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FOND DU LAC…. I was on vacation last week, and contemplating how the 1st half of the year has went with the loss of my father and with the recent loss of a 16 year canine buddy, I decided to just stay home. My physical and mental being were crying for a break and so it was. I managed to get in some serious recliner time. I even got to do some serious “testing” of a big screen TV I got last Christmas. In between watching a myriad of shows on the food channel and my favorite car shows, you know the auction and rebuilding type, I got to squeeze in a lot of reading.
I got to catch up on a lot of political reading and then on Saturday eve I came across many “headers” online about the Minnesota Vikings legendary center Mick Tinglehoff and his Football Hall of Fame Induction event. I knew that this last weekend was the annual event and I knew that this was Tinglehoff’s induction weekend. Just a couple of weeks ago my mother was on the phone with another Viking legend, family friend and former Trainer Fred Zamberletti, and he had mentioned the event to my mom but said he wasn’t up to traveling out to Canton OH to attend the event. Fred’s health and energy is up and down at this point in time.
And honestly, as a reminder, my own personal malaise and angst with today’s National Football League hasn’t gone anywhere. It still bugs me that the wealthiest sports business in the history of man always has their hand out to the taxpayers when it is time to put up a new stadium, not only that but they are still classified as a “tax exempt-non profit” entity as far as Federal taxes go, (non profit, right!) and they still have quite a few young punks in their employ that engage in a myriad of questionable or even unlawful behavior on a somewhat regular basis.
Having said that, when I go back to my youth and think about growing up where I did, the Vikings come up quite a bit. I think of the early days, not being a really good team yet, but of how exciting a style the team played. I think of my childhood neighbors that played for the team and what good guys they were. I think of probably never missing a game whether it was on TV or I was there in person, home or road until I was hospitalized in 1977, and then it was because I was still unconscious from a 10 hour surgery. I think of how lucky we were as fans to have the collection of talent that we had in the sixties and seventies. I recall the four moments of utter devastation and sadness…
But I finally clicked on one of the articles and it was of Mick’s moment of induction when they pulled the cloth off of his HOF bust that would be on display at the Hall. He was side by side with another Vikes legend, Fran Tarkenton who may have been the first Viking to become a household name, not only in Minnesota but for all NFL fans. I recall Fred coming home from practice one day and he handed over a signed Tarkenton photo wishing me a happy 9th birthday. I still have it. So here in this clip are two guys who meant the world to me at one time in my life, and it seems like so long ago. But there they both were posing with the bust and smiling and then made their way to the podium. I could see Fran ask Mick if he wanted to speak and Mick said no.
He has been battling short term memory problems and most likely other health matters related to his playing days. The few days out at Canton were taking their toll on Mick, he had missed one HOF event already to rest up. So Fran stepped to the microphone and he said: Mick is a man of little words, but of a lot of action. There was a smattering of applause, then, “he waited 37 years to get here“….
Francis couldn’t continue at that moment, he was breaking down, fighting back tears. I was too, but since I was losing out on that I just let it go. It hit me hard, much harder then I would have thought if I had known ahead of time that I would react like that. I had seen Francis play most of his career, I had seen him in person, at Welcome Vikings dinners and the like and this was the first time I had witnessed that kind of emotion from him. To contemplate the lifelong bond that these men carry with them was pretty heavy. Fran went on to say that Mick wanted to thank all of his old teammates that came out for his weekend, The Vikings supreme legendary Coach Bud Grant, (my words) the fans in attendance and even the big Steelers fan contingent there to welcome Jerome Bettis into the HOF. It appeared that everyone there was standing and applauding.
I watched the clip a few more times, the emotional pull of it was astonishing. So I started to look at other stories for the weekend and then I came upon a photo of former Vikings assembled at the event to honor their old teammate, and I was hit with a flood of emotion a second time. In a photo with Mick and Fran at the center of it with the podium in between them were from right to left, Gary Zimmerman, Carl Eller, Paul Krause, Bud Grant, Mick, Fran, Ron Yary, John Randall, Cris Carter, Chris Doleman and Randall McDaniel. Now I am all shook up all over again! These are all Vike Hall of Famers. The only ones not in this photo were Alan Page and the late Jim Finks.
To see Mick and realize that he might be at a place in life where he has a lot of challenging days brought some sadness to me. And as much as those guys loved the game and playing it, they were doing it for my entertainment too, and all of the other fans. I often think of these guys and that old question where if you knew the shape you would be in today would you still have played? Almost one hundred percent of them say, yes, damn right I would! PEACE