Souhan: There's more to this Vikings fan than the face paint

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 29, 2014 - 11:46 PM

Sure, Erin Darsow literally wears her Vikings pride on her face, but don’t lump her and her peers with troublemakers.

“We all like to have a beer and tailgate, but we care about how we’re viewed,’’ Erin Darsow said.

Photo: Richard Tsong-Taatarii • Star Tribune,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

– 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.’’

  • related content

  • Vikings rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater singed an autograph for Erin Darsow as the players reported for training camp at Minnesota State Mankato on Thursday.

  • Complete with Vikings tattoos and fuzzy purple boots, Erin Darsow of Burnsville, aka Panda Vike in the Viking World Order, was in Mankato to welcome players to training camp.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

San Francisco - WP: M. Bumgarner 8 FINAL
Pittsburgh - LP: E. Volquez 0
Minnesota 10/2/14 7:25 PM
Green Bay
Buffalo 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Chicago 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Cleveland 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
St. Louis 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Atlanta 10/5/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Tampa Bay 10/5/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Houston 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Dallas
Baltimore 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Pittsburgh 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Arizona 10/5/14 3:05 PM
Denver
Kansas City 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
NY Jets 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Diego
Cincinnati 10/5/14 7:30 PM
New England
Seattle 10/6/14 7:30 PM
Washington
Washington 1 FINAL
Buffalo 6
Carolina 3 FINAL
Columbus 6
Pittsburgh 2 FINAL
Detroit 0
Montreal 3 FINAL
Chicago 1
Arizona 2 FINAL
Edmonton 3
Fla Atlantic 10/2/14 6:00 PM
FIU
UCF 10/2/14 6:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 10/2/14 9:30 PM
(2) Oregon
Louisville 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Syracuse
San Diego St 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Utah State 10/3/14 9:15 PM
(18) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(12) Miss State
Ball State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Army
Iowa State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(21) Oklahoma State
Marshall 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Old Dominion
Southern Miss 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Middle Tennessee
(20) Ohio State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Maryland
Purdue 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Florida 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
SMU 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(22) East Carolina
Virginia Tech 10/4/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Eastern Mich 10/4/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Texas 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Indiana
Massachusetts 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Tulsa 10/4/14 2:00 PM
Colorado State
New Mexico 10/4/14 2:30 PM
TX-San Antonio
(3) Alabama 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(11) Ole Miss
(14) Stanford 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(9) Notre Dame
(17) Wisconsin 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Navy 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
(7) Baylor 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Texas
(4) Oklahoma 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(25) TCU
Wake Forest 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
NC State 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Clemson
Buffalo 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Bowling Green
Ohio U 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Central Mich
Oregon State 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Colorado
Vanderbilt 10/4/14 3:00 PM
(13) Georgia
Kansas 10/4/14 3:00 PM
West Virginia
Kent State 10/4/14 4:00 PM
Northern Ill
South Alabama 10/4/14 5:00 PM
Appalachian St
Texas-El Paso 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
(15) LSU 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
UAB 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Ky
Texas Tech 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(23) Kansas State
Michigan 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rutgers
Hawaii 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rice
Toledo 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Mich
ULM 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Georgia State 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
Idaho 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Texas State
Memphis 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Arizona State 10/4/14 6:30 PM
(16) USC
So Carolina 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Kentucky
Pittsburgh 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Virginia
Miami-Florida 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Georgia Tech
(19) Nebraska 10/4/14 7:00 PM
(10) Michigan State
UNLV 10/4/14 7:00 PM
San Jose St
Ga Southern 10/4/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Utah 10/4/14 9:30 PM
(8) UCLA
Boise State 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Winnipeg 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Edmonton 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Vikings do Thursday in Green Bay?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close