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The Bibliophile is Behind in Her Reading

Yes, I’m a bad, bad blogger and I’ve neglected this site for a long time. Okay, a very, long time. No need to rub it in. But I write about the Minnesota Vikings over at the Daily Norseman and that has really divided my time. It’s a funny thing, but a really lousy season (and the continuing Vikings stadium drama) is surprisingly demanding. Turns out bad football seasons are an endless source of material–emotionally draining, soul-sucking material, but material nonetheless. And all that terribly good source material has distracted me from telling you about how I’ve already fallen horribly behind in a New Year’s Suggestion–I don’t like resolutions, they’re something passed by the United Nations that countries promptly ignore.

While looking at my overflowing bookcase it occurred to me that my affection for Hulu has been seriously detrimental to my reading. The books kept piling up, but I wasn’t flipping through them nearly as quickly. Seeing the backlog, I had to…stop getting books. Well, okay, it was more like I seriously slowed up on buying books. Mostly.

Something had to be done. All those books stacked up on and around and next to my bookshelf seemed to be shaming me. So, as a New Year’s Suggestion, I decided to try to read a book a week.

Right now February is nearly over and that New Year’s Suggestion has atrophied and is close to death. Something has to be done.

While my affection for Hulu is definitely part of the problem, another reason for my snail pace was that I just didn’t like the book I was reading. I felt like I should like the book because the setting was interesting and (it was a historical novel) well-researched with vivid period details. However, I’ve been in enough doomed relationships to know that arguing for the way things should be when it comes to preference, is a waste of time. Sometimes you just don’t like a book despite everything in its favor. Sometimes you’re just not that into a book.

This is a difficult thing for me because I get hooked on a premise and, if it isn’t grabbing me, I feel dumb for giving up on it. But I’m reading novels for entertainment, not studying for a test or pouring over them looking for the cure for cancer–I just want to be entertained by a good story. So, if the book isn’t entertaining, why am I wasting my time on it?

I don’t know if this has ever happened to you, maybe I’m the only one. But here’s how I’m trying to get back on track with my reading.

  • Put the boring book down. Yeah, it’s pretty elementary, but I thought I’d mention it just the same because it’s something I have to remind myself to do. There’s a whole world of books out there and only so much time to read, there’s no reason to waste it on dull reading material. With the rise of self-publishing and the increased competition for the fewer and fewer literate members of the general public, there are a lot of books being published and a lot of them really shouldn’t have been published. Sometimes it has very little to do with the book itself, I’ll find I’m just not in the mood for a particular book at that time and will come back to it later. Other times, well, sometimes the book just isn’t that good. Give it a rest and try it again later, read something else in the meantime.
  • Go with a tried and true author. I really enjoy finding new authors to read, but sometimes you just want to read a book by an author you trust. This is especially true when it’s an author who has an ongoing series with characters you like, then it feels like reconnecting with good friends. Here are some of my go-to authors: Will Thomas, Victoria Thompson, Colin Cotterill, Elizabeth Peters, and, a new favorite, C.S. Graham. Oh, and I can’t forget Mary Stewart, one of the pioneers of romantic suspense. She practically created the genre.
  • Look forward to new books. It’s good to have something to look forward to and it can help me clear through some reading material. Normally, with authors I really like, I try not to stay current with the series so I know I have one of their books on hand. This method doesn’t always work. I’ve been waiting for more than a year for another installment of Will Thomas‘ excellent Barker and Llewelyn series. I held that book in reserve for much longer than that. Fortunately, according a post from Thomas on Facebook, there’s a new novel coming soon and I can’t wait. And then there was the problem of Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris’ Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series. I blundered into their highly entertaining series as soon as it came out and I’m getting cranky with them for making me wait a year for another book–sometimes I just need to hear about the adventures of a heavily armed woman and her librarian archivist partner. All my grudges against the Ministry will be forgotten when The Janus Affair, second book in the series, is in my hands. Also, congratulations to Ballantine and Morris because Phoenix Rising, the first book in their series, was Finalist for Best Science Fiction of 2011 on Goodreads.com and winner of the 2011 Airship Award for best written steampunk.
  • Read paperbacks instead of hardcover novels. Even if I don’t have the time to just sit and read for hours on end, I tend to read more if I bring books with me and can read even a few pages at a time throughout the day when I’m waiting. For that, I prefer paperbacks because they don’t make my purse as heavy. Now, that point is moot if you have a nice, light e-reader, but if not, having a light paperback instead of a hefty hardcover can make a difference in whether or not you feel like bringing your book with you.

And there you have my plan (at least for the moment) for getting back on track in my reading. I may not make my goal of a book-a-week in 2012, I may not even be remotely close, but I’ll be doing better than I’m doing right now. But what do you think? What are your tips for finding time to read in your busy life? Oh, and if you have a good book recommendation, do tell! I can quit any time this book addiction lets me.

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2012 in Books, Uncategorized

 

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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.

 
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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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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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Reason to Believe: The Vikings Beat the Redskins Instead of Themselves

Just to keep things interesting and keep everyone guessing, on Sunday the Minnesota Vikings beat the Washington Redskins 17 to 13 at FedEx Field. In what’s becoming the theme of the 2010 season, expect the unexpected from this team. The Vikings have lost games they were expected to win and now they’ve won a game they were expected to lose. And that’s a big, hairy deal.

Let’s forget for a moment that just about every analyst out there agrees that the Redskins are a “mediocre at best” team and appreciate what a rare and wonderful thing it is to see the Vikings to truly play as a team this season. It wasn’t pretty or perfect, but in a wonderfully unspectacular fashion the Vikings learned from and limited their mistakes, capitalized on the Redskins’ mistakes (How great was E.J. Henderson’s interception off a tipped Donovan McNabb pass?), and won. I don’t care how much analysts might downplay this Viking victory, a win is a win. You don’t get extra points for style.

It was reported last week that interim head coach Leslie Frazier, in order to set the tone for the rest of the season played some mood music during practice. So, let’s enjoy Coach Frazier’s musical selection and a look at why things are looking up. You know, besides the fact that the Vikings won.

Last week, with the firing of Brad Childress as the Vikings head coach and naming Leslie Frazier as the interim head coach, I thought it would be wise to cultivate low expectations for Sunday’s game in Washington. After all, the Vikings hadn’t won on the road in more than a year, they would be playing outside, and they had a new coach.

Despite all the reasons why Sunday’s game could have been yet another disappointing loss in a season full of disappointing losses, the Vikings won. And, their win was as much about the things they weren’t doing as it was about the things they were doing. Unlike recent Vikings’ performances, during Sunday’s game the Vikings didn’t sabotage their success with the things that have plagued them all season.

  • Turnovers. The most notable difference between Sunday’s game and other games this season was that the Vikings’ offense did not turn the ball over—no fumbles, no interceptions, nada. It was nice to see the Vikings make the Redskins work to get the ball back. While the coverage teams have performed poorly, it still seems like a better option than simply handing possession over with turnovers and interceptions. And that goes back to the ball security that Frazier emphasized to players leading up to Sunday’s game. I read that Frazier told players to protect the ball as if it was an injured child. That’s the kind of image that will stick with a person, and maybe that’s why instead of forcing throws, Brett Favre was willing to take a couple sacks.
  • Penalties. On Sunday the Vikings were flagged three times for penalties for 15 yards while the Redskins were flagged six times for 35 yards. Honestly, the Vikings having only three penalties almost surprises me more than the Vikings not turning the ball over in Sunday’s game. Sloppy play has resulted in costly penalties all season, putting the Vikings at a yardage disadvantage and negating good plays. It was a nice change to see that the brilliant play on a punt return that was negated by a penalty was against the Redskins and not the Vikings.
  • Playing to strengths. Prior to Sunday’s game I read that Frazier was going to listen to Favre’s advice. Novel idea that, listening to the guy who has played for two decades and is older than some of the coaching staff. And, during the week Favre said that one of the problems is that offensive strategy gets too complicated. His point was that if a team executes plays well, then it doesn’t matter if a defense knows it’s coming or not, that defense still has to stop it. Well, Sunday’s game was a good example of exactly that. The offensive play-calling wasn’t electric, but it played to Favre’s strength with plenty of bootleg plays called that had him rolling out of the pocket. And, even though after the first Minnesota possession of the game the Redskins had to know the Vikings were going to run the ball a whole lot, they still weren’t able to prevent the Vikings from rushing for 137 yards.
  • Resilience. There were mistakes and misfortunes during Sunday’s game. The Redskins marched 83 yards for a touchdown on their first possession and they converted on third downs. Ray Edwards and Adrian Peterson both came out of the game with ankle injuries. But despite the rocky defensive start and the injuries, the Vikings found a way to regroup and battle through to win. After Washington’s first drive the Vikings allowed only three more third down conversions the entire game and Toby Gerhart and Brian Robison both stepped up with solid performances when Peterson and Edwards were injured. With as much as this team as gone through this season, it wouldn’t be surprising if they had used up all their resilience, but it looks like they found a previously untapped supply.

Clearly, the Vikings will have to work very hard and have some very good luck if they are going to have even the hope of winning a Wild Card for the playoffs. But, strange stuff happens every week in the NFL so until the Vikings are absolutely eliminated from playoff contention, I’m going to hold onto hope that a talented team with a new coach and the resolve not to quit has a shot.

*This entry is also posted at http://www.dailynorseman.com/ under the name Skol Girl. She’s my alter ego and she is really, really into the Minnesota Vikings.

 
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Posted by on December 2, 2010 in Brett Favre, Football, Lifestyle

 

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