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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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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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Optimism Going, Going, Gone

I keep looking for the silver lining in the 2010 Minnesota Vikings season, but that’s a tough sell. After nine games the Vikings have a 3-6 record meaning they’ve lost two thirds of the games they have played this season.

To say that my optimism is wearing thin would be an understatement.

If this were a rebuilding year that would be one thing, but this is a veteran team with so many Pro Bowl players you can’t swing a cat without hitting one. Experienced players, who are some of the best in the NFL at their respective positions, playing this poorly is hard to fathom. No matter how we break down Sunday’s loss to the Bears in Chicago it simply amounts to more of the same stuff that’s plagued the Vikings all season.

Despite a hopeful, if not electric, start, Sunday’s game quickly devolved. Considering the dramatic way the Vikings won against the Arizona Cardinals, suddenly playing the way they did last season, I held onto hope as long as I could on Sunday. Somewhere in the fourth quarter I quit taking notes on the game and started hopping around the room because if the Vikings were going to wage a comeback, they needed to do it right then. Well, on Sunday there was no comeback.

Regardless of Chicago’s record, they aren’t really that good*. However, they didn’t have to be that good, they just needed to be a little better than the Vikings and the Vikings have been making that far too easy for opposing teams. The secret to Chicago’s success on Sunday isn’t surprising or complicated, they converted on third downs, they had good returns from kick-offs and punts, they had receivers, and they scored in the red zone. Oh, and because it was their home field, they knew what cleats to wear to keep from slipping all over the field like Larry, Curly, or Moe at an ice rink.

I could look at the rest of the stuff that went wrong on Sunday, but I just don’t have the energy or the discipline for that kind of systematic misery. If the Vikings are going to make any kind of attempt to salvage this season, they have to win every remaining game, meaning the best they can do for the season is a 10-6 record. If they were playing every upcoming game in the Metrodome, that might be possible, but they won’t. They would have to win on the road to end the season at 10-6 and they haven’t managed to win on the road since November 2009.

The way this season is going, it seems a safe bet that Brad Childress won’t be the Vikings’ coach next season. A new coach generally means that at least a third of the current roster will be gone next season, but it could be more considering all the veterans the Vikings have. And, as if that wouldn’t bring enough uncertainty to next season, there is also the storm brewing between the NFL and the Players Association because of the collective bargaining agreement. Whatever happens next season, the Vikings will look very different.

But before any of that happens there are still seven more games this season. If this Vikings team is going to continue to try to turn things around, they don’t have much time. If they are just going to phone it in and wait for next season, it’s a mediocre eternity.

If the Vikings continue to play the way they are playing now and winning only at home, then they would win four more games and end the season 7-9. But, if they somehow manage to win all of the next seven games (not a strong possibility, I know), the Vikings might be in the running for a Wild Card spot in the play-offs. I don’t like seasons when the Vikings have to rely on getting a Wild Card, too many other things have to go their way for that to happen. Luck has been hard for the Vikings to come by and I wouldn’t expect luck to suddenly make a convenient appearance at this late hour. And, honestly, the Vikings need to start making their own luck. With all of their talent, you’d think they would have an advantage in that department.

No amount of uninspired play calling should excuse the lackluster play, the missed tackles, the failed third-down conversions, or the lack of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Even if Vikings players have changed their mindset from trying to win games to clock watching until the end of the season, the way they finish 2010 will tell teams considering signing Vikings players a lot about what they can expect from these players. Even if they aren’t interested in helping this team win anymore, players can’t honestly think that sub-par play will help them in free-agency.

Between self-interest and pride, one would hope that the Vikings could find a way to pull together and play the way they are capable of playing. If they can’t, then the next seven games will be pointless.

*I still maintain that the Lions should have won when they played the Bears on Week 1 of the season. The officials in that game robbed Calvin Johnson of his game-winning touchdown and I refuse to acknowledge it as a Chicago victory.

This piece is also posted at http://www.dailynorseman.com/ under my alter ego Skol Girl.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on November 18, 2010 in Football, Lifestyle

 

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