Mike’s Hard Lemonade the latest Vikes flavor

The flavor of Vikings coaches has changed dramatically over the years, but Mike Zimmer’s Hard Lemonade is being well-received right now.

Coaching tenures with NFL teams are often tenuous at best. You can be king of the hill one year and out of a job the next. Just ask Rahim Morris, formerly of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In 2011, he was NFC Coach of the Year. One year later, he was fired.

There are a lot of factors that go into what makes or breaks a head coach, but it has been a long time since the Vikings have been entering a draft with as much fan optimism as they have this year. Teddy Bridgewater is being viewed as one of the brightest stars on the horizon. The Vikings defense showed marked improvement last year with the anticipation of better things to come. If the Vikings and Adrian Peterson can kiss and make up, the enthusiasm heading into the draft will likely be at a fever pitch.

It has been a long time since Vikings fans were firmly behind their head coach and confident in the Kool Aid – or what passes for Kool Aid – he’s serving up. Every coach does it. In Minnesota, coach Kool Aid has been an acquired taste.

It all began with Norm Van Brocklin. Hired as the first head coach months after winning the NFL Championship, the early years in the Artic of the NFL required – no, demanded – grog. The few good times were surrounded by disappointment, so early franchise Kool Aid had to put you out within an hour or two to spare you the memory of what happened thereafter. Hearty Minnesotans were good with that, because they were new to hating both the Packers and Bears. But their descendants would learn differently.

Minnesotans absolutely loved what Bud Grant served up. It was ’70s vintage pale ale that went down easy. Everybody enjoyed a pint for a long, long time.

It set the gold standard for coach Kool Aid offerings since.

Les Steckel? He poured out a witches’ brew that killed off fan interest by Halloween, was undrinkable by Thanksgiving and off the market shortly after Christmas.

Desperate for a cleansing touch, the Vikings said, “This Bud’s For You” in 1985. Taking a cue from the epic Coca-Cola gaffe of this month 30 years ago, the Vikings tried to keep their fan base on board by bringing back Classic Bud. It worked.

He turned the Kool-Aid punch bowl ladle over to coaching vice president Jerry Burns. What Burnsie served up was a punch that had a kick to it. You liked it, but in moderation. When things were good, you were the life of the party. When things were bad, you were getting in fights.

The strangest concoction to be brought to the table was the beverage that Denny Green brought with him. In general, the fan base was leery of gulping it down. Even though those who started drinking it in July were still drinking in January more years than not, fans didn’t take to the hangover it left.

That was, until 1998. Then you couldn’t get enough of Denny Drank. It was addictive and remained a top-seller until the vicinity of Sept. 11, 2001.

The Mike Tice Kool-Aid was little more than a hastily put-together wapatui party. A designated bus driver was required to obtain a red Solo cup. You knew if you drank too much, it would come back up on you.

When Brad Childress got to the table, things were far different. He brought a strong beverage that had a bitterness to it and was an acquired taste. It was one that many found difficult to taste and harder to swallow. It wasn’t until a little Mississippi sour mash was thrown into the mix that it became a regional taste treat. Once the mash mix ran out, so did interest in the surprisingly tart beverage the fan base had forgotten about.

Leslie Frazier? He brought actual Kool Aid to the party. Un-spiked! It was honorable. It was refreshing. But, eventually, fans needed something with more of a kick to it, but not something they couldn’t recommend to friends.

Welcome to the age of Mike’s Hard Lemonade.

It’s different than what fans have been used to. At the moment, it tastes pretty good. More fans are imbibing all the time. Will it go the way of Bartles & James or will it have staying power?

We may find out a year from now when the Vikings start imposing a cover charge on attendance at the party. For now, it’s going down smooth and they can’t keep it on the shelves.


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