By Jessica Sly
There’s that moment when you’re swallowed by the crowd of purple, clinging onto the back of your dad’s jersey, wondering how you’ll ever make it through. You duck your head, distracted by the warm smells of rolling hotdogs and buttered popcorn. The walls move in.
Now the opposing fans join the sea of people. Just when you can’t imagine it could get any more claustrophobic, you step through an opening and emerge, like a gladiator entering his coliseum.
The dizzying magnitude of the Dome made me stop and stare when I attended the Vikings and Detroit Lions game a few weeks ago. The Dome seemed an atmosphere in and of itself, with the opposite side and field far below seemingly wrapped in a transparent haze, messing with my eyes.
I’ve been a Vikings fan for as far back as my memory goes. At 3-years-old, I was already decked out in purple and knew the Monday Night Football theme. (My dad is more than happy to take credit for that.) I was alive to see some of the Vikings greats: the Randy Moss and Cris Carter duo, the impenetrable Williams brothers’ line, the incredible 15-1 season (well, that one ended in a bit of heartache, but it was incredible nonetheless).
I’d wanted to go to another Vikings game for a while, but the prices and inconvenience of the three-hour drive hindered that dream. I hadn’t been to a game in five years. In fact, I hadn’t ever been to a regular season game. Five years ago, in the prime of my sweet 16, my dad, grandpa and I went to one of the Vikings’ preseason games and had the privilege of seeing Adrian Peterson’s very first game in the NFL. Afterwards, everyone was abuzz: “Hey, this kid can kinda run!”
This time, with one of our star players, Percy Harvin, out for the count, my dad, grandpa and I again got to watch another rookie emerge: Jarius Wright. I’m not saying he’ll turn into another Adrian Peterson or an all-star, but maybe someday the Vikings will be able to use him to further strengthen their team. Maybe he and Harvin will even be able to grace the same field.
Oh, sure, I’ve gotten a fair amount of flak from my Iowan relatives, most of whom are avid Green Bay Packers fans, (all in good fun, mind you) and I’ll admit that pushes my buttons sometimes, but I’m stickin’ to my guns. The Vikes are my team, and I’m not going to abandon them so easily. We’re not as fair-weather as some might think.
I’ll admit that there was some doubt and perhaps a little embarrassment when I roomed with three Packers fans my last year in college, especially when the Pack went undefeated to the playoffs and the Vikes came in at a pathetic 3-13. However, when I learned the Pack was defeated by the New York Giants and therefore kicked out of the Super Bowl running, I definitely soaked in silent satisfaction as my roommates groaned and grumbled.
But the fans are what make up half of the enjoyment of the NFL. I witnessed both spectrums of fans at the Vikes/Lions game. One Lions fan got too rowdy, putting down our players and harassing our fans, and he ended up getting a talking to by the Dome staff. Luckily, fans were redeemed by a Lions’ supporter who, despite being surrounded by purple, danced along to our team theme and stood up to enthusiastically sing her own team’s theme when the Lions scored, even when they were down by three scores in the fourth quarter. Her spirit energized us all and reminded us of what team spirit should really look like.
The energy of that game, the wave of purple jerseys and the triumphant bellows of the Vikings’ horn reminded me why I enjoy football so much. I’m able to keep in touch with great friends at football parties. In a time filled with so much diversity, it’s a way to keep people united, just so long as we remember how to display proper team spirit.