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The Curious Misadventures of the Unlikeliest Sports Blogger–Part 4

Or, Where I Stop Toying with Ted’s Patience and Get On with the Story

Ted is a patient person, but even his patience has come to an end. He has demanded to know what happens in Part 4 of my curious misadventures of the unlikeliest sports blogger.

So there I was, writing under the name Skol Girl, a member of the Daily Norseman site for about a month and suddenly they were asking if I was interested in writing for the site’s front page. I pinched myself and enjoyed that feeling of professional validation for longer than I should have when it suddenly occurred to me that my first front page story would land just before the Minnesota Vikings’ rematch with the New Orleans Saints.

Not since 1998 had Vikings fans experienced that acutely agonizing sense of what could have been the way they did after the Vikings lost to the Saints in the NFC Championship game during the 2009 post-season. The game was close, scrappy, with both Brett Favre and Drew Brees marshalling their forces for incredible scoring drives. But the game ended with the Saints going on to the Super Bowl and the Vikings just going home. For the NFL to start the 2010 season with a rematch of that game…well, I got the feeling the NFL was setting up the Vikings to get completely trounced so the Super Bowl-winning Saints would have that glorious, “conquering-champion” moment.

My suspicion stemmed from the fact that the NFC Championship game was incredibly costly for the Vikings. Several key players were injured in that game and even several months later the Vikings’ roster was still gashed. I had my story.

I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t a little concerned about suddenly writing for the Daily Norseman front page. Because what I wrote would be on the site’s main page, a lot more people were going to be reading my articles and I really wanted to validate Chris Gates’ (our fearless leader) decision to add me to the staff. However, if I had known how I came to be offered that position, I would have been more interested in what Ted thought. Ah yes, we have come to the Ted portion of my tale and the explanation of why I refer to him as my fairy godfather.

Back when I was snarking back at Ted’s supportive comments on my fan posts (Part 3), I had no idea that he was sharing that same opinion with Chris and the other front-page writer Eric. See, my timing for drawing Ted’s attention was surprisingly good. Just as Ted was noticing my writing, the Daily Norseman found itself in need of another front-page writer.

It was Ted who recommended me for the front-page staff. He read my fan posts on the Daily Norseman and liked my peculiar take on football writing and my interaction with other DN members in the comments, which is kind of a big deal with DN.

As a chick in the sausage fest world of football writing, the odds are good that at least one guy in the entire readership of DN might be a dick. Thus far, I had been remarkably lucky in avoiding those people. However, there were a couple of the condescending “honey” and “sweetie” comments where guys kindly explained to me the error of my ways regarding my opinions. Actually, for some of those guys being condescending was probably a kindness—if I’d been a guy there’s a good chance they would have been a lot more abusive in their disagreement. Even though those “oh sweetie, let me explain something to you” comments grated on me, I tried not to answer back combatively. Sometimes it was a struggle, but I didn’t have many readers and couldn’t afford to start alienating them.

But Ted noticed my efforts. And it made him curious about me. Curiosity isn’t too surprising since a chick writing about football is only a little less rare than a two-headed duck. So, Ted wandered over here to WordPress to see what else I had written. Turns out he liked that too. Despite my family’s skepticism, it turns out I do have charm. Unfortunately, it’s only in print form.

When I set about writing that first front-page story, I had not a clue that Ted was my fairy godfather. That’s probably good because I had enough nerves about that first story, if I’d known he had vouched for me I would have been a wreck. Like I said, I wanted to validate the decision to add me to the front-page staff. It had me feeling insecure and as if I needed to up my game.

That professional insecurity is a spooky feeling and the urge to reinvent myself was strong. Fortunately, I had one of my better moments of self-awareness and realized that my style, quirky as it was, was what got me noticed so I should probably just be myself. I could improve, make sure to double-check all my facts and stuff like that, but stay myself. Even though my style wasn’t full of statistical analysis, it was full of me and I would sink or swim on the DN front-page as me.

I wrote exactly what I felt about the Vikings rematch with the Saints—dread. If the Vikings’ first game of the 2010 season was as costly as the last game of the 2009 season, I suspected that the Vikings would be limping the rest of the season. So, as humorously as I could, I wrote about how I would be cringing during that rematch and titled it “Wincing the Night Away,” I posted it, and then I waited.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from my first front-page post. That was probably good because any expectations I might have had would have been wrong. I got a ton of positive comments, some flirty banter, a marriage proposal, and asked out for a date. That guy who asked me out? A Saints fan–nope, not making that up. Real pity he was on the other end of the country because a guy who likes football and quotes Oscar Wilde is certainly worth meeting.

Despite my fears that DN readers would be outraged to have me doing my quirky schtick on the front page of the best Minnesota Vikings blog around, no one was calling for my immediate removal or saying I should be beaten with sticks. It was a surprise. Little did I know, bigger surprises were in store.

As always, thanks for reading. Join me for Part 5 and the bigger surprises. They may or may not have something to do with lights, cameras, and action.

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It Takes Two To Make a Thing Go Write…

…At least it does in both of these novels

A couple years ago I read a book written by two authors. I thought having a male/female writing team would be a good combination, giving more realistic reactions for both genders. Instead, the book was awful. No, I take that back, it was worse than awful. It was abysmal. In fact, I dislike this book so much I refuse to even mention the title or author names in case someone can actually think of some kind of defense for that craptastic book.

That experience made me seriously skeptical of writing teams. I realize that this was not particularly fair, but I did have a couple good reasons for my thinking. First, that book (that shall not be named) was incredibly bad. Second, writing styles can be like fingerprints, unique to the individual, therefore, combining writing styles can be challenging. Third, logistically, it is challenging to combine information without a bunch of mistakes—brings up bad memories of group projects in grad school. Fourth, people tend to like to be stars more than team players, no matter what bunk they say might say during job interviews.

And yet, despite these deeply held beliefs that team-writing is a challenge few conquer, I took a chance on not one, but two books written by male/female writing teams. Yes, I contradict myself.

The interesting premises of these books persuaded me to put doubts aside and take another chance on writing teams and it is a good thing I did. Both books were excellent. Widely different in premise, setting, and style, but both were solidly good reads that left me wanting more.

The Archangel Project

C.S. Graham

Back when The Davinci Code by Dan Brown came out, it seemed like everyone was reading his stuff and I followed suit. But, while Brown had a great knack for suspense, the female characters in his book were such stupid nymphos it was laughable. I’d be reading along thinking to myself, “I don’t know any woman who would think that” or “that doesn’t seem realistic.”

A fiction writer knows right off that the readers are fully aware that the story before them isn’t true. Therefore the writer has to create a mood in the novel with enough realism so that readers can suspend disbelief and just allow themselves to be swept along with the story. When I’m thinking, “no woman would do that” I’m not being swept along. Not only am I not suspending my disbelief and letting the story whisk me away, I’m also kind of pissed off.

One day, while checking out the new mystery section at my favorite Barnes and Noble, I found a book by C.S. Harris, a mystery series set in Regency era England. In reading about the author, I discovered that she (real name Candice Proctor) also wrote another series with her husband, Steven Harris, under the pseudonym C.S. Graham. This series, set in present-day New Orleans, also sounded fascinating.

Even though I didn’t know a thing about remote viewing, I wanted to take a chance on the October “Tobie” Guinness/Jax Alexander series. I just had a strong gut instinct that a woman who wrote her own series of mysteries would be able to exert enough influence on her husband to write a female character who was believable. Turns out, my gut was actually right.

October “Tobie” Guinness is attempting to restart her life in New Orleans after she was discharged from the Navy. A connection through the VA hospital leads to her research and development as a “remote viewer” with Tulane professor Henry Youngblood. Using Tobie’s cognitive abilities Professor Youngblood unwittingly uncovers a domestic terror plot with international implications—information that people are willing to kill to keep secret. As the one who remotely viewed this explosive information, Tobie’s life expectancy is suddenly nil. Her only chance of survival is black-sheep CIA agent Jax Alexander, a guy the current director of the CIA is actively working to destroy, and unraveling the mystery of the information she uncovered.

This book takes place over the course of about three days, three very breathless days of Tobie running for her life. The Archangel Project moves between Tobie, Jax, and the bad guys who are relentlessly chasing them through steamy, post-Katrina New Orleans. The descriptions of the crippled, but recovering, city were so vivid that I swear I could almost smell salt water and feel the sticky air. Better yet, despite being together for a solid two days of adrenaline-charged near-death, Tobie and Jax managed to avoid sliding into one of the ridiculous sexual encounters that so often plague other books like this. I made the mistake of starting to read this book at night, it is damn hard to put down. Can’t wait to get my hands on the second book in the series, The Deadlight Connection*.

Phoenix Rising: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel

Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris

Prior to reading this book, I didn’t know much of anything about steampunk. I knew about gamers, and Goths, and gloom cookies, but not steampunk. Turns out, steampunk is sort of like a lovechild between Victorian era steam-powered technology and science fiction fueled alternate history. The culture, manners, and social mores of the late 19th century gets creatively mashed together with steam-powered innovation, science fiction, and a liberal sprinkling of whimsy in this series debut Phoenix Rising.

Miss Eliza Braun, a proud daughter of New Zealand, is an agent for the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences. She is fearless, progressive, has a deep affection for dynamite and firearms, and is currently being punished. Instead of working in the field chasing down threats to the Crown, she’s stuck in a damp basement learning from archivist (do not call him a librarian) Wellington Books, a man she recently rescued. Eliza is bored to tears cataloging evidence other agents bring back from field assignments, but then chance offers her a rare opportunity to investigate the unsolved case that destroyed her former partner. With Wellington Books, reluctantly, at her side, Eliza investigates a conspiracy that will take them from London dives to opulent country estates, requiring both of their skill sets to keep them alive.

Ballantine and Morris have created an appealing steampunk Odd Couple in Eliza and Wellington and I’m really annoyed that I discovered this series so early on. Ideally, I like to stumble across established series so I don’t have to impatiently wait for the next book in the series to come out. But the premise and characters in this series were so fun I didn’t want to wait. I’m glad I didn’t, even though now I’m stuck waiting for the next installation to hit bookshelves.

Part of what I liked so much about this book is that it did just about everything right. The historical touches of gritty Victorian England were vivid, the action sequences were well-paced and made sense, and the banter between Eliza and Wellington was funny. This bit, where Eliza comes dragging into the office late and dead tired after a long night of running down a lead in the case, was one of my favorite examples of the desert-dry humor used in Phoenix Rising’s dialogue.

“You’re late,” he reminded her, punching into the engine his tea sequence.

Eliza’s hand dropped to her lap as she let her head fall back. “Yes, Books, I know. I’m such a bad, bad agent. I should be put across your knee and spanked.”

“Your fantasies are not my concern,” he observed dryly.

In contrast to The Archangel Project, there is a lot more titillation and sexual tension in Phoenix Rising. The events in Phoenix Rising take place over the course of a couple weeks and the action ebbs and flows so I don’t mind the addition of sexual tension and a possible eventual relationship between Eliza and Wellington–to me, that makes sense. What doesn’t make sense to me is when the main characters are concussed, dealing with gunshot wounds, and still somehow feel like getting their freak on, ala Dan Brown.

Even though I’m reviewing these two books together, they are very different. For those of you who like a good historical mystery with a sci-fi twist, Ballentine and Morris’s Phoenix Rising might just be the ticket for a nice, late summer read. And, for those who are into government conspiracies, CIA operatives, and racing the clock to save the world in a present-day setting, you might want to check out The Archangel Project. Both books are good reads that lead off what promises to be two very good series.

*I looked for The Deadlight Connection and couldn’t find it. Turns out, somewhere between putting the first chapter of book two at the back of The Archangel Project and it actually coming out in print, there was a title change. So, book two in the Tobie Guinness/Jax Alexander series is The Solomon Effect and not The Deadlight Connection.

 
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Posted by on August 3, 2011 in Books, Lifestyle, Series

 

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The Curious Misadventures of the Unlikeliest Sports Blogger–Part 3

The NFL lockout has dragged into its fourth month, the Minnesota Vikings and lawmakers are at odds over the Arden Hills stadium proposal, and not even Bryant McKinnie, who usually doesn’t disappoint, has caused a scandal lately. To say that stories about football in general and the Vikings in particular are thin is kind of like saying George Hamilton has a bit of a tan.

So, with absolutely nothing else to distract me, it seemed like a good time to turn my attention back to the long-neglected topic of how the heck I got into sports writing. That’s right we’re back with Part 3 of the Curious Misadventures of the Unlikeliest Sports Blogger. Which you already know from reading the title of this article. Hmmm, kind of stole my own thunder on that one.

But enough of that, back to the story.

To recap, I’m a girly-girl crème puff who also happens to rabidly love Minnesota Vikings football. In Part 1 of this series I wrote about how in August 2009, I responded to an ad asking for writers to blog about the Vikings on a site called vikingsmix and suddenly, I was writing about football every week–a prospect that wouldn’t have scared me so much if I had known just how few readers vikingsmix had. Then, in Part 2 of this series, I mentioned discovering the Daily Norseman and how different it was from vikingsmix.com. When I posted a story on the Daily Norseman I knew that people actually read it because they left comments. It was cool to write something and then share a dialogue about it with other fans. I wrote a couple posts and started to get some attention, not much, but some. Then, I posted “Brett Favre Returns to Football Again, Er, Again-Again.”

He’s ba-ack!

Eventually, the day will come when the football world no longer cares about every single thing Brett Favre does. Fortunately for me, August 18, 2010 was not that day.

Favre returning to the Vikings in 2010 was big news. It wasn’t as big a deal as it was the year before, but it was still big news. The Wilfs sent Steve Hutchinson, Ryan Longwell, and Jared Allen to Mississippi to reason with Favre and they managed to get him to agree to return for another season. Once again, Minnesota Vikings fans wanted to read everything they could about Brett Favre—even Daily Norseman fan posts written by Skol Girl. Yeah, that would be me.

My August 18, 2010 post about Favre rejoining the Vikings garnered lots of comments, lots more than my previous posts, and it even received a few recs. The recs were particularly exciting because they kept my story at the top of the fan post queue, exposing my story to more readers. However, more important than the comments or the recs, that post attracted the attention of Ted, my fairy godfather.

Where I meet Ted, sort of

Ted didn’t sprinkle me with pixie dust or say, “bibbity-boppity-boo”, but he was the first member of the Daily Norseman staff to leave a comment on one of my stories. Complimentary comments were always nice to read, but complimentary comments from someone on the site’s staff were even better. I love to write and it’s something I do almost more naturally than speaking, but I’m not doing this to get poor—so, knowing that someone on the Daily Norseman staff was reading my material made me feel hopeful.

That hopeful feeling was validated when, about two weeks later, I heard from Ted again. After my story about a particularly ugly preseason game he left me a comment saying I was a great writer and that he loved reading my posts. I remember I smiled benignly at my computer screen and asked, aloud, “Then why the hell haven’t you hired me?”

The computer screen did not respond. Fortunately, I didn’t expect it to.

The right ingredients

Success in life is about working hard and making the right choices, but it’s also about timing and luck. Ideally, through hard work and good choices, you’ll be in a position to take advantage of luck when the timing is right. This combination has almost always eluded me.

But not in early September 2010.

It was the day after the draft party for my fantasy football league and I was dead tired. We had stayed up ridiculously late enjoying the Minneapolis nightlife on a rooftop patio the night before. I was so tired that it hurt to focus my eyes enough to read. And yet, for some reason, I thought this was a good time to check my email.

Lurking in my inbox was an email from someone called Christopher Gates. I didn’t know who that was but the subject line was about the Daily Norseman. Despite not knowing who Chris was, I opened the email. It was an offer to write for the front page of the Daily Norseman.

I won’t kid you, in my sleep-deprived state, and considering what I’d been telling my computer screen less than a week before, I was under the distinct impression I was being punked. In retrospect, I can see that that didn’t make sense, but at the time I was really, really tired and not thinking straight. I did the wisest thing I could think of, I logged out and went to bed.

The next day, being much more rested and no longer seeing double, I reread the email from Chris. Good thing too because the offer was genuine. That’s how, just a month after I became at member on the Daily Norseman, I was a front-page writer.

For once, it seemed like my hard work and good choices had put me in the position to take advantage of some well-timed luck.

Thanks for reading and I’m fairly sure that in Part 4 of my Misadventures I’ll get around to mentioning marriage proposals, stalkers, and my first front-page post for the Daily Norseman. Oh, and more about Ted’s role in how I got the offer to write for the front page.

 

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Ode to a Book: The Bibliophile Defends the Printed Page, Sort Of

The world is changing. In the last hundred years we’ve moved from the industrial age to the technological age. And now our technology upgrades so rapidly gadgets are obsolete almost as soon as they hit the market–a smaller, faster, cheaper version out as soon as you get the original. It leaves me wondering if there are any remaining constants, any traditions that transcend generations and gadgets.

Mostly, I don’t mind the techno-encroachment and the convenience it brings. But there is one place where the rapid demise of tradition makes me wince–the bookstore.

E-readers are exploding onto the market. These sleek tablet computers let you travel with an entire library, but take up no more space than a single book. They allow you to purchase new reading material anywhere you can find a wifi connection. E-readers and digital books are the wave of the future and I understand their  practicality and appeal, but I’m reluctant to give up the joy of cracking the binding and smelling the paper of a traditional printed book.

More than a feeling.

I grew up loving books, largely because I’m a night person. Like a lot of little kids, I didn’t want to go to bed. I was absolutely certain fascinating, exciting things happened as soon as I closed my eyes. So, I tried to push back my bedtime with bedtime stories. Maybe you did that too, begging your mom or dad for another book before going to sleep, one more story while they held you close and read words you could recite by heart, and all the while you’re rubbing your eyes and fighting off sleep.

Now that I have a niece, I’m rediscovering that same cozy, bedtime-story feeling. Baby Girl, now a toddler, loves her books. Once, I carried her too close to the bookshelf and she tried to launch all 21 pounds of herself at the shelf like a flying squirrel. When she wants a book, she’s gotta have her book–now. Her current favorite is Heads, written and illustrated by Matthew Van Fleet. It’s a book for babies and toddlers, complete with thick, easy to turn pages, different textures for her to touch, and tabs that she can push or pull to see the images on the page move.

Since Baby Girl started walking she doesn’t like sitting still or being held, there’s just too much for her to see and do. But sometimes, for book time, she puts that aside to sit on a lap, be cuddled, and turn pages. And in that moment I get to share something with that 21st century digital kid that I did when I was her age.

When I was little my favorite picture book was Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day written by Judith Viorst and Ray Cruz. I loved that book and I still do. There’s something strangely comforting in knowing that bad days can happen to anyone, even in Australia. In college, I wrote a column in the school paper about my distress over losing my copy of Alexander. Not long after reading that, a friend found me a replacement copy at a garage sale. This book is slightly battered and dog-eared with a bluish splotch on the cover that could either be fossilized gum or paint, I’m not sure. And yet, I like it even better for knowing it was read, and that sticky, little fingers turned the pages while someone read the familiar words aloud.

Bibliophile unplugged.

Packing for a trip requires at least three different power cords and chargers nowadays. I can’t tell you how tired I get of making sure to plug in, well, everything. It’s almost nice to have at least one thing that I know will work no matter how long ago I put it down and that makes a printed paperback more relaxing for me. And, as an ever-so-slightly clutzy person, I like knowing that if a book slides off my bed or gets bumped off a table or falls in the bathtub (that happened with my copy of The Great Brain), I can still read it.

Tradition.

And, it isn’t just the joy of the books themselves, it’s also the traditions I have with them. Browsing used bookstores is a habit that ranks just slightly below a compulsion for me. Armed with a list of the authors and books I’m looking for, I hunt the aisles. It’s like being in a Humane Society for books, all of them sitting there just waiting for a good home. While I know it’s easier to get a digital versions of some of the books I’m looking for, there isn’t that same thrill of the hunt involved with pointing, clicking, and downloading.

Viva la resistance!

My nostalgic love of traditional books has also taken on a slight air of resistance. I don’t like the idea of buying something but not really owning it. Can you resell your e-book after you read it? Share it with a friend? See, I can’t help think that e-books are being promoted by publishers who want to take a chunk out of the used-book market by creating single-use books. Sure an e-book is cheaper than a regular book, but since it can’t be resold everyone who wants to read it has to buy it. You can’t simply finish a book, tell someone you liked it, and then hand your book to the person. With ebooks, you either have to surrender your e-reader to the person for as long as it takes them to read the book, or, and more likely, that person has to buy a copy of the book you’re recommending. The second option is probably what publishers are aiming for, and it functions more like a book lease rather than an outright purchase.

Ode to a disappearing dream.

As a writer I’ve dreamed of having a book-signing. Now, I have to wonder if that’s going to be a dream lost to digital books. How would you even have a book-signing for an e-book? Writing is something of an undervalued skill. Since it is something nearly everyone can do it doesn’t garner a lot of respect. The idea of eventually having people gather to hear me read from my book and then sign copies of it for them helps keep me going. That I might have missed a window that was open for oh, the last few thousand years, is irksome.

I know that no matter what the format, print or digital, stories will still be told. And the story should be the important thing, not the medium. But books and I have spent a lot of good times together over the years and, judging from the state of my over-stuffed bookshelves, we’ll be spending a lot of time together for a while to come.

Who knows, the printed page, like vinyl records and horn-rimmed glasses, could become the new retro. I think I’ll crack a binding or two and try to start a trend. Lower the needle on my turntable on your way out.

 
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Posted by on May 27, 2011 in Books, Lifestyle, Series

 

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The Curious Misadventures of the Unlikeliest Sports Blogger–Part 2

Or

A New Hope:  Writing for the Daily Norseman

I was chastised for leaving tales of my misadventures hanging for so long. And that was fair, it has been awhile since I started to chronicle my mishaps as a chick in the very male world of football writing. Actually, it was strange because I felt slightly shamed for not writing in a while and flattered that people wanted to know what happened next, all at the same time.

Hmmm, so where was I? Ah, yes, the Daily Norseman.

Much as I appreciated the freedom and leeway that writing about the Minnesota Vikings for vikingsmix.com in utter isolation provided me, it will probably come as no surprise that I wanted more. This is because no matter how shy and quiet the writer, writing, and posting it somewhere in public, is essentially an act of ego. Writers scribe away in the belief that someone, somewhere out there, is going to want to read what we have to say. Basically, this means that even a shy, bookish, socially awkward writer is (in a way) as much of an attention slut as a nymphomaniac reality television star with a coke habit. Kind of a disturbing thought.

But, for me, vikingsmix.com was just not enough of a fix. I wanted to know someone was reading my work, that my presence was actually noticed.

So I decided to check out the Daily Norseman, a fan site that vikingsmix.com linked to. What I did not realize at the time I started reading the Daily Norseman and decided to become a site member, is that it operates under SB Nation*. A site that had been around for a couple years, the Daily Norseman made me feel a little like I was moving from a small town to New York City. Not only did the Daily Norseman have a large community of members posting Vikings-related material, but members were also involved in an active conversation about the posted material, leaving comments and picking fights on even the most poorly written material. Clearly, if Daily Norseman members were so passionate about the Vikings and about their site that they would read stuff written by people who had only a passing acquaintance with grammar, then, I felt there was a good chance, they would read my material too.

If, by chance, you have followed me over here from the Daily Norseman, then you already know I take writing seriously. There aren’t a whole lot of things I do really well, but I like to think that writing is one of those things, so I put a lot of time and effort into it. It seems to me, that if you’re writing about how much you love your football team, then you should probably spell the names of the players on that team correctly—so I do. And, if you think that other people should want to read what you have written, then you should make it clear what the heck you’re saying, another thing I aspire to do. That’s why, even though I’m a long way off from being Ernest Hemingway, my writing tends to stand out in a public forum.

Even though I like to believe it’s that attention to detail that got me noticed on the Daily Norseman, it was probably the fact that I’m female that got me noticed at first. However, somewhere along the line it was my writing that started getting noticed too. I wish I believed so implicitly in my talent that it wouldn’t matter what anyone else said (or didn’t say) about it, but having my writing read and complimented was gratifying.

It’s pretty difficult for a writer to stay motivated with absolutely no feedback of any kind, let alone encouragement. To say that this positive interaction with the Daily Norseman community meant a lot is to seriously undervalue the term “a lot”. Arguing my points and defending my take on an issue provided a whole new zeal to my writing, not unlike sharpening a tool. If I had been particular about my fact checking before, knowing that people were actually reading my material made me religious about it because I knew that if I didn’t get the facts right I would get called out on it. And that’s good to know, it keeps writers honest.

Over a couple of weeks I wrote six fan posts on the Daily Norseman. Once again, my “big break” came courtesy of Brett Favre. Yeah, boggles the mind.

It was my fourth post, “Brett Favre Returns to Football Again, Er, Again-Again” about Ryan Longwell, Steve Hutchinson, and Jared Allen flying down to Mississippi to retrieve Favre, that attracted the attention of my fairy godfather**, Ted. And for special friends of Ted, interesting things can happen.

Thanks for reading and join me, eventually, for Part 3. Part 3 will likely involve a whole lot more on Ted and, perhaps, a few more oblique references to Star Wars.

*SB Nation is an up and coming sports blog community focusing on encouraging local coverage and conversation of teams.

**I refer to Ted as my “fairy godfather” simply because it seemed like he came into my life like the fairy godmother from Cinderella.

 

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The Curious Misadventures of the Unlikeliest Sports Blogger

I don’t know about you, but I think God has a sense of humor. And I say that because, for as much as I have written about so many other things like dating and knitting and how to survive hosting parties and juicing and motivational speakers and college admissions and books, it’s in writing about football of all things where I have actually found a tiny bit of success. I kid you not, it surprises me as much as anyone that I write a whole lot about Minnesota Vikings football both here and at the Daily Norseman. There are all sorts of good reasons why this is surprising and odd, but the most obvious reason is because I’m female. There just aren’t nearly as many women as there are men writing about NFL teams. That automatically makes me a bit of an oddity.

But, that said, there are plenty of women out there who are passionate about sports—athletic women who enjoy the thrill of competition and aren’t afraid to tear up a field. Yes, I’m talking about those Spartan babes who play hockey or kick for their high school football teams or play softball or are on a curling team.

Yeah, that isn’t me.

Nope, I’m a cupcake, a crème puff, a girly-girl. I have never been a jock, and it would be a stretch to call me sporty. I like reading books, drinking tea, doing pilates, knitting, baking, getting a manicure, hearing Tim Gunn talk about fashion, and getting my hair colored. If I have to kill spiders on my own I feel pretty darn tough. If I have to empty the mousetraps I’m looking for a Congressional Medal of Honor. And yet, as absolutely incongruous as it seems, in my chest beats the heart of a rabid Minnesota Vikings football fan.

So, there’s this one odd thing about me that has somehow become a big deal—me being a fan of the Minnesota Vikings. And, I owe it, in part, to Brett Favre.

I don’t know for sure, but I might be one of the few women who has actually benefited from him in the last couple years. See, way back in the summer of 2009 Brett Favre was doing his will-I-won’t-I retirement dance and, like a lot of Vikings fans out there, I was irritated. I was so irritated that I decided to write about it. That in itself wouldn’t have done much, but, shortly after I wrote about my irritation with Mr. Favre’s inability to just make a decision, I happened upon a posting on craigslist for fans to blog about the Minnesota Vikings. Since I really love the Vikings and since there just aren’t that many listings for writers, I applied.

Writers learn to get used to rejection. A lot of rejection. I was much better prepared for rejection because rejection was familiar territory. But vikingsmix.com, the site that had requested fan bloggers, actually wanted me to write for them. So, suddenly, I was a sports blogger and I had nearly no idea what that entailed. Granted it would seem to simply involve talking about the Vikings’ season from a fan perspective, but it didn’t feel quite so straightforward at the time. That whole lack of rejection really threw me off my game.

However, as a first foray into the wild world of sports writing, vikingsmix.com wasn’t too bad because they didn’t seem to have many/any readers to complain about what I was doing. Whether I was doing a great job or a lousy one, I have no idea because I think I got a sum total of three comments on everything I posted during the 2009 season. But, sometimes the absence of criticism is as close to encouragement as you are going to get, so, for the 2009 season I slogged it out in the near solitude of the vikingsmix site.

There weren’t tons of readers (any), but I was intrigued by the links vikingsmix posted to other sites, one of which was a little spot called the Daily Norseman, an SB Nation blog site.

So I became a member of the Daily Norseman and that’s when things started to get interesting.

*Join me for my next installment, it involves proposals and nearly fainting–mostly in that order.

 

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Let’s Here it for the Fans

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

 

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