I am a New York Jets fan. I originally came to the Twin Cities in 1975, to attend Macalester College. I grew up two miles from DePew Park, in Peekskill, New York, where the Jets had their training camp between 1963 and 1969. The old practice field is still there. I downloaded the image from Google Earth a couple of months ago. And yes, I was watching the "Heidi" game with my Dad, who currently lives 15 minutes from Giants Stadium. Historically, it has often been very difficult to be a fan of the New York Jets. The term "long-suffering" comes to mind. That said, I always remind dyed-in-purple Vikings fans who choose to "talk smack" to me about my Jets fandom, that the New York Jets have accomplished that most precious thing that the Minnesota Vikings have not. They have won a Super Bowl. Indeed, the New York Jets won the most important Super Bowl. Super Bowl III made the AFL-NFL merger possible.
The Green Bay Packers used to be my favorite "old school" NFL team, other than the New York Giants. In 1965, I had a Bart Starr football jersey. I also harbored a very tortured, grudging respect for the Dallas Cowboys for many years. How are these things possible? They're possible because Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry were, once upon a time, the defensive and offensive coordinators respectively, for the New York Giants. When Lombardi left the sidelines of Lambeau Field, the Minnesota Vikings supplanted the Packers in my pre-merger NFL hierarchy. I'm not exactly sure why the Vikings grabbed my attention. Perhaps it was the horned helmets (which doesn't explain my perennial hatred for the Rams). Perhaps it was Bud "Old Stone Face" Grant. Maybe it was the "Purple People Eaters", or the huge condensation clouds the players would breathe on the sidelines during sub-zero games at Metropolitan Stadium. That movie, The Vikings (1958), starring Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis, and Ernest Borgnine as "Ragnar", probably didn't hurt.
That said, I'm mostly an AFL/AFC guy. When I was a kid, my favorite football rivalry was the literal blood feud between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Oakland Raiders. I actually used to have a Stahl-Urban Chiefs varsity jacket. Besides Joe Namath, my favorite player was...wait for it...Otis Taylor. Of course, I've long since gone to the "dark side", hence my Tim Brown and Charles Woodson jerseys. Truth be told, I bought the Woodson jersey because it bears Willie Brown's old number. Historically, I've generally pulled for the AFL/AFC team in the Super Bowl. When I was 12, I was Otis Taylor, stiff-arming and high-stepping my way to the end zone in Super Bowl IV. I saw Willie Brown housing that Fran Tarkington interception in Super Bowl XI before it even happened. I actually pulled for the New England Patriots in their upset over the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI. Did I mention that I hate the Rams?
I played in a fantasy football league for the first and final time last season. In the end, I hated it, and felt as if a huge weight had been lifted from my psyche when the season was over. I simply could not get past the conflicts of interest that fantasy football encourages. I had to construct special roster rules in order to minimize those crossed allegiances. I placed a special premium on Jets, Giants, Raiders, Vikings and Chargers, so that they couldn't be used against me. I placed an absolute prohibition on Cowboys, Patriots, Bills...and Rams.
I'm going to say a lot of things in this blog during the coming season. The things that I say will doubtless be opinionated, but I will work very hard to keep those opinions grounded in fact. Along the way, it's important that readers understand that I actually do care about the Minnesota Vikings as a football team, as an organization, and as fellow human beings. For a long time now, I've pulled for the Vikings to always win their division, which is more than I can say for the StarTribune correspondent who recruited me to write this blog...a Bears fan. After that, depending on the Vikings' playoff opposition, all bets are off...