Vikings Fan Here… Yep, I’ve Seen It Before

I guess I have to write something about the Vikings after all that’s gone on this week.  Even before Teddy Bridgewater had his freak accident (what else do you call a non-contact dislocation of the knee and a completely torn ACL?), sports pundits were either complaining about Teddy’s arm-strength or saying he needed to step up to “take it to the next level”.  Those who use that mindless phrase need to be put in a pit with the others who say “giving 110%” and be set on fire.  Just ignorant, empty phraseology which belongs in my JockSpeak™ listing.  Let me say this about sports pundits and sports writers, in general: I respect Joe Posnanski because he writes well-researched and thoughtful

Yes, I have a Huddles Vikings doll…

Yes, I have a Huddles Vikings doll…

stories; the others are seldom worth the time to read and certainly no smarter than any meathead at your local sports bar.  In fact, your local meathead probably gets his defective sports thoughts from the national punditry or *gasp* ESPN.  I’m not even going to dissemble on the Twitter-rific train wreck that is CBSsports.com.

Getting back to the Vikings, I go back to the Purple People Eater days and remember those years between Joe Kapp and the return of Fran Tarkenton.  In 1970, the Vikings went 12-2, just as they did in the Super Bowl IV season, the year before, and they went 11-3 the year after, in 1971.  Their quarterback? the committee of none other than the inimitable Gary Cuozzo and Bob Lee, with Norm Snead jumping in later.  They made the playoffs both years and ran into some bad luck against the Cowboys and 49ers, respectively.  The point is this: neither Vikings team had what anyone would call a bonafide starting quarterback and they certainly did not have a dominant running game in an age where run-first was de rigueur for the NFL – especially at the Met.  What the Vikings had was a dominant defense (just like now) and a great coach in the person of Bud Grant (now they have Mike Zimmer).  The Vikings are going to be just fine with Shaun Hill.  He is a competent quarterback who can run the offense – with Adrian Peterson! – and make smart decisions.  Bridgewater is the future of the franchise, Hill is the quarterback for times such as these.  The entire Vikings team has to win, not just the quarterback, and I hope they do, just to shut up some of these idiot pundits.

*Of course, the Vikings do it to me again and, while I’m writing, they go out and deal for Sam Bradford.  It’s not a bad trade, but for a first round, in 2017, and fourth round, in 2018, with the potential to move up, I would have liked to have seen a player who is significantly better than Hill.  Yet, this still doesn’t change my feelings on the potential for the Vikings this year; you still have to play the games!

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Social Media Sucks…Again

“Life’s too short to debate other people’s opinions.”
                           -Neil DeGrasse Tyson

I thought the "update" to the logo was unnecessary, so doing this was a pleasure!

I thought the “update” to the logo was unnecessary, so doing this was a pleasure!

Ah, the internet and especially the Twitterverse is up in arms again. After the NFL’s mishandling of the Ray Rice situation – that did nothing more than show NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell as little more than the owners’ lapdog – we have a situation with Adrian Peterson, star running back of the Minnesota Vikings. Full disclosure here: if you’ve bothered at all to look into any of my previous miscarriages of writing, you will find that I am a life-long Vikings fan. As I have seen the photographs of Peterson’s son’s marked-up legs, my parental sensibilities are fighting with my inner Viking.  I gave up spanking my kids early in my parenting career, but I am not necessarily against corporal punishment.

Adrian Peterson, in “disciplining” his four-year-old son, took a switch to him and literally “tore that ass up”. If you are of a certain age and come from a certain culture – of which I am a part – a parent taking a switch to a child is nothing new, albeit a bit archaic. While I was never “switched”, I certainly felt the wrath of my father’s belt or my mother’s weapon of choice, the hairbrush. A switch on a bare leg is going to leave a mark, there is no getting around that, but does that actually constitute abuse? Peterson is not in the same category as those who leave their toddlers in hot cars, or break their bones, or keep them in closets.

He should be removed from the team, from the league! Really? As excessive as Peterson’s punishment of his child may have been, the reaction has enjoyed its own level of overreaction. But that’s part of the problem of social media: it enables the hyper-judgmentalism that has infected this society with little regard for logic or reason. It’s hard to find the carefully considered commentary through the backwash of the mob mentality of social media where some feel empowered to play judge, jury, and executioner. I suppose it was too much to hope that social media would ever amount to much more than dogs barking at each other.

If Peterson has to be examined, I would rather look at the most glaring defect in his public persona and that is the state of his “Christianity”. He is not unique, unfortunately, in being an athlete who invokes God’s name during interviews and, as one of the faith, I have an issue with this. Peterson is also not alone, as a professional athlete, in producing multiple offspring as he has six children, only one of whom by the woman he married earlier this year. The boy who is the center of this controversy is not that child. Yet, Peterson has fathered these children – even the one with his “deeply religious” wife – out of wedlock, or, more succinctly, through fornication. Now while I am of the mind to follow the “go and sin no more” aspect of Christian teaching, what Peterson has to show for himself is a heaping helping of “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”. For one who, without encouragement, publicly proclaims his “Christian” values, however vaguely, he seems more akin to “those who pray on street corners that they may be seen of men”. To add to the Biblical references, I would add the sage admonition from Judge Judy: “Don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining.” His invoking God for something as trivial as football accomplishments while practicing something that is in conflict with genuine Christian behavior cheapens and puts a superficiality on his proclamations. It is a tricky thing to comment on this without sounding judgmental or condescending, but this incident may give Peterson the opportunity to examine how he conducts himself in all aspects of his life.  But this is all beside the purpose of my piece, although this is the Terms of Digression, so you shouldn’t be surprised.

The final thing I want to touch on is the getting Peterson back out on the field and the hysteria over legalities. While the legal system has succeeded in large measure to parse out the differences between constitutional obligations versus those of a private sector nature, the disconnect I see in the mob in forum rantings is just another case of disconnect or lack of true appreciation of meaning in the phrase “innocent until proven guilty”. Just because you may think Peterson is guilty of something doesn’t mean a Texas jury will agree with you. For me, and because I do believe in the core of our legal system and that of due process, I am willing to wait for a court to decide. The Vikings organization agrees with this, naturally, to get him back on the field, and my inner Viking has no problem with this. Remember, Peterson was held out of the Patriots game; that amounts to a one game suspension… for what, because the über-parents out there don’t like the look of what a switch does to a bare leg; because some think he exceeded suitable punishment for whatever the kid did? If he is found not guilty, then what? What is suitable punishment for what he did if he is found guilty, further suspension for some arbitrary number of games or banning from the league? I am for justice, not only for the child, but for Peterson, as well; that’s justice, not vengeance. Nuance is not well-appreciated in social media.

Is this social media mob employing the double-standard that comes with being a public figure? How many of us could bear up under losing our jobs because of something similar? This hasn’t been proven to be habitual or even beyond a case where it appears Peterson employed the rod a bit much. But it’s okay because Peterson has already made more than enough money, right? Yeah, yeah, yeah, he gets his day in court. But if the court of public opinion says he’s gotta pay, well, he’s gotta pay, right? He sits on the pedestal of a higher standard on which we placed him, whether deserved or not, whether realistic or not. Because unless he acts exactly the way we want him to act, the mob won’t be satisfied until he is torn down. The only thing we love more than building up our idols is tearing them down, but even with the tearing down, it’s still idolatry. Professional sports is built on it.

Opinion polls are for politicians and television executives, not for legal matters. If the Vikings want to let the legal process work, that is their prerogative. Nike and Radisson pulled their sponsorship in a typically feckless corporate PR stunt and people are applauding even though they should know that once Peterson’s case is adjudicated, they will come scrambling back to suck some more money out of the wallets of the temporarily outraged. But this is the mob of bread and circuses and social media gives it its voice. If the mob actually had the intestinal fortitude to really speak to the NFL with its wallets, then they would withhold payment and demand that companies like Nike bring back their jobs to the U.S. and college athletes would really act like students rather than entitled minor leaguers waiting for a payday.

I won’t hold my breath.

UPDATE: And, of course, after I post this, the Vikings decide to ban Peterson from all team activities until his case is settled, whenever that will be. Their decision is theirs to make and I respect that; my view and my questions remain, regardless. While some may view this suspension as some sort of vindication, I believe it stems from the question of other players who were in similar situations, but sucked as players (A.J. Jefferson, I’m looking at you) and were treated differently by the team. Consistency is a demanding mistress…

In Which I Yap About Football Uniforms – Again… (and Marketing and Social Media…Again)

"Man, these uni's are awful.  We look like idiots."From "The Brady 6".  ©ESPN

“Man, these uni’s are awful. We look like idiots.”
From “The Brady 6”. ©ESPN

Of all the things Tom Brady may do as a NFL player, that quote may be the best – at least for me, a Vikings fan.  Brady doesn’t rationalize his opinion, he states it as he states the obvious: what currently passes as innovative design is crap.  Why am I going on about this topic again?  Because, as a Vikings fan, I am aware that the Vikings are set to reveal their newest new uniforms and the social media blitz is ridiculous.

These are the current uniforms that I have hated since the first time I laid eyes on them:

Photo: Rich Gabrielson/Icon SMI

Yeah, the Cardinals uniforms suck, too!
Photo: Rich Gabrielson/Icon SMI

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The Rams uniforms do not suck!
Photo: John Biever/SI

These uniforms reek of somebody trying too hard.  I believe Reebok was the offender in this case.  Their design team (I’m guessing this cluelessness was a team effort) tried to incorporate the horn element from the helmet into all aspects of the uniform, from the ill-fitted shoulders to down the side of the pants with an embarrassing bit of gold piping thrown in for bad measure.  They even changed the horn on the helmet to give it a “3-D element”, as Zygi Wilf described it.  That was an unforgivable crime!  They were touted in much the same way as these newest new uniforms are being marketed, except without the inevitable Facebook/Twitter/blah, blah, blah… social media integration that makes me want to vomit.  They even had a fashion show of the new uniforms that reminded me of a scene out of Slapshot, “I’m gonna wiggle it at ’em!”  These new uniforms happened all the way back in 2006!  Considering that the team wore essentially the same uniform for 34 years before changing to their mid-90s look and went with that for ten years, of course it’s time to change again!  The only thing I liked about the 90s and the current uniform is that they corrected the shapes of the numbers and put the gold trim around them again – and that’s the only thing I liked.

The thing for me is this: a good look is a good look, it doesn’t matter when that look came out.  Try as they might and as simple a design as it is, neither Nike nor anyone else is going to out-design the best look the Vikings had and that was the one they started with:

PPE

from neilleifer.com

And as an added bonus, somebody must have been reading my mind when they drew this one out:

new-whites

From ssur.org

It’s a little different from the original purple pants, but it’s better and it needs to happen!

And let’s make it clear what the helmet needs to look like:

Clint Jones' helmet.Photo: vsaauctions.com

Clint Jones’ helmet.
Photo: vsaauctions.com

So, the cynic in me looks at this redesign of the uniform as a non-verbal admission that the current uniforms were not good and that the funding for the new stadium (Vikings don’t need no stinkin’ roof!) is not going well or as promised and the jersey-buying completist must be fleeced. Yep, this is the era of the quick-buck merchandising con because the league wouldn’t be viable if the Cardinal didn’t look tougher, or the Lion fiercer, or if Pat the Patriot didn’t turn into Elvis, or if Ragnar wasn’t squashed and drawn on with a Sharpie!

As I await the April 25th releasing of the Kraken, I have my expectations low but my fingers crossed that out of the current wave of eyesore uniforms in the NFL (I’m looking at you, Seattle, and my eyes hurt!), the Vikings get something that doesn’t look like some designer was jerking off trying to be “innovative”; we already have that and it fails.  While I can’t respect Packers fans for calling the Vikings “Viqueens” or saying they have a sperm on their helmets, I can respect the Packers for never straying too far from the uniforms in which the Packer tradition was created.  Tradition is part of what makes a franchise great, not the flash-in-the-pan disasters that clothing manufacturers crank out to make a quick excessively-priced buck.

There’s a saying that your first impulse is usually correct.  I think that works in this case.  It’s time the Vikings get their uniforms back the way they’re supposed to be and then put a team on the field that will live up to the tradition of Vikings championship football.

James Montgomery is a freelance illustrator/graphic designer in real life.  If you would like to see him play one on TV, submit your requests here.  Only serious applications will be considered.  😛