In the immediate aftermath of Sunday's dismal performance against the Carolina Panthers many bewildered Vikings players called the game downright embarrassing. Vikings beat writers, columnists, sportscasters and radio commentators used words like pathetic and abysmal.
Seeking to inject a bit of cleverness and levity to the conversation I implored my followers on Twitter (many of whom are Vikings fans) to help me think of a term that goes beyond train wreck or dumpster fire to describe the state of the team. As I should have expected, many of the responses were unfit for print here.
The bottom line, as many have pointed out in the hours since the Vikings fell to 1-4, it's time for some changes. Coaches get fired after games like that. Starters get benched. Players get waived. There's plenty of blame to go around. Said changes are being discussed at length elsewhere at StarTribune.com as well as on sports talk shows and around water coolers this morning.
But that's not the only changes I'm talking about.
In the span of six weeks Vikings fans have gone from apoplectic to apathetic. That should be of real concern to the suits at Winter Park.
It's one thing when your rabid fan base is "merely" angry. At least those fans are still engaged. However, many who call themselves diehard Vikings fans turned the corner yesterday -- and are now headed down the road to just not caring any more.
One of the many things the Vikings pride themselves on is selling out their lame duck stadium. They haven't had a game blacked out since December of 1997. The Metrodump has been full and fans have been able to watch the game on TV every week ever since Randy Moss came to town.
That streak is in serious jeopardy. The Vikings no longer deem a sellout to be 90 percent at Mall of America Field to avoid a blackout. A sellout is now defined as just that: all the tickets have to be sold. Luckily (sort of) for the Vikings, their next home game is against the Packers. The house will be full on Oct. 27, although half the seats will be filled with green and gold-wearing Green Bay fans. After that, things might get dicey. I don't have the latest ticket sales numbers, but I have to believe the final four home games (against the Redskins, Bears, Eagles and Lions) might not all be sellouts.
But that might not matter. You see, the Vikings have been appointment television in the Twin Cities forever. It's just what you do on Sundays in the fall and early winter: you watch the Vikings game. The television ratings for Vikings games back that up. Whether the rest of the Vikings' home games are on TV might not matter as much, however; and that's the real issue.
Vikings fans – long-time Vikings fans – are starting to make other plans for Sundays. Fans calling the post-game radio rant shows on KFAN and ESPN 1500 talked about turning off the game and doing something else with their time in the second half. Folks on Facebook and Twitter told stories of doing yard work or going to the apple orchard with the family rather than watch the Vikings get blown out.
It's time for some changes all right. It's time for a lot of Minnesotans to change their Sunday routines even when the Vikings game is on. It's happening. It's not just the frustration talking. It's not an idle threat that will vanish in seven days when the Vikes are back on TV. It's actually happening with some fans. It's a small percentage now, but what if they keep losing like they did on Sunday and show no signs of improvement? What if they go on Monday Night football next week and get smoked before a national audience by the winless, hapless Giants? What then?
Time to clean the garage on Sunday, that's what.
The growing unrest and lethargy of the fan base has to be a concern to the Wilfs. I can't imagine the state of the Vikings will help with the sales of the already controversial personal seat licenses for the new state of the art palace that's opening in 2016.
Granted, the Vikings have had bad seasons before and not totally lost the interest of their fans. They'll come back. They always do. Once the product on the field is no longer, in their players' own words, an embarrassment, watching the Vikings will be a Sunday destination. But for right now and the near future it probably won't be.
Minnesota sports fans are just sick and tired of losing. Chances are if you're a fan of the Twins, Timberwolves or Wild, you're also a Vikings fan. There's a lot of overlap in that demographic. That's a lot of losing and a lot of frustration. The Twins felt the effects in ticket sales this past season despite their beautiful venue. And now it looks like the Vikings – the crown jewel of Minnesota's professional sports teams – are going to start feeling the fan interest wane.
And with that, I'd like to encourage you all to go downtown today and watch the Minnesota Lynx parade through the streets of Minneapolis with their WNBA championship trophy. At least Minnesota sports fans have one team that's definitely figured out the winning formula.
Bo Mitchell is the Vice President of Content at SportsData
You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell
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