Friday, April 11, 2014
Ahmad Rashad miracle catch of 12/14/80: "priceless"
You can read "Ball Four" by Jim Bouton, about baseball in the late 1960s, and be struck by the minuscule amounts of money being haggled over. Today of course the sums are what the late Willie Martin of Morris would call "astronomical." Maybe we were better off when a dollar went further, I don't know.
These thoughts are germane as I launch into the subject of a famous Minnesota Vikings pass and catch. Ahmad Rashad made the catch. I remember following his career when his name was Bobby Moore. He was "Ahmad Rashad" as a Viking and he had great impact. And never more so than on December 14, 1980.
Jimmy Carter was a lame duck president. The nation had elected Ronald Reagan a month earlier. The Vikings were still playing outdoors at Metropolitan Stadium, Bloomington. If only those bleachers could talk. It was "the Met" that brought Minnesota into the big leagues. Remember, before 1961 the state really only coalesced around the "Minnesota Golden Gophers."
"The Met" on its last legs
In 1980 the history of our beloved "Met" was winding down. My generation, the boomers, had clearly gotten tired of it. Us spoiled boomers should have appreciated that stadium as the means for us even getting the Vikings and Twins, so we wouldn't be the "cold Omaha" which was always the visage held over our heads if we were to lose these teams. The boomers always get their way.
Now we're set to embark on the adventure of seeing the obscenely opulent new Vikings stadium be erected. It'll be quite an erection.
Dramatics amidst the cold in '80
Let's step in the Way-Back Machine and go back to December 14 of 1980. The temperature is 20 degrees. We were likely living up to our image of rows of fans wearing snowmobile suits. Fans consumed booze with the excuse of "keeping the cold out." Silly rabbit, we were just a more booze-oriented culture back then. Wasn't it a booze bottle that struck a referee after the infamous Drew Pearson catch in 1975?
Anyway, wintry conditions prevailed on the Bloomington prairie on that mid-December day of 1980, as dusk began to make its presence felt. The Solstice was nigh. Christmas was of course a week away. And for those who loved the Vikings, a big "present" was going to be afforded them by game's end.
Chalk this game up as among the most memorable for the purple faithful. Those who had consumed booze to excess might have wondered if they took everything in properly. Such were the odds against us, legend has it many fans left prematurely. I seem to recall a well-known Morris banker and his wife or girlfriend being among those exiting early.
I do remember vividly a giddy mood out and about in Morris on Monday. In those days before the more fragmented media made our entertainment consumption more diverse, we had a shared culture and tended to live or die with the Vikings. Mike Lynn was the team's puppetmaster with personnel and he became like a lightning rod, being perceived negatively more than positively. I remember being amused by his comment, "If you think my wife is attractive now, you should have seen her 15 years ago."
On Monday after that remarkable game, I was making my usual rounds and stopped by the restaurant where Riverwood Bank is now. What was its name then? It went through several incarnations, so I'm not sure. At first it was "Del Monico" which was a name transferred from when the restaurant was across the street, where Thrifty White Drug is now. Then it was "Kelly's Fine Foods" with the dynamic Kelly McCann in charge (and her quiet husband Fred). And then, "Ardelle's Eatery" with the grouchy Ardelle Anderson presiding (whose husband unfortunately died not long after they acquired the place).
This is a restaurant that I feel Morris misses. It has never really been replaced.
"I fell off the davenport"
On Monday morning, Dec. 15, I was at this quintessential main street diner and was amused to see good ol' Fritz Schmidt and the typically giddy mood of Vikings fans. Fritz wore a little Vikings hat complete with a couple little horns protruding out. He thrust up his "No. 1" finger and I snapped a photo of him, which ended up on the Morris newspaper front page. This was during the heyday of the Morris Sun Tribune, when it was larger and provided a real public service, not an appendage for the Alexandria business community.
I chatted with ol' Fritz (who is still with us) and got a quote: "I fell off the davenport."
The Vikings game of the day before, ended with Ahmad Rashad saying to a teammate "Do you like money?"
The Vikings' sudden and dramatic win did have a financial reward. I remember one Minneapolis media columnist complaining that Rashad was just too materialistic with his comment, and should have just reveled in the joy of the moment, a moment of defying steep odds to win.
What kind of reward was Rashad celebrating? "Five thousand dollars a man," which prompts me to remember the "Dr. Evil" statement about "one million dollars!"
Five thousand dollars? That's couch change by the standards of big league sports today. They could lose that by sneezing.
Five thousand dollars! Yes, prices were lower then. Big league sports have squeezed every possible benefit from the burgeoning U.S. economy that eventually took hold with Ronald Reagan in office.
NFL owners have unapologetically exploited us salivating fans. It has come to where Jerry Jones has put up a football stadium/palace that makes me think of Sodom and Gomorrah. We haven't been punished by God yet.
Mark Dayton of Minnesota has gotten on the bandwagon for such things, showing virtually no restraint in acquiescing to the wishes of Zygi Wilf, our smarmy owner. Pay no attention to Zygi's ethical lapses out east, out in Chris Christie country. We bow at the altar of Vikings football regardless of the owner's standing. The team has teased us all along with success and dramatics sufficient to keep us salivating.
The game of December 14, 1980, ranks way up there. The fan turnout was 42,202, a grand assemblage to be sure. But many had headed to the exits with hopes low near the end of this game vs. Cleveland (the "old" Browns).
Whenever I think of the Browns, I think of how they have no symbol or logo on the side of the helmet. I remember when a prominent Vikings blogger, using the name "Mr. Cheer or Die," pulled an impressive April Fool's joke by reporting that the Vikings were changing the logo on the side of the helmet, from the horn to the letter "V." I bought it for a while. This blogger, sort of a pioneer at the time, eventually "retired" because he felt his online venture was taking more time than it was worth to him. He wrote a "farewell" post complete with an image of "The Four Horsemen." This was back when I thought starting a blog was a big and complicated deal, that you'd have to get a big thick book called "Blogging for Idiots" (which I actually saw once).
Silly rabbit, I eventually found I could launch online writing by spending 15 minutes, in which I could even get my first post up.
Today I'm writing about the famous Ahmad Rashad catch, what Joe Soucheray called the "I was there" catch. The hardy and reverential fans who stayed 'til the end could say "I was there."
The Vikings trailed Cleveland 23-22 and only four seconds were left. Tommy Kramer called the signals with the ball at the Cleveland 46 yard line. Time for one play. You know the routine. Doug Flutie got famous in a situation like this. Three Vikings receivers lined up wide right: Terry LeCount, Rashad and Sammy White. The Browns flooded the right corner with six deep backs.
Rashad backed into the end zone
Many of the fans watched from the exit ramps, almost disbelieving, about what transpired. Legend has it that Rashad caught the ball off a tip by White. But a Cleveland back name of Thom Darden insisted he got a hand on the ball. Rashad was at the two yard line when he "reached across himself" and snared the ball with his left hand. He was facing the opposite end of the field when he backed into the end zone. He fell and sat there clutching the touchdown, probably wondering how he did it.
The win gave the Vikings their eleventh NFC Central Division title in 13 years. In the celebration that erupted, Rashad looked to LeCount and said "Do you like money?" Did the players really have dollar signs in their eyes over $5000? Well, I would, but that's a different matter.
"One million dollars!" Dr. Evil said. We laughed, just as we're inclined to smile as we read the account of that cold December day in 1980, Ronald Reagan waiting in the wings, when "purple pride" ballooned.
Rashad would later say the big play had a sandlot quality to it, remindful of how Fran Tarkenton orchestrated things in his heyday. I prefer this post-game quote, obviously, to the money-oriented one.
We're building the new stadium because the Metrodome apparently wasn't enough of a money-generating machine for the NFL. Do we have to believe everything Zygi Wilf and his minions tell us? At least one judge in New Jersey doesn't readily believe this man. And every day we take another bite.
To date I don't think anything has come out about Zygi having a connection to the George Washington Bridge closing (LOL).
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - firstname.lastname@example.org