Saturday, February 08, 2003

More Vikings Reach Out to Their Fans

Today’s Star Tribune brings headlines of ANOTHER alleged crime associated with the Vikings charity fundraiser, Arctic Blast, held last weekend in isolated parts of northern Minnesota . And in retrospect, thank God it was held in isolated parts or things could have degenerated into Mediaeval levels of rape and pillaging - perhaps in the spirit of the Vikings of old. By that I don’t mean guys like Joe Kapp, Chuck Foreman, Karl Kassulke, et al. Rather I'm referring to those hairy guys with horns in their helmets from Sweden (re-creation of what that might look like here).

To enumerate, we’re up to a total of four allegations, three separate sexual assaults and a DWI. Non-Miinnesotans unaware of the details, click here and here.

From all reports, the Vikings Arctic Blast event has always been the equivalent of a frat party for the middle aged (the retired players and front office types). Uninhibited drinking, reckless behavior, and, to paraphrase Bob Lurtsema, unrestrained socializing of a highly personal nature with the aggressively single women of the Iron Range. (For whatever reason, that description makes me think of the two floozies from Chaska from the movie Fargo).

It’s amazing this kind of thing was still going on in 2003. It all sounds like a throw back from another era, behavior one would expect from athletes before the media was in the business of documenting their off field behavior. But maybe the local media in cities such as Garrison, Isle, Onamia still play by those rules.

Of course, I’ve never been to the Arctic Blast rally. At this point in my life I wouldn’t cross the street to socialize with a Vikings player. (The Vikings, cheerleaders? Well that’s another story).

But as a kid, back in the late 70s or early ‘80s, I do remember going to see a charity basketball game at the local high school featuring a team of Vikings players, both current and retired. They played against a team of local celebrities, which in Cottage Grove meant people like the mayor, the high school band director, and the owner of the local pizza joint, Sal’s. Sal was a short, bald, mustachioed, Italian guy from New York City, which made him an exotic curiosity for all us St. Paul suburbanites. The highlight of the game was a series of plays designed for the Cottage Grove players to bounce a ball off the top of Sal’s head and into the hoop. After about the fifth unsuccessful attempt at this, Sal staggered around the court in an apparent bout of wooziness. I was never sure if this was for comedic purposes or if it was an actual concussion being suffered. But in any regard, the people loved it, responding with roars of laughter.

I also must say the Vikings players were gentlemen and good sports throughout. Ahmad Rashad and Sammie White were the stars. After the game, the sold out crowd flooded the court seeking Vikings’ autographs. For the most part everybody signed patiently and conscientiously. (Except for Duck White, who was pissed off for some reason). All the kids wanted to get Ahmad’s signature and he was mobbed. All the dad’s in the audience gravitated towards Bill Brown, no doubt to wake up the echoes of the Vikings glories past.

The only ostensibly untoward incident I’m aware of was reported my mother of all people. She was sitting in the stands, waiting patiently while we kids got autographs. Before long she noticed one of the players, who turned out to be Ahmad Rashad, glancing up and occasionally staring at her. She started to grow a little uneasy. Soon thereafter he broke away from the throng around him and began walking straight toward her, all the while staring at my mom with what she described as a “glazed look on his face”. Even though there were several thousand others in the gymnasium at the time, she started to become concerned as to his intentions. As she put it, “he could have been on drugs or something - anything could have happened!” As he reached the bleachers and began to come up the stairs toward her, and just as my mom was reaching for her can of mace I’m sure, Ahmad stopped turned around and sat down a few rows below her. It turns out the whole time he was looking at the empty seats immediately below my Mom and just wanted to sit down while he signed the hundreds of autographs which were being requested of him. Needless to say, no charges were filed that day.

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