Saturday, September 12, 2015

A Pack of Crazed Junkyard Dogs

Once again, fall is upon us -- it’s the time of the year when the sweltering heat of the summer gives way to more moderate temperatures and the leaves turn from a monotonous green to a marvelous mix of reds and yellows.

It’s also the start of football season, when men can be men and women can be cheerleaders.

In the summer of 1961, I was eagerly looking forward to entering my senior in high school in Robbinsdale, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis. In my junior year, the mighty Robbinsdale Robins were Minnesota state high school champions in football and wrestling. But I was too busy hanging out in a local pool hall to join team sports, shooting nine-ball for a buck a rack.

Also in the summer of 1961, the Minnesota Vikings had been created as an expansion team in the National Football League (NFL) -- one year after the Dallas Cowboys became the first expansion team in the modern era of professional football in the NFL.

Norm Van Brocklin was the first Viking coach and the players were mostly castoffs from other teams who were deemed too old or too raw or not good enough to make it in professional football.

Van Brocklin ran one of the toughest training camps. In the end, he was more concerned about character than he was about talent, which was a good strategy considering he had little talent to work with that first year.

Any player who could survive a Van Brocklin training camp was probably capable of eating a box of ten-penny nails for breakfast.

On opening day, the Vikings faced the defending NFL champion Chicago Bears, also known as the Monsters of the Midway, coached by the legendary George Halas.

"Don't do anything in practice that you wouldn't do in a game." George Halas

The expansion team of outcasts played like a pack of crazed junkyard dogs and defeated the Bears 31-13.

Coach Halas was furious.

Everybody in Minnesota, including me, has been bleeding purple ever since.

“Anybody who watches three games of football in a row should be declared brain dead." Erma Bombeck

The Vikings went on to struggle through their first season, as all expansion teams do, but always played hard and left a lasting impression on their opponents.

With the birth of the Vikings, their division, which has always included the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears, became known as the Black and Blue Division.

The Vikings have been to four Super Bowls and have lost each time. No big deal -- if you live in Minnesota and are able to survive the winters, you can survive just about anything, including losing a sporting event and coping with swarms of mosquitoes every summer.

Even though I no longer dwell in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, I expect the Vikings to be in the next Super Bowl and finally win the big enchilada -- of course, I expect that every year.

Bleeding purple is fine by me, as long as the Vikings still play like a pack of crazed junkyard dogs -- life is not about winning or losing, but rather how hard you try.

Quote for the Day -- “Football is like life - it requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority.” Vince Lombardi

Bret Burquest is the author of 11 books. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a few dogs and where football is a great way to avoid your family on Thanksgiving.

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