The Vikings will hold the first full practice for a training camp in Eagan next Saturday. That date, July 28, is also the 20th anniversary of the NFL’s approval of the sale of the Vikings to Red McCombs for the kingly sum of $250 million.
McCombs swept into town immediately and cut a swath through the Twin Cities, shouting “Purple Pride” to every civilian and TV camera that he eyeballed. Then, he headed for training camp in Mankato, where stopping at Emma Krumbee’s in Belle Plaine for a couple of cinnamon rolls made its way to the TV news.
“Purple Pride! Purple Pride!”
You were so sick of hearing it in Red’s Texas twang that you wanted to shove pencils in your ears. Finally, in the Star Tribune of Aug. 4, I offered this advice:
“Go home, Red. Enough is enough. Stories about you and the nonstop TV/radio interviews have become more wearisome than stories about Monica’s non-dry cleaned dress.
“Go back to San Antonio … Remember this, Red: Absentee ownership is underrated.”
Around 8 a.m. that day, the home phone rang, the voice on the other end confirmed my identification, and asked: “Could you hold for Red McCombs?”
A moment later, the Texas twang was bursting through the phone: “Patrick, this is Red, and I wanted you to know that I’ve taken your advice … I’m on the way to the airport right now.”
We had a laugh over that, talked for a couple of minutes and then Red signed off — with a robust, “Purple Pride,” of course.
“Who was that?” Mrs. Reusse asked.
I said: “That was Red McCombs, and we just found out why he’s a billionaire, and you’re stuck with an easily agitated sportswriter.”
Two decades later, Red is three months from his 91st birthday and worth $1.6 billion at last report, and the sportswriter remains easily agitated. The latest guy to get on my nerves has been Kirk Cousins, the Vikings’ new quarterback.
First of all, he came to town and wanted to meet Phil Fleck. That made me suspicious right away. Sit around and talk new-age motivational buzz words and phrases for a couple of hours.
Such as Cousins at minicamp: “Even today during a walk-through period I turned around at the end and said, ‘I just got better right there.’ … Just keep stacking a brick up every day and believe that by the end of August or early September we’ll be where we need to be.”
Hey, Kirk. Jerry Kill was the brick stacker; your pal Fleck rows a dinghy.
The whole Cousins personae sounded as if contrived. I mean, could there be two wider contrasts in personality than the gushing, thin-skinned Cousins as the quarterback, and the grumpy, quick-to-anger Mike Zimmer as the coach?
Cousins disputes the thin-skinned part, of course. Last season, he said: “I’m pretty ignorant [of media reports], so I like to keep it that way.”
A few weeks later, when the media reported coach Jay Gruden’s lukewarm assessment of Cousins’ play in a season of big numbers and a 7-9 record, the quarterback had a lengthy response in defense of himself, so his ignorance is staged.
Then came this week: The revelation on Instagram of Cousins and a huge glass vase containing 720 rocks, from which Kirk plans to remove one per month, taking him to age 90.
“Great reminder for me to live a life of meaning and impact!” Cousins wrote.
I wonder what old Zim thought about that when he squinted through his one good eye at the photo of those rocks?
There was a need to confirm my impression from a distance that Cousins was a self-promoter who could have a short shelf life in a football locker room.
I called Joe Rexrode, a columnist at The Tennessean in Nashville, and before that a longtime Michigan State beat reporter in Detroit.
“Cousins?” I asked.
Rexrode: “I’ve been wrong about a lot of sports people in my life, but bar none, I’d bet my life in sports on it, that Kirk Cousins is one guy who is as good and genuine as he comes off.
“He came to Michigan State and watching him as a freshman in practice, you said, ‘Here’s a guy that will be transferring to Division III.’ Nick Foles was the quarterback the coaches were raving about.
He wound up transferring as Cousins took charge of the team.
“Didn’t have a great arm, isn’t a great athlete, but the more you watched him, you were saying, ‘This kid is something else.’
“And that whole Boy Scout thing … he’s actually hilarious in conversation. In the locker room, to an absolute man, his teammates loved Kirk, and had all the confidence in the world in him.”
Thanks a lot, Joe, for ruining a column. All I can add now is, “Purple Pride!”