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Vikings Look Like a Tough Sell

September 28, 2002|Sam Farmer

I got a ticket once for flipping a U-turn in the middle of a block in Westwood. That minor transgression cost me something like $75 and an entire Saturday in traffic school, where I was treated to four hours of gruesome movies showing highway pileups.

Imagine if I had scooped the police officer up on my hood and driven him half a block before dumping him on his face.

Apparently, if you do that to a traffic-control agent in Minneapolis, you don't even miss a full day's work. Oh, yes, there is a caveat: You have to be Randy Moss.

I'm not going to sermonize on the special treatment athletes receive, or how absurd it is that Hennepin County prosecutors couldn't put together a felony case against Moss, even though eyewitnesses saw him use his 2002 Lexus to nudge 27-year-old agent Amy Elizabeth Zaccardi down the street, stopping only when she fell but never getting out of his car.

Is it a surprise that the Vikings have decided not to suspend Moss for Sunday's game against the Seahawks? Of course not.

My point is this: The 0-3 Minnesota Vikings are in as much disarray as any organization in sports, and I just pray they never wind up in Los Angeles. Red McCombs is trying to sell the team and the NFL would love to have a franchise in L.A., assuming there is a stadium that fits the bill. At first glance, it appears the Metrodome lease will keep the team in Minnesota for years to come, but McCombs has indicated there are ways out of it.

Buyer beware, though. Consider the last five years:

* 1997--Then-coach Dennis Green writes his autobiography, "No Room For Crybabies," and drops a bombshell in the final chapter. He says he has a "secret money mentor" who will enable Green to become his own boss by buying out the 10-member consortium that owned the team at the time. It made headlines and shook up some people, but in the end Green couldn't produce the green.

* 1998--The Vikings get off to a spectacular 15-1 start, Randall Cunningham is playing the best football of his life, and the club's decision makers look like geniuses for drafting Moss with the 21st pick. The Marshall receiver's troubled background scared off a lot of teams, yet he turns out to be the diamond of the rookie class. The Vikings are Super Bowl bound ... until Gary Anderson, the NFL's most reliable kicker that season, misses a 38-yard field-goal attempt against Atlanta in the NFC championship game. His miss in the fourth quarter is his first of the season--and Atlanta's Morten Andersen nails a kick from the same spot to win it in overtime.

* 1999--Minnesota uses its top pick on Daunte Culpepper, and, with its second selection in the first round, drafts Michigan State defensive lineman Demetrius Underwood. Culpepper is a good choice; Underwood goes AWOL after the first day of training camp and sets off on a two-week odyssey of self-discovery. Eventually, the team works out a settlement with him and cuts him loose.

* 2000--After an unexpectedly strong 11-2 start, the Vikings lose their last three but still make the playoffs, where they open with a divisional victory over New Orleans. They then lose the NFC championship game to the New York Giants, 41-0, or, as Moss puts it, "41 to doughnut." From the beginning of the 1998 season through the playoff victory over the Saints, the Vikings are a league-best 39-14. Since, they are 5-15.

* 2001--Pro Bowl tackle Korey Stringer dies of heatstroke after the second day of training camp, and months later his widow files a $100-million wrongful-death lawsuit against the Vikings. The club has neither tried to settle the suit, nor has it paid the remainder of Stringer's contract to his family. Meanwhile, Moss makes headlines for all the wrong reasons, first for his constant bickering with fellow receiver Cris Carter--as self-centered as anyone in the game--then for saying he only really plays when he wants to play.

* 2002--The Vikings are winless after three games and probably will miss the playoffs again. They haven't missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons since 1990 and '91, the end of the Jerry Burns era. Then again, they haven't been 0-3 since Bud Grant was a rookie coach in 1967.

All of this--particularly the Stringer lawsuit, which will be heard next summer--has to make it especially difficult for McCombs to get the asking price he wants.

Anyone who pays top dollar for the Vikings is being taken for a ride.

And, as any traffic-control agent will tell you, that's not a good thing.

Letter Perfect

In his just-released book, "Still Perfect: The Untold Story of the 1972 Miami Dolphins," author and South Florida Sun-Sentinel columnist Dave Hyde gives the inside scoop on kicker Garo Yepremian and his Super Bowl blunder, that hysterical attempt to complete a pass after his field-goal attempt had been blocked.

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