The Good News of Giving

The Vikings' value typically isn't measured by how much they give back to their community, but the past week has featured a number of events that help benefit the underprivileged.

On any given day, there is both good news and bad news to report, whether sports-related or not. In the last week, the NFL said goodbye to Michael Strahan and Jonathan Ogden – both likely first-ballot Hall of Famers – as they retired. The league also bid farewell to Odell Thurman and Chris Henry – both troubled souls that have had their personal failings put under the microscope because of their association with the NFL, which handed down suspensions.

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.


  • There was a news item spotted recently about Vikings DE Brian Robison looking to continue his passion for throwing the shot put. Inferences were made that Robison would consider setting his sights on the 2012 Olympics. Seeing as this year's Summer Olympics begin on the cryptic 08-08-08, one can only assume that the 2012 Olympics will start during the second week of training camp. As much as VU supports excellence in all athletic endeavors, we'd prefer to see Robison set his sights for the 2016 Olympics.

  • Attention NFL "cleaners." As much side income is being made by savvy types off of the NFL and its players, there is a MySpace page claiming to be Adrian Peterson, a single male from Norman, Okla. Fraudulent representations aside, at least the fake A.D. should have corrected the double quotation marks at the start of the alleged ""quote" (double front quotations done for the sake of irony) – much less describing attempts to achieve one's goals as "reach your goal's." Hopefully, trademark infringement personnel with the NFL will achieve their own "goal's" and eliminate this page from the world wide house of thieves.

  • On the subject of the real A.D., his hometown of Palestine, Texas, will host the second annual Adrian Peterson Day Parade next Saturday. Before he heads home, Peterson is also going to be host of the All Day Foundation Celebrity Classic golf tournament at Bear Path Country Club. The All Day Foundation benefits such charitable groups as Special Olympics Minnesota and the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities.

  • One more Peterson note of interest: he will be adorning the cover of the ESPN the Magazine's fantasy football issue. Here's hoping there is no jinx involved with being on the cover. Word on the street is that A.D. won't return the calls from anyone associated with the Madden video games.

  • Vikings OT Bryant McKinnie has been named one of the most recent ambassadors to the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation. The foundation was inspired and established by Dr. Nelson Mandela. In a press release announcing McKinnie's inclusion in the foundation, track star and foundation chairman Edwin Moses said of McKinnie, "Bryant's effort to come all the way from Minnesota to join us is indicative of his commitment to using his stature and natural talents towards positive social ends. We warmly welcome Bryant to the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation family of athletes. We look forward to working with him and the Minnesota Vikings in the future."

  • The shelved Vikings purchase of land owned by the Star Tribune newspaper of Minneapolis may not be completely dead. The Vikings backed out of a deal to buy a land parcel owned by the parent company of the newspaper last August, but representatives for Zygi Wilf toured the property earlier this week. The paper is said to be offering up land that includes three parking lots and the paper's headquarters at 425 Portland Avenue – just blocks from the Metrodome.

  • The Duluth Heritage Sports Center is going to receive a $200,000 grant to build an indoor football field thanks to a program sponsored by the Vikings and the NFL. The league is sponsoring $5.43 million in grant funding in the field of refurbishment to community groups that represent the 32 NFL franchises. The field will be built on behalf of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Duluth.

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