Franken on Vikings, Favre, migraines and more

U.S. Senator Al Franken let the Vikings fan in him come out loud and clear Thursday during his first visit to training camp. He talked about his Vikings memories, named an unusual favorite player, made his Favre prediction and empathized with Percy Harvin.

It isn't unusual for a media throng to encircle somebody for an interview, but usually it's a player or a coach, not a politician.

But that was what we had Thursday in Mankato, as U.S. Senator Al Franken got mobbed by reporters and explained that, like so many more anonymous Minnesotans, he is a lifelong Vikings fan. What is his first memory of the team? He dates back to their first game in 1961.

"The first Vikings game I heard on the radio," Franken said. "It was the Bears and the Vikings and we beat them. It was amazing. We surprised them and beat them as an expansion team. I've been an enormous Vikings fan since."

Franken touched on several topics and added his name to the exhaustive list of people asked to weigh in on the Brett Favre saga.

"We're all hoping he comes back soon," Franken said. "I really believe he's going to play. It seems like there's a pattern here, doesn't there? I'm not really surprised not to see him doing wind sprints here at camp. He had the surgery and I think he wants to play football. Every Vikings fans is thinking the same thing and we're all hoping he doesn't."

Although he has been a fan of the Vikings all his life, Thursday was the first time Franken had ever attended a training camp, saying that, when he informed his 25-year-old son, the kid was angry at him for coming to camp without him. His son, who is attending college in Boston, got an Adrian Peterson jersey the moment he was drafted and Franken said he was looking forward to getting an autograph of A.D. for his son.

However, Peterson isn't his favorite Viking. That honor goes to Jim Kleinsassser, who was pulled aside after practice to be introduced to Franken.

"Kleinsasser is my kind of Viking," Franken said. "It feels like a Bill Brown kind of thing – that kind of Viking. It's something I identify with."

When informed he was Franken's favorite player, Kleinsasser was eventually flattered, but at first thought he might be the subject of a practical joke.

"Are you pulling my leg?" Kleinsasser asked, being assured it wasn't a rib. "There aren't too many people who say I'm their favorite Viking, so to have that be a United States senator is pretty cool. But I remember him most from "Saturday Night Live" when he had the satellite dish on his head."

Although not his domain, Franken was also asked about the stadium crisis the Vikings are facing. As a politician, he knows the political football the stadium has become, but as a fan, he couldn't imagine Minnesota without the Vikings.

"It's not a federal issue, it's a state issue, but I've been a Vikings fan since I froze my feet watching playoff games. I was at the (1975 playoff game vs. Dallas that came to be known as the "Hail Mary" game) – the Bottle Game as I call it. We've got to get this resolved and it would be nice to do it in a way that it doesn't take away from general revenues and try to finance it in a smart way. The Vikings are a great economic asset and we're a big-league town. The Vikings are a Minnesota tradition. I've been a fan since they came here 50 years ago."

Another player Franken wanted to meet was Percy Harvin, who is back in the Twin Cities trying to recover from a bout with migraine headaches. A migraine sufferer himself, Franken said he could identify with Percy's plight.

"I feel bad for Harvin," Franken said. "I get migraines and I can barely function when I have them. To play football? You can't do that. I just feel really bad for him. I hope they find some regimen for him because he is a spectacular game-breaker."

Franken jokingly said he wanted to get out on the practice field himself and hoped that his influence would help grease the wheels to make that wish come true.

"I am a U.S. Senator," Franken said, tongue firmly in cheek. "I kind of wanted to throw a pass from scrimmage. But it doesn't look like that's going to happen. I guess Childress feels that every second of practice is important. The sense I get that he wouldn't be happy with me. I just wanted to run a series. I told my son I wanted to ‘pad up' and see what it was like to get hit. He said, ‘Dad, you'd be killed.'"

When asked for a 2010 prediction, we saw more of the SNL Franken than the Washington D.C. Franken, as the fan in him came out.

"I predict we're going all the way to the Super Bowl," said Franken, smiling and looking directly into a camera for ironic value. "I felt that last year, which I thought until the end of the game."

Being a bit more serious, Franken summed up the view of many Vikings fans – if they can stay healthy, there's no reason why their half-century Super Bowl-winning drought can't end this year.

"There's no reason we can't be like we were last year," Franken said. "I've lived through four Super Bowl losses and I would just like to see us go again. It's 50 years. It's about time."

John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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