Anyone who has followed the Minnesota Vikings this season knows that from Day 1 little has gone as planned for the franchise.
Whether it be Sidney Rice having hip surgery in August, the decision to trade for Randy Moss and then release him, the dismissal of Brad Childress as coach, the Metrodome roof collapsing or Brett Favre's starting streak coming to an end, the list is lengthy and if you're a Vikings fan or executives it is downright depressing.
But for one night at least everything went as planned for the Vikings. Team executives deserve kudos for a fantastic 50th anniversary celebration on Sunday at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Owner Zygi Wilf and Co., did everything first class from an early evening reception to the "Celebrating 50 Seasons" event in the auditorium.
Wilf and his brother, Mark, by the way, are planning to brave the elements at TCF Bank Stadium on Monday night and sit in the stands. Zygi Wilf grew up going to New York Giants games at Yankee Stadium and seems excited by the opportunity to get back outside for a home game.
Everyone was warm on Sunday as the majority of the top 50 players in franchise history were in attendance and they were brought on stage in groups as one person talked about each. I used Twitter to update throughout the evening so if you want the play-by-play check out my page at www.twitter.com/juddzulgad.
Among the highlights of the evening:
- Team historian Fred Zamberletti, who hasn't missed a game in franchise history and was the Vikings trainer from 1961 to 1998, didn't make any attempt to hide his emotions as he talked about how much the players and franchise have meant to him. It was really touching to see Zamberletti's appreciation for a job he clearly loves. One of Zamberletti's duties on Sunday was to talk about a group that included Gene Washington, John Gilliam, Jeff Siemon, Ed White and Stu Voigt. Also included was the son of the late Wally Hilgenberg. Zamberletti, as nice of a man as you will ever meet but also a very principled person, focused all of his comments on Hilgenberg, who died in September 2008 after battling ALS.
- Hall of Fame coach Bud Grant received a standing ovation from the crowd as he opened the program. Grant also closed it.
- The first group from the top 50 to be introduced were Jim Marshall, Fran Tarkenton, Ed Sharockman, Roy Winston, Fred Cox and Ron Yary. An emotional Grant talked about each, telling Marshall he loves him like a brother.
- Marshall returned the favor when the final group brought up on stage included the Purple People Eaters -- Alan Page, Carl Eller, Gary Larsen and Doug Sutherland (Sutherland replaced Larsen) -- and also Grant. Said Marshall: "I played for Woody Hayes, I played for Paul Brown, but none could stand on the same level as Bud Grant."
- Tarkenton initially turned down an invitation to attend Sunday's festivities and only changed his mind when Grant requested his presence. One of the biggest surprises to me was that former coach Dennis Green showed up and spoke. Green and his quarterback, Daunte Culpepper, were both there. Green and Culpepper were reunited this season in the United Football League with Sacramento.
- Tarkenton had a great tidbit, saying that Packers coach Vince Lombardi attempted to trade for center Mick Tingelhoff in the mid-1960s but that the Vikings would't do the deal. Tingelhoff played for the Vikings from 1962 to '78 and it was mentioned a few times that he and Marshall should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In fact, longtime Vikings executive Jerry Reichow, who played for the team from 1961 to '64, said he won't go to Canton, Ohio to visit the Hall until Tingelhoff and Marshall have been inducted.
- Randy Moss and Matt Birk were both in the top 50 but obviously neither was there because they are still active and with other NFL teams. Birk, however, is scheduled to be at TCF Bank Stadium on Monday night to take part in the halftime festivities surrounding the celebration of the team's 50 seasons in Minnesota. Birk's Baltimore Ravens beat the New Orleans Saints, 30-24, on Sunday.
- Vikings interim coach Leslie Frazier knocked it out of the park as he made comments about the five active Vikings on the 50-year team as they sat in directors chairs. Frazier praised defensive tackle Kevin Williams, cornerback Antoine Winfield, left guard Steve Hutchinson, running back Adrian Peterson and defensive end Jared Allen. Frazier received a loud ovation from fans before making comments that appeared to move Hutchinson close to tears. Frazier compared Peterson to the late Walter Payton, a one-time teammate of Frazier's with the Bears, and said Winfield is "pound for pound the most complete defensive back ever to play in the league."
- Frazier didn't speak like a guy with an interim label in his title, drawing big cheers when he said: "It won't be long and I promise you we'll be coming back to celebrate a world championship."
- Former running back Robert Smith, a member of the top 50 team, gave a touching speech after a video tribute that featured Smith's former college (Ohio State) and Vikings teammate Korey Stringer, who passed away in 2001 after complications brought on by heat stroke suffered following a training camp practice.
- Childress received one mention that I heard in the 3-hour (or so) program and that came in a passing reference from Grant before the evening wrapped up.
- I received a few questions throughout the night on whether this event would be televised at some point. Vikings PR ace Jeff Anderson, who you can follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/andersonj, said that some of it will be shown on "Vikings Weekly" on Fox Sports North and KARE (Ch. 11) and also on www.vikings.com. "Vikings Weekly" airs at noon on Saturdays on KARE and then at 10 a.m. Sundays on FS North.