"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Friday, April 5, 2013

Vikings found their digs just fine in 1961

Pro sports team owners know what restaurant owners know. A periodic change in decor is necessary. A restaurant accomplishes this with some cosmetic adjustments. Maybe it's subconscious, but the patrons expect and desire this.
The situation with sports teams: Hell's bells, the "requirement" is to build new stadiums.
We were distracted long enough by the process of getting the new Vikings stadium OK'd. Now we're distracted by the fiasco of learning the funding mechanisms are going haywire. The electronic gambling has a short circuit.
I haven't been to the Metrodome in years. I have found big-time sports less necessary among my entertainment options.
Also, sports has become more acceptable to consume on television. There is probably less of a lure about "being there." 
The ones who still feel that lure, where the Vikings are concerned, are "20-somethings" who wish to act rambunctious and blow off steam or whatever. A thorough op-ed in the Star Tribune last fall documented this. Families with young children are advised to be wary.
Big-time football has a problem with saturation. Troy Aikman pointed this out in public comments not long ago. 
This is a common problem with all popular products. The public demands more of it. To an extent they'll get it, although the team owners are aware of the potential diminishing of value. Nevertheless they'll dispense more because there's money to be made. A line might be crossed. The public begins to yawn.
The league ensures more passing as opposed to the running game. Until, passing begins to develop a cheap quality. Frequent scoring has been no pathway to popularity for arena football. Does arena football still exist? I thought arena football had great potential when I first read about it. Good thing I'm not an investor. Singer Tim McGraw saw potential. Stick to your singing, Tim.
The NFL has been the epitome of the golden goose. When I was pre-school age, living in St. Paul I might add, neither the Vikings nor Twins existed. (We rented the house of a snowbird couple one winter and were supposed to take care of their cat, named "Pepper." The cat never accepted us. We've been dog people since.)
Today we're told the Vikings "need" a new stadium. Back when I was about kindergarten age, we marveled at the mere existence of the Vikings.
The Vikings have had two stadium homes up until now. Of course, we were told the Vikings "needed" the Metrodome. It was probably an easier argument to make for the Vikings than the Twins. The winter weather can be too punishing. But when it wasn't, the original stadium was a quite acceptable and pleasant place.
We're talking about Metropolitan Stadium, Bloomington, where today we have the Mall of America. I like to remind people that "the Met" could be a truly wondrous place. And it surely was on September 17, 1961, when our purple Vikings debuted.
Pete Rozelle himself was here. The opener date seems late compared to today. Weather blessed that historic first Vikings game. "Brilliant" was one word that was offered.
The Vikings were a totally new team unlike the Twins who moved here from Washington D.C. Expansion teams in that era were known to get roughed up a lot, exhibit 'A' being the 1962 New York Mets.
So, how would the Vikings fare? Our purple crew took the field to play the venerated Chicago Bears. You might not remember the name of our first general manager. It was Bert Rose. Bert actually was not pleased with the opener attendance: 32,236. Yes, it seems like quite the modest turnout. But I'll wager that crowd was 100 per cent more civilized than a typical fan turnout for a game today.
Bert had hoped for 35,000 fans. His hopes were fueled by how the Vikings performed.
The players weren't nearly as big or fast then, as they are now, so injury issues weren't as pressing. But was football any less fun to watch? The Vikings beat the Bears 37-13. Fran Tarkenton was 21 years old. He wasn't the day's starting quarterback. Instead it was George Shaw taking the snaps. Shaw ended up a trivia answer.
And Tarkenton? He impressed himself into Minnesota history. It was both a heroic and tragic story as he would end up losing three Super Bowls. There was a fourth: the Super Bowl we lost with Joe Kapp as quarterback.
Four Super Bowl losses! It gave the state's boomer population a bit of a defeatist outlook, finally salved to a degree when the baseball Twins won the championship in 1987.
Tarkenton entered that first-ever game as Shaw's replacement late in the first quarter. We led 3-0 at the time. Here's another trivia answer: Mike Mercer kicked a field goal on the game's opening drive. Hold on to your seats. Here comes the "Georgia Peach," Tarkenton, and he passes ten yards for a touchdown to Bob Schnelker.
Tarkenton ended up completing 17 passes in 23 attempts - phenomenal numbers - for 250 yards and four scores.
George Halas was still coaching the Bears. He said afterwards "I helped Minnesota get into the league, but I never intended to be this cooperative."
Mel Triplett was our fullback. Our middle linebacker had a terrific name for that position: Rip Hawkins. The coach was Norm Van Brocklin who failed to develop rapport with Tarkenton.
Bud Grant made his debut at the Met as head coach on September 10, 1967. The Monkees were all the rage. The Viet Nam war was at its worst.
Grant presided for the four Super Bowl losses. He was a father figure to us boomers. He never liked the fact the Met was built for baseball. He was quoted saying "the Twins made sure that we knew everything was theirs."
I don't recall football fans being too down on the Met. The occasional extreme cold had to be unpleasant. We prided ourselves on our hardy qualities.
Metropolitan Stadium had a big league feel in every way. And to think that in 1960, we had neither big league baseball nor football. In 1960 we still had the Minneapolis Millers. Before 1956 all we had was Nicollet Park, home of the Millers.
Today we have developed delusions of grandeur about what our big league sports venues should be like. We have allowed the business tycoons of sports to lead us around, delude us, intimidate us and downright scare us. These aren't bad people, they're just business people. They always try to get the best deal they can.
And on the other end we need someone stronger than Mark Dayton. We need someone representing the state's interests competently. We need someone who realizes that wholesale changes aren't always necessary. Sometimes we just need to tweak the decor as with a restaurant.
We all better just do a Hail Mary when that new Vikings stadium rises up. It will be populated by those 20-somethings. Heaven help us all.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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