Vikings fans, suffering gladly

  • Article by: BILL WARD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 10, 2011 - 12:39 AM

The team might be down, but their devoted followers are never out of ardor for the team.

hide

Paul Thielman (left) shared a toast with friends as they tailgated before the Vikings-Broncos game.

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

For many Vikings fans, this dismal season, with just two victories in 12 games, is the pits. Heidi Breen of Minneapolis said she has been praying so much during games "that my knees have sores on them."

For others, stellar campaigns torpedoed by wrenching postseason losses are far worse. "Bad years like this one, they happen," said Paul "Hoss" Thielman of Minnetonka. "The close ones at the end, where one or two plays ruin you, are the toughest."

Either way, during a half-century that has yet to bring an NFL title to the Twin Cities, fans have learned not only to handle disappointment but perhaps even to revel in it.

"For people who are committed to being fans of a sports team, that creates a moral value, the commitment of sticking with a team through thick and thin," said Doug Hartmann, a University of Minnesota sociology professor. "The diehard fans, when the team is losing, there really is a badge of honor in not jumping off the bandwagon."

That's why Breen wears out her knees, and Thielman turns his converted laundry truck into a tailgating mecca before every home game, and Rolf Moe of Mahtomedi speaks for all Purple faithful when he says, "You [complain] a lot, but you're absolutely going to stick with your team."

Even if it means resorting to gallows humor. An e-mail making the rounds shows a sign reading: "When I die, I want the Minnesota Vikings to be my pallbearers so they can let me down for the last time."

Yet they keep the faith, choosing -- or do they? -- to partake in a Sunday ritual of vicariously living and dying with the team's fortunes.

"There have been studies that show it's easier to change a religion than a football team," Hartmann said. "The fans' identity is so tied up in this that it doesn't seem like they could choose to be otherwise. It's like you don't choose to be a fan; it's who you are."

It's a lifelong passion play

Years of indoctrination are at play here. Boomer and senior fans watched the Vikings lose four Super Bowls in eight years during the late 1960s and '70s; they and younger rooters saw glorious 1998 and 2009 seasons come to excruciating ends one play short of the big game. While some locals abandon ship in down years, hundreds of thousands of devotees stay onboard.

"They've invested a lot. The more you put into something, the more you're invested in it," said John Tauer, a University of St. Thomas associate professor of psychology. "And there's some fear of 'if they ever do win it, I don't want to miss out.' "

But why do sports teams in general and this one in particular engender such loyalty?

"Sports has this emotional component to it that really amplifies the reactions people have," said Tauer, who also coaches St. Thomas' men's basketball team. "You might be invested in another part of the community, but it doesn't have the same emotional consideration. If a local grocery shuts down, people move on with their daily lives."

Vikings fans, meanwhile, find ways to cope. Breen, for example, applies her sunny disposition to her beloved team.

"You just hang in there with the Vikings," she said. "You kind of feel like they're us, part of the family and you want the family to do well."

Joe Juranitch, aka Ragnar, takes the familial scenario one step further. "Sometimes your child will do stuff that makes you want to slap 'em, throw 'em out of the house," the unofficial Vikings mascot said, "and a couple of days later you go, 'Boy, I really love that kid.'"

Thielman glances eastward for inspiration and hope. "The Packers had so many lean years," he said, "and look at them now" -- undefeated and reigning league champions.

Misery loves empathy

And then there's this: "We say that misery loves company," Tauer said, "but mostly it loves miserable company. You want to be around people in dire straits."

Toward that end, Thielman typically ends up commiserating with an even longer-suffering lot, Cubs fans, on annual trips to Chicago for the Vikings-Bears game. "They'll hang with us," Thielman said. "You basically sulk together."

Cubs fans could give their Vikings counterparts lessons in dealing with perpetual disappointment: Their team hasn't won a title since Roosevelt -- Teddy Roosevelt -- was president in 1908.

"The Vikings were dominant one generation ago. Why don't you take it back five generations and come talk to me?" said Lin Brehmer, a Chicago DJ who spent two years as Cities 97's program director in the early '90s. "I think Cubs fans more than fans of most teams really are compelled to live in the moment. There's no past. There's no future. There's just a commitment to the excitement of this afternoon's game at Wrigley Field."

That mirrors Thielman's basic approach. "I have friends who think I'm crazy," he said, "and I tell them, 'Come on down to the tailgate and see how much fun that is.'"

Bridesmaids 'R' Us

Tauer and Hartmann differed a bit on whether our basic nature, that Scandinavian stoicism and Upper Midwest reserve, play into this passion.

"If you buy into the Scandinavian lineage, that certainly can allow people to let things roll off their shoulders," Tauer said.

On the other hand, Hartmann noted, "sports provides an outlet in a world that is very routine-ized, where we can express things that in the rest of life we keep inside. We've created an entire personality type that's reserved, so there are emotions looking for ways to get out, and sports really provides that opportunity.

"It's not only OK, but that's what you're supposed to do."

Still, Hartmann added, the Vikings' devoted rooters really are different from their counterparts with other local pro sports teams.

"They're the most popular team in the market by a lot," he said. "Also the history is 'always the bridesmaid, never the bride.' So I do think a part of being a Vikings fan is that you have to accept that and kind of embrace it.

"Timberwolves fans are kind of apathetic. The Wild and Twins fans have high expectations every year, but they'll drop out if those teams are losing. Those Vikings fans are really committed."

Bill Ward • 612-673-7643

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Cincinnati - LP: J. Broxton 1 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: T. Watson 2
Minnesota - LP: T. May 1 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: M. Gonzalez 9
NY Yankees - WP: C. Capuano 6 FINAL
Toronto - LP: M. Buehrle 3
Philadelphia - LP: J. Diekman 1 FINAL
NY Mets - WP: J. deGrom 4
Boston - WP: A. Ranaudo 8 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: C. Archer 4
Miami - LP: C. Hatcher 2 FINAL
Atlanta - WP: D. Carpenter 5
Cleveland - WP: D. Salazar 6 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Vargas 1
Detroit - WP: J. Verlander 7 FINAL
Chicago WSox - LP: S. Carroll 1
Texas - WP: S. Baker 13 FINAL
Houston - LP: B. Oberholtzer 6
Chicago Cubs - WP: N. Ramirez 7 FINAL
St. Louis - LP: P. Neshek 2
Colorado - LP: R. Brothers 2 FINAL
Arizona - WP: B. Ziegler 5
Oakland - LP: J. Lester 0 FINAL
LA Angels - WP: J. Weaver 4
Los Angeles - LP: K. Correia 2 FINAL
San Diego - WP: T. Stauffer 3
Washington - WP: J. Zimmermann 8 FINAL
Seattle - LP: F. Hernandez 3
Milwaukee - LP: W. Peralta 2 FINAL
San Francisco - WP: R. Vogelsong 13
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
(21) Texas A&M 52 FINAL
(9) So Carolina 28
Wake Forest 10 FINAL
ULM 17
Boise State 13 FINAL
(18) Ole Miss 35
Tulane 31 FINAL
Tulsa 38
Rutgers 41 FINAL
Washington St 38
Weber State 14 FINAL
(19) Arizona State 45
Temple 37 FINAL
Vanderbilt 7
BYU 35 FINAL
Connecticut 10
(6) Jacksonville St 7 FINAL
(8) Michigan State 45
Bowling Green 31 FINAL
Western Ky 59
TX-San Antonio 27 FINAL
Houston 7
Colorado State 31 FINAL
Colorado 17
UNLV 13 FINAL
Arizona 58
Penn State 7:30 AM
UCF
Troy 11:00 AM
UAB
(7) UCLA 11:00 AM
Virginia
Western Mich 11:00 AM
Purdue
(5) Ohio State 11:00 AM
Navy
Appalachian St 11:00 AM
Michigan
Ga Southern 11:30 AM
NC State
Boston College 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
West Virginia 2:30 PM
(2) Alabama
Rice 2:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
(10) South Dakota St 2:30 PM
(24) Missouri
Fla Atlantic 2:30 PM
(22) Nebraska
California 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Marshall 2:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
UC Davis 3:00 PM
(11) Stanford
Arkansas 3:00 PM
(6) Auburn
(16) Clemson 4:30 PM
(12) Georgia
Liberty 5:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Ohio U 5:00 PM
Kent State
Louisiana Tech 6:00 PM
(4) Oklahoma
Idaho 6:00 PM
Florida
Stephen F Austin 6:10 PM
(20) Kansas State
Fresno State 6:30 PM
(15) USC
Southern Miss 6:30 PM
Miss State
Texas-El Paso 7:00 PM
New Mexico
North Texas 7:00 PM
Texas
(1) Florida State 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State
(14) Wisconsin 8:00 PM
(13) LSU
South Dakota 9:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(25) Washington 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
Tennessee
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Louisville
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Houston 3 FINAL
Sporting Kansas City 1
Ottawa 10 FINAL
Montreal 20
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Saskatchewan 9/7/14 3:00 PM
Winnipeg
Minnesota 71 FINAL
Phoenix 85
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis Noon
Sep 14 - vs. New England Noon
Sep 21 - at New Orleans Noon
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pm
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pm
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit Noon
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo Noon
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay Noon
Nov 2 - vs. Washington Noon
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago Noon
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay Noon
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets Noon
Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who would you rather have on your team?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close