No sell-out, but 40k fans brave snow to see first outdoor Vikings game since ’81

Andrew Baker

The Vikings may not have won Monday night at TCF Bank Stadium, but the game certainly lived up to expectations, for better and for worse.

By the time the clock had run out on the VikingsâÄô 40-14 loss to the Chicago Bears, the storylines were piled as deep as the 17 inches of snow that blanketed the Twin Cities last weekend.

It was the last home game of the year and possibly the last game ever for Vikings quarterback Brett Favre, who was knocked out of the game with a head injury in the second quarter.

It was also the VikingsâÄô first outdoor home game since 1981, and the questions had been flying ever since the team announced Tuesday that they would be coming to campus in lieu of a collapsed roof at the Metrodome.

Could the GophersâÄô stadium be de-winterized in time? Would all the snow be removed? What about the field, which Vikings punter Chris Kluwe had tweeted was âÄúunplayable?âÄù

But in the end, the deciding factor in the game was not the weather or the condition of the field. It was the Chicago Bears; well, them and a few timely injuries to some important Vikings players.

âÄúThe field had its spots, but for the most part it was pretty decent,âÄù defensive tackle Kevin Williams said. âÄúWhen you got to the middle of the field and in the red zone it was pretty slick but for the most part it was in good condition.âÄù

Prior to the game, FavreâÄôs status had gone from inactive to questionable and finally, within a few hours of kickoff, to starting.

With 11:32 remaining in the second quarter though, Bears defensive end Corey Wootton deactivated Favre for good, sacking the 41-year-old veteran for a loss of 12.

While fans waited for Favre to get up, replays showed his helmet smacking the frozen turf from various angles.

âÄúIt was one of the few times I kind of went blank there for awhile in my career,âÄù Favre said after the game.

Favre wasnâÄôt the only Viking who left the game early.

Safety Madieu Williams (head) and linebacker E.J. Henderson (finger) were knocked out of the game as well.

The VikingsâÄô anticlimactic performance aside, Monday night was a historic one for the University of Minnesota and for Vikings fans in general.

Several hours before kickoff, lines of Vikings faithful – and a few Chicago fans as well – already stretched around the stadium. Just having a ticket to the game was no guarantee of a good seat, as seating assignments were determined on a first-come first-served basis.

Fans therefore had no choice but to brave the snow, which fell much harder in the hours leading up to the game than during it.

For the most part though, fans seemed excited about outdoor NFL football on campus.

âÄúI think it was a good decision,âÄù said Ross Smeby of Willmar on the move to hold the game at TCF Bank Stadium as he waited in line about three hours before kickoff. Smeby explained that since the team would be honoring its 50 greatest players of all time, it was only fitting that the game be played in Minnesota.

Asked why he chose to attend this game in particular, Smeby responded simply, âÄúFirst outdoor football game in 29 years.âÄù

Free rush tickets were made available to University of Minnesota students who showed up at Williams Arena between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m.

Finals week or no, students were not going to miss a chance to see a nationally televised, outdoor, on-campus Vikings game, especially if it was free.

âÄúYou want to be part of something like this,âÄù junior Ben Carlson said as he waited with senior Jordan Hinz at the arena for a shot at free tickets.

Both said the historical significance of the first outdoor Vikings game since 1981 and the first ever on campus made them want to attend.

âÄúPeople are definitely excited,âÄù Hinz said. âÄúItâÄôs just [that] finals week makes things complicated.âÄù

Official attendance at the game was 40,504 – about 10,000 shy of the stadiumâÄôs capacity – and late in the third quarter fans were already starting to file out, reminiscent of some of the uglier Gophers losses in recent memory at the same facility.

In any case, for one night the eyes of the football world were on the University of Minnesota and the fact that the game went off more or less without a hitch was a testament to the dedication of Vikings and Gophers fans who braved obscene temperatures to clear the stadium of snow in the days leading up to the game.

This was not lost on Favre who made a point — during a melancholy press conference in which he hinted he may have played his last game ever — to thank Vikings fans for their support throughout his tenure in Minnesota and for their help in making TCF Bank Stadium game-ready.

âÄúI tip my hat to the University of Minnesota,âÄù Favre said. âÄúI thought they did a great job on short notice, especially considering how the weather was today.âÄù

Related
– Vikings feel right at home at TCF Bank Stadium
 U says stadium will be ready (12/15)
TCF Bank Stadium will host Vikings game (12/14)
Snow causes Metrodome roof to cave in (12/12)