Vikings 2011, More Boring… Just as Bad

by Bill

(the following will appear in the Fall edition of Minnesota Score Magazine)

“People in the 80’s weren’t doing it cuz they thought it was a cool hairdo… they were doing it because they were bad ass. If someone asks you if you want extra mayonnaise, you have to say yes, because that’s part of it.”

That was Jared Allen, in one of the 100 or so mullet interviews he did in 2009, extolling the virtues of the “business in the front, party in the back lifestyle”.  Remember 2009? 12-4 and one bad Favre throw and one bad coach away from the Super Bowl? Favre is gone and forgiven as that might have been his only bad throw of the season and he was 89 percent of the reason that team was 12-4. His VORP was a record 1 million.  (Those last two stats fall under “columnist approximations”.)  The coach and his “kick-ass” offense and “not so kick-ass” press conferences are also gone and not so forgiven.  Let Chilly’s lasting imprint on the franchise be, “Vikings Football: Nobody… and we mean NOBODY hurts our caterer’s feelings!”

2010’s car-wreck of a 6-10 season was one of the more disappointing in purple history and it seemed to be sabotaged from the beginning.  Favre did his silly “is he or isn’t he” charade all summer– everyone always made way too big a deal of this, including Favre– I don’t care what he said on record, there was never any question whether or not he was going to play in 2010– he should have had the stones to just say, “I’m playing, but I’m not coming to camp… I don’t need it and another month of rest will do me more good.”

Then moments before opening kickoff of game one two decisions would completely derail the team: 1. Sidney Rice decided his hip hurt (read, “didn’t get a contract extension”) and had a surgery that would keep him out the first half of the season and 2. Bryant McKinnie, perhaps still in his “good-time Saturday night” frame of mind, decided to see if he could not throw a block all season and still make All-Pro.  He made a gallant attempt, but failed in the end (though he wasn’t bothered, as his 2009 record of 6 blocks thrown/All-Pro season will probably never be broken).

In a season-saving move, Chili decided to give up a 3rd round pick to bring back Home-Boy. What was to be the triumphant return of the most talented player to ever wear purple, turned out to be the equivalent of signing a 120 pound, Japanese shortstop to a 10 million dollar deal.  (Although Nishi smiles a lot and seems to appreciate free food.)

You can make an argument that the 2010 disaster of a season had it’s seeds planted in the legendary 2005 draft, when the purple brass took WR Troy Williamson with the 7th pick (20 picks later the Falcons took WR Roddy White, who people had actually heard of while he played in college– and who’s now a top 5 receiver in the league) and then flat out stole Wisconsin hero Erasmus James with the 18th pick, leaving the crestfallen Packers to take QB Aaron Rodgers with pick number 24.

Anyway, we have to move on, right?  The not-so-good news for our 6-10 2010 Vikings is that of the 17 teams that were .500 or worse in 2009, 13 of them stayed .500 or worse in 2010.  But there’s always hope in the NFL– for heaven’s sake the Bears went 11-5 last year.

Favre and Rice are gone, replaced by Donovan McNabb and…um….Devin Aromashodu.  If you don’t know who Devin is, let me put your mind at ease– he was the 24th receiver taken in the 2006 draft, selected only 86 spots after skiing great Jeremy Bloom, which might be unfair to say because he does have more career touchdowns (4), than Bloom has skiing World Championships (3).

McNabb should be fine as a one or two year starter at quarterback, he’ll only be asked to throw passes shorter than 20 yards and Adrian Peterson will run for 1,400 more of the most impressive yards you’ll see (there should be a stat for “yards rushed with absolutely no hole provided by your line).  The offensive line is a combination of old, slow, small and overweight (the best thing about Favre in ’09 is that he could pick a target and have the ball there in .08 seconds– last year that went up to about 1.2 seconds, so he got destroyed a lot).  The new Bryant McKinnie, Charlie Johnson, looks terrible, but at least he won’t make the pro-bowl and get into nightclub fights late on Saturday nights.

The defensive line is decent, but not nearly the sure thing they were two years ago.  Kevin Williams is coming off a down year (for him), fat Pat is gone and Ray Edwards is gone.  The linebackers are fine, if not spectacular, Chad Greenway should finally make a pro-bowl.  The secondary will be awful like it is every year (but I imagine every  (non-Jets) NFL fan base thinks that of their secondary.  Antoine Winfield is a great tackler, but I’m not sure he could cover Jim Thome at this point, and the other five guys that get action back there will be bad.  Last year’s first pick Chris Cook is showing a scary combination of the all the less than mediocre skills of Asher Allen, Marcus McCauley and Dustin Fox. Hopefully Madieu Williams is playing in the Twin Cities Co-Ed Rec League this year, where he’ll still be one of the worst cover guys in the league.

The problem the Vikings have in Minnesota is that when they’re really good (’98, 2009) they’re far better than the Twins have ever been in that decade– you can argue that the Vikings were the best team in the NFL both years.  The Twins are the Honda Accord that’s always gotten about as far as they could go with the gas they’ve been given, the Vikings have shown flashes of being a Ferrari that always crashes before the finish line.

So welcome to the 2011 Vikings… they’re a Honda Accord, but hopefully they’ll take the extra mayonnaise.

Published in: on August 23, 2011 at 3:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

“Call Me Ishmael”

by Bill

July 31, 2011, 10:30 pm:

I’ve just hung up the phone with my fiance and I can tell she’s a little worried about my drive tomorrow because she said, “I’m a little worried about your drive tomorrow”.  Ok, I might have overstated things with that title line up there, I’m not about to set off to sea on a fruitless journey to try to kill a whale, I’m only driving a thousand miles, from Denver to Minneapolis, with all of my Earthly possessions in a U-Haul and my car on a tow behind it. (Why do people say “Earthly” there? Unless you’re an astronaut and have rocks from Mars, isn’t it just assumed that your shit is from Earth? Whatever, all my shit is in a U-Haul and I’m moving back to Minneapolis.)

At this point in the read, you’re probably pretending that you knew that title was from “Moby Dick” the second you read it. Is your life so shallow that you have to lie to yourself like that just to make it through your days? Good, you’re exactly the kind of person that should be reading this. (To those of you who actually did know that, I’m sorry and you’re smart and I’m envious of your Earthly possessions.)


Anyway, that’s the kind of mental roller-coaster you’re on when you’ve just quit your job and you’re moving again.  The plan is to get up early and be on the road by 4 am and arrive at Jennifer’s by 8 pm.  The plan in “Moby Dick” was to go hunt down and kill a whale. Oh, the best laid plans…

August 1, 2011, 12:30 am:

Fucking fall asleep already! I think I’ve dozed at one point in the last two hours, but now I’m getting panicky– I’m to be on the road in three and a half hours and experience tells me that a couple hours of sleep before a 15 hour drive helps.


August 1, 2011, 3:50 am:

I’m in the shower and I’m awake and adrenalized.  This is going to suck, but I’ve done 15 hour drives a million times– I didn’t oversleep, I’m off on time, I’ll be out of Denver by the morning drive– this is going to be a piece of cake.

Let’s go kill a whale.  I keep going back to that because my adventure became so much like Ishmael’s. What was to be a trip to sea to kill a whale became a book that is summarized thusly: “Through the main character’s journey, the concepts of class and social status, good and evil and the existence of God are all examined as Ishmael speculates upon his personal beliefs and his own place in the universe”.  Have you ridden all day in a U-Haul lately? I’d been through all of that by the time I was chewing on my Sausage McMuffin in Ogallala, Nebraska.  Oh, plus August 1 is Herman Melville’s birthday, he would have been 192 today, the same age as all the other customers in a roadside McDonald’s at 8 am on a Monday morning in Ogallala, Nebraska.


August 1, 2011, 10 am:

I hear on the U-Haul radio that sharing this birthday with Mr. Melville today are both Adam Duritz and Coolio, who are turning 47 and 48 respectively.  Here I am, changing my life drastically on August 1, moving home to get married and I’m driving on the birthdays of two dudes who’s greatest artistic achievements are “August and Everything After” and “Fantastic Voyage”.  (Earlier in the ride I’d heard that on August 1, 1876, Colorado had become the 38th state.)  Now that I’m home and comfortable and not bat-shit crazy like I was six hours in to this ride, that doesn’t look like much, but at the time I thought it was crazy deep.  It wouldn’t have surprised me a bit if all my Earthly possessions were levitating back in the truck.  A warmth washed over me as I embraced the cosmic hug the radio had thrown at me.  Here I was, almost half way done, eating up highway, cruising down a summer road, drinking deep from the cup of life.

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August 1, 2011, 10:45 am:

The house I slept at the night before my trip was the home of the Franks (my brother-in-law and sister).

On August 1, 1944 a 15-year old girl named Anne Frank wrote in her diary for the last time.  She was arrested by German police three days later.  Which is to say that shit can go wrong too.  Frank, the precocious Dutch girl who kept a diary during her time under German occupation, had written in April of ’44: “I finally realized that I must do my schoolwork to keep from being ignorant, to get on in life, to become a journalist, because that’s what I want!  I know I can write… but it remains to be seen if I really have talent…”


My back is beginning to seize up.  The only stations left on my radio consider Conway Twitty to be punk rock.  My banked three hours of sleep is spent.  I am crestfallen when I see a map and quickly realize that I’m nowhere near half done.  Where is that fucking whale, I’m sick of this shit.

On August 1, 1794, a group of angry men in Western Pennsylvania had had enough of what they deemed an Eastern-based national government and were rising up against a new excise tax on whiskey– part of treasury secretary Alexander Hamilton’s program to centralize and fund the national debt. The Westerners felt they were being picked on, as they were the whiskey drinkers– how else to kill the night time hours way-out West?  There were no wig-wearing dudes performing Shakespeare in the fancy halls of New York and Boston out on the frontier— give us our damn booze! This uprising became known as the “Whiskey Rebellion”.

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August 1, 2011, 12:30 pm:

In what would become known later as the “Sausage McMuffin Rebellion” I pulled off I-80 in nowhere, Nebraska at the same time both completely out of gas and completely full of gas.  My first thought as I wobbled out of the cab was, “holy fuck, it’s hot!” 100 degrees and humid immediately blasted me in the face and nuts and any other body part I could still feel (which would not include my pinky finger that was positioned a half-inch from the air-conditioner and was frozen solid).  If I had been paying attention to anything other than the fact that the McBarffle wanted out of me for the last half hour, it might have dawned on me that the present temperature in the U-Haul was 200 degrees below zero.

Picture if you will a normally 5’7 man, hunched down to 5’1, lurching towards an outhouse in a million degree heat, sweating profusely, knowing that every step had the potential to start the rebellion early.  NO SEXY. If it was 100 degrees outside, it was 170 in that bathroom.  Duty done, I glanced in the mirror and wondered when the gremlin had gouged at my eyes and how Nick Nolte’s stylist had gotten ahold of my hair.

That's not me. I looked much worse.

That’s not me. I looked much worse.

August 1, 2011, 4:30 pm:

My first “I’m not going to make it” thoughts are gripping me hard.  I’m having to stop every hour or so for a variety of reasons: my back is on fire, my brain is on fire, the cars around me are on fire.  I can kind of deal with the first two, but when the third one starts, it’s time for the time-out chair.

On August 1, 1933  Carl Hubbell sets an MLB record of 45 1/3 scoreless innings pitched.


Translation: I’m being a pussy.  Nut-up and get the job done. August 1 is also the birthday of Francis Scott Key, who wrote the Star-Spangled Banner.  Do you hate America? Then get back in Satan’s Chariot and drive!

August 1, 2011, 5:30 pm

Pulling off at another “Rest Area” just another hour later, I fall out of the back-breaking fuck-tank yelping, “I do hate America, I do!… Just leave me alone and don’t make me drive anymore!”

On August 1, 1978 Pete Rose’s 44 game hitting streak comes to an end against the Atlanta Braves.

I’ve picked basically the hottest day in the history of the world to do this trip.  My walks from the U-Haul to the rest area bathrooms turn me from a frozen person to a sweaty ball of gross in 3.6 seconds.  I ooze out of the rest area to a picnic table and call Jen to admit that I might have to take a knee and surrender.  She’s a bit confused when I try to explain to her that hitters weren’t that good in King Carl’s day, so it wasn’t THAT great of a feat anyway.  She encourages me to stop, or at least to take a nap in the U-Haul.  We hang up and I’m asleep on the picnic table 3 seconds later.  I dream of peace and serenity and not being in a moving vehicle– all of the same dreams George Harrison had when he put on the Concert for Bangladesh on August 1, 1971.  I nap for 20 minutes and then sit there and stretch for 2o more.  I’m a sweaty mess, but I feel much better and I hit the road again.  I never liked Pete Rose.

This is a pretty good re-inactment by this guy.

This is a pretty good re-inactment by this guy.

On August 1, 1903, H. Nelson Jackson, a physician and businessman from Burlington, Vermont and Sewall K. Crocker, a mechanic, completed the first ever coast to coast automobile trip– from San Francisco to New York City in 63 days.

August 1, 2011, 11:30 pm:

I pull into Jen’s driveway and am overwhelmed by being done.  Her pep-talk had gotten me through another three hours and I did the final two just because I had to.  I was barreling down 35-W in Lakeville in the pitch dark at an impressive 48 miles per hour as trucks zoomed by me at what felt like the speed of sound.  I was hanging on for dear life.  I actually pulled off of the highway in Bloomington for the sweet peace and ease brought to me by side streets.  A trip that I’d guessed would take me 15 hours took me 18.5 and I was absolutely worse for the wear. Bad sleep, 100 degree heat, a bouncy, uncomfortable U-Haul and a seizing back had made for a horrific trip.  I hopped in the shower and let both the water and delirium wash over me.

Two days later I dropped the U-Haul off at a small, farm-supply store in Dayton, Minnesota and I couldn’t help think of the doomed Captain Ahab’s hissing speech to Moby Dick as I glanced back at the cursed U-Haul for the last time:

“… to the last I grapple with thee; from Hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee”


Captain Ahab and all others on the whaleship Pequod ended up at the bottom of the ocean, Ishmael the lone survivor.  I walked back to my car and drove the quick five miles back to have lunch with my fiance.

Home at last.

Published in: on August 18, 2011 at 10:24 pm  Comments (3)  

God Save The Queen

by Bill

London calling to the faraway towns…. now war is declared and battle come down.  London calling to the underworld…. come out of the cupboard you boys and girls.”

Joe Strummer and Mick Jones wrote the Clash’s anarchist anthem 32 years ago because, as Strummer said, “We felt that we were struggling… about to slip down a slope or something, grasping with our fingernails… and there was no one there to help us.”  “London Calling”– both the album and the song were instantly hailed as masterpieces and perfectly captured the disaffected youth of the day– in both England and anywhere else for that matter.  The album’s themes were decidedly “punk rock”: social displacement, unemployment, racial unrest, drug use and the oncoming responsibilities of  adulthood.

For me, and I imagine for many of my generation, the cover of the album– Clash bassist Paul Simonon smashing his guitar on stage at the Palladium in New York City– became the first image to pop into my head when I heard the term “punk rock”.  The picture seemed to capture what a thousand words, or a hundred songs were trying to– it screamed, “I hate you, I hate me, I hate everything…. breaking shit is fun and fucking piss-off world.”


There’s been a helluva lot of guitar smashing in England over the last four days.

So what the hell happened? And why?

Well, you could probably start on a beautiful spring day in April when a young man who’s never, ever felt like he was grasping to hang on with his fingernails, married a gorgeous young woman named Kate at Westminster Abbey. Prince William is the heir to the throne held by Queen Elizabeth, who has held her role as Constitutional Monarch for going on sixty years.  Q-E has has earned and held this lofty status for so long because…. um, because she was born and is seemingly never going to die.  Privilege is privilege is privilege and we’re going to spend a good two months shoving that down the world’s throat.



On July 9 the British tabloid “News of the World” signed off for good with the banner headline, “THANK YOU & GOODBYE”.  After all of the phone-hacking, gossip-mongering and shit-spewing that had been unearthed from Rupert Murdoch’s billions-fueled media mess, most of England and the world thought in reply, “FUCK OFF AND NEVER COME BACK”.


Murdoch appeared embarrassed by the whole fiasco, but his media empire (most notably Fox News in the U.S.) couldn’t help but be hit with some collateral damage. Those who wanted to hate Murdoch and his right-wing warriors were presented with a target the size of England itself. “You fuck-nuts think you can just do or say anything about anyone with seemingly no moral boundries? WTF????”


On Thursday, August 4th, officers of the Metropolitan Police Service (London police), stopped a minicab that was carrying 29-year old Mark Duggan, a father of four with reported ties to London gangs. (Duggan was a black man who looked a lot like Spurs point guard Tony Parker.)  Duggan was killed with a single bullet to the chest.  Police say Duggan had fired a gun as well, but the only bullet casings in the cab, or nearby, were from police issued guns.



On Saturday, August 6th about 200 folks, including Duggan’s relatives and local residents, marched in Tottenham in what was to be a peaceful protest around the circumstances of his death.  After waiting nearly 3 hours for any official police answers surrounding the shooting, many in the swelling crowd began to get violent and the scene quickly descended into rioting.


Paul Simonon had smashed that fucking guitar into a million pieces all over the stage.

That volatile and tiny fuse that is youth in revolt had been lit with a giant blowtorch. One of the greatest punk rock songs ever written was also one of the simplest– the Replacements “Unsatisfied”. The under-privileged, under-educated, under-fed, unwashed underbelly of England were hitting the streets screaming out in Paul Westerberg’s anguished howl, “look me in the eye and tell me… am I satisfied? Are you satisfied? I’m so, I’M SO…. UNSATISFIED”

In short, all hell broke loose.

Gangs of mayhem-bent teenagers and young adults filled the streets of London and many surrounding towns all over England, setting fires, looting stores, attacking police and generally running roughshod over any sort of rules and regulations.  Shops that weren’t ransacked were quickly shuttered by their terrified owners as the mayhem spread from the poorest areas of East London to the posh Notting Hill area. For three nights, from Saturday through Monday, dusk and the dark night-time hours brought on a frightening battle zone mentality where police were simply no match for the young and feisty.  The rioting took on a decidedly social media age feel– texting, IMing and twitter were being used to coordinate attacks and stay ahead of the police at every turn.


As these things go, public outcry quickly became political debate. A retired social worker was quoted as saying, “the problem is that in this country we live in extremes of rich and poor.  We need to live in the middle, like they do in Scandinavia.”  Marilyn Moseley, a 49-year old Brixton resident had a simpler explanation, “joblessness is not to blame… it’s just an excuse for the young ones to come and rob shops.”

Obviously the reasons are endless and the solutions are for societies far more advanced than ours…. alienation, anger, boredom and mischief often lead to uprising.

Amy Winehouse, the London born singer who died at age 27 on July 23rd, is probably sorry she missed out on this– being cut from the same cloth as The Clash.  Winehouse hit the world stage with 2006’s “Back to Black” album, but it’s a song from her 2003 album “Frank” where she could have been talking to England’s youth of today.

From “Help Yourself”:

When I walk in your shoes… I understand a man confused…. There must have been, but I don’t care… I feel the way your soul does there.  Darling they empathize…. looking through your bloodshot eyes… and I know you, you’re so frustrated.  Above we all become what we once hated…. be slight, nobody can be that wise.”

Where there’s rich there will be poor, when there’s haves there will be have-nots, where there’s Queens and Princes living in palaces, there will be the scrubby and unshined living in the streets. When there are those that are happy, it seems there will always be those who are unhappy.

But what is it that can make the unhappy feel good?

Well we don’t need Socrates or Plato for that question– we’ll leave it to the London AP:

“This is the uprising of the working class!  We’re re-distributing the wealth”, said Bryn Phillips, a 28-year old self described anarchist— as young people emerged from a looted convenience store behind him carrying chocolate bars and ice cream cones.

As Joe Strummer wails through “London Calling”, the apocolyptic, political rant of it’s time, (which Rolling Stone voted the 15th best song of all-time)…. he ends the song with a wink, singing, “after all of this, won’t you give me a smile?”…. and then it fades out with him singing, “I never felt so much alike…alike…alike”


Chocolate bars and ice cream cones.

Published in: on August 10, 2011 at 9:27 pm  Comments (2)