The nice couple from Woodbury had just adopted a baby in Colombia, but Colombian customs officials were reluctant to process them out of the country. The Youngs sensed that the officials wanted a bribe.
It was 1979. The Youngs were staying in a hotel in Bogota. They had heard that Colombia’s president, Julio Cesar Turbay, was staying there as well. They spent a day waiting in the lobby. Turbay walked through, surrounded by security guards who could have been extras in the Netflix drama “Narcos.”
Vivian Young rushed up to Turbay and thrust her adopted son forward, and asked for him to pose for a photo. Richard Young, a Northwest Airlines pilot, snapped the shot.
The Youngs returned to the customs office. They showed the agents the picture of them with the president. Suddenly, they were cleared. They brought their boy home to Minnesota. The Colombian baby, perhaps a castoff of the cartel life, would grow up to become one of the Vikings’ most ardent fans.
Rich Young, the baby in that photo, attended the Vikings’ victory in Green Bay on Sunday. He has missed only three home games since 1998. He travels to all of their road games.
Why did a native Colombian grow up to wear purple zoot suits to Vikings road games?
“I realize how lucky I’ve been, with such a loving family,” he said. “So I never take life for granted, and this is how I choose to celebrate it.”
His father played football at Colorado and still has season tickets to Buffaloes games. He became a pilot at old Northwest airlines and flew in Vietnam.
His mother also worked. “Yeah, she raised me,” Young said. “And I was no angel.”
Rich played baseball and basketball at Woodbury High, then baseball at Wisconsin-Stout. He earned a business degree and studied finance.
“I thought I wanted to go to New York and live the Wall Street-Gordon Gecko lifestyle,” he said. “Suspenders, sharp-looking tie, big cuff links, shiny shoes.”
Instead, he’s a regional wholesaler for Allianz Life in Minneapolis, which means traveling nonstop. Last year he spent 77 nights in Marriotts and 75 in Hiltons. He accumulated more than 200,000 miles with Delta. He found a way to attend more than 100 sporting events, including the Super Bowl and Final Four.
On a typical week in the fall, he will spend four days on the road doing business and fly home on Friday.
On Saturday he’ll either catch a home Gophers game or fly to the site of the Vikings’ road game, or both.
He’ll return on Sunday night or Monday and start the cycle again.
“I’ve got to be there,” he said. “I love the atmosphere and the drama. I’ve lost two girlfriends. They said, ‘Me or sports.’ I said, ‘I’m out of here.’ ”
Young was sitting 20 rows up from Malcolm Butler’s interception in the Super Bowl. If the Twins make the playoffs this year, he will be sitting near their on-deck circle.
When he has downtime, he’ll watch more sports on television. Or Narcos. The Netflix series on Pablo Escobar, the cartel boss from Colombia, struck a nerve.
Young suspects his birth mother gave him up because she didn’t want him to be affected by the cartels, or at least didn’t think she could afford another child.
“In Colombia, there are the poor and the very rich, and if you do have money, then how did you get it?” he said.
Young has returned to Colombia once, to visit the godmother who cared for him there. He sends donations to her these days.
He also works Christmas mornings at Union Gospel, serving meals, and conducts a coat drive while tailgating before a Vikings game once a year. This year, he and his friends collected nearly 300 coats.
“I’ve been very lucky in life,” he said. “So it’s cool to give back.’’.