When it comes to allegiance to a sports franchise, players come and go, coaches come and go, general managers come and go and even owners come and go. The only constant that remains is the fan base that adores that franchise – be they face-painters, lifelong season ticket holders, those who would come to Mankato or those who cheer the Vikings from their homes or establishments that serve cold beverages.
In the early morning hours of Friday, the Vikings lost one of their most fervent supporters to complications from surgery. He never met any of the current Vikings, although he could rattle off the names of all the old-time Vikings he had crossed paths with over the years.
He was older than me, but one thing we found out we immediately had in common was our love of football. It was what cemented our friendship and, unlike so many people you meet along the way that were your buddies in high school or college, it was the Vikings that kept our friendship strong over 25 years. We were in each other’s weddings. We shared about a million laughs. We talked Vikings for hours.
It was my love of football that steered me toward a career in which I could cover the sport and be inside the eye of the hurricane that is an NFL season. He was a passionate fan whose Monday mood was often foretold by the result of a Vikings game on Sunday.
He was immortalized in the pages of Viking Update – back when VU was cramped in a two-floor headquarters down by the slow-flow traffic of Lyndale Avenue and Hwy. 494 in Bloomington. Back when we were printing newspaper-style publications, once a year I would get the temperature of the fan reaction from Scoop and Shep. Scoop was my brother from a different mother. Shep was his ace boon from Brainerd. Over the Fourth of July weekend for almost 20 years, we would get together and, for an afternoon, talk Vikings.
One of things I loved about Scoop was that, when we would meet for those summer sojourns down memory lane and talked about Vikings past and present, he was always positive. Coming off the dismal season 3-13 of 2012, all Scoop could see was potential and how many games they lost in the fourth quarter. Shep was just the opposite. The sky was falling. He loved the Vikings as much as Scoop, but Scoop’s glass was half-full. Shep’s was half-empty, the contents were flat and the was lipstick on the rim that wasn’t his shade. They were the perfect combination – a Siskel and Ebert unto themselves.
I always thought my contributions to our conversations were based almost exclusively on my insider knowledge. Who’s going to stay? Who’s going to go? John probably knows better than we do. Fortunately, Shep owns a bar, so all of our lengthy Vikings conversations in person came without the need of wallets, which is nice.
I’m sure most of you know passionate “bleeding purple” fans. You may be one of them yourself. They are the lifeblood of any organization. Without a rabid fan base, games are boring. Whether the Vikings were 9-2 or 2-9, Scoop was glued for three hours on Sundays to watch the team and convinced, depending on the year, that when all was said and done, the team from that season would either be 10-2 or 3-9. He was that optimistic.
One of the things that helped maintain our friendship was that we were never more than a phone call away. It’s like that with most longtime friends and even family members who live a great distance away. The Vikings were a reason for us to call, text or e-mail and it kept that bond alive. Even when Scoop was in the hospital in our last conversation, the status of Adrian Peterson was one of the topics in between me asking about the condition his condition was in.
The Vikings lost one of their family on Friday. Nobody from the team will be sending flowers, because the only person remotely connected to the organization that knew him was me. But like so many Minnesotans and Vikings fans scattered throughout the globe, the Vikings were an integral part of his life. He was a fan who refused to waver. This was going to be the year.
He often said the Vikings are going to win a Super Bowl before he dies. After that happens, all bets are off.
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.
R.I.P. Scoop. God gave me one brother. Life gave me you, and you will be missed.
The Vikings lost a true fan Friday, just as they did when my dad passed away. Fortunately, there are kids discovering the NFL and the Vikings are getting a generational infusion of young fandom that, when they assess the loyalty of the fans of their professional franchises, they will continue to refer to Minnesota as “a football state” or “Vikings Country.”
The Vikings lost one of their best and it will take a dozen new fans to fill that void. Just about every family has lost one of those types – dyed in the wool and capable of unconditional love. The team goes on without them, but the memories they leave with family and friends won’t fade easily or quickly into the abyss.
Holler: Goodbye to Scoop
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