The bottom line in news reporting is to follow the story – wherever it leads you. Too often, stories of positivity and giving back to the community get buried behind and beneath stories of a more sordid nature. There is a TV expression that says "If it bleeds, it leads." We live in a society that devours bad news on such a regular basis that good news gets swept under the rug.
If you read the daily notes below, you're going to get a mixture of different topics. But several of them will deal with a similar theme – the Vikings organization and its players giving back to the community. This week alone, Matt Birk – clearly not a happy employee, but still one of the most charitable people in the NFL – held a charity event to support his HIKE Foundation. Thursday the Vikings took part in a golf event at Rush Creek to benefit the Vikings Children's Fund. A week ago, the Vikings players, coaches and office staff helped build a playground to provide joy for children in the Twin Cities metro area.
None of these events have anything to do with wins or losses. If the Vikings win the Super Bowl this year or finish 6-10, it won't change or diminish the impact they make on the Upper Midwest. Those who oppose public funding for a new Vikings stadium look upon the organization as jackals feeding from the public trough. In a week that can only be viewed as the "offseason," the Vikings are making a difference. Birk's event raised $75,000. The Vikings Children's Fund event raised upwards of $100,000. Twice that much was pledged to building an indoor football facility in Duluth (see below). For being an "offseason" time, the Vikings are doing good without being under the glare of the public spotlight.
Not too shabby. At a time when corporate purse strings are being tightened and the economy is on the brink of creating a crisis for a lot of working families, you don't hear a lot of "feel good" stories about big business giving back. Some of them aren't. They have stockholders to worry about. You hear plenty from companies wanting to "help" you spend your economic stimulus check, but you don't hear nearly as much about entities giving back and raising money for those who can't do it on their own. The Vikings are doing that, and those who live in Minnesota should be appreciative of that.
There are plenty of major corporations that give to those in need, but they do so out of public relations as much as public responsibility. While the Vikings have a P.R. motive in what they're doing, nobody is treating Hormel or 3M or IBM like they're visitors who can be just as easily gone and forgotten. "Minnesota nice" only goes so far. Red McCombs was viewed as an outsider when he bought the Vikings and there was a distrust about his intentions. Unfortunately, that same distrust has been thrust upon the Wilf family despite their efforts to be a partner in the Minnesota landscape.
To belabor a point we're convinced we've already made, take one test-case as an example. Unfortunately, children die of diseases we have yet to cure every day. Their lives have little to no joy or the expectation of a future. If the C.E.O. of Hormel or 3M were to visit a children's hospital, it wouldn't likely have much of an impact on the kids dealing with chemotherapy or the prospect of another surgery. However, if a member of the Vikings shows up and spends some one-on-one time with that same child, he won't be able to cure his or her disease, but he can give something that you can't put a price tag on – a good day in a time of misery. Smiles are free, but they don't come easy.
Whether the governor or key legislators consider the Vikings to be part of the fabric of Minnesota or not, there are at-risk children and those that are not going to see the end of the 2008 football season that will be uplifted – even if just for a day – by meeting a pro football player. As parents, there is nothing worse than burying a child. Good days are hard to find. When Vikings players, coaches and staff show up to lend their support, whether financially or by a personal appearance, it provides a ray of sunshine in a life shrouded in darkness.
Can you put a price on that? Apparently the Minnesota Legislature can. Maybe it's time to put the Vikings on the test of the scales – weigh the positives against the negatives. If giving a child who is dying one good day in the midst of a slew of awful days, how much is that worth? Building a new stadium will tip the scales one way. How much can the behind-the-scenes moment be worth? The Vikings organization assists people they will never meet as well as those who get gratification from a handshake or an autograph every day – in-season and out-of-season.
If Minnesota loses the Vikings, it loses much more than just a football team. It will lose a company sincerely interested in those that can't help themselves or are viewed as being without hope. You can assign a price to a stadium, but you can't assign a voucher on a dying child's smile or the tear of happiness rolling down the cheek of that child's parent – seeing the buoying of spirits of a child in dire need of positives.
There isn't a ledger sheet being kept on the positives the Vikings organization brings to countless lives of those who call themselves fans. Maybe there should be.