These are a couple of items that have been detailed previously. The look-back offered on Saturday at the Vikings’ history of outdoor playoff games did lead to a decision to recycle what I consider great moments of sports agitation.
George Allen was the coach of the Los Angeles Rams when they were the opponents for the first-ever Vikings home playoff game at Met Stadium on Dec. 27, 1969. Allen had earned a reputation for being all-consumed by football – maybe the first of the NFL's sleep-in-the-office head coaches.
The NFL and the AFL were in their last season as separate entities in 1969. There were two divisions in the NFL’s Western Conference: Coastal and Central.
It was predetermined that the Coastal champion would be playing at the home of the Central champion for the conference title. The Rams were cruising in the Coastal and the Vikings in the Central, so it was known for most of December that this would be Western final: Rams at Vikings.
Allen announced plans to bring the Rams to Minnesota early – on Tuesday, the 23rd – in an attempt to acclimate his players to cold weather by practicing in it.
As mentioned in Saturday’s column, Bud Grant’s response was to fly the Vikings to Tulsa, Okla. for a couple of days of practice.
Allen arrived in a state of full paranoia. The Rams rented the Macalester Stadium facility in St. Paul for practice. They put up tarps on the fences around the stadium and also hired security guards to shoo away civilians trying to take a peek.
Allen’s crazed attempt at security became part of the buildup to the game. I was working at the St. Paul newspapers at the time, and by good fortune, our Vikings’ writer – the great Ralph Reeve – had a relative living across the street from Macalester Stadium.
There was sort of a crow’s nest in the house, as I recall, and Ralphie went up there with a photographer who could take long-range shots. There was a Reeve story describing the Rams’ practice – complete with photos – the next morning.
Truth be told, the goal here wasn’t to provide information, but more to ruin Allen’s breakfast when shown the morning newspaper.
The other attempt at induction into the Agitation Hall of Fame came from my father Richard, who signed on early to the idea that the Vikings’ big advantage over the football team from Los Angeles would be our weather.
Richard for decades had kept photos and newspaper clippings of Minnesota snowscapes … including extensive photos and headlines from the deadly Armistice Day Blizzard of 1940.
More than a week before the game, Richard started stuffing this material into envelopes and mailing them off to “Roman Gabriel, Los Angeles Rams, Los Angeles, Calif.’’ Gabriel was the Rams' start quarterback.
My dad sent a handful of these, and always with my observation: “Richard, there’s no way Roman Gabriel is going to get those letters without a more complete address.’’
The game was played, the Vikings made a phenomenal comeback from a 17-7 halftime disadvantage, and won 23-20. A week later, they crushed Cleveland in the NFL title game and advanced to the Super Bowl against the AFL champion Kansas City Chiefs.
What occurred then was the most-emotionally devastating loss in Vikings’ history – worse than the three Super Bowl losses still to come, worse than the loss to Atlanta in the NFC title game in January 1999.
Yes, 95 percent of Minnesotans were certain the Vikings would beat the Falcons in the Metrodome, but 99.5 percent of Minnesotans were certain the Vikings and their mighty defense would thump Hank Stram and the Chiefs in Tulane Stadium.
There was a photo used in newspapers all over the country of Joe Kapp leaving the field with a damaged right shoulder late in the Chiefs’ 23-7 victory.
Several days after the game, a letter arrived from the L.A. area addressed to Richard Reusse, Prior Lake, Minn.
Enclosed was the Kapp photo and a note from Roman Gabriel’s wife, asking, “Richard: What happened to your great Vikings?’’
There are a thousand stories about my father. I would put this in the top three.