Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Lions @ Vikings: A Special Game for a Special Duo

Believe it or not, I have some pretty fond memories of my two-and-a-half years living in Minnesota.

True, I hated the cold.  And yes, I hated my 70-hour work weeks (life of a News and Sports Director, I guess) that resulted in paychecks that McDonald's employees would laugh at.  And, did I mention it's cold there? (Seriously, -20 F should not register as an actual temperature, ever.)

When I wasn't freezing like LeBron in the 4th quarter (ZING!), I made great friends, learned a lot from my job, and got to cover some amazing stories, from President Obama to NFL playoff games.

But, hands-down the best memories I have from my time in the Land of 10,000 Lakes came on Sunday, October 12, 2008 and Sunday, November 15th, 2009.

Those days mark the annual meeting between the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings at the Metrodome and my dad and I were at both of them.

On each of those two mornings, the two of us woke up with optimism, hope, and enthusiasm and excitedly put on our Honolulu Blue Lions' jerseys (he rocked the Barry Sanders, I had on the Megatron one, and if my grandpa was there, we were determined to find him a Bobby Lane uni).

I lived about an hour away from the Dome so he and I established a nice tradition of stopping at the Denny's just over halfway through the drive and grabbing a pregame champions breakfast.  When we stepped into the restaurant showing our unwavering support of the boys from Motown, heads turned.  In a sea of purple, we bravely walked with our heads high and blue bright.   I felt like we were two high school boys sneaking into the girls' locker room.   Everyone just looked and stared in disgust, or at least it felt that way.

Once we got down to the game, we enjoyed the pleasantries of downtown Minneapolis (my dad fell in love with this Ethiopian restaurant) and the ugliness of the Metrodome.

But, all the pregame activities pale in comparison to the moment right before kickoff.

I covered every Vikings home game for two seasons, except for when they played the Lions because I wanted to be able to be in the stands with my dad, acting like a maniac for three hours, cheering on our team. So while I may have missed the catering of the press box, it was still no match for that feeling we both shared together as the Lions ran out onto the field.

My dad is about as calm of a man as there is.  He is rarely phased by something and keeps his emotions in check 99-percent of the time.  But, when he heard "Immigrant Song" by Led Zepplin which the Vikings blast through the speakers before every game, the man got jacked up.   He would throw up high fives and put his hands in the air like he was DJ Khaled.  A caged animal broke loose and was out for four quarters.

The Lions lost both games.  We are both convinced the refs robbed us of the first game even with Dan Orlovsky running out of the back of the end zone for a safety  and the Vikings simply dominated the second go around.

But even though we left the Metrodome twice without seeing our Lions win, the old man and I still talk about those weekends often and the laughs and smiles are still as fresh as they were two and three years ago.

The Lions head back to the Metrodome, Sunday.  My dad and I won't be there.   Since I moved to Indiana, my days at the Dome are over.  But, the Lions game in Minnesota still holds a special place in my heart.

Fortunately, I am going back to Michigan for the weekend and will be able to watch Detroit's game in the Metrodome with my dad, just like we used to.  However this time, the Lions are undefeated (they were winless in 2008) and actually favored to win.

I expect there will be a special Ari Gold-type 'hug it out' embrace between the two of us after we watch the Lions walk out of the Metrodome feeling like winners, just like my dad and I always did.

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