One year ago today, a group gathered at Legends Bar and Grill in Minneapolis to watch the Monday Night Football game between the Vikings and Giants. The impetus for the gathering, aside from camaraderie, was a mixture of curiosity and real excitement for the debut of new quarterback Josh Freeman, a midseason pickup the Vikings decided to throw into the mix only days after signing him (after Freeman’s release from Tampa Bay and introductory, whisper-filled news conference in Minnesota).
What transpired was a debacle of a game – the low point in a lost season, a low point for the Vikings, period. Freeman, who had one very good season and one pretty good season with Tampa Bay, looked completely lost. He completed 20 of 53(!) passes for 190 yards. Despite the game being within two scores throughout – the Vikings lost 23-7 – Minnesota attempted just 14 running plays. Freeman never threw another pass for the Vikings and is not currently with any team.
To commemorate that experience, we gathered the core people who watched the game one year ago for a reunion Monday at Legends – also during Monday Night Football, this time a much better game between the Steelers and Texans. We put together an oral history, of sorts, of the experience of watching the original game a year ago. Be aware that the conversation veered off-topic so many times we lost count. Maybe it was more fun to be there than to read this transcript. But we hope you enjoy it.
The participants are:
Aaron Gleeman (@aarongleeman), a noted baseball blogger and brunch enthusiast. (First picture, right)
Maggie LaMaack (@MaggieLaMaack), a millennial who in 2013 was watching her first full season of Vikings football. (First picture, left)
Jim Andrews (@realjimandrews), a dedicated Vikings fan who played the game. (Second picture, left)
Jake Nyberg (@jakenyberg), who set the tone Monday by ordering a vodka Red Bull. (Second picture, right)
Michael Rand (@randball), who is us, which is to say, me.
Here we go:
Andrews: I was excited for the prospects of an actual Vikings quarterback, that being Freeman. But I didn’t expect them to throw the ball, what, 41 times?
Rand: 53 times.
Andrews: 53 times! That’s an insane amount. Was Adrian Peterson playing?
Gleeman: Yes! That’s the research I did. Freeman threw it 53 times and Peterson ran 13 times for 28 yards.
Nyberg: It almost seems like someone was trying to prove something that night.
Rand: You think? But who?
Nyberg: My crosshairs would go on Leslie Frazier. He’s saying, “You wanted this guy on my team, you want to start him? I’m going to have him throw it 53 times.” He was daring (Rick) Spielman to fire him.
Gleeman: I found a good quote from Frazier after the game. He said, “I thought about taking him out, but we were really close.” And Sherels did have a punt return for a touchdown early on, so it was close for a long time. That’s how we got our mystery shots.
Rand: Did you turn down the mystery shot?
Gleeman: The waitress wouldn’t give it to me, and I was very upset. But then we decided, “well, they just scored. They’re probably going to score four or five more times, so we’ll have more chances.”
Rand: Because of Josh Freeman.
Nyberg: This vodka Red Bull, by the way, wasn’t part of my routine last year. But it should have been. Because I’m soaring right now.
LaMaack: I think my only real contribution to that day was finding a picture of Josh Freeman dressed like the Michael Jackson Thriller cover.
Rand: I forgot about that! By like the third quarter, that was all I cared about.
LaMaack: Why did he actually take that picture? Because it had an actual tiger in it.
Rand: Maggie, last year was your first year as a Vikings fan. How did that game make you feel?
LaMaack: I have watched one Vikings game so far this year – the one where Teddy Bridgewater did a good job.
[Three minutes of discussion of all that has gone wrong this year]
Nyberg: I love how the Vikings have managed to remain such a train wreck that we’ve gathered to talk about something that happened a year ago, and we’re all in on this year. It’s unbelievable. Twins fans can only dream of such a mess.
Rand: Back to Freeman, why do you think they played him in the first place?
Gleeman: Yeah, I mean, if Frazier is daring Spielman to fire him, what’s his end game there?
Rand: Well, his end game happened. He got fired.
Gleeman: Do you think he thought Spielman would get fired and he would stay?
[Long discussion of whether Raffi, the musician, is still alive. He is.].
[Long discussion of whether the Gophers can contend in the Big Ten. There is optimism among the group].
Nyberg: Did we go totally off the rails here? I feel like we’re totally off the rails with the original discussion.
Rand: It’s OK.
Gleeman: There really were no rails.
Rand: We can only talk about the Josh Freeman game so much. I didn’t expect us to talk about it for two hours. This was an experiment. But I do want to hear from Nyberg. What was your expectation going into that game last year?
Nyberg: I thought, to me, how in the world could they just get him for nothing. This guy is a 10-year franchise quarterback, minimum. He was young. … OK, but my real expectations were what your expectations have to be for anything for the Vikings now: the unexpected. Honestly, I’m glad right now that Teddy Bridgewater right now looks raw and young. Because if he was lighting it up every game, you would expect the ACL injury to be two weeks away. You’d be like, “here it comes. Wait for it.” When the highs start to creep towards fun, boom. Here’s what I wish we had the benefit of: I wish I could live a mirror image of the last 7 to 10 years in another NFL market to find out if this is just a Vikings thing or is it an NFL thing. Someone gets arrested (for example) for shoplifting a carabiner. Is that just a Vikings thing, or does that happen everywhere?
Andrews: You mean, do other teams handle their problems head-on instead of dancing around them?
[Discussion of Ray Rice. Inconclusive.]
Rand: Maggie, why did you even start watching the Vikings in the first place last year?
LaMaack: I don’t even know. I think I was briefly dating a guy the season before and he was always watching football. I just started watching it.
Rand: That was quite a year to pick to watch every Vikings game.
Gleeman: It really was. Initially, I blamed (Maggie) for the season. But they’re bad now, too.
LaMaack: I think I’ve just been busy this year. I haven’t been actively trying not to watch.
[Good story from Nyberg about underage drinking in Wisconsin].
Rand: OK, one last try to get us back on topic: I just remember sitting here last year, thinking, “What is going on?”
Gleeman: We must have been excited at one point.
Rand: We congregated. It was a Monday Night game and we were like, “Josh Freeman. Let’s watch this.”
Gleeman: And it was a great turnout, obviously, with five of us.
LaMaack: Also, it was one of the first times I had met Aaron, and he had his Blackberry.
Gleeman: I sat down, and I was like, “Hey Maggie,” and she just stopped and gave me this look and said, “Is that a Blackberry.”
Rand: When did you get rid of the Blackberry? That was your signature for a while.
Gleeman: Like, March.
Rand: That was a big day. With the game, though, I do think we were excited and intrigued. This wasn’t like we were going to get together and make fun of the Vikings.
Andrews: I remember there was a guy in a Wild jersey playing Big Buck Hunter. He was vaping all night. Everything seems so weird when you look back on it.