Bogie and Bergman had Paris. Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks had the Empire State Building. For me and the Minnesota Vikings…we’ll always have…EEEEEEEEE! That’s the constant ringing sound that I picked up in my right ear while watching the Vikings lose a meaningless game to the Oakland Raiders last year at the Metrodome. Check that. It wasn’t meaningless for the real fans in section 205. They didn’t care what the Vikings record was, or the fact that a loss would help the team get a better draft choice. They wanted a win, and that meant that they had to do their duty and scream every time Oakland had the ball. Every Oakland illegal procedure, or delay of game penalty was a cause for celebration this bunch of leather-lunged purple faithful.
Last year I was the guest of my son Michael’s tailgating group. They gather four hours before every home game in the “Purple #1” parking lot, and prepare for victory. They have a tent, grill, a set of giant wooden dice, and plenty of food and beverages to stoke the fires for the battle ahead. Their garb and setup may not be the most flamboyant or elaborate in the Purple One lot, but no one can dispute their dedication to causing auditory mayhem for Viking opponents. It should also be said that this group was part of the tireless (and extremely loud) lobbying effort at the State Capitol for passage of the stadium bill.
Last weekend, my daughter Sarah and I accepted Mike’s invitation to tailgate and watch the Vikings versus the Lions. Because I am another year wiser, and have no more hearing to lose, I came armed with earplugs and the gift of “firewhiskey” for the crew. The trip turned out to be a ringing success, with Adrian Peterson ripping up the Lion’s defense for 171 yards while leading the Vikings to a 34-24 victory.
Jerry “Bear” Carrier is the ringleader of the Purple #1 tailgaters. He looks like a combination of Brock Lesner and Matt Birk, and manifests an air of potential menace that leads you to believe that he would be the perfect guy to have your back in a fight. However, he is very welcoming to fellow fans and is especially articulate when it comes to describing his groups’ pregame preparation and role as the 12th man in the Vikings huddle.
“I think that if you have never tailgated, then you don’t know what the experience is,” Carrier maintained. “There’s a lot of camaraderie with the other Vikings’ fans. We come out, grill, play games, and basically get amped up for the game. It’s a lot different when you just walk into the game and weren’t tailgating beforehand. This is the ramp up period for the diehard fans.”
On Sunday, the Vikings ramped up their game and gave their fans at least one week to believe in playoff possibilities. Christian Ponder connected with rookie wideout Jarius Wright for a 54 yard reception and 3 yard touchdown pass on their first offensive series. Ponder’s performance quieted the critics for at least one week, but he is going to have to continue to deliver workmanlike, mistake-free performances if Minnesota has any chance for success against the tough teams that make up the balance of their schedule. The defense was solid, making Matthew Stafford’s life miserable, and manufacturing two crucial turnovers.
However, Sunday’s game, and this entire season belonged to Adrian “The Beast” Peterson. For him to be this strong and fast less than a year after a devastating knee injury is miraculous and inspiring. If possible he looks better than ever, and is clearly a man on a mission. His 61 yard touchdown run with 8:06 left in the game killed a Lions’ rally and sent the fans in section 205 into an even bigger (if that is possible) frenzy. High fives turned into fist bumps. Fist bumps turned to forearm shivers, and when the final gun sounded the real fans returned to the Purple #1 lot to toast their team and savor the victory.