The long Vikings' lease toward the Metrodome expires. The football franchise that has been Minnesota's for fifty years is on the brink of an exit if they do not have a new stadium. Now, Mother Nature has been a cruel temptress, dumping the fifth most snow on the white bubble in its' history.
But this time it collapsed.
No, it has collapsed before. Actually, I went to a Twins' baseball game the night it partially collapsed in the 1980s. All I remember is that we left in the 6th inning of a bad game and watched on television from a nearby establishment as the rains fell through the inflatable roof. I was sorry I left and missed the chance to see something you do not see every day.
Yet I would get another chance.
The video captured by FOX cameras and played for the last week straight was impressive. YouTube videos have sprung up showing a worker avoiding the wall of snow as it fell to the field. We are in the news here in the Twin Cities for something that collapsed. Again. This time, luckily, no one was hurt.
So the game is moved to the campus of the University of Minnesota. The big Vikings' fifty year celebration will be held in the chilling weather of December. Just like the days of the Met Stadium in Bloomington. Fair weathered fans who have softened over the years in the warmth of Hubert Humphrey Stadium, Mall of America Field, or whatever Mike Ditka wants to call it, will now face the big chill that was so much of the success of the 1970s Vikings.
Those lucky fans!
Meanwhile, legislatures will try and offer some type of packaged deal similar to the Twins Target Field, which will ensure that we keep the Purple in Minnesota. Fans of the Vikings want to see them stay, even if it means some type of financial burden placed on them and/or the community. They are hopeful a wealthy owner such as Ziggy Wilf would meet them at some place that demonstrated he cared about us, too.
But some Minnesotans are not fans.
They will not want to see another chunk of our state dollar be siphoned by the sports community. They will not listen to talk that the business of a football team is profitable for the state. They see rich people ensnaring we fans financially and emotionally to the point that it takes hundreds of dollars to now attend a single game with family. Televisions are tuned to the NFL on Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays.
And they may be right.
But suddenly we have to choose. The Dome has fallen at a most convenient time. Almost too convenient if you are a conspiracy theorist. Suddenly, the Vikings and their fans are the laughing stock of the NFL. Their outdated stadium has basically blown up. Right before a large national audience comes to call. And right before a state celebration of the team's 50th Anniversary. Surely, the good people of Minnesota will ask their representatives to vote "Yes" for a new stadium bill, won't they?
Never mind the strike talk.
I confess I want a new stadium. I hated the Dome. I loved being at the World Series in 1987 and 1991, but I resented being a season ticket holder for the Vikings at times. The piped in music, uncomfortable seats, and plastic feel were such a different feel that the Met. I went to many games in the 1970s. It was cold. It was wonderful. When teams visited from the West Coast or the South I would laugh as I watched them huddle around sideline heaters. That was our natural edge. We played in the environment that we grew up in.
What will happen next?
The fans are now in a position where events have pushed them to support immediately the building of a new stadium. Unfortunately, the possibility of a players' strike could not have come at a worse time. Add to that the worst economy in many, many years and we have a public relations disaster of great proportion. We have no money, yet we need to buy a stadium for a league that may not play because the millionaires and billionaires cannot decide on a fair percent of the profit.
As a fan who feels the Vikings are worth that, all I can say is ... Did you see that Dome collapse?
The look on a small child's face when their mommy's face appears from behind something hidden is precious. I would learn in school studying the work of Jean Piaget and others that this process was called "object permanence" or the lack thereof. When the object leaves the sight of the underdeveloped brain, presto, it is gone. That is what makes Peek-A-Boo such a fun game. It is like finding your parent new each time.
Sure we all knew the talent existed. We have developed brains, we do not need to see something to know it is there. You can hide behind losses to the Dolphins and Packers are home, it does not matter. Most of us still remember that game in New Orleans last season, or the team that completely dismantled the Cowboys and even the Giants, albeit their reserves at the end of last year.
The ground game provided 190 yards, Adrian Peterson over one hundred with three TDs. Toby Gerhard added over fifty more. Tarvaris Jackson ran twice for twenty-two additional yards. All of that with guard Steve Hutchinson replaced in the starting lineup by rookie Chris DeGeare. Sidney Rice caught five for over one hundred yards including a Jackson pass that went through a pair of defender's hands and ended up being wrestled over for Rice's first score. The defense, led by the disappearing front line, was stalwart. Star rookie Steve Johnson of the Bills caught TWO passes.
No, this is not time to start looking at the playoff schedule. Unfortunately, most of the teams Minnesota is trying to catch also won. Only Tampa Bay faltered and that was because they faced a good Atlanta Falcons team now 10-2 and on top of the NFC. There are a few 8-4 teams that the Vikings would have to catch in order to make the playoffs, and presently our 5-7 record is woefully short. One of them, the New York Giants, comes to town next week.
No, we are not suddenly giddy like a two year old child. We have developed brains. We all knew the good team was right behind the wall, set of hands, or whatever blocked our view. We know this week it was only the Buffalo Bills, too.
The smile you see is because we missed them so very badly.
The good team, that is.
It was 1987, and the Minnesota Vikings had a really good football team. After a 2-0 start all of that changed. A strike ensued and owners put replacement players on the field to continue the season. Some teams benefited greatly from the success of their replacements in the three weeks that would be the season. Minnesota did not.
Minnesota would exit the strike (and a new shortened schedule to fifteen games) at 2-3. The Vikings were outscored 70-33 in the three games. Minnesota had acquired Tony Adams, a backup quarterback from Kansas City, who had been out of football for about nine years. In his three games, Adams threw for 607 yards and three touchdowns. That might not sound like much, but Minnesota could not run the ball. The best any replacement back could muster in the three games was twenty yards by Jeff Womack. Adams' passer rating of 64.2 was actually well above his career NFL average of 55.5.
Originally, Minnesota fans were enjoying the receive and return efforts of Anthony Carter in 1987. Whether it was Tommy Kramer or later Wade Wilson throwing, Anthony Carter was there to haul it in.
Then the sudden strike.
Coach Jerry Burns found one good thing in a sea of misfortune during the replacement games. And that was wide receiver James Brim. Old veteran Adams seemed to have a good connection with Brim. In the three games, Brim caught eighteen passes for 282 and a pair of touchdowns. He also ran twice for thirty-six yards and another score. Brim scored three of the four total TDs Minnesota managed in the replacement frame. Those Vikings lost by seven to the Packers at home; then by twenty in Chicago; finally falling to Tampa Bay by ten. The oddity of it all was that striking NFL players actually had to cheer for the replacements as their efforts were part of the overall season. The games counted. Players grew angry with ex-NFLers and free agents whom willingly crossed their line. Scabs came in all sizes and experiences. But the strikers secretly hoped these scab players would win games for their eventual season.
Minnesota recovered from the 0-3 replacement record to finish 8-7. They made the wild-card game and upset both the New Orleans Saints and the San Francisco 49ers before losing a heartbreaker to the Redskins, a team they had taken to overtime at the end of the season, only to lose. In the 49ers game, Anthony Carter had 227 receiving yards on ten catches.
It was a memorable season.
Some will remember the efforts of AC in the playoffs. Others will recall the destruction of the Saints despite New Orleans having the 2nd best record in the NFC. It was 44-10. Maybe some will recall the attack registered by Chris Doleman, Doug Martin, and Keith Millard. Or the intimidating safety Joey Browner. Most can only remember Darrin Nelson being unable to collar a Wade Wilson pass in the end zone that cost Minnesota a late tie in the NFC Championship.
For me, with the Bills in town and talk of a strike in 2011, I think to James Brim and Tony Adams.
I have had quite a few jobs in my life. A lot of bosses, too. I have been a boss (I guess) at times. It is easier being a boss than being bossed, for sure.
With the firing of Brad Childress stories are now coming out of confrontation and unhappiness. He made many mistakes in front of thousands of Vikings fans every game. Millions on television. During this turbulent year Childress had conflicts with his team more than once. Rumors were he was disrespected. Randy Moss came and verbalized the underlying current that started as far back as the playoff loss to the Eagles years ago. All was not well.
I have suffered under the leadership of bosses who were ill-equipped to manage. Inexperienced and prone to mistakes. Throw in confrontational, and you have the ingredients for disaster.
Ziggy Wilf's decision to fire Childress was supported by probably 80% of the community or greater. With the lease on the Dome nearing the end, talk of a lock-out and/or strike, and a sudden pro-Vikings majority in Minnesota Congress, public relations demanded something be done. Giving up a 3rd round pick for the Moss trade is proof that management needed to please the people now. 3-7 is not exactly how to do that.
I have had many good leaders for bosses. I am/was happy to work hard for them. Happy to do what it took to succeed.
Leslie Frazier is now on board as interim head coach. His story is both tragic and triumphant. He was a defensive back for the Chicago Bears in the 1980s. His career ended on the winning side of Super Bowl XX. And the tragic moment was a punt return that Keith Ortego botched by calling a fair catch and then handing off the ball anyway to Frazier on a called reverse. Frazier was down. Forever. The game was already in hand, the Bears 4-6 defense as good as any in football ever. But Frazier never played again.
His coaching career began a few years later at Trinity College in Illinois. He took an unheralded program and turned it around to the point he won two NAIA titles. In 1997 he was promoted to defensive back coach of Illinois. In 1999 he joined the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles as a DB coach. The Eagles suddenly turned their team around. He then was hired in 2003 by Cincinnati as defensive coordinator. The Bengals immediately ended a long streak of consecutive losing seasons. That Cincy team was renowned for its' ability to create turnovers. In 2005 Frazier was hired by Tony Dungy as DB coach and Special Grand Inquisitor's Assistant or something like that. That Colts team improved in its' pass defense from 15th to 6th and won Super Bowl XLI. Finally, Frazier was hired by Minnesota (and Brad Childress) in February, 2007.
Frazier has been a part of many successes as both a player and a coach. He also has experienced as tragic an end to an NFL career as any. Frazier has seen the highs and lows that provide opportunity for respect from his players. I expect the Vikings to play hard for him.
Bringing in a new boss does not always work.
Sometimes even a bad boss is not why an organization does not function well. Most bosses have bosses. The front office for Minnesota has to accept responsibility for drafts, signings, and team direction. And the owner is their boss. If the organization is ill it is a safe bet that the higher-ups are easily as responsible for the mess as the underlings. Sure, players have to accept responsibility for poor play. And if the players under performed for Childress, who is to say they will not continue to under perform? But where is the gauge on the front office? How do we know when they are to blame?
I welcome Leslie Frazier as the new coach. But he is not a Bill Parcells that will completely turn around an entire organization. Besides Childress, all the other pieces of the 3-7 season are still around. Was it really all on Childress? Can one bad boss destroy a 12-4 team in a single season? However did we get within a play of the Super Bowl if that were true?
It is a rivalry that dates back to October 22, 1961. At Metropolitan Stadium the fledgling Vikings took on the powerful Packers led by quarterback Bart Starr. Green Bay would score on a 78-yard TD pass on their first play from scrimmage and win 33-7.
The Cheese would go on to win nine of the first ten matches, including sweeps in 1961-63, and 1965. Minnesota did not win a home game versus the Pack until 1968, the same year of the first Minnesotan sweep. The 1960s saw two Super Bowl wins for Green Bay and one loss for Minnesota. Though the decade belonged to the Pack, the late 60s saw a changing of the guard.
The 1970s were dominated by Minnesota. Six times Minnesota swept the head-to-head competition, including 1975-1978. But this domination resulted in only three Super Bowl losses, or if you are an eternal optimist, three NFC Conference titles. Despite being the far superior team, Minnesota was unable to win the NFL's ultimate prize.
In the 1980s saw a return of Green Bay, as they swept Minnesota five times (1980, 84, 85, 87, 88) compared to Minnesota's one (1986). But neither team ever made it to the Super Bowl, leaving that honor to the Chicago Bears. The 1980s were highlighted by two strike seasons, that of 1982 and 1987. In 1982 there was a 57-day outage, forcing the NFL to go to a nine game schedule and an expanded playoffs.This was the only season that the Pack and Vikes did not play two regular season games against each other. In 1987, the owners were ready, and a strike season turned into a replacement one, and then when settled, an asterisk for records. I recall the 87 season as a frustrating one in that our replacement players were very bad. They went 0-3, while the Pack's replacement went 2-1. Minnesota, however, went to the playoffs that year as the true team went 8-4 while the true Packers went 3-8-1.
The 1990s saw Minnesota sweep three times (1992, 93, 98) while Green Bay swept once (1997). But with the addition of Brett Favre to the Pack, it was Green Bay whom won two consecutive conference titles and Super Bowl XXXI. Minnesota had teams capable of getting there, but even a 15-1 season would not be enough as Minnesota choked away a shot at Super Bowl XXXIII.
The 2000s saw four sweeps for Green Bay (2000, 04, 06, 07) and two for Minnesota (2005, 09). Brett Favre was the QB in five of the sweeps as he transitioned from Green to Purple. In the 2004 season the two teams met for the first time in the playoffs, in January 2005, where the Vikings, losers of seven of their last ten regualr season games that year, entered Lambeau Field and whipped the Packers 31-17 behind Daunte Culpepper and Randy Moss' behind. That was probably the most humiliating defeat the Pack had suffered at the hands of the Vikings.
The 2010s decade has started with another close game between the two. Green Bay won and looks to add their 15th all-time sweep of Minnesota this Sunday (compared to 13 sweeps for Minnesota). Green Bay has survived many injuries to post their 6-3 record. I stated before the season that Green Bay would struggle some this year because Ryan Grant was just not that good. What I (and others) did not realize is that while true, it just did not matter. Aaron Rodgers and a decent defensive scheme has been enough. Brandon Jackson and John Kuhn have been more than enough at RB despite limited skills. Grant's injury proved that it was never he that drove this team. Green Bay's ability to overcome injuries all over the field in the 2010 season has been admirable (and that was hard to say).
The hometown team stares at a season suddenly on the line, a lifetime 48-50-1 record vs. Green Bay, and the multitude of obnoxious Green Bay fans scattered all through the Twin Cities and surrounding area lurking like a vultures near a road kill. I have been telling myself all season that we are more talented, and that talent survives. The loss to the Chicago Bears (along with the home Miami loss) has dampened the spirit. We look to Sunday's game against our most hated rival as the ante dote for a troubled year. Win, and most of us can walk away from a bad season with a smile. Lose, and the fans will disappear in droves. Or continue the witch hunt for a new coach.
Which will it be in the 100th meeting? My heart says the more talented Vikings will prevail by a decent margin. My head says it will be a battle that is decided by the team that wants it more, which appears to be Green Bay in 2010.
Let's go with the heart: Minnesota 31 Green Bay 21.
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