VikesCentric is written by Twin Cities football writers Bo Mitchell of SportsData, Arif Hasan of Vikings Territory, Aj Mansour, who hosts Minnesota Vikings Overtime on KFAN, and Joe Oberle a long-time Minnesota based writer. The VikesCentric crew crunches numbers, watches video and isn't shy about saying what's on their minds.
To "skol" is to salute -- to toast with a drink to good health. You know the word from the Vikings' fight song, yet I'm guessing you never use it in daily conversation. In light of what happened in St. Paul on Thursday, however, it might be time to expand your vocabulary with the ol' Norse term.
Let me start by saying I’m about as apolitical as a person can get. Just about everything about politics turns me off. It feels, mostly, like a bunch of people who think they’re smarter than they are making petty arguments and self-serving agreements that wind up helping or hurting large numbers of people. Yet somehow, it works. It’s worked for about 236 years, in fact, so well that the United States is easily the best and most powerful country in the world.
I’m also a die-hard Viking fan and ardent supporter of the new stadium. With that as a preamble, I have been following the legislative machinations over the Vikings stadium issue over the past three days with infinitely more interest than any other political event, well, ever. While at times mind-numbingly boring, at the same time it’s somehow been absolutely fascinating.
My first observation is that, apparently, being well-educated about an issue is not a prerequisite for being elected and, ultimately, casting a legislative vote. That may be harsh, but I was struck by the sheer idiocy of many of the arguments, both for and against, the proposed stadium. I understand that much of the posturing and the bringing forth of ludicrous proposed amendments is a political tactic employed by legislators on both sides of the issue, but some of it most certainly isn’t. It’s both frightening and shocking to see how ill-informed some of the legislators were on the issue at hand.
For example, here are just a few of the absurdities that occurred during the initial debates in the House and Senate on Tuesday and Wednesday:
And that’s just a tiny fraction of the shenanigans that occurred during the combined 20-plus hours of debate on the stadium bill in both houses of the Minnesota legislature. Eventually, it got to the point where it wouldn’t have been a surprise if someone had raised an amendment proposing that the Vikings be allowed to play with 15 players on the field, or another forcing the Packers to trade Aaron Rodgers to the Vikings. Many of these legislators evidently believe they can do just about anything they want.
To be fair, there were more than a few very intelligent and well-spoken people arguing on both sides of the debate. But generally speaking, it’s nothing short of astonishing that these are the people who are making decisions on not only the stadium, but on far more important issues. I can only hope that they are less ignorant when it comes to things like health care and education.
Somehow, despite all the senseless time-wasting, absurd amendment proposing, and petty political maneuvering, the democratic process actually worked. On Thursday afternoon as the final minutes wound down just prior to the final vote, a Senator stood up and made an impassioned speech about how the end result of the hours of debate was something to be proud of; a bi-partisan effort that resulted in a brand new stadium that will keep an important piece of Minnesota culture around for another 30 years. It was almost enough to make me forget about all of the ridiculous stuff that happened in the preceding 48 hours. Almost, but not quite.
In a way, though, he was right. The process certainly wasn’t pretty. In fact, it was shockingly ugly. Thomas Jefferson would roll over in his grave if he saw legislators fumbling their way through parliamentary procedures, ill-prepared speeches, and un-researched proposals while grown men wearing purple and gold face paint chanted rallying cries from outside the door; all of it unfolding in front of the world on television and on the internet. But the end result of it all was a compromise between the state and the owners of the Vikings that some will hate and others will love, but that ultimately represents what most of the citizens of Minnesota seem to have wanted.
Where else in the world can a dude wearing purple-and-gold zebra-striped Zubaz with a painted face, two yellow ponytails, a leather vest, and a nordic helmet with matching horns help dictate what happens at the highest levels of government? Only in America.
Follow Christian on Twitter: @CP_ChristianP
Bud Grant retired as the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings on Jan. 27, 1984. His replacement was a fiery ex-Marine named Les Steckel, who had never been a head coach at any level but leap-frogged longtime offensive coordinator Jerry Burns in the line of succession to Grant's throne.
Steckel charged into the role like a man dying to prove he deserved the promotion. The Vietnam vet turned training camp into boot camp, Mankato serving as a poor man's Parris Island. Veterans began to rebel on Day 1, when Steckel kicked things off with an Ironman competition – an extreme obstacle course that claimed victims with pulled hamstrings, acute exhaustion and vomitus projectilius.
It went downhill from there.
After a 2-2 start, the 1984 Vikings finished 3-13. They might have lost their final 12 games if not for 42-year-old Jan Stenerud, who hit a 53-yard field goal at the final gun to beat Tampa Bay 27-24 at the Metrodome. That snapped a five-game losing streak in which the Vikings lost by an average of less than a touchdown.
Victory No. 3 didn't exactly give the Purple momentum. Over the final six weeks, the Fightin' Steckels were outscored 241-79, an average score of roughly 40-13. Steckel got the axe and Grant returned for one more season before handing the reins to Burnsie, launching an era best remembered for profane press conferences, Big Knockers and booing Bob Schnelker.
This trip down memory lane is timely because – judging by the activity of the #firefrazier Twitter hashtag on Sunday – many fans are wondering if Leslie Frazier's head coaching career will mirror Steckel's one-and-done blip on the radar of Vikings history. It's a legitimate question – Frazier needs another victory just to match the franchise's 1984 nadir, and with Adrian Peterson sidelined by a high ankle sprain, an offensive line held together by baling twine and rubber bands, and a secondary rivaling only the U.S. Congress in both job approval and competence, that third victory will be hard to come by.
Can Frazier survive a two-win rookie season, or even a three- or four-win campaign? If you're inclined to draw comparisons to Les Steckel, then your answer will be determined by how the 2011 Vikings finish the season.
The Purple played their worst six quarters of the season in their loss at Green Bay and the first half of Sunday's debacle against Oakland. The second-half rally against the Raiders merely served as a spray of Febreze on the raging tire fire that the 2011 season has become.
But if that second-half performance becomes the norm rather than the exception the rest of the year, Frazier's job is probably safe.
Nothing stinks more than a team that has quit on its coach. Burns was fired after his 1991 Vikings mailed in a 27-7 loss to the Packers in the season finale at the dome. Ten years later, Dennis Green was canned after a 33-3 home loss to Jacksonville dropped the Vikings' record to 5-9. Brad Childress got his pink slip last year after the Packers dismantled the Purple 31-3 for Minnesota's seventh loss in 10 games.
In each case, the players had clearly tuned out the head coach, whose act had worn thin after varying levels of success. Frazier doesn't have that success to fall back on, but he's still a rookie coach who will be given a bit more rope by the owners who don't want to admit a mistake if they don't have to.
Again, let's review Les Steckel's final six games as the Vikings' head coach:
Packers 45, Vikings 17
Broncos 42, Vikings 21
Bears 34, Vikings 3
Redskins 31, Vikings 17
49ers 51, Vikings 7
Packers 38, Vikings 14
If Leslie Frazier's final six games follow a similar pattern, it's even money that he joins Steckel as the only one-year head coaches in Vikings history. But if Frazier can inspire his players to display even the slightest hint of backbone down the stretch, look for him to get a second chance to show why the Wilfs hired him in the first place.
Patrick Donnelly is a Senior Editor at SportsData, contributor to the Maple Street Press Vikings 2011 Annual (on newsstands now!), and has covered the Vikings for FOXSportsNorth.com, Viking Update and the Associated Press.
Last Wednesday, when I was on KFAN with Paul Allen, he was already looking 12 days down the road past the bye week to Monday night's game against the Packers in Green Bay. I couldn't really blame him since he's the "voice of the Vikings" and the team had the week off. Why not look down the road a bit? After all, there was nothing very worthwhile to look back on from the first half.
Wait a minute… this is "Packers Week," isn't it?
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