Blogging, childhood, sports, Uncategorized

Super Bowl – You Betcha

I hate to say it but were it not for living in a cold climate, I might not even follow pro-football. Yet, as someone who has lived the majority of my life in Minnesota (and a couple of years in Wisconsin) it’s a pastime whose bulk of the season takes place during our coldest, darkest, snow-covered weekends. While I most enjoy watching players doing their jobs in locales where they can see their breath, it does feel like a mini-vacation when a game is played somewhere sunny and warm and tailgating doesn’t require snow-pants and I imagine the fans smell of sunscreen.

Attached you will see the picture of my Superbowl. That’s right, that’s the vessel that typically holds the Tostitos, yesterday it was the bite-sized, sometimes it’s Scoops. If I plan in advance, occasionally it holds ripple chips, a sturdy transport for my homemade onion dip that is best made a day prior to consumption.

I have been a lifelong Vikings’ fan but with one peculiarity among most of my peers. I have a healthy respect for the Green Bay Packers, as I love the loyalty of their fans and have many friends who bleed green and gold. I also admire them for playing outside, the way the Vikings did when I first started watching them.

I’ll be honest, that I remember football being confusing as a kid, I recall watching games on black and white televisions where it was necessary to know if you were cheering for the light jerseys or the dark jerseys. Yet, I began watching football in an era when many fell in love with the Vikings!

The year I started kindergarten is the year the Vikings won their first division title. The following year, they won the title and their first ever play-off game and went on to their first ever Superbowl game which they lost to the Kansas City Chiefs 23 – 7. By the time I was in third grade the Vikings had won four consecutive division championships, meaning they’d held the title for half of my lifetime! What’s not to love?

The Vikings went on to lose two more Superbowls while I was attending elementary school. Followed by their fourth loss while I was in the eighth grade. It was an era of winters where I proudly wore my purple winter hat with the gold and white pom-pom on it and the Vikings logo patch sewn on up front. I wore it on my walk to school, I wore it when shoveling snow and I wore it while ice skating with friends at Linden Hills Park and on the rink at Lake Harriet. I even wore it in Wisconsin when I snowmobiled. I came to realize over the years that no amount of Vikings-apparel-wearing impacted the outcome of their seasons. My purchase of the Wild Card sweatshirt while working at Winona State during the ’87 season (probably the result of some euphoric pro-sports high after the Twins World Series victory) did not garner a victorious outcome. My most recent sweatshirt purchase for a party when the Vikings played the Saints for a 2009 NFC championship loss didn’t create good karma either. You may recall that last game mentioned as the era where the Saints did not behave like Saints but were incentivized to injure players with a bounty. Some thought it was wonderful they beat the Vikings because New Orleans was still recovering from hurricane Katrina and others thought that rewarding cheating and being poor role models blemished their eventual Superbowl Victory. Choosing to be an optimist, I look at each Vikings apparel purchase not as a means to ensure a win but rather as a wardrobe item that makes getting dressed for several Sundays each year an effortless task.

The Vikings have been having a bit of a dry patch, a spell only four years shy of the length of the Cold War. I’ve looked forward to having a couple of beers and watching the Viking’s play in a Superbowl game. I was thirteen the last they made a Superbowl appearance. Gerald Ford was packing up and preparing to move out of the White House. Fran Tarkenton was nearing the end of his second reign as the team quarterback and was less than a decade from being inducted into the Hall of Fame.

This season began as another hopeful one, undefeated in the first five games it seemed like this was “our year” but any true Vikings’ fan knows that it is when a season appears to be going our way, heck even when a game seems to be going our way, the Vikings are able to lose a great lead in the waning minutes like no other. This is especially true when the stakes are high! If there is an opportunity to clutch defeat from what appears to be an obvious victory, the Vikings are notorious for it. Perhaps it builds character, puts the whole thing in perspective of “it’s only a game.”. The Vikings have allowed us to raise our children humble and learn not to take things for granted. The Vikings have taught us how to love family, even when the members disappoint us and we’d like to give up on them. Sometimes in life, if you want to bathe yourself in Gatorade you are going to need to pour it on yourself because even though you gave your best, you simply were outplayed, outsmarted or outscored.

With my own children in their twenties, they see pro-football as a tradition of Dad napping on the couch, Mom yelling at the TV and our family dog looking for a handout. As young kids they went along with the annual ritual of the season, lured in by Velveeta-based concoctions and midday pizzas. Once my son became a pescatarian the Hormel Chili-based temptation no longer worked. Instead of viewing regular season games, they would watch the Superbowl for the food, the commercials and halftime show, tolerating the intermittent interruptions of football game. Teams to cheer for were selected by jersey color, a disliked team member to cheer against or varied pop culture reasons such as being married to a hot super model. What do you expect? It’s been four decades since their “home team” has even been in a Superbowl.


Yesterday my daughter and her roommate came by after work to participate in the American tradition of the Superbowl. The disappointments did not come (for us) from the plays on the field but rather from a lack of Clydesdales and puppies and too many previously seen commercials. The bright spots included both the Justin Timberlake and Melissa McCarthy ads, the Honda CRV celebrities yearbook commercial and the series of amusingly awkward T-Mobile promotions.

The main attraction was actually gathering around the crockpots, a midwestern custom akin to gathering around a campfire. This act is less about warmth and survival and more about salty and savory concoctions that could be made any day of the year but cardiologists recommend against it. Totino’s pizza rolls in the oven at halftime and even the most cynical sports fan has something to celebrate!

The halftime show did not disappoint. It was an energetic spectacular. As a Minnesotan I am keenly aware of our most recent Superbowl legacy. In 1992 we hosted and the halftime show remains an epic embarassment. If you have time and don’t recall the winter wonderland themed showcase that seemed better suited to a 1970’s variety show than a major sporting event, I encourage you to look it up. The opportunity to regain our dignity is upon us, as we are on deck to host the 2018 Superbowl. While it seems inevitable that we will have some sort of tribute to Prince, I’ll be anxious to see who is selected to perform. How amazing might it be to have the Vikings compete with home field advantage? Shoot, I hope that didn’t jinx them.

While the game yesterday was unlike any former Superbowl with a huge comeback and firstever brief overtime, I’m going to say that the final outcome was that my daughter and her roommate were the winners. Sure, maybe it wasn’t the Lombardi trophy they took but they did not leave empty handed. The crockpots were emptied and we sent them home with Rotel-dip, Hormel dip, Italian meatballs in marinara, an unopened bag of Scoops. We Vikings fans may not have a Superbowl title but we have our traditions none the less!


Why I Love the Olympics!

I have suffered a love/hate relationship with the Olympics over the years. I enjoy the back stories of the athletes and the sacrifices their families have made so they can be there. I remember the summer games of ’72 when I realized at age 9 that I was not going to be an Olympic athlete because other than SWAC t-ball and a year of tap dancing I just did not have the athletic experience or makings of a champion. It was pretty clear that living at home with my parents was also not benefiting me in the way that being selected by my government to go live with a coach in a remote region of my home country would have. It was that summer that living vicariously through Olga Korbut I knew that my destiny was not to be an Olympic athlete but rather an Olympic fan.

I may never get used to the staggering of the winter games and the summer games, I am a child of the era of presidential elections and both Olympic games sharing a common calendar, I will admit that having an Olympics every two years instead of every four does help keep the spirit alive, the torch burning so to speak. That torch is something I like to think I have passed to the next generation. My daughter asked before Christmas break if it would be possible to bring a small spare TV of ours back to college so she and her roommate could watch the games. Half way through her third year on campus without a television and it’s the Olympics that inspire her to have one. Santa brought her a TV set so during study breaks they can catch some skating, snowboarding and hopefully some hockey.

She was born six weeks after the ’92 summer games which means I carried her through the winter and summer games of that year. When she was three we bought her a blue spandex USA outfit that came with a gold medal. We referred to it as the “winner outfit” and she wore it constantly. When I am out shopping and see a kid sporting a super hero cape or a princess costume I like to get a picture and send it to her. Wearing that winner outfit everywhere makes her a kindred spirit with all other kids bold enough to publicly proclaim how they see themselves.

My son has never cared much for sports as either a fan or a participant in the traditional sense. Where I only garnered a year of tap dance experience he trained for seven years in that discipline, along with some jazz and ballet. Where Olympic athletes perform in arenas, on slopes and sheets of ice, my son performed on stage in dance, choir and theater. He too however loves the Olympics. It is the spectacle he enjoys and the fashion that he critiques. He has committed to wearing red, white and blue for the duration of Sochi. You do not have to be a traditional sports enthusiast to love the games.

My father was a gymnast, so that was something that I loved to watch growing up. As a Minnesotan I was raised with a love of hockey and my favorite sporting event is specifically the Minnesota Boys State High School Hockey Tournament. As with many other Americans an Olympic highlight of my lifetime was the USA defeat of the Soviet Union team in 1980, which paved the way for their eventual gold medal. It seems that we are often asked to recall where we were during dark moments of our countries history but to have experienced the energy and triumph of that historical event makes one hunger for that pride and enthusiasm to be felt on a national level in that way again.

The Olympics have certainly changed within my lifetime; 1972 was the last year that a gold medal was won using wooden skis, that was the year that Canada chose not to send a hockey team in protest of the communist countries using professional athletes. Changes have been made to permit the use of professionals which for me has changed some of the spirit of the games. During the introductions this year I was disappointed that so many countries were being represented by athletes that were not citizens but rather recruits or wealthy people who could afford to find a country to be the representative of.

Despite my dissatisfaction with some of the IOC decisions, as a story teller I simply love the stories of the Olympics; unexpected victories, the relationships, the memorable disappointments and the jubilation that transcends language barriers and political ideologies. I like seeing people reduced to tears by the sound of their own national anthem and have an appreciation for the pride someone feels while being wrapped in the flag of their country. So far these games have showcased the positives of international competition that is demonstrated by the embrace of competitors, when someone who has fallen short can wrap their arms around the one who has beaten them and who is for that moment in time the best in their mutually shared passion.

I am glad that I lived in an Olympic watching home growing up. I am proud that having raised my children to watch the opening and closing ceremonies (and whatever they chose in between) that it is a time honored tradition for them as well. The best lessens from the Olympics are to find something you are passionate about and pursue it and that you don’t have to be the best at something to enjoy it. Perhaps the Olympics are our reminder that we should all put on our “winner outfit” or whatever costume it is that brings us satisfaction.