines), but it is what it is," Campbell said. "I'm not going to stop what I'm doing."

Kelly, you can't be serious. Let's say the Vikings are playing in Super Bowl XXXIX. They've been behind all game because the Vikings have never ever lead in any of their four Super Bowl appearances. Late in the 4th quarter, the Vikings score on a dramatic play to go ahead by two points. There is less than 60 seconds left. All of Purple Valhalla is ecstatic. Wait, a penalty flag. Kelly Campbell has been flagged for illegal group celebration and the Vikings find themselves kicking off from the 15-yard line. The New England Patriots easily traverse the necessary length to kick a game-winning field goal.

How you gonna explain that one to the masses, Kelly? Hmmm.

Listen up Mike Tice. I think the best course of action at this point would be this scenario. At some point this season when Mr. Gotta Dance takes it upon himself to celebrate because he thinks, and I quote, "the excitement it brings to the team is too valuable", have Mr. Matt Birk, he of the Harvard degree, walk over to Campbell and apply a "Christy" to the glass chin of number 16.

Look at the Upcoming Game

The Vikings have the NFL's #1 offense after five weeks. The Saints have the NFL's twenty-ninth ranked defense. Look for Daunte Culpepper to have another great passing day and Mewelde Moore should run wild this week against what has been arguably the worst run defense in football this season. The Saints are permitting 144 rushing yards and two running back touchdowns per week. As long as the Vikings defense doesn't have another melt down, look for the Vikings to go 4-1 Sunday night.

Posted by maasx003 at 11:57 AM
WHICH YARDSTICK? THE DIFFICULTIES OF MEASURING ECONOMIC IMPACTS OF SPORTS FACILITIES

During the recent Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings stadium discussions, a stadium’s positive and negative impact upon its home community has been the subject of a great deal of controversy.

Experts have lined up on both sides of the issue. Stadium opponents declare that the facilities and the teams that play in them have no immediate or permanent economic impact. Further, they claim that the jobs created by a new stadium are minimum wage positions; therefore, public financing of new sports stadiums is unbeneficial to an entire community and therefore, inappropriate.

One fan’s opinion

In my opinion, the issue can only be properly addressed by considering the stadium, the team that will play there, and overall utilization. A look at the stadiums and arenas individually reflects a marked difference between baseball, football, and basketball attendance and their respective economic impacts. In addition, it goes without saying that the teams must be at least marginally successful both in playing their respective sports and in winning the hearts and minds of the local public.

I am not a great believer that public dollars should finance 100 percent of new stadiums. Nor do I think the team owners should be entirely responsible for financing them, either. The issue of stadium finance is far more complicated than simple dollars and cents. In my mind, it is also about city image and civic pride. We are a sports-crazy nation, and a new stadium is a visible public attraction that people enjoy and are generally proud of.

Twin Cities residents say that voters are against any type of public financing of a new Vikings stadium because of many socioeconomic concerns. The same can be said for other parts of the country, yet new stadium finance measures do get approved during general elections. In Denver, the community approved new stadium financing while they voted down a bond issue for new schools. This does not make sense; however, the people had the opportunity to decide, and that is what they selected. It was their choice.

In other communities, the public also voted with its wallet. According to a USA Today study “45 new stadiums were built in the 1990’s at a cost of over $9 billion.” Thus, numerous cities have had and will continue to have their say on this issue, and the opponents of total or partial public stadium financing will keep on grumbling.

Stadiums encourage civic pride

While city image is difficult to define, let me give a personal example. I live in the Twin Cities but travel extensively. Whether I am in Great Britain, Russia, or Green Bay, the people I meet want to know about Daunte Culpepper and Randy Moss. The Purple People Eaters of the 1970’s may have put the Twin Cities on the map but the current Vikings’ high-flying offense has remade the Twin Cities into a year-round Purple Paradise.

Through the years, both at home and on the road, I have hosted pregame tailgate parties that have been attended by Vikings fans from each of the 50 states and 12 different countries. Over the last several years I have had numerous occasions to discuss the stadium issue with my guests. In addition, I have evaluated the impacts of stadiums on downtown areas throughout the United States and Canada and studied the opportunities for restaurants and stores in numerous shopping malls, amusement parks, airports, schools, universities and other businesses. I have also compared the benefits of single-use versus multi-user stadiums.

I have reviewed both sides of the issues, the debates, the emotion and the hype. Neither side is truly correct; however; both the pros and the cons make salient points regarding the benefits and the drawbacks of a new stadium.

A look at some of the impact issues

Football stadiums have the least overall economic impact in the sports stadium/arena marketplace. The teams play only 10 games annually. At a maximum annual rent of $10 million, they cannot support financing of more than $90 to $100 million. Most stadiums today cost a minimum of $400 to $500 million to build, not considering the infrastructure costs born by the city, county and state in which the stadium is located.

Politicians who are sensitive to their constituency and re-election opportunities often do not make stadium decisions based on what is best for the entire city. For example, when selecting locations for new stadiums, they tend to target areas where there will be the least opposition or at the least opposition that is “acceptable.” Also, many new stadiums are placed next to the old stadiums that will be torn down because fewer people oppose reusing these locations rather than going someplace new.

Stadiums could have more of an economic influence if they would be placed where a positive impact could occur, such as developing urban residential neighborhoods. Thomas Chema, of the national law firm of Arter and Hadden, believes sports stadiums are effective at generating economic activity. He criticizes Robert Baade, a professor at Lake Forest College located outside Chicago and a leading critic of public financing of sports, for having published results of a study that found sports stadiums had a negligible impact on economic growth.

Chema claims Baade researched "essentially non-urban facilities" which, unlike recent stadiums in urban areas, were not intended as economic development catalysts. As for the stadiums that were built in urban areas, Chema believes, "the relatively few urban venues might as well have been in the suburbs because they were separated from their host city by a moat of surface parking."

Unfortunately, that will probably not happen because the average citizen who elects the politicians does not want the facility in their neighborhood. Nevertheless, stadiums in urban residential neighborhoods can have a great economic impact.

Rick Horrow, an NFL consultant, wrote a recent article in Tennessee's Business in which he advocated public financing of sports facilities, saying investing cities have received "significant, long-term economic benefits" in the form of tax revenue, direct spending (salaries, supplies, food, insurance, visitors) by the sports team, and the direct impact of new jobs and community development. As an example of the direct spending associated with such a project, Horrow cited a University of Cincinnati Center for Economic Education study in 1996 that projected the impact of construction on two local professional sports stadiums to be $1.1 billion.

Proponents argue that the positive impacts coming from sports franchises include the generation of tax revenue, direct spending by teams and owners in an area, new jobs and community development (stadiums can also be used for concerts, conventions, and festivals), and improved infrastructure. Matthew Peters also proved that a stadium is more attractive to tourists and shoppers than heavy industry in a 1996 Tennessee's Business article.

Baseball stadiums currently have the greatest economic impact of all sports venues because there are at least 81 home games per season, compared with basketball's 41 and football's 10. In the restaurant industry, the fact that most events are night games causes attendance increases to occur in the early dinner hours. However, this impact has been declining because stadiums have begun to improve their food service facilities in order to attract the dinner crowd. NFL events actually have a better impact on game days than their counterparts, because the games are usually in the afternoon and it is common to stop for dinner and/or drinks after the game.

Payroll of the Vikings players, management, staff and ground crews is a significant cost of between $60 and $70 million. Admittedly, not all of the players live in the community year round but even those who live there only during the season must pay rent, utilities, and taxes.

One criticism raised has been that stadiums only generate jobs for millionaires and minimum wage workers. That is generally true. However, vendors, restaurants, bars, and stores create numerous other jobs. While most of these jobs are low paying, they nonetheless are jobs that feed, clothe and house people. Most are seasonal or part time and because of that the teams have been criticized. That is the nature of sports - it is seasonal!

However, I wonder if the critics have ever talked to these employees to find out how they feel about their jobs. I have. Interestingly, I found that many wanted these jobs because they loved the sport, could watch the game for free and had another job for the rest of the year. I also found that the turnover of help was much lower than in the restaurant industry. Only a few said that this was the only job that they could get.

Strikes highlight economic impact

One need only consider the economic impact of the baseball strike of 1994 and the football strike of 1982 to gauge the economic void the Twin Cities could see should either the Twins or Vikings be forced to leave the area. Whether you are a baseball fan or not, one cannot ignore the fact that the strike cost over $800 billion nationally.

In Minneapolis, businesses near the Metrodome were badly hurt during the strike. Hundreds of people were laid off; restaurant sales declined drastically; taxicab fares were way off; city, county and state taxes were negatively affected and parking revenues disappeared.

For football fans on the day of the NFL strike, it was as though America was trying to convince itself that September 26, 1982, was just an ordinary day.

It wasn't, of course. It was the first full day of the football players' 57-day strike. It would reduce the season from 16 games to nine, costing league cities thousands of dollars in taxes that would have been paid on tickets, food and concessions.

In each city where football was a Sunday staple, an estimated $2 million was lost on restaurant meals that weren't eaten and hotel and motel rooms that remained unoccupied. Other businesses that relied heavily on football also suffered: sports bars, usually packed in midafternoon, had few, if any, customers.

Beyond that, 15,000 people with football-related jobs, ushers, security guards, vendors, grounds crews were out of work and without income. Charities that maintained stadium concessions as fundraisers lost thousands of dollars.

In the Twin Cities alone, Metrodome concessionaires had shortfalls of over $5 million and laid off their staff. Waiters and waitresses told how they made substantially less income than during a normal season. They had counted on those additional funds to pay for daycare services for their children or to save for a trip or education. Even the gasoline service stations felt the impact.

When critics say stadiums do not produce an economic impact, they have not done their homework. Through interviews of the players, management, ground crews, and more importantly, the staff of nearby businesses, one finds that the multiplier impact is significant. These are real people - not statistics.

But to NFL fans during the strike, who lost what or how much was not important. On that day they had lost their beloved games, and more than a few fans said, they were losing their minds, not entirely jokingly.

Stadiums and teams generate considerable taxes

If the team owns the stadium, total taxes paid to the city and state including payroll, real estate, sales, amusement, parking, parking license, gasoline, vehicle, franchise, liquor, utilities, parking tickets, and others will run over $2 to $3 million annually.

Concession sales have increased dramatically over the past ten years as more stadiums have focused upon foodservice. Many stadiums have tripled food concessions and have added full-service restaurants. Concession sales for a strong team can exceed $20 million annually and can generate over 500 to 700 part-time jobs.

Parking revenues can be substantial. Much depends upon who gets them. In most new stadium deals today, a large part of the stadium revenue goes to the teams rather than the community. Regardless of who gets the revenue, the dollars are substantial. Parking revenues for football can exceed $200,000 for a single event.

Charter bus companies usually enjoy a strong business from long-distance fans traveling to game outings. The business is stronger for baseball than football, and the degree of the success depends upon the team. Revenues range from $1 to $3 million annually for a good team.

Public transportation always gets a shot in the arm on game days. In a major urban setting, the effects are naturally greater. In Chicago, I found that over 35 percent of the fans traveling to Wrigley Field use public transportation. The primary reasons include the lack and expense of parking and the convenience of rapid transit. Sports-related revenue to the Chicago Transit Authority exceeds $1.5 million annually.

A few years ago my former Minnesota State Senator, Martha Robertson of District 45, replied to an e-mail I had sent her stating my wish that a task force be authorized for the study and feasibility of a new Vikings stadium in conjunction with the University of Minnesota. Ms. Robertson explained that she was a “member of the Education and E-12 Education Budget Division” that was “working on funding needs whose priorities will be set by the majorities of each house”. Ms. Roberston went on to say that “many in Senate District 45 feel that tax funds should not be used to build stadiums, that we need to consider multiple solutions” to other areas.

As a father of a 3-year old and concerned about education I believe Ms. Robertson is missing several key points. While the elitist left may want a bottomless money bucket for education we Garage Logicians would like to point out that the Education budget has increased each year. Perhaps Education needs to look inward to become more fiscally sound with the money it is given and allow parents, not government, to raise their children and be more personally responsible for their upbringing. And let us not forget the often economic and personal impact a sports franchise can bring to a metro area.

In total today, a NFL football team and its stadium can have an impact of between $175 billion and $225 billion on the local economy. Then there are the charitable contributions and community service to consider.

Since 1978, the Minnesota Vikings Children’s Fund has supported over 100 child-related nonprofit organizations in the Upper Midwest, providing grant monies now totaling close to $5 million dollars. It provides 50 percent of the funding for the University of Minnesota Department of Pediatrics to research major childhood diseases and disorders.

The Vikings alumni also give back to the community in other areas. Since 1961 many former players have chosen to remain in the Twin Cities after retiring from football. They have begun businesses, raised families and been elected to public office.

Former Coach Dennis Green gave his players each Tuesday off during the season. Many, many Vikings players choose to use this time to visit local hospitals and to read to children in their classroom. Some, such as former Vikings Randall McDaniel worked in a 5th grade classroom at Pilgrim Lane Elementary in Plymouth. Former Vikings star Robert Griffith was active in the Twin Cities community through the “Vikings Super Challenge” campaign at local schools. Future Hall of Fame inductee Cris Carter worked in the Twin Cities community through “Cris’ C.A.U.S.E.” (Christian Athletes United for Spiritual Empowerment) and is still active in the Big Brother-Big Sister program. I’d like any State Legislator, to place a value on the impact these activities have had on the children’s lives and the smiles they bring.

Professional sports are more than just big business

Do new stadiums provide a positive economic impact on a community? Yes, they do. Do new stadiums pay for themselves? Usually not. Is the public willing to subsidize a part of their funding? Typically, yes.

While professional sports are big business, sports fans still see the industry as exciting entertainment for which they are willing to pay, in order for the chance to one day be part of a winning team.

And that’s what we fans hope for, year after year!

Posted by maasx003 at 7:22 AM
October 11, 2004
1993 Summary

The 1993 Season

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Note: Please bear with these season summaries as I play "catch-up" with my new blog. I'll post a current entry sometime this week.

1993 (9-7): Second in NFC Central
Head Coach: Dennis Green

9/5 L 7-24 @ L.A. Raiders 44,120
9/12 W 10-7 Chicago 57,921
9/26 W 15-13 Green Bay 61,746
10/3 L 19-38 @ San Francisco 63,071
10/10 W 15-0 Tampa Bay 54,215
10/25 W 19-12 @ Chicago 64,677
10/31 L 27-30 Detroit 53,428
11/7 L 17-30 San Diego 55,527
11/14 W 26-23 @ Denver 67,329
11/21 L 10-23 @ Tampa Bay 40,848
11/28 L 14-17 New Orleans 53,030
12/5 W 13-0 @ Detroit 63,216
12/12 L 20-37 Dallas 63,321
12/19 W 21-17 @ Green Bay (Milw.) 54,773
12/26 W 30-10 Kansas City 59,236
12/31 W 14-9 @ Washington 42,836
NFC First-Round Playoffs
1/9/94 L 10-17 @ N.Y. Giants 75,089

Key Draft Picks

They laughed in New York when the Vikings pick was announced. That really upset me as I sat out at America’s Original sports bar at the Mall of America. They were actually laughing. Eight years later when this running back announced his retirement from the game no one was laughing. The media lauded his play both on and off the field. Robert Smith was selected with the 21st overall pick. He was the first first-round pick since 1988. And he may go down as the greatest Vikings running back ever to lace up the cleats. Also chosen in the Class of 1993 were wide-receiver Qadry Ismail, guard John Gerak, defensive tackle Gilbert Brown, linebacker Ashley Sheppard, tackle Everett Lindsay, and quarterback and Heismann trophy winner Gina Torretta.

Posted by maasx003 at 12:26 PM
October 8, 2004
1992 Summary

The 1992 Season

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1992 (11-5): NFC Central Champions
Head Coach: Dennis Green

9/6 W 23-20 OT @ Green Bay 58,617
9/13 L 17-31 @ Detroit 57,519
9/20 W 26-20 Tampa Bay 48,113
9/27 W 42-7 @ Cincinnati 53,847
10/4 W 21-20 Chicago 60,992
10/15 W 31-14 Detroit 52,816
10/25 L 13-15 Washington 59,098
11/2 W 38-10 @ Chicago 61,257
11/8 W 35-7 @ Tampa Bay 49,095
11/15 L 13-17 Houston 56,726
11/22 W 17-13 Cleveland 53,323
11/29 W 31-17 @ L.A. Rams 54,831
12/6 L 17-28 @ Philadelphia 65,280
12/13 L 17-20 San Francisco 60,685
12/20 W 6-3 @ Pittsburgh 53,613
12/27 W 27-7 Green Bay 61,461
NFC First-Round Playoffs
1/2/93 L 7-24 Washington 57,353

Key Draft Picks

New head coach Dennis Green soon showed one of his strengths, which not even his most ardent critics can deny. Drafting unknown talent and then turning them into proven starters and in many cases Pro Bowlers.

In his first draft Green selected defensive end Robert Harris in the second round. There was no first choice round as the last of the Herschel Walker draft pick bonanza’s for Dallas was used up along with an additional second round and a third round choice. In the fourth round Green selected DT Roy Barker. Ed McDaniel came in the fifth. Brad Johnson was selected in the ninth. Brad Culpepper came along in the tenth followed by Charles Evans in the eleventh. All would eventually become starters.

Green also made significant free agent acquisitions. Jack Del Rio, Vencie Glenn, and Anthony Parker signed on to become part of a fierce defense that was coached by Tony Dungy. All in all, Green added 17 new faces.

Season Summary

Selected 241st overall in the 1990 draft, Terry Allen missed the entire 1990 season when he sustained a knee injury during pre-season training. After undergoing surgery, Allen returned in 1991 and started six games for the Vikings, finishing with 563 yards rushing.

Then in 1992 Allen had an explosive season culminating in setting a Vikings single-season rushing record with 1,201 yards. Other notable accomplishments in 1992 were 13 rushing touchdowns, 33 rushing attempts in a single game (Pittsburgh, 12/20/92, 172 yards), and ranking second in the league in total touchdowns with 15. Allen was on pace to reel in Viking rushing leaders during the 1993 season when deja vu set in.

During training camp in Mankato, Allen ruptured his left anterior cruciate ligament, and another season ended before it even began. In 1994 Allen went to the Washington Redskins because the Vikings were unwilling to take a chance on a player returning from two major knee injuries. At the time it looked like a good move. The Vikings play on artificial turf, and many skeptics agreed that Allen would not be able to sustain the rigors of playing on such a field.

In 1992, Tony Dungy had already spent the majority of his life on a football field, as player and coach. He was an old man in football terms but a very wily and crafty veteran of football knowledge. On October 4 at the Metrodome, Mike Ditka, another crafty veteran player turned coach, brought his hated Chicago Bears team to Minneapolis to battle in a game that left fans, coaches and players completely exhausted and with severe cases of laryngitis.

In the second half with the Bears leading 20-0, it seemed as if Dungy’s defense was no match for the Bears. The Vikings’ Todd Scott decided to bait Bears quarterback Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh audibled, and Scott picked off the pass and ran it back for a touchdown. Ditka was beside himself. The Vikings went on to rally to win 21-20 in the loudest game I have ever witnessed at the Metrodome.

Posted by maasx003 at 8:52 AM
October 7, 2004
Jottings: Week of 10/7/2004

Please bear with me as I tweak this very new blog. I’m busy dusting off my old HTML book and you can expect further tweaks in the future. I also decide to change the name from Viking Valhalla to Mr. Cheer Or Die’s Viking Underground. This takes me back to the 1997 season when I was involved in the legendary unofficial Vikings web-site.

This past weekend found the Maas family staying at the Wilderness water park in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. On Saturday evening we were exiting the wave pool when I spied a very familiar looking person resting on a chaise. I must have been staring a bit too long as he caught me. “Dave?”, I asked. “Yep”, was the reply and I soon found myself shaking the baseball mitt sized hand of Vikings offensive lineman David Dixon. I asked him what the hell was he doing in Wisconsin of all places. He simply said, “Vacation”. Long story short, when I got around to asking him about having Michael Bennett back, he sort of hemmed and hawed his way through a reply. It left me with a very odd feeling that all was not yet quite peaches and cream with the oft-injured running back. It was not until our return to the Twin Cities that I learned Bennett had reinjured his knee in Thursday’s practice and is expected to miss two to four more weeks. And then it was clear that Dixon had already known but could not tell.

Seems that Tice is finally listening to my advice. For a couple of weeks now I have been telling everyone I know that Chris “Pantyhose Head” Hovan needs to be benched and Steve Martin given his spot. Hovan has been disappointing at best. I see Martin playing in position and making the plays that Hovan is not. It looks like my wish will come true this coming Sunday against the Houston Texans. Let’s hope I am right about my assessment.

Posted by maasx003 at 8:45 AM
1991 Summary

The 1991 Season

1991 (8-8): Third in NFC Central
Head Coach: Jerry Burns

9/1 L 6-10 @ Chicago 64,112
9/8 W 20-19 @ Atlanta 50,936
9/15 W 17-14 San Francisco 59,148
9/22 L 0-26 @ New Orleans 68,591
9/29 L 6-13 Denver 55,031
10/6 L 20-24 @ Detroit 63,423
10/13 W 34-7 Phoenix 51,209
10/20 L 23-26 OT @ New England 45,367
10/27 W 28-0 @ Phoenix 45,447
11/3 W 28-13 Tampa Bay 35,737
11/11 L 17-34 Chicago 59,001
11/17 W 35-21 @ Green Bay 57,614
11/24 L 14-34 Detroit 51,644
12/8 W 26-24 @ Tampa Bay 41,091
12/15 W 20-14 L.A. Rams 61,518
12/21 L 7-27 Green Bay 52,860

Key Draft Picks

Once again the Vikings had given away their first and second round picks to the Dallas Cowboys as part of the Herschel Walker trade. But the Vikes actually stole one from Dallas. The Vikings had picked up a second 3rd round choice from Dallas and used it to select Jake Reed. The Vikings also selected linebacker Carlos Jenkins in the third round and safety Todd Scott in the sixth round.

Season Summary

It was to be Jerry Burns last year as the head coach of the Vikings. In fact Burns retired on December 3 shortly after the loss to the Lions. And there were more changes during the season.

The ownership structure was reorganized on December 16. Irwin Jacobs and Carl Pohlad sold their shares to an ownership group of ten people led by Roger Headrick. On January 10, the Vikings named Dennis Green as the fifth head coach in team history. But it wasn’t an easy choice.

Veteran Start Tribune writer Sid Hartman openly and heartedly endorsed Pete Carroll in his newspaper columns. Carroll had been a coach with the club from 1985-89 and Hartman had developed an instant liking for the young, innovative Carroll. Headrick talked to people around the league, including former 49er head coach Bill Walsh who endorsed Dennis Green. Headrick picked Green. Hartman sulked.

Posted by maasx003 at 8:08 AM
October 6, 2004
1990 Summary

The 1990 Season

1990 (6-10): Fifth in NFC Central
Head Coach: Jerry Burns

9/9 L 21-24 @ Kansas City 48,363
9/16 W 32-3 New Orleans 56,272
9/23 L 16-19 @ Chicago 65,420
9/30 L 20-23 OT Tampa Bay 54,462
10/7 L 27-34 Detroit 57,586
10/15 L 24-32 @ Philadelphia 66,296
10/28 L 10-24 @ Green Bay (Milw.) 55,125
11/4 W 27-22 Denver 57,331
11/11 W 17-7 @ Detroit 68,264
11/18 W 24-21 @ Seattle 59,735
11/25 W 41-13 Chicago 58,866
12/2 W 23-7 Green Bay 62,058
12/9 L 15-23 @ N.Y. Giants 76,121
12/16 L 13-26 @ Tampa Bay 47,272
12/22 L 24-28 L.A. Raiders 53,899
12/30 L 17-20 San Francisco 51,590

Key Draft Picks

The Vikes had no picks in Rounds 1, 2, and 6 as they were traded to Dallas in the Herschel Walker trade. But with the 241st pick overall the Vikings did select a running back out of Clemson in Round 9. He later set a Vikings record for most yards rushing in a season, which was later broken by Robert Smith. Terry Allen was a late round pick that blossomed into a great selection.

Season Summary

In 1990 the team was coming off a 10-6 season and were the reigning NFC Central Champions. The memory of the horrific 41-13 playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers was a distant memory. This coming season would be remembered far more for the arrival of two new players rather than the play on the field.

The Vikings were looking to shore up the depth at wide receiver. Meanwhile, a yet-to-be-named legend was being dumped by the Philadelphia Eagles. This receiver was driving to New York to report to the Giants who had put in a claim for him. At the last minute the Vikings, who had priority in the waiver wire hierarchy put down the requisite $100 necessary to bring him to The Purple. The receiver with the bad work ethic and a drug problem received a call in his car from his agent telling him to turn around and head to the airport instead. Cris Carter was heading for Minneapolis.

On October 15, 1990 the Vikings were playing at Philadelphia. The Vikings lost 32-24. But a rookie defensive tackle recorded his very first NFL sack when he brought down a young, fast Randall Cunningham. Later in the game he also forced a fumble. This undrafted rookie free agent out of Texas A&I had been considered too small to play in the NFL. The Vikings brought him into training camp anyway and were impressed by his work ethic and because he, well, never stood still. He even read the other teams media guides to get under the skins of opposing offensive lineman. John Randle was perpetual motion.

Also memorable during the 1990 season was the fight going on at Winter Park for control of the franchise. Irwin Jacobs and Carl Pohlad were attacking the management in place to try and obtain the team any way possible. Jacobs and Pohlad sued. The wounds opened would not heal until 1998. But on January 1, 1991 after the smoke had cleared, Roger Headrick became president and CEO of the Vikings replacing Mike Lynn. The board then paid off Jacobs and Pohlad with a $50 million check.

Posted by maasx003 at 10:24 AM
The Whistle

View image

A true story originally written during the 1997 season


I now read from the “Bible of the Minnesota Vikings” from the good book of the blessed disciple “Mr. Cheer Or Die”.

And during the 3rd quarter of play did such a horrendous call the back judge make that old men and frail women rose from their seats in the Thunder Zone and vomited beer cups upon the sacred field of play. So much so did the beer cups lay strewn upon the sacred field of play that the evil TV time-out was called upon. This is the time when the good book says that Mr. Cheer Or Die did arise from his high seat of knowledge upon which all Berserkers did look for hope and salvation and upon the sinning back judge did he deliver.

Into his mouth did Mr. Cheer Or Die place a authentic NFL whistle and let it blow with a mighty roar and reached into his pocket to mimic throwing the yellow flag of sin. The Berserkers of the Thunder Zone did then laugh upon the evil back judge and enticed Mr. Cheer Or Die into a mimicking-whistle-blowing-flag-throwing dance of the evil back judge. So much and so strong was the laughter that the evil back judge did upon Mr. Cheer Or Die point his finger and blow his equally powerful whistle.

The crowd hushed as Mr. Cheer Or Die was momentarily wounded by this heinous attack by the back judge. Play resumed on the sacred field and Mr. Cheer Or Die, always one step ahead of evil, quickly discarded his whistle to Mrs. Cheer Or Die who hid the Good Whistle of the Berserkers on her person.

Shortly, a agent of the back judge, whom upon it is known eat cameramen for dinner, appeared like dark magic at the row of Mr. Cheer Or Die and bellowed, “Come with me!” upon which fellow Berserkers in the Thunder Zone hurled such epithet’s at the agent that he did in due time approach Mr. Cheer Or Die who was unyielding in leaving his high seat in the Thunder Zone.

The agent of the evil back judge did then ask fellow Berserkers if Mr. Cheer Or Die was the person who mimicked the evil back judge. All responded, “NO!” and instructed the agent to leave with his life. It was at this point that the disciple Mr. Cheer Or Die did decide to go with the agent so that order could be brought into the Thunder Zone as the New Orleans Saints were leading the Vikings on the sacred field of play.

Led into the evil tunnels where no cameraman ever escapes, Mr. Cheer Or Die did relent to a search for the Good Whistle of the Berserkers. Little known to the evil back judge his powers cannot cloud the female Berserkers who have seen battle on the sacred field of play and Mrs. Cheer Or Die did safely dispose of the Good Whistle of the Berserkers in the sacred tampon disposal in the female rest room, in which no male Berserker has ever dared entered.

Since no whistle was found, Mr. Cheer Or Die was allowed to reenter Valhalla and led the Thunder Zone in such cheering that the prophet Ismail did score in the last seconds and lead our beloved Vikings to blessed victory. So saith Bud Grant.

Posted by maasx003 at 10:09 AM
The Switch

Returning home from a short fall walk with my dogs I had just turned onto our street. I had been chuckling to myself over a recent e-mail sent to me from a Packer fan telling me that Green Bay would come off their bye week stronger than ever. I had been thinking of writing a paper to the New England Journal of Medicine showing that an indirect proportion exists between the intelligence of residents of Green Bay and proper use of sentence structure, grammar and spelling when I shivered, like one who on a country walk suddenly perceives a snake in his path. Even the dogs would proceed no further. For the house across the street from my own humble abode was displaying a Green Bay Packer table lamp in its window!

I decided right then and there that territorial dominance, of Viking over Packer, must be regained. And the plan that I immediately came upon was indeed for the venture. I must move my Viking table lamp to my master bedroom window, where this blatant attempt upon my fanhood would be avenged. One problem, though, my wife had banished all things purple and gold to the den where I could have my prized possessions and smoke a good cigar. Meanwhile she could hold tea parties in the living room without having photos of Daunte Culpepper and Randy Moss looking down upon her friends, scones and marmalade. I knew my wife was downstairs somewhere, and for the next hour at least she would be occupied. I would have ample opportunity for the switch.

I did not delay. Thirty seconds later I was inside mounting the stairs with Viking lamp in hand, my face set, my eyes gleaming grimly. A minute later, I reached my destination, the master bedroom. No green devil, no Martha Stewart wife aware of my intentions, stood in my path to bar entry. With lamp in hand I went in.

Most master bedrooms, like most places of married importance, contain things so magnificent to the females that they are never used. With our four poster bed and my wife’s superb but rather oppressive bed canopy, the room had remained unchanged since our first year of marriage. As I snuck cautiously in, it was looking its best in the gentle evening light. But I was not in a reflective mood. I ignored the hand sewn pillow cushions, the cozy arm chairs, the pictures, the decorations, and the flowers. The starkness of the winter sky through the large bedroom window drew but a brief glance from me. Without delay I made for my wife’s dressing table which stood against the window near the bed. It seemed the perfect spot upon which my mighty beacon of purple and gold light would out shine that eye-sore across the street.

The primary requisite of the dressing table being a good supply of light, they are usually placed in a position to get as much of it as possible. This one is no exception; it stood so near to the window that in the summer time the breeze from the open window will ruffle the tassels on its lampshade. Making the switch of tasseled lamp to Viking lamp my heart suddenly slipped. Now standing in the doorway to the bedroom, dogs peering around her legs, was my wife.

For an instant I remained frozen. Even the greatest men congeal beneath the chill breath of the totally unexpected. I had assumed as a matter of course that my wife was down in the laundry room, and it took me several seconds to adjust my mind to the unpleasing fact that she was up in our bedroom. When I recovered my presence of mind sufficiently to draw noiselessly away from the line of vision, my first emotion was one of irritation. This continual changing of their minds, this alteration of plans, these sudden decisions to be upstairs when they ought to be downstairs, are what make women as a sex so unsatisfactory.

To irritation succeeded a sense of defeat. There was nothing for it, I realized, but to give up my quest and go. I started to carry the Viking lamp silently to the door, conscious now of the holes being drilled into my head by my wife’s eyes, and had just reached it, when across the street, there came to my ears a sound of clashing and clattering. Upon looking out the window I noticed instantly my neighbor’s Packer lamp was gone! I perceived immediately that his wife had taken the upper hand in his domain and had not only removed the ghastly thing but had deposited it, in pieces, onto the driveway,.

And so, going outside, I met my now-crying neighbor who had dropped on all fours and was picking up the remains of his treasured lamp. Defeated once again by the most sinister villain of all-time, the football-widow, we shared a cigar and waited for them to let us back in.

Posted by maasx003 at 9:30 AM
“Boom-Boom”

This past Sunday (September 26, 2004) Bill Brown was inducted into the Minnesota Vikings Ring of Honor. It brought back a memory from an earlier meeting with Brown. On February 12th I was invited to sit in on the Minnesota Viking Marketing and Sales task force. The meeting was held in the board room at Winter Park. As we sat down in purple chairs around a football-shaped table, a gentleman sporting a crew cut entered the room and immediately started joking with each individual as if he had known them all his life.

Bill Brown was a starting running back for the Minnesota Vikings from 1962-74. He was named to the Pro Bowl in 1964, 1965, 1967 (started), and 1968. Among the all-time Viking leaders he ranks second in rushing yards (5,757), ninth in receiving yards (3,177), second in rushing-receiving yards (8,934), third in scoring (76 touchdowns and 456 points), and second in combined yardage (9,237). He led the Vikings in rushing in 1964-1966 and 1968, and in receiving in 1964.

Among individual Viking records Bill is third in career points (456), first in most seasons leading team in touchdowns (5), first in career touchdowns (76), and third in most touchdowns in one season (16). Playing the Rams on November 19, 1972, Bill hauled in a pass from future Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton and scampered 76 yards for the score. But the best record of all for “Boom-Boom” Brown are his stories from those exciting Viking years. And he told a few good ones at the meeting.

During the early years training camp was held in Bemidji, Minnesota. The coach at that time was Norm Van Brocklin and it seems Norm had a nasty way of cutting players during camp. According to “Boom-Boom”, Norm had one system for this. He would cut players anywhere, anytime. Van Brocklins’ favorite spot seemed to be the team bus as the team would return to Bemidji after a pre-season game. “That was especially hard on not only the player but the other players as well sitting next to him.”, said Brown, “And it was a very long way from Minneapolis back to Bemidji anyway, not to mention if you happened to get cut as we boarded the bus.”

Van Brocklin was also famous for his “two-beer” rule during training camp. Each player was only allowed two beers a day while at camp, unless, as Brown stated, you happened to be drinking Van Brocklins’ favorite...whiskey.

As “Boom-Boom” was finishing his whiskey story, Bud Grant knocked on the open door and Bill excused himself from the meeting. The two went next door to Bud’s office and the meeting became very serious once again. But at least we all had big grins on our faces courtesy of a player from a time when football was still a game, and meetings about marketing were not needed.

Posted by maasx003 at 9:14 AM