Winona Post columnist Patrick Marek and Research Assistant Michael Marek will soon be reporting from the press box at Minnesota Vikings home games, hashing out key decisions with coaches on the field, and interviewing players in the locker room. The Winona Post will soon be the only local newspaper of its kind to secure a spot next to statewide newspapers at the Mall of America Field press box. "It's unprecedented that the local media level gets to cover a national professional sports team," said Michael Marek.
"Vikings View" columnists Patrick Marek (right) and Michael Marek (left) will be reporting from the Vikings press box.
Whether they wear cheese or horns on their heads, Winona Post columns "Viking View" and "Packer Partisan" have provided local football fans with news and analysis for 38 years. The Mareks say they will carry on John Edstrom's legacy of "spicy and insightful" Vikings commentary.
Courting the Vikings
Convincing Vikings public relations officials to give a free Winona newspaper a spot in the small press box was not easy. Sorry, "we don't normally give press box access to local newspapers," Vikings public relations officials told Michael Marek. After having several conversations with Michael and Patrick Marek, reading writing samples, and learning about the history of the "Viking View," Vikings officials were wooed. At a training camp Michael Marek was covering, team representatives told him the good news.
The Mareks were ecstatic. "I just want the column to be taken to the next level with this inside reporting," Michael Marek said. "We're going to have much more intel than pretty much any other local newspaper in Minnesota. The Winona Post could become a pretty solid place to get Vikings news."
The Mareks say the background and depth of knowledge that comes from being at training, talking to players and coaches, and catching every detail of the game from the birds-eye view of press box seats will give their column "more of a body of research to build on."
As exciting as the new access is, it comes with new responsibilities, too. "You can't cheer in the press box and you can't drink," Patrick Marek explained. "You're working up there."
Self-avowed cheesehead and longtime "Packer Partisan" columnist Dave DeLano will not have the same access at Lambeau Field. The Packers declined previous advances from DeLano, but he admitted he did not try again this year. "I think I should have the same access with the Packers," but regardless, hard-nosed research will carry the column, he said.
"I take it pretty seriously," reading all the blogs and statistics, DeLano said. This football season will be DeLano's 14th year writing the "Packer Partisan." The column was his writing debut. Since then he has co-authored a history book on the former powerhouse Heileman Brewing Company of La Crosse, called "Brewed with Style."
While the Mareks may have outmaneuvered DeLano, the real "Viking View" and "Packer Partisan" rivalry is tested on the field. "I have no doubt he is the best quarterback in the league," DeLano said of Packers' leader Aaron Rodgers. "As long as he stays healthy, they have a good chance to win."
"The secondary is going to be questionable. Additionally, we're really young," Michael Marek said of his team. "And obviously, Christian Ponder—the whole season goes to Ponder. If he does well, we'll do well."
Interest in the Winona Post's Football Prediction Pay-Off game has skyrocketed since news of the Mareks' inside coverage reached friends of the newspaper. Every week during the season, the Winona Post hides upcoming football match-ups in participating advertisements. Readers guess who will win the games, send in their predictions, and every week the winner gets $113. For more information on advertising with the Football Prediction Pay-off contact the Winona Post at 452-1262. To enter the contest, watch the Winona Post next Wednesday, September 4.