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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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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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Decking the Halls in Purple: Shopping for a Vikings Jersey

With the Vikings fresh from one of their most decisive victories of the season, crushing divisional rivals the Chicago Bears, and maintaining a three game lead at the top of the NFC North division, Vikings fans are staring down the very real prospect of witnessing that much touted deep playoff run. Thus, the question on every Vikings fan’s mind is, “What am I going to wear?”

Okay, that could just be me, but with the holidays and the playoffs fast approaching it doesn’t hurt to find out if the Vikings fans on your list are looking for more wardrobe options to show their purple pride—especially those band-wagon fans who cheer for the Vikings only when a winning season is guaranteed. I’ve devoted some thought to this question because, much as I love my John Randle jersey, with so many talented players on the 2009 Vikings roster it seems like a crying shame not to support current players too. However that leaves me with the problem of deciding whose jersey I want to add to my purple collection. Here are some strategies for choosing a jersey that I hope helps you choose a jersey for yourself or the Minnesota Vikings fans on your list.

Superstar! Like Mary Katherine Gallagher, SNL’s irrepressible Catholic school-girl, some players are just superstars. They are full of flash and talent, they break records, and they are fan favorites. Obvious Vikings superstars include Brett Favre, Adrian Peterson, and Jared Allen. And, as the obvious superstars, they sell the most jerseys so you might want to shop early to make sure stores have their jerseys in the size you’re looking for.

Vikings to the end. I don’t like to share, this is the reason why it makes me twitch when the players I cheer for sign with other teams. One way of getting around that problem is to wear the jersey of a player who is going to retire a Viking. This year that includes Antoine Winfield and Jim Kleinsasser, both of whom signed contracts last off-season to guarantee that they will end their playing days as Minnesota Vikings.

Workhorses. Although some players possess the kind of talent that makes football look easy, football is a team effort. For every superstar on the field racking up points and stats, there are several players doing unlauded work to make those plays possible. The running game wouldn’t be anything without blockers. No matter how MVP the quarterback, he can’t do much if his offensive line doesn’t protect him. And the pass rushers wouldn’t have a pass to rush if the nose tackle wasn’t stuffing the run. A list of those players would include Steve Hutchinson, John Sullivan, Naufahu Tahi, Jim Kleinsasser, and Pat Williams—to name a few. Oh, and one of the best third-down backs in the league, Chester Taylor.

Up and comers. Maybe you, or someone you’re shopping for likes to be the first to support the team’s youngest players. This year Sidney Rice (third season) is silencing critics who, last year, suggested he was a draft dud. Percy Harvin is tearing up the field and proving he was worth the risk of drafting. John Sullivan, now in his second year, is helping to keep Favre from taking so many punishing sacks. Tyrell Johnson and Asher Allen have been in the rotation since Winfield has been out with a broken foot—both show real promise.

Pick your position. Another way of choosing whose jersey to wear is to choose by offense, defense, or special teams. If your fan doesn’t have a specific player in mind but loves running backs, safeties, or linemen, you have a starting place. Me, I love linebackers (E.J. Henderson, Chad Greenway, Ben Leber) because I grew up watching Scott Studwell. Others love the receivers who race down the field, make flying leaps, and catch passes that don’t seem catchable (Rice, Harvin, Bernard Berrien). Vikings special teams is dramatically improved from where it was last year (Ryan Longwell, Heath Farwell, Darius Reynaud). And, this year’s defensive line (Jared Allen, Pat Williams, Kevin Williams, and Ray Edwards) feels destined to go down in history alongside the famed Purple People Eaters.

I just like him. Some players are just likeable. It may be for their stats, their personality, or even their off-field charitable work. Last year, for me, that player was Bobby Wade. But there are plenty of current candidates too. E.J. Henderson, in addition to becoming the E.J. he was before last year’s season-ending injury, he uses his foundation to reach out to urban youth. Steve Hutchinson hosts a Thanksgiving meal every year at UM Amplatz Children’s Hospital for patients and their families. Artis Hicks supports the Ronald McDonald House charities. Adrian Peterson has his All Day foundation. Chad Greenway supports breast cancer awareness. Bernard Berrien teams with the Second Harvest organization to combat hunger. The list goes on and on, but my point is that, in this season of giving and charity you can also chose a player to support based on what they support.

Well, I hope this gives you some ideas as you set forth on your jersey-shopping adventure. To be honest, I’ve convinced myself that I need a jersey for just about everyone on the roster so I hope this worked out better for you than it did for me.

Happy holidays and Purple Pride!

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2009 in Brett Favre, Football, Uncategorized

 

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