Usually, I use the Comcast sponsored posts to talk about the Vikings' red zone performance and stuff like that. I may still go back and do that later on this week, but right now I want to use this time to talk about the amazing experience I got to have last weekend courtesy of the Vikings at the Metrodome. Yes, this post is likely going to end up containing quite a bit of braggadocio, and I may set a world record for the use of the phrase "this is awesome" and its various derivatives. . .if you're not into that kind of thing, feel free to sample some of our other various articles.
The whole idea for me ending up in Minneapolis for last weekend's game wasn't actually my idea. A few weeks back. . .can't remember what game it was, exactly. . .I was relatively bummed out about the Vikings and didn't feel like writing a whole lot of anything. Mrs. Gonzo, bless her heart, sensed this, and when I told her what the issue was, she simply said, "Well, why don't you go see a game for yourself?"
I love my wife.
So, I sent a few e-mails to Jon Ekstrom in the Vikings' P.R. office and, after a couple of exchanges to map out the particulars, had secured a press credential for the Metrodome for the game against the Buffalo Bills. I won't lie. . .I basically picked the Bills game because I thought it was a game the Vikings could win. I'm in the midst of two weeks of leave, and I could have asked about either the Bills game or the Giants game this weekend. But then, even with the way the Vikings and the Bills had been playing coming into last weekend's contest, I wondered whether my investment in a trip to Minneapolis was a wise one.
Here is, basically, how the experience went.I got to Minneapolis/St. Paul at around 2 PM on Saturday, and went to pick up my rental car. After no hassle from the folks at Budget, I had gotten my hands on a black Mercury Milan, set up the GPS that I had taken out of my own vehicle at the airport, and was heading down the road towards the LivInn Suites in Burnsville. (Yeah, it's forever away from the actual city. . .it was also the cheapest thing Expedia had.) The hotel was actually pretty nice for the price I had paid, and so I tossed all my stuff in the room and almost immediately got back into the car to head for the Mall of America. Wandered around the mall for a while and scoped out the location of the Cadillac Ranch restaurant on the third floor, where Jared Allen has been known to do his Thursday night radio show from.
I was fortunate enough to meet 2/3 of the other folks that write for this fine web site for dinner that night, as Eric and Allison and I, along with Eric's wife and a friend of Allison's, sat and enjoyed dinner and a lot of fun conversation on just about any topic that you can think of, football-related and otherwise, for just about three hours. It's nice knowing that, even though I know that I'm not the brightest crayon in the box at times, I've managed to surround myself with people that are. About half way through the evening, the table next to us somehow became occupied by the Real Housewives of Minneapolis™ or something, but that didn't stop us from having a good time. Oh, Ted couldn't make it to the festivities, unfortunately. . .something about having
wasted used all his football good will for the year on going to see Ohio State. Between you and me, that guy needs to get his priorities in order.
(I kid, Ted, I kid. The next get-together will be organized in plenty of time for everyone to distribute their football good will in an appropriate manner.)
Before I knew it, the alarm was going off at my hotel, and it was Game Day. It was also ten degrees above zero. . .Fahrenheit, not Celsius. . .outside. Living in the south and the west for too long has apparently thinned my blood to a ridiculous level, because I thought I was going to die. But, I got up, made myself presentable. . .a relative term for somebody like myself. . .and headed to the Metrodome. This is where I learned my first lesson for the day. . .
Lesson #1 - Sometimes it's worth it to pay a little bit of extra money and park significantly closer to the arena
I'm relatively cheap when it comes to these sorts of things. So, when I found a lot that was charging "only" $10 to park, I was pretty pleased with myself. After my fifth or sixth block of trudging through the snow, I was significantly less pleased. Between not being quite smart enough to have packed gloves or a hat and lugging my laptop bag with me, the walk was not quite what I had envisioned it to be. A couple of blocks from the Dome were lots that were charging $20 and $25 for parking. Regardless of when I go back to Minneapolis again, that's where I'll be parking, I can assure you.
I headed to the Media Will Call window just outside of Gate G at the Dome, got my media credential, and set my stuff down in the press box. Now, keep in mind, the Metrodome has two press boxes. There's the main press box, for the Paul Allens and the Judd Zulgads and the Tom Pelisseros of the world, and then there's the auxiliary press box for folks that are a bit less. . .shall we say. . .mainstream. After I found my seat and confirmed that I could come back into the building if I left, I headed back out into the cold to check out the tailgate lots.
Out in the tailgate lots, I met up with my old friend Karl, who I knew from back in my camp counselor days just after I had graduated from high school. All of the folks in the tailgate tent are faithful DN readers. . .thanks, guys. . .and asked if I could possibly do something about the tailgating situation at the stadium. It's coming, rest assured. . .quite frankly, what they ask of tailgaters and what they give them at the Metrodome is pretty ridiculous, so I'll be sure to point that out. But, for an hour or so, I hung out and just talked football and that sort of stuff around the warmth of the charcoal grill, and then had to head back to the Dome to get my laptop set up and all that fun stuff.
That picture is the exact view I had from the auxiliary press box. Up in the top right corner, you can sort of see where the main press box is located. Not long after I got to the press box and got my wireless internet set up, a nice young lady came through passing out sheets of paper. On these sheets were the rosters for the Vikings and the Bills, various statistics and things of that nature, and the inactive lists for both teams, which had been announced only a couple of moments before that. We learned that Percy Harvin, Steve Hutchinson, and Ray Edwards wouldn't be playing for the Vikings, but Adrian Peterson would be. That put a little more doubt into my head for whether the Vikings could come out on top that day.
We eventually got to game time, complete with all the music and the fireworks and everything that goes with it. . .now, I hadn't been to the Metrodome for a football game in nearly 20 years, and good lord was the place freaking loud when it got going. Unfortunately, I didn't really get the opportunity to take any real game pictures or anything like that, because I was too busy doing my job and stuff. . .that being providing updates and interacting with folks in the Game Threads and stuff like I generally do. However, I almost violated one of the main rules of being in the press box.
Lesson #2 - Don't cheer in the press box
So we're sitting there near the end of the first quarter. . .and, to be honest, I'm not sure what the guys sitting next to me were doing, as their responsibilities for the afternoon apparently involved watching their fantasy football scores for three hours, but anyway. . .and Tarvaris Jackson lofts a pass into the front corner of the end zone for Sidney Rice, a play that the official had ruled to be out of bounds. On one of the TV screens in the press box, we see the CBS replay, and it clearly shows that Rice caught the ball and, because of the simultaneous possession rule, should have been given a touchdown on the spot. Well, Leslie Frazier threw the flag for the play to be reviewed and, eventually, the officials got the call right. And I will admit, when the touchdown was announced, I did clap a couple of times before I caught myself. Fortunately, I don't think anybody else noticed.
From there, the rout was on. . .most of the touchdowns that were scored on the afternoon came towards the end zone I was sitting closest to (the exceptions being the aforementioned catch by Rice and Adrian Peterson's final touchdown). With a few minutes left in the game, it was time to start packing up the laptop and head down towards the Vikings' locker room and the room next door where the press conferences would be held. On the way down, I ran into Dean Dalton. If that name sounds familiar, it's because Dalton was an assistant coach for the Vikings for a number of years. He now works with Sirius NFL Radio, so I introduced myself and all of that other good stuff. Only other media guy I really got a chance to introduce myself to was Chip Scoggins of the Star-Tribune. . .everything was just moving so quickly and I wasn't sure what to expect, to be honest. (Next time, believe me, I'll be much better prepared.) But I was standing about five feet away from Sid Hartman, which brings me to my next lesson.
Lesson #3 - Sid Hartman is old freaking school, and delightfully so
So everybody is standing outside of the locker room waiting for the doors to open after the game. . .some folks are standing there with pad and paper (like myself), some folks are fidgeting with digital voice recorders (which I'll be making an investment in before my next trip). . .and then there's Sid. Sid is sitting on a folding chair outside of the locker room, prepping his old school Magnavox cassette tape recorder, complete with giant corded microphone connected to one end. (Half of my readers just had to go to Wikipedia to figure out what these "cassette tapes" are.) Guy's been covering Minnesota sports longer than most of the people I know have been alive. . .he doesn't have to change nothin' for nobody, as the phrase goes.
I did a couple of laps around the locker room, furiously scribbling any notes that I could onto my notepad. . .primary stops were in front of Jared Allen and Sidney Rice. . .and then it was time for the post-game press conferences. I managed to snag myself a front row seat, just to the left of the podium. I sat there, still taking notes. . .of course, most of you have seen the press conferences already, so I don't need to re-hash what was said or anything like that. There were three speakers. . .Coach Frazier went first, he was followed by Brett Favre, and Tarvaris Jackson finished things up. This being my first time. . .and not being the terribly aggressive type. . .I kind of let everyone else ask the questions while I sort of sat there, took notes, and generally just embraced the warm, fuzzy feeling I had inside for being allowed to experience this whole thing.
After that, I cut across the field at the Metrodome, hit the concourse, and found myself back outside, ready to make the trek back to my car and meet up with my youngest brother and his girlfriend for dinner.
You know, as corny as this is going to sound, when the Vikings were being introduced and the music was playing and everything was getting underway, I had a bit of an epiphany. . .this is what I want to do when I grow up. Seriously. . .I'm 34 years old and have a little more than seven years of commitment left to the USAF before I retire, and after that? I want to watch football. . .I want to write about football. . .I want to talk about football. . .whether it's here or in a newspaper or on television, I want to cover football in some way. This experience this weekend solidified that for me. Now I just have to learn how to go about doing that. . .after all, I can get enough college courses in to major in whatever I need to major in to get my foot in the door, and see how it goes from there.
Given the success that this trip was, hopefully we're going to have significantly more of this kind of coverage for you folks as time progresses. I don't think we're going to be able to get into any more games this season, but now that I know that we have two folks on staff that live in the Twin Cities area. . .I thought Allison was in California for some reason. . .we're going to try to get folks into significantly more events than we have been. Hopefully we'll have people at the draft party, training camp, all of the home games next year (and possibly some of the road games. . .the Vikings have to make trips to Oakland and San Diego next year, after all). . .and anything else we can attempt to get access to.
But that, to the best of my recollection, is the experience I had this past weekend thanks to the Minnesota Vikings. Like I said, now that I know exactly what to expect, I'll be much better prepared for my next trip to cover the team as a media member, and will be able to bring you folks significantly more information and pictures and what not than I have this time.
Big thanks to Jon Ekstrom with the Vikings public relations team, and to Tyler Bleszinski and Dave Halprin of SBNation, all of whom played a vital part in getting my press credentials and allowing all of this to happen for me.
So there you go. If you have any questions about the experience or any of those sorts of things, go ahead and ask them and I'll effort to answer them as best I can.