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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.

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

 

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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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