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A bowling team nearly kept the Vikings from being the Vikings

It sounds strange now, sure

General action during ten pin bowling

With not a lot happening today. . .and, hey, it’s been three whole days since the Minnesota Vikings had to place anyone on the COVID-19 list. . .we’ve come across a bit of an interesting story from Vikings’ history and how the team had to wait for the name they wanted to come available when they were founded.

In this story from Patrick Reusse of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, we learn that at the time of Minnesota being awarded a National Football League franchise, there was already a group waiting to be called the Minnesota Vikings.

A bowling team.

The Minnesota Vikings incorporated in June 1960 were not the sports entity revealed 105 days later as the football Vikings. The original Vikings were a bowling team about to land a franchise in the National Bowling League, a new concept in kegling and planning to start competition in October 1961.

It just so happened that Max Winter, who was the first owner of the Vikings, was also one of the four owners of the prospective National Bowling League franchise that was going to be named the Vikings. If it hadn’t been for him, the team that we know and love (and occasionally hate) as the Vikings may have had an entirely different name.

In today’s day and age, it probably sounds incredibly weird to think that a bowling team could keep a National Football League franchise from being named what they wanted. However, there was a time in America that bowling was absolutely huge. How huge? Here are a couple of numbers to ponder.

  • In 1963, the top bowler in the PBA (Professional Bowlers Association) made more money than Major League Baseball MVP Sandy Koufax and NFL MVP Y.A. Tittle. Combined.
  • The next year, 1964, professional bowler Don Carter became the first person in any sport to receive a $1 million endorsement deal. Not a baseball or basketball or football player, but a professional bowler.

Back when the Vikings were first getting established, more people simply cared about bowling than they did about football. Again, I know that sounds weird now, but for those of us that are old enough to remember growing up with bowling being on national TV pretty much every Saturday as part of ABC’s Wide World of Sports (among other places) even when the sport was starting its decline in the mid-80s, it’s really not that far fetched.

It’s not an earth-shattering story or anything like that. . .just something to ponder during this time where there isn’t a whole lot else happening.