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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Worldwide, Baby, Worldwide!: Mikey Does Minnesota Part 2

It's a little known secret that the night before a game in the Metrodome, the Vikings all stay over at the downtown Hilton. My brother-in-law got the scoop, and was able to get us a room at the same hotel as where the players were staying. Maybe I would be able to share some chicken fingers with Sidney Rice, sit in the hot tub with Adrian Peterson, or ride the elevator with Brett Favre? It felt good to be surrounded in the hotel lobby by other Vikings fans, and I was able to get the scoop that the players would be arriving around 6 o'clock at night after practice. They attend a team meeting around 7:00, and sometimes come down after the meeting to chill until their curfew of 11:00. Bryan, Ken, and I stuck around for an hour talking to other fans who had come from Iowa, North and South Dakota. We got off listening to their stories about not understanding the culture of black people, their lack of things to do in their states besides hunting and fishing, and how one of them didn't see anything wrong with shooting pheasants during a casual car ride and then bringing it home for dinner. Although there were a lot of autograph hounds in the lobby, compared to what it usually is when there is a Yankee or NY Giant around, it really wasn't too bad. It wouldn't have been a huge deal if some of the lesser known names could take a few minutes to meet the fans. The players would drive up in their expensive cars to the hotel entrance, have a valet park their car, and be secretly escorted into the hotel to avoid the fans. I got to see Ryan Longwell and Jim Kleinsasser outside from a distance, but this really wasn't too exciting. Talking to my fellow Vikings fans was fun, but it really didn't look like I would get any photo opportunities or have a chance to lounge in the lobby with the players at this time. Also through the grapevine, I was told that Brett Favre did come to the team meetings through a private entrance, but didn't even stay at the hotel with the other guys. I figured we should go out to grab some dinner, and return after the Vikings team meeting to hope the crowds left so we would have the opportunity to schmooze with some of the lesser-known players on the team. We had no idea at the time that we would soon have actually have a great conversation with some members of the Vikings.

After dinner at a themed restaurant called the News Room, we returned back to the hotel to see that the crowds had died down. Still, there weren't too much action going on in the lobby. I did manage to ride the elevator down with a player who we found out was just a scrub defensive player, #98 Letroy Guion. After revisiting a conversation with this lady who was your typical superfan who knew the ins and outs and thought she could give Adrian Peterson a photo album for his daughter, I spotted Nafu Tahi. I got my photo with him, and I think he was so grateful somebody knew who he actually was that he dropped his ipod on the ground while getting ready to pose. I told him he had better block for Adrian tomorrow, to which he gave me a big smile. At least I got one photo opportunity with a player, that was good enough for me. I highly doubted I was going to see any of the big guys like AP, Favre, Jared Allen, Antoine Winfield, or Chad Greenway. So I resigned myself to sit down in the hotel bar with Ken and Bryan and watch the Yankees game. I'm pretty sure Percy Harvin was in the hotel bar with his entourage, but wasn't 100% sure and walked past him. Bryan and Ken were sitting next to three guys also watching the game. While eavesdropping on their conversation, it appeared they were somehow connected with the Vikings. Bryan and one of the guys started chatting about the Yankees, and soon enough we started talking about the Vikings. These guys were playing it off that they had driven in for the game tomorrow, so I as a fan started bashing Tavares Jackson and the pass defense of the Vikings. As our conversation deepened after we started about living in New Jersey, we found out the one guy who doing the most talking was Kevin Rogers. Rogers is the Vikings QB coach (although right now he isn't doing much coaching with Brett Favre on the team). He had grown up in Sparta, and spent time as a coach and coordinator for Notre Dame, Army, and Syracuse. He was responsible for preparing Donovan McNabb for the pros while the offensive coordinator at Syracuse, which eventually got him the job for the Vikings due to his connection with Brad Childress who had coached McNabb in Philly. He was brought to Minnesota to help develop Tavares Jackson, the same guy who I was trashing a few minutes ago. Luckily, Kevin had a good sense of humor, but it just goes to show you that you never know who you are going to meet and you have to be careful what you say to strangers. We had a great conversation about sports, and he was telling us things that we wouldn't expect somebody in his position to talk about. He also offered to buy us some drinks which we politely declined. Before turning in for the night, Kevin told us to enjoy the game tomorrow. We said our goodbyes, to which I stupidly forgot his name and called him Steve. Duggh! Okay, maybe we didn't get to hang out with Brett Favre, but having a real conversation with a Vikings coach was pretty darn special.

Sunday morning! Gametime baby! We ate some breakfast and walked the streets with my fellow Vikings fans towards the Metrodome. It was such a tremendous feeling being surrounded by fans of all ages sporting their Purple and White jerseys. A few of the people we spoke with indicated that they truly believed they were going to eventually lose their team. The state government has no interest in building a new stadium for the team, and it wouldn't be a shock for the Wilfs to move the team considering they also had no real ties to Minnesota. Zygi Wilf, chairman and owner of the Vikings, is a big real estate mogul from New Jersey who has been fighting to get the city to fund a new stadium. The thought of Minnesota without a football team would be horrifying, although I don't live there so it wouldn't hurt as bad if they moved to Los Angeles. Although come to think of it, the team's history would be tarnished, so I hope it doesn't happen. The Metrodome is over 50 years old and is located in the cruddier part of town. Let me tell you that the Vikings experience as opposed to a Giants/Jets experience is a totally different can of worms. There are really no drunk and obnoxious fans, in fact there is no tailgating before the game. The stadium is right in the middle of the city, and except for one little parking lot, most people either walk through the city or take the train which arrives right there. The food of choice that people munch on while hanging outside are cheese curds, not burgers on the grill or pretzels. Very strange indeed. Outside the stadium has the feel of a county fair with tents lined up supporting the community, face painting for kids, and games for prizes. Getting into the stadium was painless, there were no lines or mass hysteria involved. Unfortunately, you aren't allowed to bring your guns to the stadium, or says the dozen or so signs outside the stadium. The feeling outside the stadium was very old-school, I felt like I was a little kid again in the 80's going to a NJ Cosmos game outside Giants Stadium. It was time to enter the Dome and get ready for the game.

Wow, The Metrodome! This is the where the Vikings have played their home games ever since I've been a fan. This is where Kirby Puckett played. This is where the 1991 World Series Games 6 & 7 were played (the two best sporting events I've ever watched). And finally, I was here in person to take it all in. To read the history of the Vikings on the walls, to see the photos commemorating the 1987 & 1991 Twins, to buy a Vikings program for only $6. It was like being in a dream. Unlike Giants Stadium, you could buy a Red Bull here. If I was still a drinker, the cost for me to enjoy a beer was only five and a quarter. The men's restrooms had piss pots, not actual urinals. Only in the midwest! We got to our seats, and my brother-in-law really came through. Not only were they the best seats I've ever had for a football game, they may have been the best seats I've ever had at any event. I was eight rows up from the Vikings bench, at the 35 yard line. I could see the player's facial expressions, their interactions with each other, the practical jokes they played on each other. I could see Ryan Longwell's field goal prep, and Brad Childress ready to call another conservative play on the sidelines. I could see Brock Lesnar and Sable on the sidelines and figured out they were there to blow the Vikings horn before the game. I'm not going to bore you with the actual play by play of the game, but it turned out to be a real barn burner. The Minnesota Vikings were cruising until the fourth quarter. It came down to a missed Ravens field goal during the waning seconds of the game to ensure the Vikings won the game 33-31. They were now 6-0. There was no way my first Vikings experience was going to be a loss, my being there may have had an effect on the outcome of the game. To be there was great, to be there for a Vikings win was even more special. As I left the stadium after the game, I was ready to write again. I was inspired, and realized that life sometimes can be exhilarating!

To sum it up, I was so blessed to be able to finally visit Minnesota. The entire weekend was magnificent, and I have to gave super thanks to Bryan who made it all happen. The people of Minnesota are really nice, the atmosphere is laid-back and calm. I'd rate Minneapolis as one of my top 5 cities to have visited, and there is no way in hell that it's going to take another twenty years to return. You couldn't ask for better weather because had it been as cold as Minnesota as known for, it could have been miserable. Minneapolis is a city that has nice restaurants and bars, and it's not as congested as New York City or Los Angeles. Did I also mention that there are a lot of cute girls in Minneapolis? If it wasn't so damn cold in the winter, I would move here. Minneapolis treated me very well, and I hope the state keeps their doors open for me, because I'm coming back very soon.

1 comment:

  1. I was minding my own business when this blog suddenly appeared. So, I decided to read for a few laughs. No doubt this was an incredible weekend, second best to your honeymoon I am sure. I did not recognize any of these names of players? I thought Favre retired? He's back again? Is Alan Page still playing? I know Fran is gone too. Seriously, they are going to be tough to beat in December at home. When we've been at hotels such as Baltimore and once in Dallas, there are security and signs that you can't ask for autographs or approach players. Of course, I had no interest in getting autographs of Cleveland Browns guys or Kansas City etc. Hope Dawn is doing well and all is great except for a few minor points such as working of course. I am sure you will get through it. All the best.


    PSS Also, your mother is not going to let you move to Minnesota. And knock it off about the cute Minnesota farm girls. They go to the games to say warm. See you soon