My son turned ten on December 27th and we flew to Minnesota to watch the Vikings take on the Giants, a game they would win 49-17. My son’s memories of that game will include Harrison Smith’s pick six, some good runs by Adrian Peterson and a Bridgewater to Rudolf touchdown pass. But what will stand out is the cold. At game time it was 10 degrees.
We were prepared, though my son had been poo-pooing my warnings. He’s lived his life in Maine, he’s used to winter. After the game he said “I never could have imagined this!” Maine is warm compared to Minnesota! On Sunday – tomorrow as I write this – they’ll host Seattle in an even colder playoff game, with temperatures likely near zero. Alas, for the Vikings this is just a brief return to the legacy of their early years, when the “frozen tundra” described not just Green Bay’s home field, but also Minnesota’s.
In the sixties and seventies the Minnesota Vikings were known for hosting cold games in December or January. Grant refused to allow heaters on the sidelines, and even had his players come out in short sleeves when they battled the Los Angeles Rams in the playoffs. When challenged by reporters on whether such tactics were necessary, he replied “Cold is a state of mind.”
Now he admits it was a bit of “show biz,” playing mind games, but growing up as a Vikings fan in South Dakota, I remember loving it when they played in the elements. I only saw one game at the old Met stadium – a Viking victory over the Lions in November 1973 – and we enjoyed nice weather. So I was sort of in seventh heaven when I got to go to TCF Stadium and enjoy watching the Vikings beat the Giants in the brutal cold!
In 1982 the Vikings moved in doors to the Hubert Humphrey Metrodome, where they played through the 2013 season. I lived in Minnesota from 1985 to 1995 and saw many games there. The first was Tommy Kramer falling short of a comeback against the Eagles, as they lost 37-35 in December 1985. My dad got season tickets in 1987, driving up from Sioux Falls for every home game. He took me to three or four a season, the last one being an exciting 38-35 victory over Miami in 1994 – I recall being amazed by Dan Marino (though John Elway was the most impressive player I saw live). My dad was diagnosed with pancreas cancer after that game and he died in March 1995 never having seen the Vikings win a Super Bowl.
Then I moved to Maine. While I still followed the Vikings, deep in Patriots territory I learned to appreciate the tremendous string of seasons Bill Belichick and Pats have put together. But last year I got Directv’s NFL package and along with my now 10 year old son, have enjoyed following the Vikings closely. So when his tenth birthday coincided with a Vikings home game, it seemed that flying out there with him was the right thing to do.
The Vikings now play at TCF Stadium, the home stadium of the University of Minnesota Gophers. The Metrodome was torn down in 2014 and a new stadium is being constructed, which will be ready for the Vikes next year.
The new stadium will be delightful. It will, however, be an indoor stadium, meaning that this is the last year that Minnesota will be home to the frozen tundra and have the elements in its favor. The game we saw was to be the last at TCF stadium, but now that they’ve made the playoffs they play tomorrow.
I’m so glad my son could experience this cold weather game, even though he says he enjoyed the warmer Timberwolves basketball game against the Pacers the night before at Target Center. I’m also glad I saw a game at TCF Stadium, meaning I’ve seen a Vikings game at every one of their home stadiums. Next year they open their new digs – officially called US Bank Stadium. All reports say it will be state of the art, perhaps the best facility in the league.
Maybe. But I hope that the Vikes can take advantage of the cold and beat the Seahawks tomorrow. Then, if the Vikes can keep winning, and Washington or Green Bay advance, it’s possible that in late January the NFC Championship game could be back in Minneapolis, giving the frozen tundra one last chance. One can hope!
So now, under coach Mike Zimmer, cold is again a state of mind in Minnesota. Go Vikings!