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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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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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Stops and Starts: What Are the Chances Favre Will Sit This One Out?

At the start of this season I naively believed that the 2010 Minnesota Vikings season would be a continuation their 2009 season. Six games into the 2010 season the Vikings have a 2-4 record and that’s just the beginning of the dissimilarities. But, should it actually happen, perhaps the most surprising difference between this season and last could be the benching of Brett Favre in favor of Tavaris Jackson.

Just typing that feels strange.

After the Vikings played the Packers last Sunday, Vikings quarterback Brett Favre hobbled off the field so gingerly that we knew he was either really hurt, or his acting had dramatically improved since There’s Something About Mary. Turns out he was hurt and had not one, but two fractures in his left foot—one in his ankle and one in his heel. With pretty much any other player, that would mean sitting out a game or two, but Favre isn’t any other player. Despite having his injured foot strapped into a walking cast most of the week and not practicing, Favre not only wants to play against the New England Patriots, but thinks he can help the team win.

I’m not sure if that’s inspirational or delusional, but it’s certainly stirring up a storm of speculation.

In an interview with the St. Paul Pioneer Press this week, former NFL quarterback Rich Gannon said that it seemed Favre’s footwork suffered when he was scrambling to try to make something happen. With his footwork and mechanics thrown out the proverbial window, Favre was making more dangerous throws resulting in more interceptions. And that was before Favre had two fractures in his left foot. One can only imagine what his footwork will be like after not practicing this week and trying to shuffle around on a fractured foot. My imagination is pretty good and I can’t come up with a version of that vision that doesn’t end poorly.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Favre could do something that makes sense and sit out Sunday’s game against the Patriots, letting Tavaris Jackson have the start.

Ideally, a back-up quarterback can step into the game when a starter is out, run the offense and not screw things up—it might not be spectacular, but it should be safe. Whether or not Tavaris Jackson is capable of that is uncertain, however, with a 2-4 record it isn’t as if Favre has raised the bar too high this season.

Now in his fifth season, Tavaris Jackson was supposed to be the Vikings’ quarterback of the future, but his tenure with the Vikings has had mixed results. At times when he steps back to throw, I can see what Childress saw in Jackson—he’s tall and athletic with a good arm. But then when Jackson overshoots his receiver or starts looking panicked after an opposing defense has gotten to him…well, then I start wondering how long it will be before rookie Joe Webb is ready to start.

While we can debate whether or not Tavaris Jackson has what it takes to be an elite quarterback in the NFL all day long, he does have something the Vikings desperately need right now, health. With two healthy feet, and a throwing arm unaffected by tendonitis, Jackson seems like the logical choice to start on Sunday. If Favre and Childress were making decisions logically, Jackson would start. Favre is too important to the Vikings to have him out on the field when his movement is hampered by a serious injury—it’s unnecessarily dangerous.

Today in the St. Paul Pioneer Press Ryan Longwell, when being asked about Favre’s ability to play on Sunday said, “I’ve seen the guy have a lot of injuries, and you just don’t bet against him.”

For me, it isn’t Favre’s toughness that’s in question, it’s his effectiveness I question. How effective can he be with two fractures in his left foot?

While Favre has good reason to have a messiah complex with regard to the Vikings (sending the team captains down to Mississippi to beg him to return can do that), his very desire to help the team should convict him to make the decision that will give them the best chance to win. Rationally, it’s hard to believe that the Vikings are better off having him play this Sunday. Maybe he’ll surprise me and have an amazing, breakthrough game and the offense will score early and often and it will be magical. I would love that. But, given the nature of his injuries, it seems like his health and availability through the rest of the season is more important than satisfying a messiah-complex or maintaining an epic string of continuous starts.

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

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2010 in Brett Favre, Football, Series

 

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John Randle Joins Hall of Fame–Who’s Next?

Last night watching the Bengals and the Cowboys fight it out on national television it seemed that all was once again right with the world. I don’t like the Cowboys (a guy who broke my heart was a Cowboys fan and they will forever suffer from that association) and I’m mostly apathetic about the Bengals, but the professional football season is finally upon us so, regardless of who’s playing, I like to mark the event. But, for me, the really fun part of last night’s game had nothing to do with the game and everything to do with capping off the annual induction festivities at the Hall of Fame.

I was decked out in my John Randle jersey in honor of his induction. Probably should have painted my face too, but…I just don’t have the moxie for face-painting. John Randle’s story is the stuff that NFL dreams are made of–he came from nothing, went undrafted and signed with the Vikings as a rookie free-agent, hoping they wouldn’t switch him to linebacker because he was undersized for a defensive end. He worked hard and in two years, he had his break out season and quickly becoming as well-known for his speed as he was for his trash-talking and face-painting. And now he’s enshrined with the rest of the greats in Canton, Ohio.

Thinking of that made me wonder which players on the current Vikings roster might eventually make it to Canton to join Randle. Which players from the 2010 team will join the other greats in the Hall of Fame?

Despite concerns about his tendency to fumble, Adrian Peterson is the kind of rare talent that makes everyone stand up and take notice. I still giggle thinking of last season’s opener against the Browns when Peterson tossed a defender out of his way in a move Ray Edwards coined “kiss the baby”. So you can’t daydream about future Hall of Famers without tossing Peterson’s name in there.

Jared Allen is crazy in a similar vein to John Randle. The Vikings sack leader last year, I think (but can’t definitively remember) he was second in the NFL. Allen is also just plain fun to watch, with all of his calf-roping and trash-talking. Remember that game against the Lions when a member of the Lions offense put his helmet into Jared’s knee? Jared already had a third degree shoulder separation and only one good leg to stand on, but he was going to hop over on his one good leg to kick that Lion’s ass. Good thing Ray Edwards kept him from doing it.

There are so many good players on the current Vikings roster that I’m almost loath to write anyone off. E.J. Henderson at middle linebacker adds an important element to the Vikings defense. Percy Harvin is an incredible receiver/running back hybrid who has a talent for making things happen. Steve Hutchinson is a guard who has the distinction of having his name mentioned very little–people only hear about offensive linemen when they screw up. Ray Edwards has benefited from the double-teams that Jared Allen draws, giving him the opportunity to make some brilliant defensive plays. Then there’s Ryan Longwell whose kicking is so steady he’s practically money in the bank. And there’s a certain quarterback from Mississippi who will no doubt make it into the Hall of Fame the first year he’s eligible.

Only time will tell who makes it into the Hall of Fame and when, but it’s fun to speculate. With at team this loaded with talent, it isn’t such a stretch to believe it’s possible.

This piece is also available under the name Skol Girl at both http://vikingsmix.com and http://www.dailynorseman.com lots of good Vikings-related material at both sites. Some of it not even written by me.

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2010 in Brett Favre, Football, Uncategorized

 

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My Vikings Training Camp Wish List

It’s been six long months since the Minnesota Vikings lost to the New Orleans Saints on January 24, 2010. It might take the edge off of my football withdrawal if I could get into baseball, but when I’m craving smash mouth football complete with calf-roping antics, baseball doesn’t quite do it for me.

But now it’s late July and soon, tantalizingly soon, Minnesota Vikings training camp will start up again and we’ll get to see what kind of a shot at redemption the veteran-heavy team has for the coming season. For a football-deprived fan like myself, it feels like Christmas in July. Truly. I’m filled with as much joy and anticipation for the start of training camp as I was when I was seven and hoping for a Cabbage Patch Kid.

So, in the spirit of Christmas, I’m making out my wish list for the coming season. How weird and wonderful would it be if a sleigh pulled by eight tiny linebackers landed on my rooftop and a jolly giant like, say, Pat Williams hopped down the chimney to deliver everything on my list? Well, a girl can dream.

Wish #1

Doubtless, this is at the top of many people’s lists, but it would be so very nice if Brett Favre came back to the Vikings for another season. Kind of a no-brainer wish. However, the chances of Brett Favre making a return in time for or during training camp isn’t likely given his well-documented disdain for training camp. Still, this is a wish list, not a likely list—might as well aim high.

Wish #2

Adrian Peterson is a dynamic, hard-working running back. Every time he gets the ball he pours his heart and soul into trying to make something happen. Here’s a thought:  How about you hang onto the ball. While not as flashy as a break-away run into the end zone, reducing fumbles and turnovers probably would have won that NFC championship game against the Saints.

Wish #3

He’s big and he, occasionally, shows flashes of ability that validate the Vikings decision to keep him around, but I would dearly love to see Bryant McKinnie play up to his potential every game, not one in five. If Favre does return, then, for the love of Zeus, protect the guy! Last year Julius Peppers pushed 6’8” 330lb Bryant McKinnie around like McKinnie was on castors. I don’t know if that means Peppers is jus that good or if McKinnie is just that lazy. During the off-season Peppers signed with the Chicago Bears meaning the Vikings will have to face him at least twice next season.

Wish #4

Please, oh please, don’t let Brad Childress’s decision to bring in Rhys Lloyd mess up Ryan Longwell’s head or kicking consistency. While bringing in Lloyd to pin opposing offenses against their end zones is great, Longwell says kick-offs give him a chance to get a feel for field conditions before he kicks for points. Longwell is money in the bank, don’t throw him off his game.

Wish #5

I love linebackers. Leber, Greenway, Farwell, they make me smile. But, and I don’t say this lightly, I really, really love E.J. Henderson. Most of his highlights show him flying Super Man style to make a tackle. Who doesn’t love seeing that? And with a healthy Henderson at middle, I like the Vikings chances of forcing three-and-outs much better. So, here’s hoping that E.J. Henderson is back to his pre-injury form and that his season isn’t cut short with an injury the way it has been for the past two years.

Wish #6

Maybe it’s because I added his jersey to my collection, or maybe it’s because I like seeing an under-dog come out on top, but I would dearly love to see Sidney Rice build on the amazing season he had last year. A participant at Larry Fitzgerald’s summer training camp, last season Rice debunked the theory that he was a draft bust. Let’s hope that this season, regardless of who is ultimately playing quarterback for the Vikings, he proves that last season’s performance is just the start of many good things.

Well, a football fan could keep wishing all day, but I think six is a good place to stop. Something tells me that as the Vikings training camp heats up there will be plenty of new things to wish for.

*This piece is also posted at http://www.vikingsmix.com under my other alias, Skol Girl.

http://vikingsmix.com/2010/07/training-camp-wish-list.html

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2010 in Brett Favre, Football

 

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