I mean, when I look at the year 1970 I think in terms of the '70s. I think in terms of "Happy Days" and not "Gilligan's Island." I also think of our Minnesota Vikings in their most definitive decade.
We have only been riding the coattails of those '70s teams, ever since, right? That was two stadiums ago. Fans could not have rejoiced in the Vikings more, from their seats at the old "Met," Metropolitan Stadium.
A vast parking lot surrounded the Met. You couldn't press a button on a "fob" in those days to locate your car. We lived according to "analog" systems. There were various signs around the lot to help you locate your car, you just had to remember the sign. We had to "think" more back then, rather than rely on tech shortcuts.
Manual typewriters were still standard. "Electric typewriters" weren't much better. We used "white out."
Today those signs around that sea of a parking lot would be sponsored - we'd see names of private entities. "The Met" would be named for a private entity.
To understand how quaint those times were, remember that when the Metrodome was planned, we decided to name it after a politician, Hubert H. Humphrey. It's even more quaint to realize we'd lionize a Democratic politician this way.
We may have a Democratic governor today, Mark Dayton, that toady for the new Vikings stadium, the empty shirt as it were, but remember how close Tom Emmer came to being elected. Emmer was a fire-breathing righty. Had he won, all the divisive stuff that has happened in Wisconsin would have happened here too.
Democrats have a hard time selling their ideas today. I do think that will change, but an economic erosion will probably have to happen first. We'll need a reminder that the private sector isn't interested in taking care of all of us.
Every Vikings team since the 1970s has played in the shadow of what we reveled in during that disco decade, that decade of "Smokey and the Bandit." We reveled in the "purple people" of Page, Marshall, Eller, Larsen and others.
The nation watched as our Arctic-like conditions became as much an opponent, seemingly, for visiting teams as those "purple people." We embraced the elements as a badge of our hardiness, but at the same time we were worried that we'd be marginalized by how we lived with such conditions, that much of the rest of the nation would think we were simply nuts.
The conflictedness is a big part of being Minnesotan. We escaped it by building the Metrodome, then we decided we needn't shy away from the elements so much. So, we got the "TCF" stadium for the Gophers. And then, Target Field for the Twins. The 1970s seem so very long ago.
It's important to preserve memories of Met Stadium, Bloomington. A nice little museum would be nice. In my mind, the Vikings' first Super Bowl in 1970 kicked off the 1970s, even if "the professor" (from "Gilligan") might say the decade didn't begin until 1971.
In 1970 I was 15 years old. It was a perfect age to be mesmerized by the Vikings. I had no clue about the very deleterious effects of football injuries. We knew about the basic bumps and bruises of the game, to be sure - the "knee injuries" - but we had no idea that Wally Hilgenberg was literally out there killing himself. It wasn't necessary for anyone to do that for our entertainment.
It wasn't necessary for Jim Marshall to be out there playing in the line past the age of 40. I hope Marshall had a skull of rock.
Vaulting to first "Super"
The temperature was eight degrees when the Vikings took the field to play Cleveland on Sunday, Jan. 4, 1970, in the NFL title game. The bone-chilling temperature might have been offset some by clear and sunny conditions. A northwest wind of 12 MPH created a windchill of 15 below, not that I totally put stock in "windchill."
"Windchill" is the sort of concept that might be cooked up by "the professor," played by the recently deceased Russell Johnson. Johnson left us in January. Rest in peace.
"Gilligan's Island" has long been considered the epitome of 1960s vacuous popular entertainment. Maybe it's time to re-think. That group of actors might be embraced now as a classic comedy team. They made it look easy like all fine actors do. I wouldn't mind embracing Tina Louise (LOL).
The 1970 Super Bowl stands out in part because it was the only non-Fran Tarkenton Super Bowl of the four. Tarkenton is ingrained in boomers' memories as the Vikings quarterback. But in 1970 we had a fascinating character name of Joe Kapp as the Vikings QB.
The Vikings were the overwhelming favorite. A simple examination of the Kansas City Chiefs' roster shows that K.C. was a team to reckon with.
On January 4 at the Met, the Vikings played one of their defining games of the era, beating the Cleveland Browns 27-7 in the NFL title game, amidst that intense cold.
Kapp scrambled and managed to knock out a Cleveland linebacker name of Jim Houston. You would think our "front four" would dish out such punishment. But it was Kapp, the "man of machismo" (the description of him on a Sports Illustrated cover) who, facing third and four from the Cleveland 47, took off for 13 yards and a first down, pummelling Jim Houston along the way.
The 27-7 win put Minnesota in its first Super Bowl, inaugurating the '70s (in my view) in a stunning way. The Super Bowl! Five years earlier the Twins were in the World Series. And to think that prior to 1961, all we had was the Gophers and a AAA baseball team called the Millers.
Jim Marshall performed long and meritorious service, but he seemed overshadowed by Alan Page and Carl Eller. Marshall was long of tooth, age 41, when he ended his playing career at the Met. Before the December 9 game in 1979, he rode around the perimeter of the field in a classic red convertible. The temperature was 42 degrees.
This would be the iron man's last game at the Met. The fan turnout was 42,239. The sun shone and there was no wind. Marshall played solidly in the Vikings' 10-7 win over Buffalo. Bud Grant said "the weather didn't cooperate. It was the nicest December 9th I can ever remember."
The Dome would make the weather irrelevant.
Tarkenton calls it quits
Fran Tarkenton's retirement was not as smooth or predictable. Maybe it's a trait of truly talented people that they don't script their retirement well. Tarkenton, the seemingly undersized QB, left fans guessing after the 1978 season. Finally we learned there would be no 1979 for him.
We were left to remember his last game at the Met, on December 3, 1978, against Philadelphia.
He seemed no different on that day than when he dazzled as a youngster 17 years earlier. The Vikings trailed the Philadelphia Eagles 27-14 at halftime. "Sir Francis" rallied the team to a 28-27 win, throwing a whopping 56 passes on the day, completing 30 for 289 yards. Tarkenton's final, winning drive moved the Vikings 90 yards in the fourth quarter and ended with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Ahmad Rashad with 1:49 left.
The conditions? Not so pleasant as when Marshall would retire. Tarkenton's finale was amidst blustery conditions, 20 degrees and snowy, a day that furthered talk of how a covered stadium would be preferable.
Tarkenton went on to be a right-hand man for Tony Robbins, the self-made motivational guy who showed up for insomniacs on TV. Tarkenton was sort of like Ed McMahon to Robbins.
Fran's reputation was not sterling. Businessman Irwin Jacobs would toss the dart "loser" at the famed signal-caller, after a turbulent period of partnership. It seems that Stu Voight was similarly ill-suited for business ventures. Joe Senser couldn't ride his name through his family's misfortunes.
We can forget that all these guys are human beings. Like O.J. Simpson. All those years of pugilistic football play can leave them literally handicapped. We learn more about that every day. We defer to experts with credentials like "the professor."
"Gilligan's Island" can be placed beside Laurel and Hardy and the Three Stooges in the annals of classic comedy, far better crafted than we realized at the time. Memories get richer like fine wine.
Let's toast the memories of the 1970s Vikings, whether the decade began in 1970 or not. Let's hope the former players can stay stable with their health. And let's have our sons of today play soccer instead.
The Vikings of the 1970s were "doomed" to lose four Super Bowls, just like the gang on "Gilligan's Island" was doomed never to be rescued. (Calvin Griffith once said Jim Eisenreich was "doomed" to be an all-star.)
And yet those characters on the island seemed fundamentally happy, just as the Vikes fans toasted our "purple people" in the disco '70s. Too bad the U.S. wasn't completely out of Viet Nam before the decade started. And I mean by 1970, not 1971. Hardly "Happy Days." The fighting in "Kung Fu" was better than the fighting in the ungodly jungles of Viet Nam. God seems to have ingrained fighting in our being. No wonder we get visits from the likes of "Klaatu."
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - firstname.lastname@example.org