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.

Crockpot.jpg

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!

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Uncategorized

The Seasonal Musings of a Lifelong Minnesotan

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I was born in Minnesota and I have raised my own children here. It is a four season state where the months are disproportionately divided. Our winters are long and bitter affairs where we natives spend a great deal of time comparing the current one to epic ones of the past. People like to commemorate the Armistice Day blizzard that was able to sneak out of nowhere and strand those who were out with their cars and kill the unsuspecting hunters who having the day off had headed out in their shirt sleeves before the weather turned. The Halloween Blizzard of 1991 is still a fresh memory in the minds of many and is likely to be used for comparative purposes for generations to come.

July isn’t even over yet and you might wonder why I am talking about winter. I’m from Minnesota and that’s what we do. Sure it’s July and we have weeks of potential stifling heat but will be reminded by Fair time (our Fair is so great you don’t have to insert State in front of it to let folks know what you’re talking about) that “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity” which could be our state motto were it not for the fact that it does not mention snow. The summer brings the heat, the humidity and the mosquitoes which are worst about dusk each evening and whose buzz in your tent or cabin can drive you nearly as crazy as the intense itch and welt that their bites cause. They never travel alone and though they have always been an annoying part of summer there are certain diseases they carry that make them more of an issue today than I recall as a child. Disease carrying insects come in the tick variety here as well and you have not been in Minnesota long if you don’t know someone who has been impacted by Lymes disease which can have a long term impact on ones health.

Fall is the perfect time of year in Minnesota for me, it is the briefest in length and the showiest if given the opportunity. An ill timed rainstorm or early snowfall can strip our many variety of trees of their leaves before they have the chance to show off their magical color changes. The nights are cool and the days are sunny, a weekend drive can take you to a pumpkin patch or apple orchard. It is football weather.

Our seasons in Minnesota are indeed not just passing months and weather changes, our seasons are in fact divided among athletic seasons as well. Certainly there are the pro seasons, which for some reason seem to have expanded over the years so that they all seem to have extensive overlap. Our evening news last night just featured the Vikings moving into training camp, seems like the NHL just wrapped up and baseball is in full swing (yes, I meant to say that). A sure sign of the final blizzards of the year and that spring will truly be coming again comes from our high school athletics, the March tournaments for basketball and hockey are as much meteorological events as they are sporting competitions. The treacherous weather combined with school buses of athletes and fans coming to the metropolitan area from our smaller towns where the community shuts down when their boys or  girls make it to “The State Tourney” make for excellent conversation from reporters and neighbors alike.  I’ve come to learn that the tradition of watching televised high school sports is primarily reserved for those whose home teams have been to the tourney or former high school athletes who dreamed of the opportunity.

Spring is the season we wait for so intently, the one you dream of on a day when you are clearing snow for the umpteenth time during the same weather event. It is the promise of warmer weather and the knowledge that the man made mountains of snow created in the giant parking lots of malls and superstores will in fact recede to reveal their content of discarded bags, fast food wrappers and Starbuck’s cups. It is the tricky time of year when farmers speak and we learn that we have either too much or not enough rain for this years crops. The melting snow combined with spring storms can result in swollen rivers, overflowing lakes and flooding. For some communities instead of summer street dances to commemorate their unique crop or fictional characters spring could be called “Sandbagging Days”. Men, women and children are called into active duty as fortresses are built to protect homes, businesses and civic buildings from eminent water damage.

Beyond the dangers of flooding and freezing we have our share of tornadoes. The unique aspect of having a tornado in the Land of 10,000 Lakes is their ability to dip into a body of water and then dump their load in another location. Who can forget the 1981 tornado that damaged the band shell and picnic shelter at Lake Harriet in Minneapolis, taking a dip in the lake and then heading over to Har Mar Mall near the Fair Grounds (yup, that Fair) and dropping a bunch of fish in the parking lot? Who can forget? Not a Minnesotan, we live for that sort of story to add to our local lore. We wonder about harnessing that capability and using it to extinguish forest fires which are another seasonal disaster that can happen in a place as heavily forested as Minnesota.

I have lived in other states on a short-term basis and have friends who were raised here who now live in a single climate area and miss the seasons. Each winter as a Minnesotan ages they question their capability to live here forever. I know my musings may not be sanctioned by the state tourism board and I may have portrayed that between insects and natural disasters you would really be taking a risk to visit. That truly is not the case. Read polls and they will indicate we are a golf-crazy, bike friendly, literate bunch with fine restaurants, corporate headquarters, great theater, comedy and other performance venues. People here tend to be nice, though we argue about politics and religion, but only because we care and are engaged. If you have never been here, I encourage you to come. Our Fair is next month, come get a food item on a stick.

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