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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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Feeling Superstitious About MN Vikings’ Loss in San Diego

Normally, I’m not a superstitious person. I have a black cat in residence who is constantly crossing my path, I don’t shy away from picking up coins that are tails side up, on occasion I have opened umbrellas indoors, and 13 never seemed like a particularly ominous number to me. But my normally levelheaded attitude is pretty much gone when it comes to football. Games like Minnesota Vikings‘ season opener against the San Diego Chargers, don’t do much to dispel that tendency.

While there are plenty of reasons for why the Vikings wrote A Tale of Two Halves at Qualcomm Stadium on Sunday, it seems that bad ju-ju is as likely a reason as everything else I have heard.

I trace the change in the game’s momentum to the seemingly reasonable idea of putting my 20-month-old niece down for a quick nap. My sister and my niece were flying back home to Michigan Sunday evening and we thought it was worth a try to get Rookie (a.k.a. baby niece) to take a nap because it was going to be a late evening for her. Until this point, Rookie had been suited up in her new Adrian Peterson jersey and she was grooving to “Skol Vikings.” It was crazy cute to walk into the room and see her get excited that the rest of us were wearing purple jerseys just like her jersey.

All suited up and armed with a wiggly toddler, we watched the Vikings start off their season with Percy Harvin returning the ball 103 yards for a touchdown. That opening play was fantastic, but things got even better because the Vikings’ offensive line did a respectable job of helping Donovan McNabb stay upright and giving Adrian Peterson holes to run through. Free-agent acquisition Michael Jenkins gave us hope for the receiving corps. Fred Pagac’s aggressive defense kept San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers from getting comfortable with pressure from the Vikings’ revamped defensive line. Mike Singletary’s linebackers tackled like men on a mission. The Vikings looked a lot more like a team making a statement than a team in a dreaded rebuilding year.

Then Rookie, much to her very vocal dismay, was put down for a nap and things went all pear-shaped for the Vikings. Now, I suppose that it might be silly to credit the Vikings’ second-half collapse with the absence of a toddler whose understanding of the game is comprised solely of her affection for the color purple but, when faced with the possibility that Bill Musgrave’s offense is no better at adapting and executing than Brad Childress’s offense, I lean toward the missing toddler theory because it’s a much easier fix.

That offensive breakdown was the loose thread that unraveled what could have been an upset victory for the Vikings on the road in San Diego. Instead, the Vikings are starting the season in the NFC North’s basement because all the other teams in the division won their opening games. While being one game behind the rest of the division is hardly hole the Vikings can’t climb out of if they correct the problems they had on Sunday, it isn’t the way Leslie Frazier wanted to start his first full season as head coach, and it isn’t a great way to build positive momentum for a team that is seeking a new stadium.

For me, the most mind-boggling moment in Sunday’s game came when the Vikings sent Joe Webb in to take snaps in the Wildcat formation. As much as I love watching Joe Webb play, I’m biased against the Wildcat formation-not because it isn’t a good idea, but because I’ve never really seen it work. It’s supposed to confuse and confound an opposing defense so the offense can break lose an explosive play. While the Wildcat did confuse the Chargers on Sunday, it also seemed to confuse the Vikings because after two plays they were in a third-and-ten situation. But the worst part of it was that the Vikings squandered the momentum Adrian Peterson had created with two strong runs.

Adrian Peterson wasn’t awarded a $100 million seven-year contract just because he’s a swell guy, he got it because he’s a strong, punishing running back. The offense is built around him and he’s going to be the face of the franchise for many years, so why, why would you take the ball away from him when he’s hot? Seems to me that Bill Musgrave would do well to heed the immortal words of Bruce Springsteen, “Tramps like us, baby we were born to run.”

When you’ve got a talent like Adrian Peterson, why would you want to do anything else?

The Vikings’ running game is the center of the Vikings’ team identity. It’s meant to punish and demoralize defenders who try to stop it, the running game sets up the passing so the quarterback can take advantage of opposing defenses loading the box to stop the run, and it takes time off the clock helping the team win the time of possession battle. Taking time off the clock is especially handy in spelling the defense so they have the energy to stuff the opposing run and force them into third-and-long situations. Therefore, I cannot understand the decision to abandon an effective running game for a gimmicky play. The Vikings didn’t need to do it.

When faced with both the possibility that the Vikings new offensive system is falling prey to the same mistakes that their previous offensive system made, is it any wonder that I prefer to hope the offense can be fixed by making sure Rookie doesn’t miss a game? Making sure my niece has access to NFL Season Ticket is a lot easier than suffering through another season of Childressian offense.

*This post is also available at The Daily Norseman, a fantastic SB Nation blog. At The Daily Norseman I write under the name Skol Girl.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on September 14, 2011 in Football, Sports Writing

 

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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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Lockout Could Jeopardize the Cash Players and Owners Are Fighting Over

All you clever and jaded sports fans out there will probably laugh at this, but I really held onto the hope that the two extensions the NFLPA and the owners agreed to meant we wouldn’t see this CBA debacle make it into the courts where it has the potential to be a long, drawn-out process that will ass up the season. Nope, I optimistically thought that the extensions actually meant both sides wanted to avoid a lockout and work stoppage. That optimism seemed reasonable, after all, there are billions of dollars at stake that neither party will get if there is no NFL season in 2011.

But, just like my prediction that Adam Lambert would win American Idol, I was wrong.

Despite all the reasons why they shouldn’t mess with a good thing, the players and owners are going to end up fighting things out in court. I have come to realize a couple things about court battles.

  1. Outcomes are not guaranteed.
  2. The lawyers are the real winners.

Essentially, the players and their union could slug it out in the legal system against the NFL owners only to get surprised by the outcome and receive less than they might have gotten if they had continued arbitration and reached a compromise.

For me, the real kicker in all of this is that they are fighting over $9 billion in revenues-money from the fans. NFL football fans are kind of in the position of the wealthy, invalid aunt in a murder mystery. She hears her relatives fighting over the inheritance she will be leaving when she dies as if her decision to leave her money to them is a foregone conclusion.

But it isn’t.

If the responses, conversation, and debate regarding this issue are any indication, fans are getting pissed off. You don’t have to be a business school graduate, or a captain of industry to recognize the danger in pissing off your customers. Fans, feeling angry and alienated by all the fighting between the players and owners, could decide to take their business elsewhere. For as wonderful as watching professional football is, the NFL aren’t the only folks out there peddling football. College, arena, and even Canadian football could help fill the void that a lockout and shortened season could bring. It wouldn’t be the same, but fans do have options and both players and owners should remember that.

Back in college I suffered through a macroeconomics class. I don’t know if it was the material or the awful professor, but it seemed pointless. Despite the professor’s attempts to prove otherwise, economics isn’t a pure science. In pure sciences you can isolate factors in a controlled environment to discern what is going on, why it is happening, and you can duplicate the results. But economics can’t be studied in a controlled environment with isolated factors so you never really know what is going on or why and you might not be able to duplicate the results.

I took that jaunt down my academic Memory Lane to illustrate a point. The NFL players and the owners are fighting in court for rights to $9 billion in revenues, but they don’t currently have $9 billion in revenues-they have the expectation of $9 billion in revenues. And, they expect to have $9 billion in revenues because either that is how much the NFL generated in revenues last year or because that is what their financial models project that they will earn next year. Either way, they are scrapping over rights to cash they do not have, much like the relatives of the rich, invalid aunt in my earlier analogy. But, the very fact that they are fighting alters the financial landscape.

When the NFL players and owners finally kiss and make up and decide how to share their $9 billion in projected revenues, there is no guarantee that they will actually have $9 billion in revenues to share. It goes back to economics and the niggling fact that economic models don’t exist in a lab.

In pissing off me, you, and a whole lot of other football fans around the world, the NFL players and owners are jeopardizing the very thing they’re fighting over–expected money from fans. Quite honestly, with as annoyed as fans are getting with the players and owners over the prospect of a lockout messing up the 2011 season, $9 billion in revenues seems optimistic.

We’re still dealing with a crap economic environment in the United States. Crude oil prices are once again creeping up and so are foreclosures. People are out of work and worried about the future, but despite all of that, we’ve been willing to spend our cash on the NFL to the tune of $9 billion.

So what are the chances that we’ll be inclined to continue spending at that rate after the NFL players and owners drag the game we love through the mud? Ah, now there’s the $9 billion question.

Most fans will watch the NFL again when this mess finally clears the courts. We’ll even go back to spending our hard-earned money on the NFL. However, the NFL might have more competition for fan attention and money than they had before the lockout, making fans more tightfisted.

Think I’m exaggerating? Okay, I probably am, but consider this–who wants to drop $100 on team gear and at least that much for a game ticket, parking, and concessions to watch players who you think are millionaire douche bags playing for teams owned by people who you think are billionaire douche bags? Who wants to share that with their kids? So games stop selling out and can’t be shown on television in their local markets–not always, but more often than in the past. Eventually, there isn’t as much cost-benefit for businesses to buy ad time during games. Then, it trickles down into merchandising. Since parents aren’t taking their kids to games, kids don’t buy posters of their favorite players or ask for jerseys for Christmas or wear hats with NFL team logos, they don’t save their allowance for genuine NFL footballs and helmets. This is important because children, lacking any personal expenses, represent a significant amount of expendable income being infused into the American economy. And, because fans aren’t identifying with players maybe they don’t care so much about the latest edition of Madden so, after a good long run, the game is discontinued. Football’s king status in sports entertainment wanes.

The point of that speculative supposition is that all those merchandising-related sales bring the NFL licensing revenue, which is highly lucrative because it gives them significant cash in-flow without representing an additional cost to the NFL, thus adding to revenue. Without the sales of licensed merchandise (hats, t-shirts, jerseys, jackets, sports gear, posters, games, etc.), that revenue stream from licensing fees dwindles. What was a $9 billion revenue stream at the start of this legal battle, may shrink significantly if bitter fans don’t buy NFL merchandise at the same rate they did before. So, in disillusioning fans with a prolonged legal battle that could shorten the season, the NFL is actually risking devaluing its product.

Ramifications from this lockout have the potential to negatively impact the NFL’s revenues for years to come because it erodes fan support for the sport. Who knows how long it could take fan support to recover?

Players and owners are not in the sports entertainment business to get poor, they want to make money. I don’t fault them for that at all, it isn’t like any of the rest of us are working to get poor either. This is America and we still hold the belief that if you work hard and create a great product you can be successful. And, as far as products go, the NFL has a great one–it is a product that crosses age, gender, and race boundaries to become wildly popular and highly lucrative. But when the flashing dollar signs get in the way of players and owners making a sound financial decision, to the point of potentially eroding the very thing they’re fighting over, it seems…well, pointless.

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

 
8 Comments

Posted by on March 16, 2011 in Football

 

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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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