It's New Years and anyone who is anyone (especially bloggers) has to post a New Years List.
Here are my Top Ten darkest moments in Vikings history:
#10) Dec. 28, 2003: On fourth-and-25 from the Vikings' 28, Arizona's Josh McCown hits Nate Poole for a touchdown as time expires to prevent the Vikings from advancing to the playoffs.
#9) Jan. 17, 1988: NFC Championship Game: Darrin Nelson drops a pass at the goal line on fourth-and-4 from the Redskins' 6-yard-line with 52 seconds to play in a 17-10 loss to Washington.
#8) Jan. 11, 1970: Super Bowl IV: After the Vikings cut the Chiefs' lead to 16-7 in the third quarter and capture momentum, Otis Taylor takes a short pass, breaks a couple of tackles and runs 46 yards for a score in a 23-7 victory.
# 7) Jan. 13, 1974: Super Bowl VIII: Trailing 17-0 in the first half, the Vikings move 74 yards to the Miami 6. On fourth-and-1 from the 6, Oscar Reed fumbles, and the Vikings never threaten again in a 24-7 loss.
#6) Jan. 12, 1975: Super Bowl IX: With the Vikings trailing 2-0 at halftime, Bill Brown fumbles the second-half kickoff, the Steelers recover and end up scoring what turned out to be the clinching touchdown in a 16-7 victory.
#5) Jan. 9, 1977: Super Bowl XI: In the first quarter, the Vikings' Fred McNeill blocks a punt by Ray Guy -- the first punt Guy ever had blocked -- and the Vikings take over at the Raiders' 3-yard line. But two plays later, Brent McClanahan fumbles, the Raiders recover and drive for the first score of the game and the momentum in a 32-14 victory.
#4) Jan. 14, 2001: NFC Championship Game: The heavily favored Vikings commit five turnovers and are outgained 518 yards to 114 and outscored 34-0 in the first half of a stunning 41-0 loss to the New York Giants.
#3) Oct. 12, 1989: The Herschel Walker trade: The Vikings trade Issiac Holt, David Howard, Darrin Nelson, Jesse Solomon, Alex Stewart and what ends up to be three first-round picks, three second-rounds picks, a third-round pick and a sixth-round pick to Dallas. The Cowboys use the picks to select Emmitt Smith and others to help them win three Super Bowls.
#2) Jan. 17, 1999: NFC Championship Game: With the Vikings leading 27-20, Gary Anderson misses a 37-yard field-goal attempt with 6:07 remaining against Atlanta -- his first miss of the season. The Falcons go on to score the tying touchdown and beat the Vikings 30-27 in overtime.
And the #1 Darkest Moment in my life as a Vikings fan, drum roll, please....
#1) Dec. 28, 1975: NFC divisional playoff game: The Cowboys defeat the Vikings 17-14 on a last-second, 50-yard Hail Mary pass from Roger Staubach to Drew Pearson, who appears to push Nate Wright to the ground before making the catch and jogging into the end zone.
Have your own that did not appear on the list? Use the Comments section to share with others! And have a great 2005!
The Vikings go three out of four late in the season. Their defense ranks in the lower portion of the league. They lose to Washington in the last game of the season yet squirm into the playoffs as a wild card. The playoff schedule starts on the road and most likely will stay on the road. Las Vegas pegs the Vikes as a 75 to 1 shot to even make the Super Bowl. Players are sick with the flu.
Oh, wait. I'm not talking about this season. The season is 1987 and the Vikes rolled over the New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers before bowing to the Redskins in the 1987-88 NFC Championship game.
Who's to say it couldn't happen again? A couple of players get hot such as Wade Wilson, Hassan Jones, and Anthony Carter did in 1987 anything can happen!
Blackouts, No TV, Oh My!
I'm starting to hear a lot of grumblings from fellow Vikings fans that all of a sudden are finding other things more important than watching the Vikings. With the poor results of the last 3 years, and probably more of the same in store for 2005 it could be that for the first time since 1999 the season ticket base will dwindle. I'm starting to hear from people things like, "I was a season ticket holder, but not any more. Unless the Vikes put some quality players/coaches on the field and proved to me that they are trying to win, I will no longer renew my tickets."
Hmm. I also know many, many people who did not opt to purchase the potential playoff package when they become due in early December. Could the base be crumbling?
Cheesehead Craig suggests a boycott. I've heard this from others as well. People feel that the only way Red McCombs would come down in his asking price for the Vikings is if the fans forced it by refusing to re-new season tickets which would force Red to come down from his asking price of $600 million, then maybe Glenn Taylor would be in the picture to buy.
If Red continues to earn a profit, then there's really no motivation to sell. Of course, it would be better if local sponsors/businesses would also refuse their business to the team. That would be a big hit to Red's pocket!
In reality, boycotts hardly ever work. And the Vikings have a season ticket waiting list of nearly 2,000 people. So I don't see blackouts happening for a few more years yet. Unless a Steckel-like 3-13 season comes along.
"They Had the Flu"
Will that be Tice's excuse after Sunday?
Is it starting to smell like Arizona from 2003? I am a pharmacist and last year the week of the Arizona game I took a call from the team doctor to fill flu related medications for several Vikings players (patient privacy laws prevent me from saying who). The Vikes went on to lose. Now, Culpepper, Winfield, and Wiggins went home sick today. And a quote from this story appearing on KFAN was that backup quarterback Gus Frerotte, who hasn't thrown an offensive pass this season, would start Sunday if Culpepper is sidelined. Receiver Randy Moss took some reps at quarterback in practice Wednesday morning, and could be used in an emergency.
Well, if the boys drop one on the grass in Washington they already have at least one excuse (the flu) built in. And of course since Sunday's game at FedEx Field will be played on grass, the Vikes have another 'excuse' they can use also. They are 2-19 in their past 21 games on grass, dating to October 2000. Oh yeah, Arizona has a grass field too! This is all becoming just waaayyyyyy to deja vu for me!
When the Viking front office at Winter Park first wrote up coach Mike Tice's contract they should have anticipated that the regular season would have extended beyond January 1. Shoot, wouldn’t a blue-chip organization have even posted a February 1 or even March 1 date once the playoffs have been completed before making coaching decisions? By designating January 1 as the “go, no-go” date, owner Red McCombs painted himself into a corner and elected to pick up the option on a fourth full season with Tice coaching the Minnesota Vikings.
Whether Tice is even around in 2004 or beyond, however, remains to be seen.
Under the option exercised by McCombs, Tice will earn $1 million in 2005. That is much less than other NFL coaches. That alone will once again fuel the debate that McCombs is readying the team for a sale. Slash overhead, keep salaries (and morale) low and get a good price. That’s typical business practice.
But back to Tice. Is $1 million what he deserves? What exactly has Tice accomplished in three years on the job to deserve more? Tice has a 23-25 record since replacing Dennis Green with one game remaining in the 2001 season. He has yet to win the NFC North (a goal in 2003 and 2004) or even make the playoffs.
I believe that McCombs would have preferred to wait until after the grime of the 2004 regular season had been washed away before committing to another season with Tice. But the little problem of the date, January 1, to exercise the option stood in the way of doing just that.
Now this. Tice refused on Monday to extend the deadline. "When we couldn't get the option date changed," McCombs said, "that wiped out any discussion of a possible extension."
Look for the looming expiration of Tice’s contract to become a distraction next season. Just as it was during the late part of the current season. Yippee.
And one can’t rule out a short-term parting of the ways between McCombs and Tice, if the Vikings continue their annual late-season vanishing act. Even Tice (whom I’ve compared to Bluto Blutarski of Animal House) is smart enough to know that the exercise of the option is no guarantee. "It still doesn't mean I'll be back, you know what I mean?" Tice said. "We just have to keep fighting the fight."
That quote really chapped my hide. It’s late in the season. Your team has once again sunk during the late season stretch and the playoffs are again in doubt. Coach Tice, you have to start winning the fight.
Here’s a guy who was leading cheers for the Philadelphia Eagles to beat the St. Louis Rams on Monday. Had the Eagles won, the Vikes would have clinched a wild-card berth. Um, had the Vikings won Xmas Eve, you wouldn’t be leading cheers for another team. Maybe get your team ready for Washington this coming Sunday instead of worrying about another team!
If the Vikings lose at Washington on Sunday and miss the playoffs, or get blown off the field in their first-round playoff game at Seattle, Green Bay or even St. Louis, McCombs will end up going Trump on Tice.
Tice Will Be Back
Vikings owner Red McCombs picked up the option on coach Mike Tice's contract Monday morning, ending a year-long public discussion on Tice's future.
Tice, 45, has posted a 23-25 record since replacing Dennis Green before the final game of the 2001 season. He would have become a free agent Jan. 31 if the club failed to exercise the option.
I'm not sure what to think about this development at the moment. Give me 24-hours to sleep on it
Could it be that Red McCombs is getting ready to sell the Vikings (possibly to Glenn Taylor) either during the off-season or after the 2005 campaign? He has been rolling back expenses at Winter Park and now with picking up Tice's option I see another sign that a sale is coming soon.
If Red was considering keeping the the Vikings he would of either signed Tice to a long term deal or fired him outright. It is fact that NFL coaches don't like to coach under a one year deal.
Could it be that Red is keeping Tice for cheap to let Taylor deal with it? The team and organization will be set for the next owner. By picking up Tice's option, Red will let the new owner decide what to do with the coaching situation. The new owner can either clean house with all coaches and start over, or sign Tice to an extension. All of the coaches and Tice now have one more year on their contract.
Any Other Year it is MVP for Daunte
Peyton Manning picks up a NFL record 49th TD passes in a single season. But little has been made of Daunte Culpepper's 37 TD passes this season. Daunte has set a team record surpassing Randall Cunningham's 34 TD passes set in 1998. Tha puts Daunte sixth all time behind Manning's 49, Dan Marino with 48 in 1984 and then 44 in 1986. Then Kurt Warner's 41 in 2000 followed by Brett Favre's 39 in 1996.
I see very little mention of Daunte's impressive numbers anywhere. If Daunte passes for 3 TDs this coming Sunday against the Washington Redskins, that will give him 40 for the season. Good for fifth all-time. That's a MVP season in ANY book.
The STrib did a nice job breaking down the Green Bay D-coordinator making a swtich from man-to-man to a zone defense at halftime of the Xmas Eve game. Where was the Vikings defensive adjustment to slow down the Pack and Brett Favre?
This isn't the only game this happened during the 2004 campaign. The Vikes defense has come out weak all season and it seems very little has been addressed at half-time to make the proper adjustments as teams have rolled up huge numbers in the fourth quarter (see Detroit and GB the last two weeks). So I don't buy the argument that the Vikings defense has played better in the second half. The numbers don't lie.
While I don't think we can blame Tice completely, there are several factoids to be looked at and answered by all the Tice supporters. Let's break them down:
One: Undisciplined penalties & mistakes in the red-zone or during crucial drives. When the game was tied at 31 during the Xmas Eve game, the Vikes could have run time off the clock, scored, and won. Instead, stupid penalties put the team into passing situations which helped the Packers since the clock stopped after incomplete passes.
Two: Continually being out-coached by lesser teams. I've harped on this during the entire Tice tenure. Tice is still learning how to be a head-coach. I think coaching mistakes have added one to three loses to this year's total.
Three: Underachieving seasons. The past two seasons have seen the Vikes off to fast starts with a chance to wrap up the NFC North early. That would mean resting players, healing injuries, and testing depth. Instead, the Vikings collapsed during 2003 missing the playoffs altogether and could be on the verge (albeit unlikely) of missing the playoffs again this season.
So, where does that leave the Purple this season? In the wide-open NFC, one really can't say. But I now see the playoffs opening up this way.
Carolina Panthers at Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks.
That sets up an interesting scenario. No one wants to play the hot Panthers right now. They are healed and healthy. Their defense is solid. The have one of the hottest wide receivers in Muhsin Muhammad. Could it be they beat the Packers while Minnesota beats up a floundering Seahawks team? That would set up this scenario.
Minnesota Vikings at Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers at Philadelphia Eagles
I won't go any farther than this. But I find it intriguing that the Vikes might get the best possible first round matchup despite losing the NFC North crown.
But then, that would mean the Vikings coaching brain-trust can actually make some adjustments between now and the start of the playoffs. And that's where my confidence meter runs to zero.
For a very good story for how fans are juggling today's game and Christmas Eve go to the Pioneer Press which is the main lead, with photo of the Maas family, at:
In case the link is already down already just go here for the full story.
Merry Xmas! As long as we don't have a repeat of the screw job the Vikes received in LAMEbeau earlier this season. Remember?
Remember the Funble! Remember the Fumble! To arms, to arms!
I still look for the Vikes to dim the lights for the introductions and Moss to have his afro ready to explode and have a monster game. What a way to begin the Xmas holiday with a huge, division winning game over the Packers!
The worst thing anyone can do to Vikings receiver Randy Moss is make him mad. And here's hoping that Moss quietly is seething about his omission from the 2004 Pro Bowl roster.
Now, we all know that Moss was injured and consequently ineffective for five games in October and November, during which the Vikings went 2-3. In Randy's mind, however, there's no comparison between him and Joe Horn, Mushin Muhammad, and especially the Packers Javon Walker, all of whom made the Pro Bowl.
Of course, there's a disparity in statistics, due to Moss's injury. Randy has only 42 catches for 671 yards; Horn, Moose, and Walker average 81 catches and 1,218 yards.
But even with five less games played, Moss actually has more touchdowns (11) than Horn and Walker (10 each), and only one less than Muhammad.
There's no question that Moss is far more valuable to his team than any of the other three. With Randy healthy, the Vikings are 6-3.
My point here is that Moss likely will use the snub to work himself up into the same kind of indignation that following his round one free-fall in the 1998 draft. His goal for the rest of the season, and playoffs, surely will be to show that he's still the Super Freak, and with the Eagles' game-changing wide receiver gone for the year, Moss suddenly is the only receiver in the NFC playoff field with the ability to single-handedly deliver a series of victories.
Moss gets his first chance to prove he should've been named to the Pro Bowl roster on Friday, against Walker's Packers. I have a feeling that Randy will be sporting a renewed swagger, along with a poofed out 'fro spilling out from the bottom of his helmet. In a Christmas Eve showdown with the division title in the balance, I'll go out on a limb here and predict that Moss will have at least 10 catches for at least 150 yards and at least two touchdowns, regardless of whether his hamstring is finally back to 100 percent. And last week against the Lions, Moss showed his speed is almost back to 100 percent. The "Girlfriend D-Backs" of the Packers (note their long girlish hair) are probably shaking today.
Christmas Eve Game Thoughts:
The Star Tribune asked the question "Football or church?" during a call place to yours truly earlier this week. You can read my response here. They didn't exactly quote me correctly, but then I was happy with the piece overall and felt they gave a fair and balanced view for the Vikings.
Look for a similar piece from the Pioneer Press probably on Friday.
Call me the schizophrenic fan. No less than 24-hours after openly ripping the Vikings for their horrible (albeit winning) performance against the Lions things have dramatically changed.
First Antoine Winfield and Matt Birk are expected back into the starting lineup against the Green Bay Packers on Christmas Eve. That alone gives the Vikes the run stopper needed on defense and brings depth back to the already depleted offensive line.
But more importantly, the Philadelphia Eagles will have to try to make it to the Super Bowl without the guy who made the biggest difference for them in 2004.
Receiver Terrell Owens, according to the Associated Press, will miss the rest of the regular season and possibly the playoffs with a sprained right ankle and fractured fibula, suffered in the third quarter of Sunday's 12-7 win over the Cowboys.
He'll have surgery on Wednesday. The best-case scenario for Owens' return is the Super Bowl. But without him the Philly offense isn't much different than the crew that lost the last three NFC championship games.
This incident breathes life into the postseason hopes of teams like Atlanta, Green Bay, and Minnesota. Both the Packers and the Vikings already have lost at Philly. In a 27-16 win over Minnesota, Owens had four catches for 79 yards and a touchdown (which would have been reversed via replay if Mike “Coach Flaggy” Tice had thrown his red hankie). In a 47-17 thrashing of the Packers, Owens had eight receptions for 161 yards and a touchdown.
As a result, Friday's game between the Packers and the Vikings takes on even greater importance. The winner of the Christmas Eve showdown will win the division and nail down the No. 3 seed in the NFC playoff field. Suddenly, making it to the Super Bowl for the three seed won't be such a long shot. It'll take a playoff win against a .500 team such as the Carolina Panthers, a road win at Atlanta, and a return visit to Philly against a team that has to be feeling a lot less confident about its chances to make it to the next level than it did before Owens' injury last Sunday.
Think emotions won’t be running high about 2:00 PM CST time this Friday? A North Division crown and an “easy” playoff road to Philly. Yeah, the wind outside the Dome will be raw but the players emotions will be sky high come kick-off. Pass the cheese and egg nog, please.
Act One. Enter stage right.
The Vikings and the Lions are tied at twenty-one. The game clock on the screen shows about two minutes remaining in a pivotal game that Viking players have referred to as a playoff game earlier in the week. The Lions have no timeouts. The Vikings face a third-and-two at the Detroit eleven yard-line.
On defense, the Vikings have been shredded for 463 yards by the Lions' 30th-ranked offense, including 178 yards and two Joey Harrington-to-Roy Williams touchdown passes in the fourth quarter. The Vikings collection of soon-to-be-on-Welfare losers otherwise known as defensive backs have been worse-than-pathetic without Antoine Winfield in the lineup. On Sunday, even above-average starter Brian Williams had TOAST written all over his forehead.
So what would anyone do in these circumstances? Anyone with ANY football knowledge?
That's right. If you get the first down, then go down.
Since the Lions couldn't stop the clock, the Vikes could have run it down to two seconds, kicked the field goal, and gone home.
Instead, Moe Williams busted through the line, rolled safety Brock Marion at the five, and rumbled into the end zone. Yes, it was an amazing run. But I was thinking, "What the hell!?!? Does Tice have Williams on his fantasy football team or something!?!"
Act Two. Enter stage left.
And so it happened. The Lions marched right down the field. Harrington moved the Lions 80 yards in nine plays with no timeouts and 1:37 left in the game.
After defensive back Derek Ross was flagged for interference in the end zone, Harrington threw a fade to Roy Williams, who easily out-jumped Williams to make the score 28-27.
Even though the football gods eventually winked at Tice and the Vikings in the form of a bad snap for the extra point try, Tice shouldn't pat himself too hard on his back over this one. The contest should have gone to overtime, and if the Lions had gotten their mitts on the ball, they likely would have won the game.
Moe Williams admitted after the game that his touchdown run might not have been the best thing for the Vikings. "I looked up at the clock," he said, "and I was thinking after the first [down], I should have went down."
More importantly, Tice and/or offensive coordinator Scott Linehan should have given that direction to quarterback Daunte Culpepper when the play was radioed in.
Plain and simple.
Would such a move have been a statement of no confidence in the defense? Sure. And, as the events demonstrated, it would have been warranted.
The fact that they were bailed out by a fluke snap doesn't matter. This Minnesota team is no better than last year's version. If they somehow don't blow their driver's seat shot at a playoff berth, they should pack very light for their postseason road trip.
Act Three. Change of scenery.
Oh, sure. The Vikes can still win the NFC North and host a first-round playoff game but let me again state that the NFL's 30th-ranked offense shredded the Vikes defense like yesterday's cheese.
And speaking of cheese, if Joey Harrington can throw for a career-high 361 yards despite a severe case of the stomach flu what do you think NFL Golden Boy Brett Favre is going to do on Christmas Eve?
Fade to black. Fade to black indeed.
Indy Makes it Happen
This from the STrib today under NFL Notes.
The Colts and the city of Indianapolis have agreed on a deal to build an 63,000-seat stadium with a 30-year lease.
Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson, team owner Jim Irsay and other officials announced the deal on the field of the RCA Dome before the Colts' nationally televised game Sunday night against the Baltimore Ravens.
The deal also would allow the city to expand the Indiana Convention Center, which is adjacent to the RCA Dome, bringing the cost of the project to about $800 million.
The stadium, to be located about a block south of the RCA Dome, is scheduled to open by fall 2008 and include a retractable roof similar to Reliant Stadium where the Houston Texans play.
Peterson said the new stadium would allow the city to bid on Super Bowls.
The 63,000 seats can be expanded to 70,000, the minimum required to host a Super Bowl.
The stadium also would be designed for NCAA basketball, so it could host the Final Four. Peterson said the NCAA was involved in the design.
The RCA Dome has the smallest seating capacity among current NFL stadiums, at 55,506.
Wow. Well, that's one less NFL team that would have been moving to Los Angeles. And with San Diego now sporting a clinched division title and Super Bowl aspirations that leaves the New Orleans Saints and Vikings as likely candidates. And with temperatures hovering near or around zero for most of Christmas week I am again reminded of a former Minnesota Senator saying something about a "cold Omaha."
My son Graham is 4-years old and a fantastic kid. I can have the worst day and just seeing his face when I get home from work changes my outlook on everything. Last week I took my son Graham bowling. He's only four remember. He would take the ball and walk up to the line, and push with all his might. It would take the bowling ball about sixty to ninety minutes to make its way down the alley (bumpers up of course), but he was having a fantastic time. And then it happened. As my wife and I stood nearby watching, this four year old phenom-to-be actually rolled a strike. Graham called it an "X" since that's the way it appears on the scorecard.
I didn't even record a strike over two games, and here my prodigy rolled one all by himself. Now, each night we bowl in the long hallway at home using a soccer ball and plastic cups. He wants to go bowling again soon. Only next time, he'll have his own ball as Santa Claus will be leaving this under the tree on Christmas morning:
That's right, his own Scooby Doo bowling ball. We figure that Graham will pee his pants right then and there. So we'll be sure and have a change of underwear waiting for him!
What's this got to do with the Vikings? Well, Graham has great philosophical insight. On our Christmas cards this year we listed some various insights that Graham had told us over the course of 2004. One of those was, "The Vikings aren't bad guys. They just play bad." From the mouths of babes.
Play bad indeed. Know how some teams have monikers like "Steel Curtain", "Orange Crush", and "Purple People Eaters"? Well, I'm now suggesting "Animal House" for the Vikes.
Near the end of the loss to Seattle, Offensive Coordinator Flounder (Linehan) called for Randy Moss to roll out and possibly throw a pass or elect to run. Moss ended up throwing an ill-advised pass on first down at the Seattle 20-yard line with 2:16 left in the game and the Vikings trailing by four points. The ball was intercepted by rookie strong safety Michael Boulware. Coach Blutarski (Tice) should have overruled Linehan's play. Or called a timeout and reinforced to Moss that he was, under no circumstnces, to throw the ball into coverage.
Said ESPN analyst and former Vikings quarterback Sean Salisbury: "That was the worst play call of the 2004 season. Those type of calls are saved for video games, when you're playing against your kid at home. Mike Tice has a responsibility when that play is sent down from Scott Linehan, the offensive coordinator, to overrule it. ... This is a horrific decision. This is one that may keep the Vikings out of the playoffs. It also may cost the Vikings coaching staff their jobs."
And today it has been reported that if the Vikings win out, they will still win the division! After conferring Monday morning with the NFL office in New York, team officials learned the Vikings would hold the tiebreaker if the Vikings manage to win their final three games, which includes a Dec. 24 game against Green Bay.
Even if the Packers win their other two games -- Sunday against Jacksonville and Jan. 2 at Chicago -- the Vikings would win the division based on the NFL's third ring of tiebreakers.
At 10-6, the Vikings and Packers would be even on the head-to-head tiebreaker (1-1) and also division record (4-2). The Vikings would win out based on a better record in games against the teams' 12 common opponents this season. The Vikings' 8-4 mark would trump the Packers' 7-5 record against common opponents; the key game would be the Vikings' 20-3 victory over Tennessee, a team that defeated Green Bay 48-27.
While that may bring hope to Vikings fans, it brings disgust to me. We could be talking about resting players against the Redskins. We could even be talking about a bye. Instead, we hope for an improbable 3-0 finish.
I wonder what Graham will say to all this? I'll be sure to ask him and let you know. Soon as we finish polishing that Scooby bowling ball.
Tice Pulls A Blutarski
On a day that the Vikings needed a win bad, and at home no less, head-coach Mike Tice had a performance that harkened memories of Dean Wormer's get-together with the denizens of Animal House regarding their report cards.
"Mr. Blutarski. . . . Zero point zero."
As it turns out, Tice should have worn a toga, smashed a guitar, and poured mustard down his chest on Sunday, since his red-flag throwing, poor play calling "coaching" matched Bluto's GPA.
Zero. Point. Zero.
There are, in my view, simply too many factors conspiring against Tice this season, which will merely increase the pressure on Red McCombs to fire him outright. I dare say, even before the end of the season.
The reality is that the NFL is no longer a league of five-year plans. Coaches (e.g., Tom Landry) and quarterbacks (e.g., Terry Bradshaw) used to get plenty of time to show that they can get it done. Tice and offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan won't have the luxury in today's NFL.
Ah, nothing like a little smashmouth to Keyshawn to start the day out right!
Pro Bowl Update
Have you voted for Pro Bowl players yet? As reported in the Pioneer Press, our own Daunte Culpepper, with 652,318 votes, ranks third among all vote-getters in fan balloting for the Pro Bowl behind fellow quarterbacks Peyton Manning of the Colts (722,669) and Donovan McNabb of the Eagles (661,852). The Vikings' Kevin Williams is the leading vote-getter among NFC defensive tackles with 125,720.
Don't forget to bring your Moose calls to the game Sunday. The Vikings will honor former defensive end and 2004 Hall of Fame inductee Carl Eller during a halftime ceremony Sunday that will include the presentation of his Hall of Fame ring.
Note: I first published the following in 2001 in response to a piece written by then STrib columnist Dan Barreiro (aka the Curmudgeon). I offer this piece because last week I complained about the volume at the Metrodome. Could I too be turning into a Curmudgeon? Eeekkkk!
The other day my dog Glynis and I were tramping about the woods near our home. She is a whippet, which is something like a miniature greyhound and just as fast. She loves to chase squirrels. For those keeping score at home, the squirrels are up 225-0-1. The one tie being when Glynis caught a few hairs off the tail of a squirrel with slow reaction time. But she paid the price by slamming into the tree as well. Tree 1, Glynis 0.
On this occasion we did not see any squirrels. Oh, we could hear them chattering mockingly towards us. But they stayed clear of harm’s way. We did come upon a murder of crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos), an unkindness of ravens (Corvus corax) and even a convocation of bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), if I may be forgiven for using the proper group and Latin names for these species, ahem.
My wife Jackie had recently purchased a book about birds so that during a cold winter Minnesota day I can look from our window towards our bird feeders and no longer use the more common term for such groups, “a bunch of birds”, as was my practice before become a serious birder. Now I can engage in serious avian observation and sound like an authority.
When at last Glynis and I returned from our walk we discovered a gossip of women (Chatterus adinfinitus) at my dining room table, said gossip consisting of my wife and some friends.
“We best leave,” I heard Jackie say, “He’ll want to read the sports page now and then start to complain about The Curmudgeon.”
The Curmudgeon! My hated sports columnist who never, ever has a kind word for anything, anyone, or anything. Sensing that my blood was already boiling, even Glynis placed tail between her legs and hid underneath the table.
“Yes,” replied I to Jackie, “The Curmudgeon, Grouchus crankeyus.”
The term I wish to consider here has nothing to do with birding, except perhaps tangentially. It is curmudgeon, as applied to a particular Minneapolis Star Tribune sports columnist, albeit in a strained reach for humorous effect.
Not wanting to interfere with the gossip, I instead grabbed my sports page and trudged muttering off to my study, formerly known as the “hole under the stairs,” packed myself a pipe, ignited it, and, grinding the stem between my teeth, pulled the sports section out from under my arm.
The first thing I saw was the irascible, churlish aforementioned Curmudgeon pictured smack dab on the front page. He was ranting about his irritability from having attended a recent Minnesota Viking football game where the sound system was so loud it had roughed the edges of his temper, worn him down, and exposed a few nerve ends.
Taking a puff on my pipe, I recalled Jackie once say to a professor friend of mine, “Why, Bob, you used to be such a bubbly person and you aren’t anymore.” To which Bob growled in reply, blowing a wisp of hair off his forehead, “I got too old to bubble.” The same thing happened to this sports columnist, I guess. He has just gotten to old to bubble. But it appears he does enjoy a good grumble.
One thing that continually makes this sports columnist irascible and churlish is the positive thinking of Vikings fans, even when it appears the chips are down. To the sports columnist, it is depressing that Vikings fans continue to show up at games and stand on their feet and holler. It is also depressing to The Curmudgeon that the team uses the Metrodome as it should. That is to say, use its home-field advantage. If the team thinks it helps in having speakers in the field, to pipe in music as the opposing team huddles, to play “Welcome to the Jungle” as the ball is kicked off, I say more power to them.
I’d like to end by reminding The Curmudgeon that it was in fact his favorite sport, basketball, that started all this noise-making in the first place. It was the NBA that instituted the glittery introductions, the music blaring as the opposing team came up the floor, and the choreographed cheerleader numbers to entertain the paid attendance. Boy, I bet that must really burn The Curmudgeon to no end when that happens at a Minnesota Timberwolves game. Oh wait, that’s right, he enjoys it there at Target Center…at least, he hasn’t written a complaint about it yet. I know it couldn’t be a double standard now, could it?
As I puffed my pipe reflectively in my den, it occurred to me that just about everything irritates The Curmudgeon these days: the economy, politicians, positive thinkers, clothes, spotted owls, young people, old people, mechanics, plumbers, several major continents, and the expanding universe. I guess said sports columnist realized a long time ago that he, indeed, is a curmudgeon. The strange thing is, I bet he rather enjoys it.
First things first, you need to look at this TD by Randy Moss against the Titans just to set the table. Remember this speed?!?!?
Wouldn't you just love to see that happen against the Packers Girlfriends (have you seen their hair!) defensive backfield? Yeah, baby!
But more importantly the NFL had a significant wide-receiver signing within the last 24 hours. It was a mere $67 million, seven-year contract handed to the Colts receiver Marvin Harrison on Wednesday. What were they thinking? They need to look at the playbook of Vikings Vice President of Football Operations, Rob Brzezinski.
Under Brzezinski's leadership the Vikings have eliminated their salary cap deficit and have transformed their salary cap position into a long-term competitive advantage, signed superstars like Moss and Daunte Culpepper to long-term contract extensions and constructed a plan in 2002, along with then newly named Head Coach Mike Tice, to return the Vikings to long-term on-field competitive excellence.
The Colts? Between Harrison and quarterback Peyton Manning, the Colts have committed $57 million in bonuses and guarantees this year, for two players.
Maybe I'm missing something here, but there are 53 guys on the roster, and the Colts need to be able to put an adequate supporting cast around Manning and Harrison. With an average of $9.6 million per year in coin going directly to Harrison, it could be a challenge.
Next up for the Colts is running back Edgerrin James, who might have an eye on his native Miami as free agency approaches. Using the franchise tag on James would cost the Colts approximately $8 million in cash and cap dollars in 2005.
And while the Colts will have Manning, Harrison, and James together for at least one more year, it'll be very interesting to see how the Colts manage to paste together the rest of the roster with so much cap money going to only three players. Yeah, good luck.
Meanwhile, Moss will be tearing through the defensive backfields of many a team for some time to come. All while the Vikings defense continues to improve. And the Colts franchises sinks under the weight of three huge contracts.
Lot's of rumor flying around as of late pertaining to the current head-coach of the soon-to-be Super Bowl champion Minnesota Vikings. One possible destination being talked about in area sports bars and pool halls is the Washington Huskies.
According to the Washington Scout, there are really only four or five serious contenders. The Boston Globe is reporting that the Washington coaching search is headed by two candidates - Tyrone Willingham and Boston College coach Tom O'Brien, and that the list doesn't extend much past them. Those leading candidates are:
Tyrone Willingham (Former Head Coach, Notre Dame):According to Ted Miller of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Willingham is expected to interview with UW this week.
Walt Harris (Head Coach, Pittsburgh): Avani Patel of the Chicago Tribune reported that Harris is expected to be on UW's short list of coaching candidates. She also reported that Harris is expected to interview with Stanford later this week.
Tom O’Brien (Head Coach, Boston College): BC athletic director Gene DeFilippo said that he fully expects O'Brien to coach the Eagles next year. O'Brien has been contacted by UW for an interview.
Jim Mora, Jr. (Head Coach, Atlanta Falcons): The Seattle Times indicated Thursday that Mora - who initially showed no interest in the UW coaching position - may have met with Todd Turner and Mark Emmert and is intrigued with the idea of returning to his hometown.
Mike Tice (Head Coach, Minnesota Vikings): The Seattle P-I quoted Tice Thursday as saying the Washington job would one of only two or three jobs that could lure him away from his job as Minnesota's head coach. Tice spent ten years playing for the Seattle Seahawks and has a home in Seattle. Both of his children were also born in Seattle.
Scott Linehan (Offensive Coordinator, Minnesota Vikings): Rumors of Linehan lining up for a Washington interview continue to persist through back channels because of his ties to the UW program.
I'll try to post updates as they become available.
Note: I first published the following interview with former Vikings Marketing Director in 1996. I am still trying to locate my Mike Tice interview...but it seems to be lost. Remember people, back up your files!!!!
So just who has set the most Minnesota Viking records in the past three years? Warren Moon? Cris Carter? John Randle?
If you had guessed any of those three prestigious members of former and current Viking teams, you would have been far off base. Many fans forget the people behind the scenes at the Viking headquarters at Winter Park in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Names such as Frank Gilliam, Jeff Diamond, Nick Valentine, Bob Hagan, Lois Martens and Mary Ann Dallas mean nothing to the layman on the street but have everything to do with the success of our team in purple.
Add to this list the name of Stew Widdess, Vice President of Marketing/Business Development. In 1994, his first year with the Vikings, Stew helped the Vikings set a team-record home crowd in a 38-35 victory over the Miami Dolphins on his way to setting a franchise record for home attendance. Last season, a record crowd of 64,168 came to the Dome to watch the Vikings defeat the Packers 30-21. That’s your record breaker, folks.
For forty-five minutes on a day when players were arriving for player development camp, I sat down with the former Dayton Hudson executive to discuss a wide range of topics.
VU: When you first took this job, did you have any idea what you were getting in to and how emotional selling the Vikings is? This has to be a big change from marketing department stores.
SW: The answer is none. I had absolutely no idea what I was headed for. Retail had been tough, Brian, as you well know, and I had been looking around anyway, contemplating to see whether I should consider doing something different.
I got a call from a friend of mine who said there was a job with the Vikings, and I said I don’t know anything about it and at first didn’t want to even bother interviewing. I did agree to sit down with Roger Headrick, and we met for about four hours at a restaurant out in Wayzata [Minnesota]. And listening to him talk made me think there were some things I could do to help the club, and I decided to try.
But the answer to your question is I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into. Other than being a fan like everybody else. I like sports of all kinds.
VU: You served as Chairman of the Skyway Committee for the Super Bowl XXVI Task Force. Did that help you prepare for this position and introduce you to the ins and outs of the National Football League?
SW: Well, you know what it did for me? It got me twenty-two tickets to the Super Bowl [laughter].
People from the NFL kept coming in to see me, and every time they talked to me they’d say, ‘Are you okay? Do you have tickets to the Super Bowl?’ And of course I’d say ‘No, I’m a little short’ [laughter] and so I ended up being able to buy twenty-two tickets.
Ah, you know, what I did for the Super Bowl was a special event. I’m very familiar with that, having done a lot of special events throughout my career as a part of retailing. And, you know, I basically just looked at what was missing, in my opinion, from previous Super Bowls. We had a chance to review everything that the previous Super Bowls had done. The thing that impressed me the most was there was no cohesive opportunity for the teams to have major rallies, to get all their fans together in one location and be supportive of the team.
That became one of the focuses of what we did in the skyway. We had the rally for the Washington Redskins in the IDS Center, and security actually had to close the doors we had so many people. We had a rally for the Buffalo Bills in the Pillsbury Center, and the floor was going up and down so much I was afraid we were going to break something. But it gave an opportunity for people who would normally disperse and go play golf or other things - you couldn’t in Minnesota. So we decided that a party under glass made sense, and a rally before the game made sense. The idea was to give people a lot of opportunities to enjoy Minneapolis and to stay inside.
So in effect it was a special event as opposed to a football event. We had bands. We had entertainment throughout the skyway system. We had things going on for the entire weekend. But I think the one thing it did probably help me realize is that football is not much different from other things in that in effect. It’s entertainment and what you build around a game is as important as the game itself. So it probably helped me. If anything it helped me realize that what was happening in football was not a lot different than what I was doing in retail.
VU: Being a student in Minnesota, high school in Hopkins, college at Carleton, did you grow up a fan of the Minnesota Vikings?
SW: Oh yeah, oh yeah. I remember when Dayton’s ran the ad with the Viking ship outside Met Stadium when they first came here. I used to go down to Parade Stadium, they had a game, probably a pre-season game - it was a long time ago, to watch them. The answers yes, I’ve always been a fan of the Vikings. I was very close to the University of Minnesota football, loved that and of course went to all of their games. But I guess I’ve always been a good fan of the Minnesota Vikings.
When I came back here from California, I was like everybody else. I assumed you couldn’t get seats to the Vikings, and so I was not a season ticket holder. Much to my chagrin when I came in and found out we had a lot of tickets to sell.
VU: You’ve had some tremendous crowds at the Dome since 1994 when you took over. What did you change or implement to bring in those 64,000 plus crowds?
SW: That’s an interesting question [pauses]. You know we’ve done a lot around the game, Brian, to make the experience more fun. I’m not sure that’s what you would say has been a key factor. We’ve been lucky in that we’ve played some pretty good teams. The Miami game was huge. Green Bay is huge all the time.
Last year I basically kept looking at the huge picture of the Dome that you’ve seen on our wall [at Winter Park]. I kept looking at those blank spaces between the field and the stands and decided that we could probably put some more fans in there and that got us our biggest crowd ever last year against Green Bay.
But I think the key factor, quite frankly, is the team you’re playing and the quality of your own team’s play. Particularly in this market. We don’t seem to have the loyalty that they seem to have in Green Bay, in Pittsburgh, in Denver and now in Kansas City, although Kansas City has come upon it recently, where there’s a hard core of fans who’ll come regardless. And that there’s enough of those to make sure the stadium gets filled.
That’s been my biggest disappointment, quite frankly, an inability to get more people into the stadium than we have. We’ve had some real highs. We had our largest attendance in 1994. But for Minnesotans it’s got to be a winning record, a team that they think is going to do well. Particularly with the sterile atmosphere at the Dome, which is what we’ve spent two and a half years attacking.
It’s [the Dome] not a stadium, that given an inferior game, people will come down anticipating enjoying the game. They’d rather watch it on television. You know the greatest example of that is the Minnesota Twins. They’re really having a lot of trouble getting people in. Unless, in fact, they’re going to be the World Champions or reigning World Champions from the year before.
That’s been a big disappointment to me, but by and large, we’re adding the things in the Dome that create the excitement that will help turn the game into a major event. That’s one of our key objectives in marketing. We obviously need help from the team. The team’s got to do well.
VU: Can you tell me about the partial-season ticket plan that you and Viking ticket manager Gina Dillon are bringing out this year?
SW: Ah, yeah. We had a meeting, and it’s interesting because we’re going around the issue of what has worked well for us. Well, our sponsorships have continued to grow. We have doubled the sponsorships every year for the last two and a half years. And when we began to analyze exactly why some of the sponsorships had been going so high, we found out a lot of it was related to Green Bay tickets.
There’s tremendous, tremendous interest in [the] Green Bay [game]. We could sell the stadium out twice. I’ve been holding off fan clubs from Green Bay who want to buy huge blocks of tickets. In the past they were able to do it. When I came here I said we better stop filling the stands with Green Bay fans and see if we can’t get more Viking fans in.
Then the idea that Green Bay can become a hook, if you will, to help get other things done, like sponsorships, became real important to us. We decided this year to basically take Green Bay and put it into a five game package so that we have the first two games of the regular season, which are Tampa Bay and Philadelphia, and the last two games, Detroit and Indianapolis, coupled with the Green Bay game in a five game package. And to see if that isn’t something that can get people to become at least partial-season ticket holders and come down to the Dome. If they like the Dome, my guess is next year they’re going to go up to full season ticket holders.
It also gives an opportunity for us to go out-state. We did the Arctic Blast [snowmobile rally] in Ely, Minnesota, and I spent a lot time talking to the people up there about what it would take to get them to buy season tickets. They basically said ‘Hey, we’d buy season tickets but we can’t come to every game.’ A lot of them are in the mining industry. The mining industry is twenty-four hours a day and the work schedule is not such that they can get off.
That really triggered a lot of thinking on our part. I thought if we can come up with three-game packages, which we have two of, or a five-game package, you know that’s attractive to them because they can come down for a few games and not have to miss games because their work schedule won’t permit them to do it.
So I’m hoping that it’s going to help us tremendously out-state. One of our largest season ticket holder [bases] right now is in Sioux Falls, [South Dakota]. Happens to be a tour company, and it’s not the same people coming every time. They [tour operator] buy the tickets, and then they get people in South Dakota who want to go to a few games and sell them on a individual basis.
I hope this helps to solve the problem we have of getting the base season tickets seats up to a high enough level that we can sell out every game. The objective obviously is to sell out every game, not just to sell out Green Bay or Chicago. But get every game sold out and get every game on television.
I don’t think that’s ever going to happen until we get our season ticket base up. Last year it was 42,000. My guess is we need to get it up between 50 and 55,000 to be comfortable, and I’m hoping that partial-season tickets will be the start in getting that process done. Nothing else has worked particularly well, except for the Thunder Zone. And that’s almost the same premise where the same person doesn’t have to go to every game. That you can pick and choose a few games. But the Thunder Zone bar [involved] takes the entire season [of tickets].
VU: You had bleachers at the Dome last year for the Packer game. At this time, do you feel you might have any more bleacher seating at the Dome this year?
SW: Well, we got a lot of heat [laughter]. You know, I tried to sell the tickets to the Viking fans, actually I got a lot of help from you, Brian, in selling them to the Viking fan clubs. We did not advertise other than on e-mail, and we still ended up with a few Packer fans [laughter]. There were some complaints about it.
But, yeah, I think the answer is if the game is sold out far enough in advance, I would probably try and do that because number one: it allows more people to get into the stadium, and number two: it’s obviously more revenue to the club. And the only condition would be that I’d like to figure out how to make it Viking fans [only] because they’re [the seats] real close to the [opposing] team benches.
VU: We’ll work on that. There are ten board members that serve as owners of the Vikings. Who is serving as head of the audit/finance committee?
SW: The finance committee is Bud Grossman.
VU: Who is serving in charge of the public affairs committee?
SW: The public affairs committee is Wheelock Whitney.
VU: Has any progress been made into the NFL’s request to have a controlling owner?
SW: I think they’re working on a program and a plan now. The League has basically said that this year is the year that things have to be resolved. But I’m not aware of any specific plan.
VU: Can you tell me how the stadium issue, renovation or otherwise, stands at the moment?
SW: Well, we made a significant effort at the beginning of this legislative session to take our message to all of the key leaders of the legislature. Roger Headrick and I went with our current financial situation. Went with concept boards on both the idea of the renovation of the Dome to make it a better football stadium and the concept for a new dual purpose stadium which would move blocks of seats around to create a 42,000 seat baseball stadium and a 70,000 seat football stadium.
Roger’s been at this, frankly, since 1992, I think. He started talking to the Sports Commission. We did get a hearing. We talked to all the important leaders of the legislature. The answer we got back was basically, ‘You have to wait until we solve the Twins situation.’ And at this point we’re kind of waiting to see what will happen.
The Sports Facilities Commission is, I think, in agreement with us finally that the problems the Twins have are consistent with the problems the Vikings have. Both of us suffer from the fact that the Dome does not generate revenue and what ever revenue it does generate is all going to the Sports Facilities Commission.
We do own the suites, which has been a issue. We built the suites. We spent about five million dollars to construct the suites. We pay one million dollars in rent to the Sports Facilities Commission out of our suite revenue, and the suites generate about two million dollars a year for us currently.
But the issues beyond that are the lack of club seating, the concession stands being too small and infrequent to handle the crowd, and the concourse being too small. Any Viking football fans having been in the stadium trying to get a hot dog or something at half-time know that its almost impossible. And that if you get in line, you end up watching most of the third quarter on the monitor next to the concession stand.
Both the Twins and ourselves need to have revenue that we’re currently not getting. We’re in about the same position with regard to an inability to compete. For the Twins, obviously with Major League baseball. With us, not having enough cash coming in to compete effectively for free agents. And to keep the players that are key for us, down the line. That problem’s only going to get worse.
So we think that like the Twins, within the next year or two there has to be some kind of solution. The legislators have listened. They have not turned a deaf ear. They understand our problem. They basically are saying at this point, ‘Wait until we solve the Twins problem first.’ So that’s where we stand.
VU: Where do you stand in comparison to the other teams in the league?
SW: Well, we’re 30th out of 30 teams in rent paid. In other words we pay more rent to play in the Dome than any other team in the league. We are currently twenty-seventh in local revenue. And what is most of the revenue in the National Football League is shared. So that the TV, which is the bulk of it for example, is shared with the thirty teams.
The differential gets down to local revenue, what you can generate out of your stadium. We’re currently 27th out of 30 in local revenue. And the teams below us, we think, are Houston, who has made an agreement to move to a new stadium in Nashville, [Tennessee]; Tampa, who are going to get a new stadium; and Indianapolis.
In all three cases they’re going to improve their positions, and we’re going to be left at the bottom of the league in local revenue. And it’s local revenue that’s allowing teams like Dallas and San Francisco to sign free agents and to plug in the holes in their teams to create Super Bowl champions. We need to be able to do that.
VU: What would have to take place in order for the Vikings to leave Minnesota?
SW: That’s a tough question. I don’t think any of us want to leave Minnesota. I don’t think the owners do. Certainly the people on the staff don’t want to leave Minnesota. So I think the issue is how we work it out within the confines of either the Dome or a new stadium. A new dual-purpose stadium.
VU: Let me rephrase it a little. What would have to take place to keep the team here?
SW: Well, you know, either a new dual-purpose stadium or a renovation of the Dome. And the question right now is what type of renovation? If we were to go back to the Dome and do something, what type of renovation would make it effective for us and make it a revenue producer? And that’s a real issue.
The Sports Commission has consistently said they want to spend 50 million dollars to renovate the Dome and that they realize that there are some problems. The 50 million dollars really will not do much more than change the concourse, add some rest room facilities which are needed, add some concession stands and create a small stadium club by moving the press box to the upper deck. It will not generate enough revenue, in and of itself, to allow the team to be significantly affected and allow us to be more competitive.
So I think if it’s going to be a renovation of the Dome rather than a new stadium and the Twins get their stadium, obviously it’s designed to be a baseball-only stadium, then there would have to be fairly significant renovation of the Dome to allow it to generate revenue.
Then there’s the additional idea that right now the Dome is supported in its operation, pretty much by the Vikings. We paid the Commission in 1995, the last time I had actual figures, about 6.1 million dollars in revenue. The Twins paid 1.7 million, the Gophers paid about 600,000 [dollars] and there was about 2.8 million dollars of miscellaneous which would be concessions and other events. So the Vikings are the primary supporters of the Dome.
That’s why one of the things the legislators have said is, ‘Let’s just give the Dome to the Vikings and the Twins.’ Well, if they did that it wouldn’t alter our situation, without there being more revenue streams coming in, because they need us to support the Dome, to keep the roof up. We’re kind of in a tough position in relation to this whole stadium issue.
VU: In your opinion, has Dennis Green gotten a fair shake from the fans and the media?
SW: The answer to that is no. Dennis has not always handled things well. I think the club has not always handled things well. I think we need to improve our handling of public relations. And we have made a lot of strides in doing so. You’ll never see a ‘no comment’ on any issue that arises from the club any more, at least as long as I’m here.
Dennis has made some mistakes. But he’s apologized for those mistakes, and he really has changed his life. I mean, Dennis today is different from Dennis two years ago. He’s married to a wonderful lady that we all like very much. He’s got a wonderful daughter. And he’s as proud a papa as there is.
There were a lot of issues. It’s interesting; the investigative reporter that did the story on Dennis was the same investigative reporter that did the recent article on [Twins owner] Carl Pohlad. And the paper made, I think, a classic mistake from an editorial standpoint, in having the two beat writers participate in the investigative reports.
There were a great many innuendoes. There were a great many issues raised to which there were two sides to the story. And only one side appeared in the article. So the answer to me is I don’t think Dennis got a fair shake at all.
The original story on Dennis ran when he was out of town. The reporters came to me and said ‘We want to talk to Dennis.’ As we do in all cases, I said, ‘Give me a list of questions so I can get him prepared,’ and they refused to do it. Finally, at the eleventh hour, they came in and agreed to tell me what the story was about. When I heard what it was about, I asked that they delay the story so that we could respond. We wanted to respond but we wanted adequate time to do it, and you can’t do it if you’re going to press at three o’clock the next morning. And we honestly weren’t given that opportunity.
So I think Dennis never got his side of the story out. I don’t think we handled it particularly well, but I don’t think the news media handled it particularly well either. Dennis is, however, a little bit of a different person today. I think he’s much more comfortable with some of the media today than he would have been in the past.
The public takes their cue from the media, and that’s one of the problems that any public entity such as ourselves has to deal with. No amount of advertising, no amount of self publicity can be strong enough to overcome a hostile press. And I think Dennis has had that ever since the article has appeared. He’s been judged and sentenced without ever having his side of the story coming out.
VU: Well Dennis does more charity work than, I think, any other Viking coach has done in the past.
SW: Dennis is very strong in charity. He pushes the players to do charity work, community work. He’s active in a personal basis in the community. But he still has this situation where the press is still somewhat mean spirited towards him. And I think, you know, the criminal part of it all, the difficult part of it all, is he’s very well liked by his players. He’s very well liked within the organization. And we can’t get his personality out into the press.
I’ve started having season ticket holder meetings as a way of at least getting our best fans who are our season ticket holders, both get them involved with the club and give them a chance to ask the tough questions. ‘Why did you let Jack Del Rio go?,’ which came up often when we did it last year, and we respond to that.
And we talk about our situation and we talk about public relations, the media and so on, and invariably the people leave the luncheons in a pretty good state of mind and with, by the way, an open conduit to the club. The last things I say to them is ‘You’re like owners of the club. You pick up the phone and call me if we’re doing something that you think is crazy.’ And give them a chance to listen to the clubs explanation.
That’s worked really well. I’ve had a lot of calls from season ticket holders. We’ve gone through about 600 season ticket holders so far. We’ll start them again shortly and continue them to try and have a communication that isn’t done through the prism of the press where sometimes it can get distorted. I think ultimately Dennis and the organization as a whole have got to get in the playoffs and win a game to get the monkey off our back. And, uh, we’re working hard to try and make that happen, believe me.
VU: You had mentioned the Arctic Blast earlier. How did that go over this past winter?
SW: Fabulous. Fabulous. I think over 2,000 snowmobiles. You know the first one a year ago really opened up my eyes. Because when you get up into northern Minnesota, people aren’t colored by the media in Minneapolis. And they’re great supporters, you know.
If there’s a difference between the Twins and ourselves, for example, is we bring many more people in to games from outside the metropolitan area and from outside the state than baseball does. You can’t buy a hotel room in Minneapolis the night before a Vikings game is on. We sell on an individual ticket basis 30,000 tickets in Iowa and 30,000 tickets in Wisconsin. So we could sell out one entire game with people from Wisconsin and Iowa. And we do not go to the public on games with Green Bay, so they are Viking fans that are coming to other games. It really has opened my eyes.
We followed it up this year with a Draft Party in Fargo [North Dakota] that was patterned off the Draft Party we did here at the Mall Of America that we’ve done here for several years. The nice thing about the Draft Party in Fargo is it coincided with the all the flood problems they were having there so we had eighteen players, cheerleaders, and former players and a few staff people along. We sent four of them to the hospital to visit with the kids, and the rest of us went and worked on the dikes. And I gotta tell you, do you know who the hardest worker was?
SW: Bud Grant. Bud was a hit both in the snowmobile ride in Ely and in Fargo. And the people love him up there. They love the Vikings up there. It’s great for us to get into that environment after you feel so sheepish about opening the paper everyday to see what shot you’re gonna get from a columnist or something. To be up there and get that kind of warm reception, it really is fun and we’re going to do a lot more out-state.
VU: A month or so ago you told me about the possibility of a Viking caravan traveling to the Dakotas and western Minnesota. Is that still in the works?
SW: We’re working on it. I think it’s going to be a little more limited this year than I had envisioned it just because of the timing and because of the need to find a sponsor. With our economic situation, just about anything we do we try and find sponsorships. But it’s something I want to do every year.
You know, I’ve watched the Twins the last two years, and I think what they do out-state is outstanding, far better than what the Vikings have ever done in taking their show on the road, if you will. We can’t do it to the extent that they do it and as many locations, but we can certainly do it in the key cities. It may not be as aggressive this year, but next year I’d like to get it all the way up to Winnipeg, [Canada]. I’d love to take Bud Grant up to Winnipeg. You know we sell 2,000 tickets in Canada. And probably try to take it as far south as Des Moines, [Iowa], and begin to build an audience in southern Iowa.
VU: Nick Valentine, the Viking Finance Director, lurks on our e-mail discussion list. Do any other Viking staff have e-mail capabilities?
SW: We have e-mail capabilities in the public relations department. Oddly enough, a gal named Kari Olivadotti, and you’ll recognize the name because Tom Olivadotti’s one of our coaches, she’s a graduate of English and in between jobs, so I had her involved in helping us getting up our own pages on the Internet. And I’m looking around now, I think I’ve found somebody. I’m going to go back and talk to the league in May about the whole issue of the Internet and each clubs’ use of the Internet. And we will have somebody who will be available, both to post our own pages and then to pick up e-mail and respond.
VU: Is the staff aware of our efforts through the Viking Underground and Viking Fans On-Line and if so, how are those efforts received at Winter Park?
SW: Oh, I think the staff is very much aware of it. We were proud of the award [NetGuide’s Best Personal Web Site Of The Year] that was won by Dan Hildreth. So the answer is we are aware of it. You know, the more people we have talking about the Vikings and the more support we have for the Vikings the better off we are. I think that’s critical to our success long run.
I consider us a public entity. We’re like an utility company. Everyone’s got an opinion on the Vikings. The more involvement we allow people to have with the club, similar to what you and I are doing right now, I think the better off we are. The more people understand what the club’s position is, what our problems are, what our opportunities are, I think the better off we are.
I really couldn’t be more encouraging of what’s going on now on the Internet. We get a lot of ideas. I tell you, Nick, he has the fastest printer here [laughs]. He’ll bring in things that come off the e-mail list and we’ll talk them over. What I need to do is set up a way to respond quickly and become a part of the discussion. But I certainly encourage it.
The thing that impresses me the most when we travel around the country and play a game is the number of Viking fans in each area. I think it’s wonderful.
VU: Since you’ve been here at Winter Park, what has been the most memorable home game for you?
SW: That’s a good question. Well, I’d have to say that it would have been last year’s Green Bay game just because of the largest attendance in [franchise] history, and we’d done some things to make it so. Winning the game, by the way, was a big help too.
But, you know, there have been a lot of games that have been a lot of fun. We have done a lot surrounding the game to make the whole experience more fun. We added tailgating down on Washington Avenue. The Plaza parties have been huge and are going to get bigger because we’re going to expand them this year. We have a VIP tent in place which is something I stole from Kansas City and that has worked out very well. But I think every game is enjoyable for me.
Obviously, I’m like any other fan. I would like us to get by the first round of the playoffs and I’d like that to be a home game. So I’m really hoping that we’ve put together a decent enough team this year. That not only are we going to get into the playoffs, but those games are going to be at home.
VU: Finally, Stew, is there anything you’d like to say to the members of the Viking Underground and Viking Fans On-Line?
SW: Yes, I do. We need vocal fan support. Those of you who are in the Twin Cities understand that the media is not always on our side. And sometimes it’s difficult for the club to step up and try to counter what we consider either misleading information or false information or inadequate information where the entire story isn’t told.
We need others to step up and support us in that way and that’s where Viking fans everywhere and particularly Viking fans who are associated with the Internet become important to us. We need supporters. You know it’s tough for us to get up on a soap box and say, ‘Hey, they’re not as bad as everyone is making them out to be.’ We aren’t, but sometimes if you say it yourself, people tend to discount it.
This is an organization that’s cohesive. The staff is cohesive; the players and the staff are more supportive of each other now than I think we’ve ever been. The chasm, if you will, between the organization and the players and the coaches, we’re all working together.
Last year I instituted a pizza party every Friday. And the entire organization goes down and watches practice Friday morning in order to support the team and have the team understand that everyone’s behind them. But to make sure that we all understand that we’re about football. That our objective is to field a great football team that is going to win the Super Bowl. And that’s been fun. It’s fun for the staff. I think it’s fun for the players. And I know it’s fun for the coaches because a lot of them have commented on it to me. So we’re a fairly cohesive organization.
We need people outside; we need Viking supporters outside to help us improve our position with the media, to get our message out. I’m always grateful when there’s a letter to the editor that’s supportive of the team that appears unsolicited by the club. We don’t always do things right. But the one thing I will guarantee you is that we always have a reason for what we do and we’ll always respond to people who call and want to talk to us and want to know why we’re doing this or that.
It’s important that Viking fans everywhere feel like they’re close to the team and have a understanding of what the team’s doing, both our problems and our opportunities.
So I guess that the one thing I’d like to say is that you’ve been a great help in the past. I encourage you to get more involved in the future and to be supportive. We’re all about trying to win a Super Bowl. I think that’s what everybody is about. I think that’s what the fans want. I know that’s what all the Viking fans on the Internet are pushing for, and we will do it the best way we know how, in a way that’s economic within our ability to deliver the results that people have to have.
But we need support. Too often there’s a siege mentality that’s created by the way we’re treated in the media. I don’t think it’s healthy. I don’t think it’s good. I’m not sure how much we can do other than be open as we are now to counter it.
This is a good team. It’s a good organization. Dennis Green is, in my opinion, a great coach who has done some things with teams that probably shouldn’t have made the playoffs. I don’t think anybody in their right mind, looking at what happened last year, would have said we should make the playoffs. But we did and you have to say that was great coaching.
Dennis was aggressive beginning with that Oakland game after we lost the battle in Seattle. He made a decision that we had to change if we were to survive. He was really aggressive after Seattle in coaching that team to a win over Oakland and playing Brad Johnson and bringing in Leroy Hoard that took us all the way to the point where we started getting banged up again.
I think Dennis Green’s a great coach. I tell you, I have talked to players and I’ve talked to the coaches around here, and everyone is supportive of him. Everyone is supportive of him. We need that kind of support from [Viking] fans on the Internet. We need other people to speak up for the club, not just the club trying to defend itself or trying to get points across that would put us in a more positive light.
You know, I’m doing an annual report right now on our committee relations activities because I think it will surprise people. We don’t do things in the community purely to create a better image for the club. We do things because we think it’s right to support the community that supports us. The Viking Children’s Fund every year for the last two and a half years has increased its grant making and is at the highest level in its history this year.
Dennis Green pushes the players and encourages the players to get out into the community. A lot of that is done in the inner city in mentoring programs and school programs in ways that don’t normally get a lot of publicity.
This year at least I’ve decided I’m going to do an annual report that will outline exactly what we do in the community in hopes that people will understand that we’re about a lot more than just fielding a football team.
And to try to get the fans to understand that the players on the team are human beings and that we’re all dedicated to one cause, and that’s to win the Super Bowl.
“Our Son, the Football Star”
Originally posted September 2, 1997
Last week the Viking Underground brought you the only coverage to be found on the ‘Net on the Viking Kick-Off Luncheon. For that matter, you couldn’t even find mention of it in our illustrious Minneapolis media coverage.
In our continuing effort to bring you the best, most positive, insightful and truthful Viking coverage anywhere today, the Viking Underground now brings you another exclusive: an interview with starting defensive back Corey Fuller’s mother, Alice Fuller-Bates, and step-mother, Matrena Davis-Bates, to bring a unique perspective to our understanding of a professional football player’s life.
This week I had the pleasure of interviewing Alice and Matrena, and they had a ball with it as well. After reading the interview you’ll have to ask yourself, where can I find two bigger Viking football fans and prouder mothers than these?
VU: When did you first realize that Corey was good enough to play professional football?
AF: I never really thought that far. He always wanted to play and I supported him. But I guess I realized he had the potential when he started playing at Rickards High School, [Florida]. He did very well. (Corey had 36 tackles, 11 passes defended and 3 interceptions in 1989.)
VU: Take me back to Draft Day 1995 and describe that day for me from a parent’s perspective.
MD: Nervous, anxious. It was very difficult waiting. I can’t imagine how the parents of those drafted in the 5th through 7th rounds handled it. Corey was the 55th pick, and boy was I glad it was over. Of course, he was watching the TV in the bedroom, and no one went in there but William Floyd of the [San Francisco] 49ers. The rest of us were praying in the living room!
AF: I was anxious and praying he would be drafted. After his name was called there was a lot of hollering and tears of JOY! It was a great day!
VU: Who was the first person from the Vikings to contact Corey after he was drafted?
AF: One of the defensive coaches. Can’t remember the name. It was so chaotic in the house at the time.
VU: What were your first impressions of the Viking organization and coaching staff?
AF: I thought they were a fine organization, very professional, and the absolute BEST, because they drafted my son.
MD: I thought the same. Everything went smoothly and Corey left that night for Minnesota. I have always been a fan since the days of Tarkenton, Page and Rashad and the hail-Mary passes, but of course, since then, the Vikings are my number one team!
VU: One constantly hears how young players sign for large dollar, multi-year contracts, then invest their money unwisely and foolishly. How has your family approached this subject with Corey and how is he preparing for life after football? Has Viking Player Relations Coordinator Leo Lewis assisted in helping Corey make post-football plans?
AF: Corey’s business and investments are his own. However, he has been constantly reminded that there is life after football, and he needs to prepare for it.
VU: What do you hear from Corey about Coach Dennis Green?
AF: He has stated that he likes Coach Green, but he rarely talks to me about the coaches.
VU: Dennis Green has his hands full with Corey and Orlando Thomas, two very talkative players. What advice do you have for the Coach on how to handle these two?
AF: If he needs to, all Coach Green has to do is tell Corey that he is going to call Alice Mae.
MD: That’s all it will take. I know! He is very mannerable and respectful, especially of his mother.
VU: During Corey’s rookie year he forced fumbles from Emmitt Smith and Barry Sanders. How did those two players respond to Corey after the games?
MD: I love it. I don’t know about Barry, but Emmitt did not speak to Corey after that game. Corey mentioned it, but it didn’t bother him in the least.
VU: How did the family celebrate Corey’s first touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1995? I missed it entirely, being in Moscow at the time.
AF: We were very proud, but it would have been better if we had seen the game.
VU: Corey has been nicknamed “Pokey” after his incident with Frank Winters of the Green Bay Packers last year. As parents, how did you discuss that topic with Corey?
AF: I tried to explain that sometimes you have to walk away in the face of adversity and disregard what people say to you, even though it makes you angry. It is hard for Corey to do sometimes, but he is getting better, I think. (Smile)
MD: I expect him to get angry, even though he talks rather frequently! But I ask that he not be so obvious with retaliatory actions and not in front of the ref. He has a handle on it now. (Praying as I say this. Smile)
VU: Any comment on the spitting incident at Tampa Bay with Trent Dilfer two years back?
AF: “Boy, I know you didn’t do that, because I raised you better.”
MD: Alice and I were at that game, and we couldn’t see what happened. But I was surprised and very pissed off at Dilfer’s remarks that Corey would be accused of that type of reaction. He told me that he didn’t do it as he was in his [Dilfer’s] face “politely” requesting that he throw the ball his way, and I think Trent may have gotten too close!
VU: In Corey’s football career including high school, college and professional, which single individual has been his greatest influence and guiding light?
AF: I don’t recall a particular mentor. He always worked hard and respected his elders.
MD: I can’t recall one either.
VU: Corey has been recognized throughout his college and professional football career for his community involvement. Can you tell us why “giving back” to the community is so important to Corey?
AF: Corey gives back to the community because he got where he is due to community programs and dedicated people willing to help. He wants to return the favor. We were poor and appreciated any help we received.
VU: Have you had a chance to witness games at the Metrodome? If so, how have you found the crowd and atmosphere?
AF: Yes, [at the Dallas game in 1995] the crowd was great and the game was very exciting.
MD: It was my first time to Minnesota and a professional game. I won’t count the Buccaneers. There were shakers [pompoms] in each seat at the Metrodome, and the crowd was hyped. We could not talk after the game due to all the screaming, especially when Corey ran down Emmitt. I loved it!
VU: What has been your favorite Viking game to date? What has been your least favorite Viking game?
AF & MD: The [Dallas] game was our favorite. Our least favorite was the game against Green Bay [12/22/96] which resulted in a $30,000 fine!
VU: Can you share a football embarrassing moment with us about Corey that he would rather not have anyone know about?
AF: During one of his high school games, Corey ran a touchdown to the wrong end zone!
MD: I guess he didn’t want anyone to know. I didn’t even know! (smile) He didn’t do anything embarrassing while playing in Daytona Beach the year he lived with me.
VU: How did you discover the Viking Underground web site and what do you like about it? How do you find the fans’ reactions being posted in the Purple Thoughts area and do you find their opinions pessimistic, optimistic or right on target?
MD: I am always in CNNSI, and one of the posts listed the Viking Underground site. Of course, it is bookmarked for life! I enjoy the fan remarks. Most are very positive and criticism is constructive. I’ve never read anything derogatory.
VU: Have you ever disagreed with a referee’s call against Corey?
AF & MD: Yes, many times. They see more penalties than we do! (Smile)
VU: Did you ever try to influence Corey down a certain path other than football?
AF: No, whatever he wanted to do, as long as it was right and legal, I supported him. I encouraged sports to keep him busy!
VU: Is Corey any different off the field than on?
AF: Not really.
MD: No, he is just a bit more talkative!
VU: Any advice for mothers whose sons want to be football players?
AF: Support them, but encourage them to complete college. An education is much more important.
VU: Have you ever feared that, God forbid, Corey could suffer a serious injury on the field?
AF & MD: All the time. Which is why education is so important. We look at pro football as a temporary career because it can end on any given play.
VU: What is Corey’s favorite pre-game meal?
AF: I’m not sure what he has taken a liking to since he has been a Viking.
MD: I’m not sure either, but I would think any meal with chicken is okay.
VU: Any sibling rivalry in the family?
AF & MF: No, not any more. Corey’s brother passed in 1992. He was also good in football.
VU: Which football players did Corey pretend to be growing up?
AF: None that I can think of. Corey really didn’t watch much football on TV.
VU: From a parent’s perspective, what are Corey’s goals in football and life?
AF: Corey recently told me that his goal is to play as long as he can contribute to the game, and when it is over he wants to build a home for troubled youth. Probably because his younger brother died tragically after becoming involved with the wrong crowd.
VU: So what has Corey bought you since joining the Vikes?
AF: A new car [Infiniti Q45] and paid some of my bills. He is such a good kid!
VU: What are your thoughts on the state of NFL ownership in regards to demands for new stadiums and teams moving from city to city?
MD: I think that cities with NFL teams should try to keep them there if at all possible. The owner should try to be more considerate of the fans.
AF: Whatever is best for the team should be the primary concern, usually staying where they are.
VU: Where do you see the Vikings finishing this year?
AF & MD: Number one. Division champs!
Will it come down to better North Division record or NFC record? Or even deeper?
Well, if Minnesota beats GB but wins only 2-3 against Seattle/Lions/'Skins to finish10-6 while GB also follows suit with their games (dropping only MN), GB will have 2 divisions loses, Chicago and Minnesota. Minnesota will have 2 division loses, GB and Chicago. So if may come down to conference record.
Minnesota has lost 4 conference games already, PHI, NYG, GB and CHI.
Green Bay has lost 3 conference games already, PHI, CHI and NYG. Losing against the Vikes would give GB 4 conference loses. Goes to another tiebreaker:
1. Head-to-head (best won-lost-tied percentage in games between the clubs). End up tied.
2. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the division. End up tied.
3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games.
Both beat Dallas
Vikes beat and lost to Bears. Pack lost to Bears and have one game remaining
Both beat Houston
Vikes beat Tennessee and Pack lost
Both have beaten Lions and have game remaining
Vikes have beaten Jacksonville and GB plays in Week 15
Both lost to Philly
Both lost to Indy
Both lost to Giants
Packers have beaten Redskins and Vikes play in Week 17
My projection in common games Vikes 8-4 and Packers 7-5
Vikes win North! Vikes win North!
After a very bad loss in which they could have had the North Division lead all to themselves, the Vikings are looking for answers after losing to the Bears by ten at Soldier Field. How about this one? The Vikings suck whenever they have to play outdoors.
The Vikings have not won an outside road game in December since 1999. I'll just let that stat sink in for a bit.
Now this little known gem. Mike Tice decided last week to not practice outside because it was snowing. We got a dusting that particular day. Not even enough snow to be measurable. Yet, a team that was once proud of playing in the elements took practice inside. A team that once banned heaters on the sidelines when it played at Met Stadium took practice inside. If I were dead I would have rolled in my grave.
The Vikings are a league worst 3-22 in their last 25 outdoor road games. The three wins were Green Bay on opening day last year, Houston this year, and Dallas on Thanksgiving in 2000. Yes, that's right, 2000. There were no outdoor road wins in 2001 or 2002. None. Nada. Zip. Here are the outdoor scores since 2001:
Baltimore L, 19-3
Chicago L, 27-23
Seattle L, 48-23
N.Y. Jets L, 20-7
Tampa Bay L, 38-24
New England L, 24-17
Green Bay L, 26-22
Green Bay W, 30-25
San Diego L, 42-28
Oakland L, 28-18
Chicago L, 13-10
Arizona L, 18-17
Philadelphia L, 27-16
* Houston W, 34-28
Green Bay L, 34-31
Chicago L, 24-14
* Overtime; Reliant Stadium roof was open.
And then there are those of you who think the Vikes would have a chance at Philadelphia in January. If you still think that, go back to the beginning of this column and start reading again.
But then, there was a bright spot yesterday. My fantasy quarterback in the Beer Brotherhood Fantasy League was one Donovan McNabb. Five passing TDs in the first half alone. A team record 464 yards passing. I think that qualifies as being taken out behind the wood-shed for a beating.
Packers quarterback Brett Favre had one of the worst outings of his career on Sunday at Philly. Also enjoyable to watch. But if the game had been televised by ESPN or ABC, the announcing crew still would have spent the whole time talking about what a great guy he is and how great it is that he's still trying his best to bring his team back and isn't it great to see a guy like Brett Favre still playing great and isn't he such a great guy to be the great Brett Favre and greatness is Brett Favre and if you're still reading this you haven't quite gotten the joke yet, have you?
What I want to know from you is which loss was more humiliating as a fan of the respective team. The Vikings getting beat by a team that had been beaten in its previous two games by a combined score of 62-17? Or the Packers who knew by winning they would have first place in the North all to themselves but were whipped by the Eagles 47-17 in a game that wasn't even that close? Tough call.
Let's hope that the Vikes can bounce back this week and that Antoine Winfield will not be out long due to a sprained left ankle.
FFLF (Female Fun Limitation Factor)
One of my perks is the ability to listen to Joe Soucheray on 1500 AM every now and then on the way home from work. Joe, like any radio personality, uses lexicon specific to his show and listeners. One such phrase commonly used or exercised in Garage Logic (the name of Joe's show) is the FFLF (Female Fun Limitation Factor). The FFLF is defined as when a woman asks "Do you really think you should be doing that?"
And boy, does it ever speak to enjoying a Vikings game. Last weekend, my game-day buddy and I spoke of how we felt guilty leaving the house for four hours to attend a game while the wives attended to the kids. FFLF, indeed. That gave me pause to consider why we felt that way.
Now, here is an enlightening statement; most women HATE football. They think it is boring, the game is too long, and way too complicated. Take a chick to a game and all a man usually hears is, "What’s with all those crazy rules? Off-sides, holding, interception, yada, yada, yada! Who cares?"
Now, I really can't complain. Mrs. Cheer Or Die steadfastly attended Vikings games with me for over ten years. OK, she usually brought a book along and I would have to bring her out of a mystery book reading stupor when the Vikings were in the red zone but at least she attended. She also came from a football family. Her brother played college ball and currently is head-coach for Hellgate High School in Missoula, Montana.
But after Cheer Or Die, Jr. was born she stopped attending. It was a decision reached mutually. Mrs. Cheer Or Die wanted to stay at home with the baby. I recall the first game I attended when the little guy was sick. I debated staying home to assist with a sick child but was pushed out the door and told to "enjoy myself." I was miserable at the game. FFLF.
And then there are the away games when I am at home on Sunday. I get The Look. The Look is another Garage Logic phrase that simply means the expression one gets from one's spouse when one does something incredibly moronic. Women are born with a natural ability to give The Look.
I usually get The Look when I SCREAM at the television when the Vikings fumble when driving late in the fourth quarter? Cheer Or Die, Jr. experienced his first Look during the game against the Packers when the ball was fumbled late in the game. I was yelling so he thought he should yell also. I got the dreaded Triple Dog Stare Look reserved only for the most grievous of husbandly crimes. For I was guilty of being considered a moron by Mrs. Cheer Or Die while at the same time passing along said trait to Cheer Or Die, Jr. We both hung our heads and shuffled our feet while standing a mere 2-inches from the television screen. FFLF.
It starts so early, this FFLF. At least, Cheer Or Die, Jr. got his first dose of the FFLF while Papa was around so we could both wallow in our pity together. That's not something a boy of four should experience by himself. He'll be fine. He'll have a little less enjoyment of football now. But he'll be fine.
But there is hope on the horizon. As soon as Cheer Or Die, Jr. is old enough to attend a game and actually stay focused the entire four hours I'm sure that Mrs. Cheer Or Die will only be too happy to push us out the door so she can enjoy an afternoon of reading while sipping some kind of weird herbal tea and partaking in a chocolate bon-bon or two. That's when we hope to turn the tables on her. MFLF (Male Fun Limitation Factor) will hit her like a defensive-end taking down a quarterback. At least, that's what we hope will happen. But for now, FFLF.
More Monday, FFLF permitting.
Another holiday season of joy and fellowship is finally upon us. It’s time to reflect upon all those things that make us, um angry. Yes, angry. Especially when it comes to Minnesota Vikings games. And since it is the season of fellowship, today I will devote a short essay on the thing I would change if you were crowned Thor, leader of all the Vikings Nation. We begin with the music level at the Metrodome.
Oh, yes! The music just rocks, doesn’t it? It used to be that the Vikings would release an eagle from the last row in the bowels of the upper deck. Said eagle would soar majestically over the crowd at the end of the National Anthem to an attendants arm on the field below. Have you noticed there is no eagle any more?
Remember, I am well connected to the Minnesota Vikings and my inside sources tell me that the reason the eagle no longer soars majestically is the decibel level is so high that the vibrations emitting from the Metrodome speakers make birds fall from the sky. They lost one eagle that way late last year. It was quickly disposed of very hush-hush. Shhhhh, you didn’t hear it here.
From my front row perch in Section 101, you can actually hear the speakers rip themselves apart as they struggle to reproduce the rich, complex nuanced sound of a jackhammer driving a 50-foot long nail into your head, or whatever the music is supposed to sound like.
I enjoy looking the twenty-something fans when the music is especially rocking. You know the twenty-something fans. They think Vikings football was invented in 1998 and the reason one goes to a game is to get drunk by 12:01 on game day and then pass out…only after they’ve barfed over your nice leather Vikings jacket.
Anyway, as the music reaches a level upon which my eye lashes shatter, the twenty-something’s are making that deadpan uh-huh, head-bobbing movement that indicates they are most definitely hardcore serious cool, even though the rear portions of their brains are currently being pounded into swiss cheese.
Idiots. I took my four-year old fruit of my loins to his first game this past preseason. I plugged his little ears with those little orange foam thingies so that the State of Minnesota would not send the child welfare authorities in to arrest me for conduct unbecoming of a parent. “You made your child deaf at age four because of your selfish need to attend Vikings games.”
The pre-game introductions began and a hair-metal anthem came on. This was quickly followed by heaving, beating bass drums. I looked at Cheer Or Die Jr. He was not bobbing his head up and down just like the twenty-something’s. He had his hands cupped over his ears while his face was frozen in terror I had not seen since Jerry snipped off Tom’s tail on the Cartoon Network.
"That hurts my ears," he said when the introductions had finished. It's a rocker's world, kid, I told him. It's the price you pay for rocking out.
"Rocking hurts my head," was his reply. Well, your old man isn’t deaf for nothing. After years of listening to first LPs, then tapes, and CDs via big floor speakers, then headphones, and finally 7.1 surround sound stereo my body is finally saying enough!
So, yes, I understand the desire to play music loud. On the other hand, there has to be a compromise to the volume it is played at. I have a youngin’ that needs to see more Vikings games before they move to Los Angeles or San Antonio or wherever it is they will end up. And his hands need to be signaling touchdown or be kept free to fire a whiskey bottle at a referee. Not cupped on his ears.
Golly! Who knew self-righteousness felt this good? Try it by leaving a comment on what thing you would change if you were leader of all the Vikings Nation.
More Friday; see you then.
"I think we're going to be saying, bye, bye, Vikings, in 2012."
Those words were uttered by Rep. Andy Westerberg, R-Blaine, on Wednesday after he had been appointed cochairman of a House-Senate stadium "working group" to "find solutions to the stadium problem." His district is the only area seeking a new Vikings stadium. But, Westerberg said, in light of the forecast, "it's going to be really hard to find money to put into a stadium."
This came on the heels on news of a $700 million state revenue shortfall announced by the state this week.
Now, I'm not so sure I take the same line as Rep. Westerberg that the Vikings franchise is doomed in Minnesota. A lot can happen over the next six years to change the financial horizon for the better. And a lot can happen to even dampen it further.
I still look for the Minnesota Twins to be the team that breaks the ice first, securing a new stadium or folding the franchise altogether. Only then, will the entire focus be on the Vikings. And only then, will the stadium, or franchise. determination be finally made.
Time to put down a bunch of thoughts that have been swirling through the old grey matter this week.
Proposed Minnesota Sports Complex
Are you in support of a Minnesota Vikings sports complex in Anoka County? Anoka County now has a site chock full of information ranging from adding your name to a list of supporters to viewing "fly-by" animation of the proposed sports complex. Pretty cool site, although I'd still prefer a stadium in downtown Minneapolis.
Media Fascination with Favre Continues
Lately, Brett Favre has been receiving more accolades than Jesus Christ did when he walked on water. I mean, enough already! I had to turn off the Monday Night game this past week because I could not longer stomach John Madden's love-fest with Favre. As our own Greet Machine pointed out this week, Jim Marshall has played in far more consecutive games that Favre and didn't even merit a mention on the MNF game. And now this NFL Poll from this week:
What is the main reason the Packers are doing so well right now?
1) Depth at running back
2) Defense playing better than expected
3) Game management
4) Inspired play by Brett Favre
5) Too many receiving targets to cover
Oh, make me puke already! I'll give you the SOLE reason. Within the past six weeks the Packers have played Detroit, Washington, Minnesota (WITHOUT Randy Moss), Dallas, St. Louis, and Houston. Next we'll start seeing this on the airwaves....
"Favre wins again! BRILLANT!"
Let's see what happens to poor Brettsy once he faces the Eagles Sunday! I'll stand by my prediction that the Vikes will win the North division crown by two games.
If you haven't already, be sure and submit your workplace for the Purple Pride Friday Contest. Just e-mail photos of your workplace to the Vikings at firstname.lastname@example.org and each Friday morning throughout the season, the weeks winning workplace will be surprised by Rusty Gatenby from 5 Eyewitness News and Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders! Winners also receive five pregame sideline passes, five field seats for the next home game and a ton of other prizes.
I'm still waiting for the call. Here's some shots of my workplace:
Pro Football Hall of Fame
Some people have inquired about my induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
In 1999, VISA in conjunction with the Pro Football Hall Of Fame sponsored a new promotion called the "Visa Hall of Fans" award. VISA, along with a select committee, would pick one lucky fan from every NFL team to represent their team in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. A special wing in the hall was set up to honor these fans and was named the "Visa Hall of Fans."
In order to be selected, fans would have to write a short essay explaining why they should represent their respective teams in the hall. In January 1999 the first class was selected and the thirty-one winners were invited to be honored at the Hall of Fame. Being there with the other thirty winners helped me recover from the devasting loss to the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship game following the 1998 season.
The Pro Footballs Ultimate Fans Association (P.F.U.F.A.) was born shortly after and holds a reunion each summer during the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction festivities.