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!

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…

Football, For the Last Time (Until the Next Time)

I read forum comments – occasionally – until the stupidity, trolling, or pathetic lack of proofreading becomes unbearable.  I don’t comment because it just isn’t worth it; I come here and scratch out whatever I want to say about any topic.  If no one reads it, what have I lost?

As a masochistic follower of certain sports (my being a long time fan of both the Vikings and Sabres will attest to that!), I read sports columns.  One of the most insipid comments I continually find on the sports forums is the notion “the NFL is a passing league.”  The phrase gets repeated as if it is a mantra for the willfully ignorant and perpetually bored. The game of football is a running game that has added passing.  Sure, the game has evolved, but no team has success without having some balance to their offense.  Being a Vikings’ fan, I have no problem with a run-first offense.  Adrian Peterson showed that a running team can win, but 2012 also showed that good quarterback play and a passing game are necessary elements for success.  2013 showed that it takes more than just one person to win – it takes a team.

I’m writing this today because yesterday’s Super Bowl showed several of the things I believe to be true about what the NFL calls “football” nowadays and forums of all stripes, as well.  Instead of wading into the morass of commentary on other sites by those who have little to offer in the way of substance, I’ll jot down my proclivities here just so I can see them in all their pixelated glory.  Whee!

First, yes, there is a lot of passing in the NFL and with good reason: the league has done its damnedest to contort the game to make it less “boring”.  They moved the hashmarks more toward the center of the field and they restricted what defenders can do while covering receivers.  The result has been an opening up of the field for teams who want to pursue the Don Coryell version of the sport and fill the air with footballs.

And it rarely will result in championships – live by the pass, you will die by the pass.  Count on it.

Yeah, some knob will whip out some statistics at this point of the debate and lead with the “yeah, but…” argument without considering that stats don’t mean a damn thing because this is a team game.  You can’t fault an offense because the defense can’t stop the other team.  Likewise, you can’t fault a defense because the offense can’t stay on the field.  Three-and-out is three-and-out whether you are running or passing.  The passing game is just a means to an end and the end is the goal line.  What difference does it make whether you ran it in or passed it in?  The only stat that matters is the one on the scoreboard.

Learn it, believe it, live it.

Secondly, I have always maintained that having a good quarterback is necessary, but if you don’t have a competent offensive line, you are going nowhere.  Adrian Peterson had an MVP season behind an offensive line that opened up enough holes for him to do what he does best.  This past year, the Vikings’ offensive line played as if they had just been introduced to the sport.  The results of not having a competent passing game made the outcome of the season all too predictable.

And now look what happened when Denver ran into a team that could apply defensive pressure.  You see, a passing offense isn’t any better than a running offense when up against a team that can defend the pass – that starts up front on the line.  Any NFL quarterback – yes, any NFL quarterback – can pick apart a defensive secondary if given time.  Force the quarterback into hurried decisions, those decisions are not going to be good many times.  Just as with the offense, if a defensive line can’t generate pressure, that team is going nowhere.

A passing league?  Hardly.  Football is a game that originated as a strength-on-strength contest that valued the ability to physically dominate an opponent.  That hasn’t changed and if that aspect of it ever does, then the NFL will have been successful in ruining the sport and turning it into “passketball”.  Those people who do not want to watch or do not see the value in a defensive and run-oriented football game because it’s “boring” just need the hell slapped out of them.

The other thing that was validated yesterday was about opinions, something I wrote about early on in this casually-attended blog.  Opinions aren’t worth shit – especially if you don’t know what you’re talking about and aren’t prepared to consider opposition to your opinion.  But more than that, look at all the prognosticators and “experts” who got it wrong – desperately wrong – on the outcome of the Super Bowl.  Their collective failures sort of makes that idiot “truther” busting in on the press conference a fitting scene: sometimes people need to keep their idiot ideas to themselves and shut the hell up!

Learn it, believe it, live it.

Hail to the… *psst, what’s their name again?*

I really do not want to keep writing sports-centric pieces, but the inclination for cracking wise got the better of me and I decided to scribble a little nonsense about the NFL team in the sights of the PC crowd: the Washington Redskins.

The owner, Dan Snyder, a not-so-great owner by most accounts, has vowed never to change the name even though many assert that the name is a racial insult perpetrated by the original owner, renowned racist George Preston Marshall. Slowly but surely, the drive to change the name among the general public has grown, but this is the world of high-finance sports and there will have to be a lot more voting with the wallet before any changes are seriously considered.

I have always maintained that if I was the owner of the team, I would change the name, but I would keep the basic design centered around the sweet spear insignia the Redskins wore from 1965-69.

photo by Walter Iooss, Jr., Sports Illustrated

photo by Walter Iooss, Jr., Sports Illustrated

However, the name would have to be good — excellent, in fact — and I would not call the team the “Washington Warriors”. Yuck!

My oh-so-very-clever idea for the team name would be to call them the “Washington Engines”, playing to the PC crowd by changing the name, explaining that the name has to do with Washington being the “engine” that drives the country or some other malarkey, while also playing to the racist crowd who didn’t find anything wrong with the native denigration. Racist, you ask? Just keep saying the name. Phonetics, thou art a harsh weapon of wit!

Now that I think about it, since “Engines” would be more appropriate for a city like Detroit, the franchises could switch locations and the Lions would move to Washington, except the spelling of their name would be changed to “Lyin’s” to make it a better fit to match the character of their new hometown.

Yeah, so I won’t be buying the team anytime soon.

Vikings’ New Uniforms: It Could Have Been Worse

from vikings.com

from vikings.com

I suppose I have to write this article because of all my screeching about how I despised the uniforms the Vikings had been wearing since 2006.  So, after much draft watching and snark about Chris Kluwe, I decided to sit down and tap out my opinion.  As the title suggests, what Nike did to the new uniforms could have been worse… much worse.

That doesn’t get Nike off the hook, though.  The whole hoo-ha they’re pitching about the numbers recalling the prow of a Viking longship… please.  The numbers are so similar to what is being done with Washington State that it is a stretch to even call what they’ve done an original concept. This is just regurgitation of an already existing form being passed off as something it’s not. By the way, Nike needs to seriously do some research into what the prow of a Viking longship really looked like; what they have looks more like the bow of a john-boat.

©Nike

©Nike

from vikings.com

  Also look at the consistency of the effect over the different numbers: the distortion doesn’t work as well with a “7” as it does with an “8”.  Also, the mixing of rounded-corner numbers with hard-angle numbers doesn’t make any design sense. This is why I like well-constructed block numbers: they are readable and the letter weight holds up.  Plus Nike removed the gold trim on the numbers and that is a mistake.

from Nikeblog.com

from Nikeblog.com

The stripes on the pants, while going all the way to the waist, are still very reminiscent of the wide stripe-thin stripe thing that’s going on with UConn.

ADwhite

from vikings.com

I like that there is a purple version of the pants, but having them and wearing them consistently are two different things.  Even though I hate Van Brocklin eternally for calling the Vikings “a bunch of Easter eggs” during their infamous all-purple game against Detroit, the purple jerseys with the purple pants is just not a good look – unless you’re my North Alabama Lions winning NCAA D-II championships.  Thank you, Ronald McKinnon and company!

ADhelmet

Lastly, I generally don’t like this matte helmet fad that has been created, but I like it for the Vikings’ helmets… and it is a ZILLION times better than this horrible gradated look Jacksonville or the U. of Arkansas have on their helmets.  There is not a worse look for headgear, but the giant stripes of Ohio State are a close second.  Sadly, even though the horn looks bigger, it is the same misbegotten cartoony garbage that came with the 2006 redesign.  The Vikings needed to keep that horn the same way Ragnar needed a remake (I’m being subtle and restrained here). And black facemasks? Really? Is there a designer out there who doesn’t feel the need to artificially inject the color black into every team’s color palette?

So, on a scale of 1 to 10, the new Vikings uniforms get a grade of “meh”, because I don’t do number grades.  The cuts of the jerseys continue to be ridiculous. Despite the Nike verbiage, these uniforms are not reminiscent of the original uniforms nor do they resemble them in any way, save that they are purple and gold. These uniforms are really the confirmation of Nike’s view that you can’t go “old school” (a vomitous term if there ever was one) and look cool – and they just don’t know how wrong they are.  Apparently they have a problem recognizing that a “modernizing” of a traditional look is actually a departure. I expected to not be impressed with the new uniforms and Nike did not let me down in that regard. The saving grace is that Adrian Peterson had input into the new look, so if what he’s wearing makes the MVP happy, that’s fine with me!

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.  😛

Ah, the Times in Which We Live… Sports and Money

Hardass-GM-is-a-hardass

©Paramount Pictures

Full disclosure: I am a Vikings fan; I have been since I was nine-years old and discovered these guys with big white horns on their helmets beating up on the Chicago Bears.  Over the years, what this shows, if anything, is that I can take a lot of misery.  What I can’t take is the seemingly endless line-up of overpaid prima donnas whose only contribution to the general consciousness is to play a sport.

Now I could spend my time here deliberating the pros and cons of one Percy Harvin, he of the migraine headaches and deliverer of headaches to opponents and front office personnel, alike.  His football talent isn’t really on my mind – it’s his yapping about his contract.  With the advent of big money in pro sports, there seems to be somebody, somewhere, on some team who doesn’t get the whole “team before self” concept.  These are the guys who gotta get paid.  Mo’ money, mo’ money, mo’ money.  Every year, we get to hear their Soliloquies of Self-worth, with a percentage for their agents.  These are the guys who treat contracts as nothing more than suggestions that are past consideration and college as nothing more than an opportunity to show-off for the pros while diplomas are for other people.  Who can blame them?  A single year’s payout from some of these contracts would set me up for the rest of my life!  Still there are those who complain they aren’t being paid enough.  And oh, how they are being disrespected by the teams who hold their contracts and don’t renegotiate!

I read an article several years ago, when corporate raiders were all the rage, that talked about how the obscene salaries for many executives of these Fortune 500 companies had gotten past the point of what was equitable compensation to simply one-upping the other big executives.  So while the earnings of average American workers have stagnated over the past three decades (and my salary from these years is testament to that!), CEOs across the country were engaged in some big corporate dick-measuring contest!  This is what goes on in pro sports and isn’t it about time somebody ask “how much money is enough”?

I suppose some “free-market”-types will step in and talk about pricing and salaries are commensurate with what the market will bear.  Well, the market is bearing public funding of stadiums (ahem, how are those pull-tabs working out for you, Minnesota?), PSL’s, and outrageous concession and parking fees.  I have been to one Viking game in my life and I got to see Cris Carter make his one-handed grab against the Falcons in Atlanta… sort of.  I had tickets where I could afford them and I would have seen the catch better if the Falcons would have stood more to the side so I could get a better view.  I watched a preseason game between the Buffalo Sabres and the Pittsburgh Penguins.  At the time, it cost me $80 per seat to sit on the glass.  During the season, that cost would have at least quadrupled.  Who can afford this?

So, Percy will just have to forgive me if I don’t share some sympathy for his plight of not garnering the financial respect he thinks he deserves.  Because if Percy was a smart fella, he’d have paid attention last year when the Vikings won four games when they absolutely had to win them and did.  Percy would have noticed that he wasn’t on the field during those games and that might mitigate the Vikings’ willingness to deal with an oft-ailing player who complains too loudly.  That sort of thing could find you a new home in Jacksonville and how much money would it take to ease that pain?