Vikings' outdoor mark not like old days
Posted on Sun, Sep. 10, 2006
[size=13pt]Vikings' outdoor mark not like old days[/size]
BY TOM POWERS
Perhaps their theme song should change from "Skol Vikings" to Willie Nelson's "On the Road Again."
The Vikings have a healthy slate of outdoor road games this season, beginning Monday night in Washington. This, of course, will lead to a great deal of distress among the purple-clad fanatics in the Upper Midwest.
They will pour over the frightening statistics that reveal just how horribly the team performs in God's given elements. And they will pine for the days at Metropolitan Stadium, when men were men and beat up on the shivering opposition while staring directly into the teeth of an icy wind.
Yes, and players used to walk to the games barefoot, in three feet of snow. Even though most owned several pairs of very nice Hush Puppies at the time. They went well with the Nehru collars.
In retrospect, it seems like a very romantic era, a time when legends were created.
"Romantic? Sometimes we'd go out in the parking lot at Met Stadium to have a run-through. We looked like a bunch of guys playing after Thanksgiving dinner," said Stu Voigt, a Vikings tight end from 1970-1980. "By the end of the year, the field was dirt painted green for TV.
"It was an advantage. Did we like it? No."
The good old days aren't always as grand as people remember. Currently, there is debate as to whether any new Vikings stadium should be enclosed. Some want to go retro and recreate the days when the elements were considered part of a home-field advantage. They are convinced that would alleviate the team's outdoor woes.
"Being outdoors in the elements, playing in those conditions, helped us a little bit," said Matt Blair, a Vikings linebacker from 1974-1985. "Put it this way: We had an advantage because we live here. We lived it.
"I thought we were able to take advantage of people who played in the warmer climates. What are we today, 2-40?"
Well, I looked back about five years and figured it up to be 5-25 outdoors. But you can pick almost any time period since the team moved into the Metrodome in 1982 and come up with something equally hideous.
Yet the pre-Dome Vikings sometimes had trouble in warm weather on the road, so name your poison.
"It hurt our conditioning," Voigt said of practicing outdoors in Minnesota. "You couldn't do the work you wanted to. Guys were five, six, seven pounds heavier because they were bundled up so much.
"We played a different schedule than they do now. Most of our games were in September, October and November. We never had that much bad weather. We could win away from home. But I thought we lost our edge by Super Bowl time, playing in some warm weather city."
Legitimate argument: At least they got there.
Just two dome-based teams have ever reached the Super Bowl â€” St. Louis and Atlanta. The Vikings have been shut out since moving inside.
"Once they changed from the Met to the Dome and carpet, the team was built on speed," Voigt said.
Apparently, that speed is less of a factor outdoors. It doesn't make sense to me. I can see how it would be affected in mud, snow or rain. Other than that, the issue seems to be more mental than physical. Last year's Vikings twice won outdoor games.
The conditions prevalent at Metropolitan Stadium could never be recreated, not that anybody would want to do that. The Vikings had no real practice facility and, when the Twins still were playing, worked out wherever they could find room. They would travel from St. Olaf College to a ballpark in St. Paul to a Metropolitan Stadium parking lot.
By the time the Twins' season ended, the field was a mess.
"The southeast end zone, you didn't want to go in that corner because it was so slippery," Blair said with a laugh. "It was where the warning track was for baseball.
"One time playing Green Bay, a guy went 40 yards and scored the winning touchdown. He was excited and threw the ball up in the air. Then he fell and slid all the way though the end zone."
"We had a wear-'em-down, physical defense and an offense that gained 3, 5, 7 yards at a time," Voigt said. "That was about it."
Sounds rough and tumble, sort of like tailgating in sub-zero weather. With the regular season now stretching into January, the latter would be a sure thing if the team moved outdoors. But that's a state of mind, too. Just like struggling on the road in sometimes balmy conditions.
Remember that the best Vikings team of the modern era, 15-1 during the 1998 regular season, lost in the Metrodome to the dome-based Atlanta Falcons.
Blair, who as a player made the transition from outdoors to the Metrodome, said each generation adapts to what is working. Today's game is built on speed. But maybe, he added, the old way had its advantages.
"I guess you could say it's the way football should be," he said.
He didn't sound completely sure.
Tom Powers can be reached at [email protected]
Re: Vikings' outdoor mark not like old days
It's a new year, a new Coach, a new team . . . and new results are coming too!
Re: Vikings' outdoor mark not like old days
I'll never forget the day I got to go see the Vikings play against the Giants at the Yale Bowl in New Haven,CT....This is when the Meadowlands was being built and the Giants made the Yale Bowl there home field for a couple of seasons..
There was a hell of a snow storm during that game and I was sitting in the back of the end zone.....We where all throwing snowballs at Ragner......I also was treated to a big Vikings win at the hands of Fran the Man .......A day
I will never forget....God I loved when they used to play in the elements.... ;D