Fans support only when Vikes win

When a temp agency called me up and asked if I wanted to work at the Vikings game this Sunday, I thought I’d hit the jackpot. In reality, the only pot I hit was a bucket of wieners.
After I arrived at the game, I humbly pushed the wiener roller to the back — where some pimply high schoolers bunned them up hungrily — and then to the front, where I loaded the wiener displays like cannons to fend off the enemy: frenzied fans wearing purple.
I never knew what it felt like to work a concession stand at a football game. Actually, until now, I’d never even thought about it. Apparently, many of the fans hadn’t thought what it felt like either, because thoughtless comments whizzed through the stand by the dozen all afternoon, only to be countered with outgoing wieners, which seemed to pacify them.
“Hey buddy, don’t you think this beer’s a little foamy? Come on buddy, pouring beer isn’t that hard.” Or, “I’ll get two hot dogs and two Cokes lickety-split. Hey, let’s go here! Snap, snap!” Have you ever seen the “Seinfeld” episode where the bellhop accuses Jerry of thinking he is better than him? That’s how I felt at the metrodome. I tell you, there was no community love between the haves and have-nots at the concession stand on Sunday.
Flipping through the radio about two weeks ago, I stopped at the rap station, where I heard a DJ ranting about phony fan support: “There’s no love, man!” Disregarding their 15-1 record, Randy Moss’ award for Rookie of the Year, the Vikes’ record-setting offense and all the other impressive stats, this guy’s bleak analysis was purely emotional. “I don’t see Randy Moss doing the Superbowl shuffle! I don’t feel the love in the Twin Cities!”
After he mentioned it, I had to agree. To be sure, propaganda paraphernalia like caps, jerseys, and those little Vikings flags for cars seemed to sell by the truckload, but didn’t it all seem superficial since everything started selling after the winning streak started? Joe Soucheray, columnist for the Pioneer Press and radio show host on KSTP echoed the same suspicion when he remarked that fan support is sorely missing when the Vikings are losing.
In Minnesota this year, there seemed to be talent, but no team identity. Cunningham came from Philadelphia in 1997, Moss got here by a fluke, and star kicker Gary Anderson came here from San Francisco this year.
Seems a far cry from the charismatic, hometown team the Twins had about a decade or so ago, which awarded them two World Series victories. Puckett, Hrbek, Gaetti, Gagne — all had been here for years, and all were known for being Twins’ players, not just all-star players. They had garnered a devout following for years before glory.
Well into the season, the fans seemed to hop on the bandwagon after it was already well on its way to the Superbowl, when all was safe beneath the cozy comfort of a 10-1 record at the time.
We also sort of assumed the bandwagon would reach its destination. The Pioneer Press included a special sports section this week titled “Vikings: March to Miami.” And already, KARE, WCCO, KSTP and KMSP were rubbing their hands together and grinning in preparation for the hail storm of coinage the Superbowl would yield. The money to be made, said KARE news director Tom Lindman in the Pioneer Press, was “probably incalculable.”
Even more incalculable, though, was the Falcons’ drive to win. The defense kept Moss under control, suffocated Cunningham and banged up key players like Smith. Their quarterback, Chris Chandler, despite his limp from being banged up himself, stuck it out to the bittersweet end. Also incalculable was the Vikings’ apparent doom. Gary Anderson hadn’t missed a field goal attempt since December 1997. He had the first perfect season in the NFL in 1998. Supposedly, all the impressive stats were on the TV screen as he missed a measly 38-yard kick by about five feet, which ultimately would have won the game.
Of course, I didn’t see the stats on the TV screen because I was at the game. And of course, I didn’t see Anderson miss the kick, either, because I was in charge of the wiener patrol. But I heard the crowd sigh as I stuck a thermometer into a bratwurst to see if it was the correct 160 degrees.
The concession stand is an odd place, because one cannot be more close to and far away from the event at the same time. While you can see a segment of the crowd through a corridor, hear the decibels rise when the good guys do something good and maybe even see the ball fly by the corridor when Moss happens to go for a long-bomb at the moment you glance that way, you never know the score of the game. The TV monitors are strategically placed to be barely out of sight to the hapless hot dog man. And the fans, well, they seemed too preoccupied to share vital data with a wiener guy.
It was quite a relief when our stand closed after the fourth quarter and I was allowed to watch the overtime action. I sat on the ground by the balcony in a black and brown sweater, one of about six people not wearing purple. During the Falcons’ last fatal charge, I heard a guy yelling at me about 10 rows up. I turned my neck around. I saw a 250-pound man wearing horns, whose face was covered in war-paint: purple on one side, gold on the other. He yelled at me so loudly that his Adam’s apple quivered back and forth like a ringing school bell.
“You by the balcony…what the hell? Show some respect and stand, wimp! This is the Superbowl we’re talking about! I oughtta kick your ass!”
While standing and cheering, I realized this moment epitomized the emptiness of our Vikings’ team spirit. There was no solidarity and community among the fans this year. The whole phenomenon was a combination of an expensive package of players, purple propaganda and some fair-weathered fans who yelled at each other and treated the concession people badly. As the ball floated through the goal post and the crowd of 64,000 fell to a church-like hush, I was surprised to realize I no longer cared about anything in the Metrodome, save getting to my car fast enough to avoid getting beaten up.
Rob Kuznia’s column appears Tuesday. Send comments to [email protected]