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Let’s Here it for the Fans

31 Jan

It’s hard to come up with an new and creative spin on how, from the craptastic ashes of the Minnesota Vikings‘ 2010 season, a majestic phoenix could rise and wing our beloved Purple back to greatness, but I’m really going to make a stab at it. At this point options are kind of limited for Vikings fans. We can either whine and moan about how the Vikings always find a way to break our hearts, or we can find a way to put disappointment behind us and look forward with some kind of hope. Actually, there’s still the option of tossing back a couple of valium and buying that one-way ticket to Costa Rica and never thinking about the Vikings, the NFL, or football again, but I’ve mostly given up that idea. Mostly.

No, like the rest of you hardcore fans, I’m not going to abandon the Vikings. Instead, I’ve tried to think about 2010 in terms of that Jerry Springer recap, you know that “moral-of-the-story” thing he would do after he got people to unleash a whole mess of crazy on his show, to explore what we’ve learned besides the fact that even sweet grandmas can throw a mean left hook given the right inducement.

The more I think about it, the more it seems that if we had to vote for a Minnesota Vikings MVP in 2010, it should be the Vikings fans. In a season rife with drama and disappointment, the Vikings fans did an almost heroic job of hanging in there with our team.

With the exception of the 1970s which was a pretty boss decade for the Vikings, Minnesota has at least one lousy season every decade. This last decade was a bit worse than usual because there were four seasons when the Vikings won less than half of their games and  two seasons when they merely broke even between wins and losses. So, for six out of the last ten years the Vikings have had a mediocre to crappy record. It helps put 2010 into perspective because 2001, 2002 and 2006 were as bad or worse than 2010. What made 2010 seem so much worse was how great 2009 had been.

That painful jaunt through the Vikings sub-par records for the last decade was just an overly elaborate set-up to my attempt to find the good in this steaming pile of disappointment. There is nothing like a brilliant, winning season, say like 2009, to attract fans. However, I don’t think you have the right to call yourself a fan, a real fan, unless you cheer for a team during a losing season. Until then, as far as I’m concerned, you’re just a fan intern.

For example, a lot of people became Vikings fans during the 1970s which, as I said earlier, was a totally boss era for the Vikings. They were the defensively dominant Purple People Eaters who made three of their four trips to the Super Bowl in that decade. As Ted Glover said in his great piece about the wonder of outdoor football, the Vikings of that era were some of the toughest mamba jambas to play the game of football. Yep, the 1970s were a great time to become a Vikings fan, but for those who remained Vikings fans during 1984, the infamous Les Steckel year, you my friends, you get props and a shiny gold star. I was only in kindergarten at the time so my memories of the 1984 season are kind of fuzzy.

And, like those fine folks who managed to hold on through the 1984 season, the people who became Vikings fans in 2008 and 2009 when our Vikings were the NFC North division champions and made it through 2010 with their purple pride somehow intact, you are now full-fledged Vikings fans. Embrace the pain and the paradox of our team.

If I had to come up with just one thing to hate it would have to be something that makes me sounds deep and wise and altruistic, and, somehow, I don’t think black jelly beans will cut it. However, if we came up with a bigger, longer, itemized list of the things I hate, bandwagon fans would be somewhere in the top 50%.

Bandwagon fans make me want to growl and grind my teeth. I don’t like them. I don’t like them with green eggs and ham. I do not like them Sam I am. So if there is anything to be gained from a craptastic season like 2010, it’s that the bandwagon fans who cheered for the Vikings the previous two seasons have drifted off to give their fickle support to the Packers and the people left are the real Vikings fans who cheer for the Vikings even when their home games are played on Detroit’s Ford Field or the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium.

As 2010 dragged on and it became painfully clear that it would not be a repeat of 2009, I expected a pretty big drop-off in Viking support from the local populace here in Minnesota. But I was pleasantly surprised at how many people were still showing their horns no matter how lousy things were going for our team. For example, I remember one day when I needed to get away from all things football for a couple hours and so I went to a sanctuary of all things dainty and girly–the teashop. I was going to eat scones, drink tea with my pinkie in the air, and enjoy not thinking about football for a little while. But that isn’t what happened. Instead, I sat there, eating my scone and drinking my tea while I eavesdropped on the grandmas sitting at the table behind me who were talking about what the Vikings needed to do to turn the season around. Now, for all you manly men out there who have never been to a teashop let me explain something, conversations about football are something of a rarity in places where there are more frilly doilies and dainty teacups than you can shake a stick at.

That those little, old ladies were so involved with the Vikings’ season that they simply had to discuss the Vikings’ season over floral teacups is both cute and kind of sassy. That those ladies weren’t atypical suggests that the Minnesota Vikings have better fans than they had any reason to expect this season. Yes, even in a season where our Vikings made under-performing and drama as commonplace as black nail polish on goths, people were still wearing their Vikings shirts in the middle of the week, were still putting up purple and gold mailboxes, and were still adorning their vehicles with Vikings decals and flags.

So, for all this Purple Pride in the face of adversity and general crappiness, I think the Vikings’ fans deserve some kind of acknowledgment. I would prefer my allotment of the aforementioned acknowledgment in the form of cash or tropical vacations, but I’ll take heartfelt thanks too. After a season like 2010, the Vikings faithful deserve at least that much.

*This piece is also posted at the Daily Norseman under my alter ego Skol Girl.

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4 Comments

Posted by on January 31, 2011 in Football, Series, Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

4 responses to “Let’s Here it for the Fans

  1. purplegrey

    February 3, 2011 at 10:23 AM

    Hey Chin,

    Yeah, yeah, I know…Long time no hear from…I’ve been halfway sick and haven’t been online much so I missed this article on DN. Great piece though and you’re so right. Bandwagon fans are the worst. You can truly tell a real fan when they’re sporting the Purple and Gold even during a crappy season…And I’ve been around long enough (some would swear way too long) to see the many valleys as well as the peaks of the Vikes over the years. After all that, I’d have to say that my worst moment ever as a fan was the “Hail Mary” game (or what we Diehards refer to as the “Drew Pearson Push-Off Game) in 1975. That Viking team roared through the season with a 12-2 record with it’s two losses coming by 1 and 3 points respectively. Even after an off game against the Cowboys, it still looked like they would pull it out in the end (if those effing refs had the coordination to pull a flag out of their pocket at the appropriate time)but true justice appeared to be blind on that day(unlike the sure handed fan with the extremely accurate whiskey bottle afterwards). Anyway, you get my gist. We’ve had just about every kind of monkey wrench you can think of thrown in the spokes of our team’s seasons over the years and we’re still here…and will be as long as there’s an ounce of breath in our bodies.

    BTW, on a related note, I saw Aerosmith in 1975 on their “Toys in the Attic” tour. REO Speedwagon opened up for them and the concert started out great until Steven Tyler leaned too far out into the crowd with ties hanging from his mic…An overzealous fan grabbed onto it and the tug of war began. Steve eventually won but in doing so he hit himself in the mouth with the mic. The concert went downhill from there. Ahh, memories…

     
    • chinspeaks

      February 3, 2011 at 7:51 PM

      Hey Grey,

      Sorry to hear you were halfway sick, I hope you’re all-the-way better now. I’m amazed at how many people I see strolling through our MN winter wonderland who are still sporting their Vikings gear. The season sucked and now it’s over, but these die-hard folks are still wearing their Vikings shirts and hats and coats. That takes either a whole lot of chutzpah or a very limited wardrobe. I’m not sure which.

      My Vikings heart-break moment goes back to that Conference Championship game against the Redskins during the 1987 season when, I think it was, Darrin Nelson couldn’t haul in the game-winning touchdown. Yeah, that one stung.

      Dude, you saw Aerosmith in 1975? Sweet! You sure saw a lot of concerts, I think I may have to interview you sometime for your concert survival tips 🙂

       
  2. Purplegrey

    February 5, 2011 at 4:49 AM

    Thanks for the kind words but I’d probably be a poor interview…Too many years and too much water over the dam…Most of my fave concerts were back in the 70’s-80’s period. You’re not going to believe this but when I was in high school you could buy concert tickets in three catagories…4 dollars for cheap seats…5 dollars for medium…and 6 dollars for the premiums, which leaves me shaking my head at the ridiculous prices for tickets today. I recall when the Eagles were on their reunion tour in 2004 and the average rate for a ticket was over a hundred bucks! I couldn’t believe it when I saw them in 1977 on their “Hotel California” tour for five bucks. This included an opening act by Jimmy Buffet and was after Joe Walsh had joined the band. They were in their prime too, before time had turned their voices to a shell of what they were. I guess it’s better to savor the memories than to try to relive them at a modern show and be disappointed.

    I remember that game as well because I live in Virginia which is “Deadskin” territory. The strike killed the Vikes chances of hosting the NFC Championship and the only reason the Skins hosted it was because Jack Kent Cooke prepared for the strike by rounding up the best scab players beforehand (which should have been illegal). That and the fact that the Vikings had already eliminated the 49ers…Damn, I hate Washington (in more ways than one…)

     
    • chinspeaks

      February 7, 2011 at 8:14 PM

      Wow, tickets to national acts like the Eagles for $5? I saw some cheap concerts ($10-20 range) when I was in college, but those weren’t well-known national acts. At least they weren’t at the time.

      My father, never what you would call a hardcore Vikings fan, had taken me shopping on the day of that ill-fated game against the Redskins in the 1987 season. I remember coming down the escalator at Sears and all the big-screen televisions were showing that fateful play that ruined the Vikings’ Super Bowl hopes for the season. Ah, memories.

       

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