Less than two weeks ago, I ended a relationship with the Oakland Raiders that existed for more than 20-years. They were my favorite team and everyone who knew me well, knew that I was a fan. So, why did I decide to stop following the Raiders and start following the Minnesota Vikings?
Let’s start from the beginning. I grew up in Northern Iowa and have a lot of family in Southern Minnesota. I used to tease my cousins from Minnesota with Iowa vs. Minnesota jokes, like “Why is it so windy in Iowa …. because Minnesota blows.” So, being a Minnesota Vikings fan wouldn’t have been an option for a guy like me, even though most people around me were fans of the Norsemen.
As far as I can remember, I’ve had three favorite football teams before turning to the Vikes. For a short time, I liked Don Shula and the Miami Dolphins. I’m not sure why. I was really little and not too smart back then. After that, I liked Eric Dickerson and the Los Angeles Rams. I was on an LA kick. I also liked the Lakers and the Dodgers back then. Again, I don’t know why. Finally, the Raiders moved to LA and I really started liking them. They were tough guys. Their fans were tough guys. Here I was, a skinny little kid from Iowa. Tough was cool to me. Henceforth, I was a Raiders fan.
Over the years, I’ve collected a lot of Raiders junk. From Christmas ornaments to beer steins, my collection was a bit impressive. My family and friends never had a problem shopping for me. “Just get him something with the Raiders on it.” So, I was happy with every gift.
In 2000, I was on cloud nine when the team was doing well. It was about time. However, the loss of Jon Gruden coupled with the Super Bowl loss to him and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers started the team’s downfall and my lack of interest with the them. I’ve been questioning the majority of the team’s decisions from that point. My animosity toward them grew in leaps and bounds. I despised almost every strategic move they made.
Over the past few years, I’ve heard a lot about the Minnesota Vikings. Reconnecting with friends and family on Facebook and other social networking tools has reminded me how so many of them love the Vikings. From Favre to Peterson to Jared Allen and Percy Harvin, I kept seeing people get excited about the team. Even when they didn’t play well, my friends and family were talking about them and I didn’t have much to contribute. Not only did the Raiders continue to stink, but no one wanted to hear about them anyway.
Meanwhile, I’ve been living in Florida for the past 13 years. There’s plenty of football going on in Florida. Many of my friends are Bucs fans. Most of my in-laws are Dolphin fans. I could have even been a Jaguars fan. There have been many times when I thought about switching to these teams, regardless of how well their seasons went. I could never do it though. There was always something missing.
Last year I really started to enjoy learning about Norse Mythology. Not only was it interesting, but it was from my ancestor’s homelands. I read books about Odin and Freya, Tyr, Balder, and Sif. I read comic books about Thor and Loki and played games like Too Human and Age of Mythology. I watched movies and documentaries about Vikings and spent a lot of time thinking in the Norway pavilion at EPCOT. It was there that I remembered my Great Grandmother’s lefsa and my aunt’s kringla. I could go for a snack of either right about now.
Last month I traveled to Minnesota to attend my grandfather’s funeral. It was a sad event that brought many of my family members together in a very small Minnesota town. The Vikings had recently lost a mistake filled game to the Saints, yet I still still saw the Viking faithful. A few of my family members talked about the game and how they hoped Farve would be back. My grandmother talked about how much she enjoyed watching the games with Grandpa. I ate my aunt’s world-class kringla and wondered if my grandfather ever wore the Vikings shirt I bought him while he was watching the games. I thought back to last Thanksgiving, to when I saw so many fans driving up I-35 to see the Vikings play the Bears. I remembered how the only NFL game I was excited about watching last year was the NFC Championship game and how I wanted the Vikings to win.
So, I kept thinking about the Vikings. I thought about how they were a fit with my family and friends. I thought about how they were a fit with my interest in Nordic and Germanic history. I thought about growing up 3 hours from the Metrodome. I thought about how much I liked their players and their coach.
I also thought about the Raiders. I thought about how much they’ve pissed me off in the past. I thought about how I’ve never been to Oakland and don’t really have a desire to visit. Even when I was in San Francisco, I didn’t have the urge to cross the bay. I thought about the Raiders in general and how they are loved by criminals and gang members. I thought about how there weren’t many players on the team that I actually liked. Why did I continue to support this team? I started liking the team because they were tough. Aren’t the Vikings tough as well? Ever hear of the Purple People Eaters?
This only left one question in my mind. Why hadn’t I become a Vikings fan sooner? Maybe I could have enjoyed watching a few games with my grandpa. Maybe I could have went to a few games at the Metrodome when I lived so close. Maybe I can hope that Favre comes back next year to lead the Vikes to their first Super Bowl victory. Maybe I can pick AP in fantasy football, not just because he’s a great back. Maybe I can find someone to buy all this Raiders junk I have in my office.
Seriously, do you know any Raider fans looking for a deal?