Sure, Erin Darsow literally wears her Vikings pride on her face, but don’t lump her and her peers with troublemakers.
MANKATO – She sits in the first row, behind a chain-link fence next to the Vikings’ main practice field during training camp.
Her nickname is Panda Vike. Her business card reads more like a leisure card, listing her name, nickname, then “THEE Viking World Order.’’ A crest on the card bears the words “Valkyrie Division; Choosers of the Slain.’’
She is wearing knee-high fuzzy purple boots, a purple tank top, a Vikings medallion, purple eye shadow, six tattoos honoring Vikings players, two tattoos honoring the franchise, and a purple bow in her hair, some of which is colored, yes, purple.
She reserves a section of her closet for Vikings apparel, and part of her office for Vikings jerseys.
Who are these people, who devote so much time, money and enthusiasm?
One is Erin Darsow, 30, of Burnsville. She is exactly what she seems in terms of team loyalty, and she is far from what the stereotype of face-painting fans would have you believe.
She works part-time at Starbucks. She is closing in on a law degree at William Mitchell College of Law. She hopes to work in criminal law.
The easy line would be that the rowdier Vikings face-painters may require her legal skills some day, but Darsow described a group of fans who collect Toys for Tots and shave their heads to raise money to fight cancer.
“There are fans for every team that make everyone look bad,’’ she said. “You can only make sure that you and the people around you don’t behave that way. Sometimes you do see unacceptable behavior, and we’ll talk to them, tell them, ‘If you’re going to be associated with VWO or Viking nation, you’ve got to be careful with what you’re putting out there.’
“We all like to have a beer and tailgate, but we care about how we’re viewed. The way we dress, we’re all very noticeable. We know it’s more noticeable if we do something stupid.’’
The Viking World Order is a regimented organization. You must be nominated to join, and then you are “knighted’’ into the order. Darsow is one of the members best-known and liked by the Vikings officials who know her.
Some of the players know her, too. Adrian Peterson got excited when she showed him her tattoo mimicking his autograph. Sometimes store owners will invite her and her friends to autograph sessions involving Vikings players, to ensure that someone will be cheering.
“Not only is this my hometown and my hometown team, but I really like how the team and the office and the players really reflect well on Minnesota,’’ Darsow said. “They have community service every week, like the playground building, and the players really make an effort to connect with the fans. The coaches do, too. I think they reflect the Minnesota culture of laid-back-but-friendly, while working really hard.’’
As practice unfolds, Darsow will lean forward, watching young players and listening for exchanges between players and coaches.
“For me, it’s just interesting to watch players who are getting better or are static in their progress,’’ Darsow said. “I can tell my fans, ‘Oh, you really have to watch out for this guy, or don’t put too much faith in that guy.’ ’’
She doesn’t describe her loyalty to the Vikings in terms of hero worship or fanaticism. She thinks of her fellow fans as an interesting and like-minded social group that can do good works, and heighten the enjoyment of a team she would cheer for were she alone in her living room.
“I’ve heard that other fan groups, like the Dawg Pound in Cleveland, and Raider Nation, they have football in common and that’s what they do,’’ she said. “We really like to make it a point to get to know who people are, because we have so many personalities, and so many people from different backgrounds.
“Usually, I’m here every day during camp. This year, I’m missing a few days for some training in August. That’s my career. I love this. But I do know how to put it aside, if I have to.’’
|New England||2/1/15 5:30 PM|
|Denver||47||3rd Qtr 3:34|
|Montreal||0||3rd Prd 4:31|
|Winnipeg||2||3rd Prd 12:58|
|Arizona||1||3rd Prd 16:45|
|Dallas||3||3rd Prd 19:09|
|Detroit||1||3rd Prd 19:26|
|Columbus||2||3rd Prd 13:34|
|Nashville||2||2nd Prd 6:39|
|Minnesota||1||1st Prd 5:43|
|East Tenn St||55||FINAL|
|Central Conn St||55||FINAL|
|Mount St Marys||67||FINAL|
|Coll of Charleston||70||FINAL|
|Fla Gulf Coast||78|
|Jacksonville St||56||2nd Half 7:27|
|Connecticut||35||2nd Half 11:24|
|Rider||37||2nd Half 9:40|
|SIU Edwardsville||59||2nd Half 5:12|
|SE Missouri St||51|
|Marshall||62||2nd Half 4:26|
|Tenn Tech||47||2nd Half 3:10|
|Middle Tennessee||52||2nd Half 8:33|
|Ill-Chicago||47||2nd Half 9:19|
|Weber State||54||2nd Half 5:44|
|Denver||39||2nd Half 7:43|
|North Dakota St||38|
|IUPU-Ft Wayne||64||2nd Half 3:58|
|Louisiana||60||2nd Half 8:03|
|Ark-Little Rock||37||2nd Half 19:43|
|Georgia State||34||2nd Half|
|Portland||19||1st Half 5:04|
|Kentucky||16||1st Half 8:00|
|Eastern Ky||15||1st Half 7:23|
|UAB||25||1st Half 5:50|
|Idaho State||29||1st Half 7:17|
|UMKC||15||1st Half 8:56|
|Chicago State||14||1st Half 9:58|
|Utah Valley U||19|
|Colorado||3||1st Half 19:01|
|Cal Poly||9:00 PM|
|Santa Clara||9:00 PM|
|UC Santa Barbara||9:00 PM|
|Montana State||9:05 PM|
|Long Beach State||9:30 PM|
|Cal State Fullerton|
|Loyola Marymount||9:30 PM|
|San Francisco||10:00 PM|
|William & Mary||67|
|(1) South Carolina||85|
|(4) Notre Dame||74||FINAL|
|Sam Houston St||68|
|Fla Gulf Coast||71||FINAL|
|Vanderbilt||31||2nd Half 9:28|
|(18) Miss State||44|
|IUPUI||48||2nd Half 5:37|
|Abilene Christian||38||2nd Half 8:24|
|Incarnate Word||47||2nd Half 3:42|
|McNeese State||64||2nd Half 4:02|
|Oral Roberts||34||2nd Half 7:39|
|South Dakota St||61|
|Louisiana Tech||51||2nd Half 7:45|
|TX-San Antonio||37||2nd Half 7:56|
|Texas-El Paso||40||2nd Half 4:19|
|Auburn||35||2nd Half 8:05|
|Grand Canyon||48||2nd Half 8:26|
|Illinois||51||2nd Half 8:31|
|(20) Iowa||80||2nd Half 7:48|
|Utah Valley U||46||2nd Half 6:50|
|Green Bay||59||2nd Half 7:18|
|Ole Miss||6||1st Half 10:21|
|Portland State||8||1st Half 7:54|
|Sacramento St||19||1st Half 8:38|
|North Dakota||11||1st Half 7:57|
|Ohio State||29||1st Half 6:38|
|Northern Colorado||19||1st Half 7:17|
|St Marys-CA||9:00 PM|
|UC Santa Barbara|
|San Diego||9:00 PM|
|UC Davis||9:00 PM|
|Long Beach St||10:59 PM|
Poll: Which of these teams is the most frustrating to watch right now?