Reusse: Booing of McNabb byproduct of fans' elevated anger

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 13, 2011 - 7:36 AM

Frustration is at an all-time high.

There have been notorious displays of rage from Minnesotans attending big-time sports events.

There was the riot in Williams Arena on Jan. 25, 1972, when a couple of dozen fans joined the Gophers in chasing various Ohio State Buckeyes around the court.

There was the conclusion to a Vikings playoff loss to Dallas at Met Stadium on Dec. 28, 1975, when the home team complained bitterly that Cowboys receiver Drew Pearson might have nudged cornerback Nate Wright out of the way while catching a game-winning touchdown pass.

The crowd joined in the players' anger, until field judge Armen Terzian -- stationed in the end zone for the Vikings' final possession -- was struck in the head by a Corby's whiskey bottle thrown by a fan.

And who can forget May 2, 2001, when a "Salute to Education'' promotion collided with "Dollar Dog Night'' and the young scholars that had gotten into the Dome on half-price tickets celebrated by throwing hot dogs, ice cubes and coins at Yankees left fielder Chuck Knoblauch?

These isolated examples from the past do not change my theory that, here in the second decade of the 21st century, Minnesota sports fans as a collective are angrier than ever before.

This became clear Sunday afternoon, when the Vikings jumped on Arizona for 28 points in the first quarter and were leading 28-3 when coach Les Frazier decided to run out the clock before halftime.

This was the right call by the coach, yet the Vikings were accompanied off the field by robust boos.

I was in Williams Arena for the riot, and at Met Stadium for the Corby's bottle throw, and at the Dome for Dollar Dog toss, but this was new territory for Minnesota fans to demonstrate rage:

Booing the home team off the field as it held a 28-3 lead.

This was the explanation I heard for the mass booing: The fans were irritated at Frazier for running out the clock, but the real anger was over the coach's failure to listen to their demands for rookie Christian Ponder to replace Donovan McNabb at quarterback.

That plays right into my belief that Minnesota fans are carrying around more venom than ever.

OK, there was that dreadful second half in San Diego, when the Vikings were using George Halas' playbook to try to hold on for a victory. And there were Tim Hudson-like sinkers that McNabb threw occasionally in the cakewalk over the Cardinals on Sunday.

The fact is, whether it is the current version of McNabb or the 2010 version of Brett Favre at quarterback, the Vikings' record would stand exactly the same -- 1-4 -- heading into Sunday night's game in Chicago.

Yet, we have decided there should be no limit to the attacks on McNabb, and I have a couple of theories on where this rage comes from in 2011:

A) The Internet/iPhone age has given fans the ability to express opinions immediately, while the buildup of bile is at its strongest. In another time, they had to wait for 20 minutes to get through to a postgame radio show, or send a note to a newspaper's "Sports Mailbag.''

Now, you can go a newspaper's website -- or to a hundred other Internet locations -- to quickly express disgust with a McNabb sinker, or with a coach who won't listen to your advice.

The in-stadium boos always were available to fans, of course, but it's much easier to participate in mass booing of a team with a 28-3 lead when you have engaged in angry public discourse over McNabb's play all week.

B) The anger has been multiplied in Minnesota because the taxpayers are helping to pay for a new stadium for Gophers football, and midway into their third season in that stadium the team stinks beyond belief; and because the taxpayers are helping mightily to pay for a new ballpark for the Twins, and in their second season in that yard they were a full-scale embarrassment; and because we are now threatened by a Vikings move to L.A. if the taxpayers don't cover 65 percent of the cost of a $1.2 billion project on an ammo dump, while the Purple wallows at 1-4, and without our preferred quarterback.

Take your pick, A, B or both, but Minnesota sports fans are more filled with rage than ever before.

Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays on 1500ESPN. preusse@startribune.com

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