Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Vikings Reader Q&A

In honor of the official NFL season kickoff (today!), we interviewed Armand Peterson, editor of The Vikings Reader, about his earliest Vikings memories, his Game Day routine, and of course, Brett Favre.

Q: On Sept. 17th, 1961, you attended your first (and THE first) Vikings regular-season home game at Met Stadium. Can you tell us about it?

A: The football field was laid out roughly along the baseball right field foul line. Since the (Minnesota) Twins (baseball team) still had some games left in their season, the baselines and infield areas of the baseball diamond were left un-sodded, and the mound was skinned down to football-field level. Attendance was only 32,236, but it was a near-full house. At the time, the left field bleachers were temporary and were moved toward the infield for football games (construction of permanent left-field stands in 1965, as well as other upgrades, eventually pushed the football seating capacity to 47,900).

Compared to today's games in the raucous Metrodome, that first game was almost eerily silent. I do not recall any cheerleaders or a mascot parading around the field. There were no special celebrations by players after a touchdown. (At times), I could easily hear the quarterback's signal calls and the sound of pads when players collided. The overall noise built up when the Vikings scored their first touchdown, and got louder as they surged into the lead in their upset 37-13 win over the Chicago Bears, but I don't think any fans wished they'd brought ear plugs.

Do you have a favorite moment in Vikings history? Least favorite?
A: My favorite moment was the second game of the season in 1969, a 52-14 victory over the NFL-defending champion Baltimore Colts. The Colts had manhandled the Vikings in a 24-14 win in the 1968 Divisional Playoffs, and the Vikings had started the 1969 season with a 24-23 road loss to former teammate Fran Tarkenton and the New York Giants. It looked like old times, but in the home opener quarterback Joe Kapp threw seven touchdown passes in the Vikings’ rout, and fans began to believe in the team. The Vikings won twelve straight games and finished with a 12-2 record. The team dominated conversations in offices, business places, factories and farms all over the state like never before.

My least favorite moment was the 1975 Divisional Playoff loss to the Dallas Cowboys—made infamous for Vikings fans by Roger Staubach’s “Hail Mary” pass to Drew Pearson to defeat the Vikings, 17-14. The Vikings’ led the league in both passing and rushing defense, the offense was third in scoring and Fran Tarkenton was the NFL’s Most Valuable Player. The Vikings had been to the Super Bowl—and lost—after the 1973 and 1974 seasons, and we fans really expected to go to our third consecutive one. And this time we were going to win the Big Game! The loss to the Cowboys was devastating.

Q: What is your typical Game Day routine?
A: I guess I’m old school ... I am not interested in pre-game shows. I’m a hopeless hometown fan. I root for the Vikings, and don’t care what ESPN or a host of other 24-7 sports programs think about my team. So, if I have a routine, it is as follows: check the TV schedule and turn on the set at game time. My snacks are probably pretty boring, too—peanuts, popcorn and perhaps some nachos.

Q: We have to ask: How will Brett Favre's presence will help the Vikings?
A: The Vikings made the playoffs last year, thanks to the 8-3 record compiled by journeyman quarterback Gus Frerotte. Favre doesn’t have to perform like he did ten years ago to help the team—he just has to be competent. His presence will make opponents a little more cautious about stacking their defenses to stop Adrian Peterson.

Q: As an editor who has done extensive archival research on the legacy of a national football team, what do you think Brett Favre's future chapter would look like in a theoretical compilation of the history of the Green Bay Packers?
A: He will be ranked with Bart Starr, the quarterback for Vince Lombardi’s legendary teams. Some Packers fans no doubt are bitter about losing Favre to the Vikings, but time will erase these feelings. Jerry Rice, for example, the NFL’s career pass receptions leader, moved to Oakland after 16 years in San Francisco. He played four more seasons in the NFL, but is still revered by 49ers fans. He’ll wear 49er colors when he is inducted into the Hall of Fame. Similarly, no matter how well Favre does in Minnesota, he will wear Packer green and gold when he makes the Hall of Fame.

Q: What are your bets on the Vikings' season ahead?
A: The Vikings will make the playoffs. They did it last year, and are a much more balanced team in 2009. My heart tells me they will make it to the Super Bowl. However, my head tells me to be cautious (it remembers those four awful Super Bowl losses). The legendary Damon Runyan once opined that “the race is not always to the swift nor the battle to the strong—but that's the way to bet.” Based on his sage advice, I would pick New England to win the Super Bowl.


Armand Peterson is a retired engineer. He is author of The Vikings Reader and coauthor of Town Ball: The Glory Days of Minnesota Amateur Baseball.

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