Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Vikings: Making It Easy To Be a Twins Fan

On Sunday afternoon, the Vikings suffered a demoralizing 34-0 loss to the rival Green Bay Packers. The Vikes fell to 3-6 on the season, and are seemingly headed for another disappointing sub-.500 finish. The team's popularity seems to be dwindling; meanwhile, the Twins remain a hot topic for Minnesota sports fans despite not having found a whole lot more success in their latest season. It's not hard to see why.

I used to be a big Vikings fan. It was hard not to be, with the high-flying offenses of the late '90s and the likable personalities those teams featured -- guys like Robert Smith, Cris Carter and Jon Randle. But recently, the team has become increasingly difficult to watch, and difficult to like.

I think that at this point it's fair to say that Brad Childress was a bad hire. Not only is he a terrible coach, he seemingly has no interest in making the Vikings an exciting or marketable team. He restricts the media from practices. He insists upon running the most boring offensive scheme ever conceived (West Coast Offense), even when his personnel aren't suited for it. He seems to have a generally snide and condescending attitude, even though it's growing more and more difficult to believe that he actually knows what he's doing when so many of his decisions turn out so poorly. It is evident that his players have stopped playing for him; what other conclusion could possibly be drawn from the lifeless performance the Vikings gave at Lambeau Field on Sunday?

The Vikings have gained a reputation as a heartless organization. The franchise has been embarrassed by its players' actions -- from Love Boat to Whizzinator -- and the front office has not come off much better. The latest offensive act from the Vikings' brain-trust was their decision to dock receiver Troy Williamson a game check for attending the funeral of his maternal grandmother. After being lambasted by players, media and fans for this absurd decision, the team elected to change its mind and pay Williamson, but the damage had been done.

The fans are quickly losing interest. On two occasions already this season, companies have had to buy a large number of tickets to prevent a home game from being blacked out on local television. It would seem that there is a very good chance that this week's game against the Raiders will be blacked out; the Vikings reportedly still have 3,500 tickets remaining for the game, and they'll have a nearly possible time selling those with an uninteresting opponent and their only exciting offensive player (Adrian Peterson) out with a knee injury.

Meanwhile, even when the Twins aren't having success, they are still a likable organization. Say what you will about Ron Gardenhire, but he's at least an affable guy and his players seem to like him and respect him. As general manager, Terry Ryan was reserved and sometimes condescending in the same manner that Childress is, but Ryan was much more open and willing to talk to the local media. Unlike the Vikes, the Twins don't repel fans and prospective free agents with their shady business practices.

Is it any wonder that the Twins are selling tickets and gaining fans while the Vikings sink further into despair? Is it any wonder the Twins are building a new stadium in downtown Minneapolis while Zygi Wilf continues to unsuccessfully lobby for one of his own?

The Vikings used to be a nice diversion for me during the baseball offseason, but now I can barely watch the games anymore. In my opinion, Wilf needs to make a coaching change and start changing the image of this organization.