With the Vikings fresh from one of their most decisive victories of the season, crushing divisional rivals the Chicago Bears, and maintaining a three game lead at the top of the NFC North division, Vikings fans are staring down the very real prospect of witnessing that much touted deep playoff run. Thus, the question on every Vikings fan’s mind is, “What am I going to wear?”
Okay, that could just be me, but with the holidays and the playoffs fast approaching it doesn’t hurt to find out if the Vikings fans on your list are looking for more wardrobe options to show their purple pride—especially those band-wagon fans who cheer for the Vikings only when a winning season is guaranteed. I’ve devoted some thought to this question because, much as I love my John Randle jersey, with so many talented players on the 2009 Vikings roster it seems like a crying shame not to support current players too. However that leaves me with the problem of deciding whose jersey I want to add to my purple collection. Here are some strategies for choosing a jersey that I hope helps you choose a jersey for yourself or the Minnesota Vikings fans on your list.
Superstar! Like Mary Katherine Gallagher, SNL’s irrepressible Catholic school-girl, some players are just superstars. They are full of flash and talent, they break records, and they are fan favorites. Obvious Vikings superstars include Brett Favre, Adrian Peterson, and Jared Allen. And, as the obvious superstars, they sell the most jerseys so you might want to shop early to make sure stores have their jerseys in the size you’re looking for.
Vikings to the end. I don’t like to share, this is the reason why it makes me twitch when the players I cheer for sign with other teams. One way of getting around that problem is to wear the jersey of a player who is going to retire a Viking. This year that includes Antoine Winfield and Jim Kleinsasser, both of whom signed contracts last off-season to guarantee that they will end their playing days as Minnesota Vikings.
Workhorses. Although some players possess the kind of talent that makes football look easy, football is a team effort. For every superstar on the field racking up points and stats, there are several players doing unlauded work to make those plays possible. The running game wouldn’t be anything without blockers. No matter how MVP the quarterback, he can’t do much if his offensive line doesn’t protect him. And the pass rushers wouldn’t have a pass to rush if the nose tackle wasn’t stuffing the run. A list of those players would include Steve Hutchinson, John Sullivan, Naufahu Tahi, Jim Kleinsasser, and Pat Williams—to name a few. Oh, and one of the best third-down backs in the league, Chester Taylor.
Up and comers. Maybe you, or someone you’re shopping for likes to be the first to support the team’s youngest players. This year Sidney Rice (third season) is silencing critics who, last year, suggested he was a draft dud. Percy Harvin is tearing up the field and proving he was worth the risk of drafting. John Sullivan, now in his second year, is helping to keep Favre from taking so many punishing sacks. Tyrell Johnson and Asher Allen have been in the rotation since Winfield has been out with a broken foot—both show real promise.
Pick your position. Another way of choosing whose jersey to wear is to choose by offense, defense, or special teams. If your fan doesn’t have a specific player in mind but loves running backs, safeties, or linemen, you have a starting place. Me, I love linebackers (E.J. Henderson, Chad Greenway, Ben Leber) because I grew up watching Scott Studwell. Others love the receivers who race down the field, make flying leaps, and catch passes that don’t seem catchable (Rice, Harvin, Bernard Berrien). Vikings special teams is dramatically improved from where it was last year (Ryan Longwell, Heath Farwell, Darius Reynaud). And, this year’s defensive line (Jared Allen, Pat Williams, Kevin Williams, and Ray Edwards) feels destined to go down in history alongside the famed Purple People Eaters.
I just like him. Some players are just likeable. It may be for their stats, their personality, or even their off-field charitable work. Last year, for me, that player was Bobby Wade. But there are plenty of current candidates too. E.J. Henderson, in addition to becoming the E.J. he was before last year’s season-ending injury, he uses his foundation to reach out to urban youth. Steve Hutchinson hosts a Thanksgiving meal every year at UM Amplatz Children’s Hospital for patients and their families. Artis Hicks supports the Ronald McDonald House charities. Adrian Peterson has his All Day foundation. Chad Greenway supports breast cancer awareness. Bernard Berrien teams with the Second Harvest organization to combat hunger. The list goes on and on, but my point is that, in this season of giving and charity you can also chose a player to support based on what they support.
Well, I hope this gives you some ideas as you set forth on your jersey-shopping adventure. To be honest, I’ve convinced myself that I need a jersey for just about everyone on the roster so I hope this worked out better for you than it did for me.
Happy holidays and Purple Pride!