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  1. #1
    singersp's Avatar
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    New challenge: Vikings' Birk lines up in restaurant biz

    Posted on Sat, Jun. 10, 2006

    [size=18px]New challenge: Vikings' Birk lines up in restaurant biz[/size]

    DAVE CAMPBELL
    Associated Press


    ST. PAUL, Minn. - Matt Birk grinned mischievously as he watched the heaping plate of meat loaf and potatoes - light on the gravy, just as he ordered - arrive at the table.

    Dim lights glowed against the dark mahogany decor. Big-band music hooted overhead as folks began to trickle in for early dinner, causing a visitor to wonder when Duke Ellington was due to walk in the door.

    Birk, the four-time Pro Bowl center for the Vikings, folded his thick arms, sat back in his chair, smiled comfortably and looked right at home.

    Moderately priced steaks, chops and the local delicacy, walleye, served by friendly faces.

    Framed clippings from old newspapers telling tales of this capital city's history.

    A dance floor flanked by special rooms devoted to past politicians and the fedora-wearing gangsters like Al Capone and John Dillinger who once did some of their dirty work here in St. Paul.

    All in an old-style Midwestern supper club where "soh, how ya been?" mixed with the sounds of jazz and swing. No, this isn't the usual bar-and-restaurant venture by a pro athlete.

    "Who better to put that there than the boy from Minnesota?" said fellow Vikings offensive lineman Chris Liwienski, admitting he expected a sports bar when he visited his longtime teammate's new place. Instead, he sat down for some beef stroganoff and had a pretty good time.

    Matty B's Supper Club is an ode to Birk's hometown that opened 3 1/2 months ago in the same downtown space once occupied by Gallivan's, a citywide institution for feeding and entertaining bigwigs and bureaucrats for nearly 50 years.

    With an economics degree from Harvard, a vested interest in the place where he was born and raised, the visibility that comes with being one of the local NFL team's best players, and of course the money he makes while doing it, Birk had the right background.

    His absence for the entire 2005 season, after surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip, made this endeavor more than a lark, too.

    "I always knew in the back of my mind I wouldn't play forever," Birk said. "I was kind of faced with that reality last year. I didn't know if I would ever play again. It's just kind of me exploring, I guess. This is something I wanted to do for a long time."

    Birk has three seasons left on the seven-year, $31 million contract extension that included a $6 million bonus he signed in September 2001. Declaring himself fully healthy, Birk is eager to re-establish himself after a series of hernias, comebacks, setbacks and surgeries over the past two seasons.

    But with a wife and two daughters, life for him is much more than football - a sport that has never come easy for him, despite his natural athletic ability. He never envisioned playing in college, let alone the pros. Though Birk has shown a natural ease with the media, he says he has no interest in a broadcasting career.

    "Not unless they're taping in St. Paul," he said. "When I look at myself on TV, I'm like, 'What the heck am I doing? I'm ugly. I sound stupid.'"

    Birk has had to work hard to maintain his 6-foot-4, 310-pound frame, while being one of the league's most nimble centers. He acknowledged the rigorous Harvard coursework was occasionally over his head, but he's proud of his classroom and gridiron success - and views Matty B's as a similar challenge.

    "He comes from a wonderful family," said Mal Scanlan, who coached him at Cretin-Derham Hall High School. "They worked very hard to get what they got. They have no expectations someone's going to give them something for nothing. ... He's got a good sense of appreciation for what he's done."

    The Vikings are a part of him, just as his hometown is. When they gave him a $54,000 bonus as a sixth-round draft pick in 1998?

    "I was like, 'I'm rich. I'm loaded,'" he said, laughing and flashing that grin.

    When the team is in the news for the wrong reasons, like last year's infamous lake party, it hits him a little harder than most. When he's playing, there is more incentive to perform for his friends and family

    "I think that pushes me to try to do my best and succeed, knowing that there's a lot of people out there that care about me watching," he said.

    Birk and his partners are planning a promotional boat cruise in July, a not-so-subtle attempt to throw a family-friendly version of the party that got some of Birk's teammates in trouble and perhaps gain some attention for the fledgling restaurant.

    Preparing for the season, Birk has reminded himself of the lesson he learned returning from his hernias too soon. Cutting corners won't work at a restaurant, either.

    Like any small business, there is no guarantee of survival, especially in a city that has lacked a downtown nightlife for decades. But Birk - who owns 25 percent of it with three other partners, all with significant experience in the restaurant industry - said sales have been OK so far.

    "In football, there's a rush when you go out on the field, or when you score a touchdown, or when you a win a game," Birk said, "and when people come here, are enjoying themselves, and the energy's good and people are dancing or whatever, that's a rush, too. And I guess that's what in the restaurant business you're living for.

    "Obviously I have a day job, and I'm paying my bills. But I got into it for the challenge, for the fun and to learn. It's something totally, totally new. What the heck? Give her a whirl and see what happens. There's not a whole lot of guys who come from Harvard and go to the NFL, either, but once in a while it works out," he said, again sporting that familiar grin.

    New challenge: Vikings' Birk lines up in restaurant biz

    "If at first you don't succeed, parachuting is not for you"

  2. #2
    VikingKen's Avatar
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    Re: New challenge: Vikings' Birk lines up in restaurant biz

    I wonder if they offer Pancakes?

    A successful coach needs a patient wife, loyal dog, and great quarterback - and not necessarily in that order. -- Bud Grant

  3. #3
    Vikes_King's Avatar
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    Re: New challenge: Vikings' Birk lines up in restaurant biz

    birk is hands down one of my favorite people in the NFL, glad to hear he's putting his constantly-talked about degree to use


    http://vikesking.blogspot.com/

    "We’ll win our own Super Bowl, with our own players. Real Vikings. Something Brett Favre can never be."

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  4. #4
    VikingKen's Avatar
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    Re: New challenge: Vikings' Birk lines up in restaurant biz

    I hope it lasts longer than Carl Eller's themed restaurant the "Purple People Eatery" in Woodbury.

    A successful coach needs a patient wife, loyal dog, and great quarterback - and not necessarily in that order. -- Bud Grant

  5. #5
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    Re: New challenge: Vikings' Birk lines up in restaurant biz

    "VikingKen" wrote:
    I wonder if they offer Pancakes?

    UMMM!! I like pancakes!!!LOL
    http://www.myspace.com/pooptin


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