"Players change teams so often these days. . .essentially, we're just rooting for laundry." - Jerry Seinfeld (slightly paraphrased)
The one question that a sports fan never wants to find themselves asking is "What would I do if my team were to move away?" To be honest, it's not something that I've thought a lot about over the period of time that I've cheered for the Minnesota Vikings. Call me a bit of an idealist, but I just always assumed that the Vikings would stay in Minnesota for as long as they existed. Don't get me wrong, they still might. . .but the inexplicable actions of the Minnesota senate this past week casts a pretty sizable shadow of doubt over that, at least for the moment.
So, it made me wonder. . .what WOULD I do if the Vikings were to leave Minnesota? Am I a fan of the Vikings because they're the Vikings, or am I a fan of the Vikings because they're located in Minnesota? If they were to pick up and leave, would I. . .could I. . .still follow them on a regular basis, never mind maintain the level of fan-dom that I've achieved to this point in my sports-viewing life?
Obviously, the fact that the Vikings are located in Minnesota is a big part of what makes me a fan of the team. Growing up in North Dakota, we could be assured that whenever there was NFL football shown on Sunday afternoons on NBC or CBS that the Vikings would be broadcast to our living rooms, regardless of where they were playing or when. Nearly all of my football exposure during my formative years involved the Minnesota Vikings in some way, and that was pretty much based on where I lived. After I left home and joined the military, I've (obviously) maintained a pretty heavy attachment to the Vikings franchise.
However, while the attachment to the team has grown stronger, my attachment to the state of Minnesota has waned. Like I said, I grew up in North Dakota, but I have family in Minnesota. But as the family that I have in Minnesota becomes smaller over the course of time, and as I spend more time away from the Upper Midwest due to the nature of military service, my attachment to the state of Minnesota has waned considerably. Basically, outside of family, Minnesota's sports teams are the only real connection I have to the state. I don't work there, I don't vacation there, I don't travel there. . .and heck, when I go to see the Vikings play the Saints this season down in New Orleans, I will have officially seen more Vikings' games outside of the confines of the Metrodome than within them.
My wife and I have often discussed where we'd like to retire to after my 20+ years of military service concludes. Part of my answer has always been "close enough to the Vikings to get season tickets." I've never been a season ticket holder in any sport. . .honestly, I've only attended one Vikings game at the Metrodome in my nearly 25 years of being a fan of the team. When I give her that answer, it has always been given with the assumption that that would be Minneapolis.
But with the developments of the past week, it doesn't appear that I can make that assumption any longer.
The Vikings are, to be frank, Minnesota's most popular sports franchise (sorry Twin and Wild fans). They have been ever since the inception of the franchise in 1961. But it doesn't appear as though that holds any weight with the folks that run things in the state of Minnesota. It's not as though Zygi Wilf isn't trying to keep the team in Minneapolis, because he is. But if he threatened to move the team, it wouldn't surprise me in the least. . .and, quite frankly, it wouldn't hurt my feelings, either.
And rest assured, Zygi threatening to move the Vikings elsewhere would be an actual, realistic threat. This isn't like Red McCombs threatening to move the team when everyone knew the Vikings had multiple years left on their agreement with the Metrodome. . .as Lester Bagley pointed out the other day, the Vikings have 40 games left on their current agreement with the Metrodome (I think it's probably closer to 48, but your mileage may vary). That's four years, people. It's not as though these stadiums pop up overnight, either. . .they take a few years to get built. If the state of Minnesota wants to keep the Vikings around past the end of the 2011 season when the Vikings' lease with the Metrodome expires, they'd damn sure better have somewhere up and ready for use by Opening Weekend of 2012. And Minnesota's not like some places that construction can be done year-round, either. . .it's going to take longer to get it done in Minneapolis (or anywhere else in Minnesota) simply due to the nature of Minnesota weather.
Sadly, the Minnesota senate has already shown us exactly how they view the Minnesota Vikings. They're not even willing to commission a study that would be completely financed by Zygi Wilf and the Minneapolis Sports Facilities Commission. Why? Because it might accidentally lead to some actual serious discussion about getting a stadium for the Vikings taken care of. Lord knows we can't have that, can we?
So, after further review, I've drawn the conclusion that if the state of Minnesota is going to show that level of contempt and disdain for the Vikings, it's only right that I show that level of contempt and disdain for the state of Minnesota. I'll put it out there right now:
If the Minnesota Vikings are allowed to leave the state of Minnesota, I will follow them and cheer for them regardless of where they land.
My loyalty lies with this football team. . .with these players, with these coaches, and with this owner. I'm not about to let my football-watching future be held hostage by a bunch of people that can't (or won't) see exactly how important the Vikings are to the community and the state. When I was growing up, the Vikings chose me just as much as I chose them. . .and by God, I have been, am, and always will be a Viking fan. At this point, I don't care if they're the Minnesota Vikings or the Portland Vikings or the Las Vegas Vikings or the Toronto Vikings or the Los Angeles Vikings or. . .well, I'm sure there's other places I could list.
Besides, if I wasn't a Vikings fan, what would I do?
Become a Packer fan? Please. . .I could never attain that level of arrogance and pretentiousness.
Become a Bear fan? See above.
Stop watching football all together? Not bloody likely.
Wait for the NFL to come back to Minnesota? Yeah, good luck with that. . .you DO realize that the 2008 season will be the 13th consecutive year without football in Los Angeles, right? I feel bad for the folks that decided that they'd "just wait for another team to come along."
Now, I'm sure that there are those of you that are reading this and are wondering how I can say such a thing, and I understand that. Like I said, maybe the nature of my work has left me detached from the state, maybe there are things that I'm not even aware of that make me feel this way. Many Viking fans have much stronger ties to the city of Minneapolis and the state of Minnesota than I have. But, in this matter, I am firmly behind the team. . .not the empty suits that would allow a franchise that means what the Vikings mean to the state of Minnesota to back up the moving vans and leave.
That's the way I see it. Like I said, you may agree, you may not. I hope that the Vikings stay in Minnesota. . .believe me, I would, despite some of the tone of what I've just said. But if they don't? Well, then all my Minnesota Vikings stuff would go into storage and I'd start collecting merchandise for the (insert city here) Vikings. . .or the (insert city here) (insert nickname here)s, if Minnesota was allowed to keep the name and all of that like Cleveland did when the Browns left for Baltimore.
I've spent nearly a quarter-century worth of autumns living and dying with the Vikings on Sunday afternoons, Monday nights, and any other time I've been fortunate enough to see them on my television. And I'll be damned if I throw that away because of the arrogance of the lawmakers in the state of Minnesota. If they're not willing to support my team, then I'm sure as hell not willing to support them.