Keith Spera writes about music, culture and his kids for The Advocate in Baton Rouge, La. In the run-up to the Vikings’ NFC divisional round game against the New Orleans Saints, we’ll be sharing stories from The Advocate, including this letter from Spera to Minnesotans.
Thanks in advance for hosting the Saints this weekend. Maybe next time, you can first move your state 1,000 or so miles to the south.
Your arctic climate is, to say the least, a challenge. It’s as if Queen Elsa from “Frozen” visited, then forgot to reverse the effects of her Eternal Winter.
On “Game of Thrones,” they say, “Winter is coming.” In Minnesota, does it ever leave?
Eleven miles of enclosed, elevated “skyways,” aka human hamster tunnels, connect buildings in downtown Minneapolis, just so pedestrians can get around without risking frostbite.
Ultimately, the cold won’t matter to the hardy Who Dats who make the journey up north for Sunday’s Saints/Vikings showdown at U.S. Bank Stadium (which, thankfully, is enclosed). They will adapt and survive.
Did you see those North Carolina alligators in a frozen swamp, poking their snouts through the ice to breathe while hibernating?
That’ll be us in Minneapolis — adapting and surviving. Except we won’t be hibernating.
In some respects, Minnesotans and New Orleanians live parallel existences.
You travel between the Twin Cities. We travel along the Twin Spans.
The Mississippi River originates in your state, and concludes in ours.
In 2016, you lost music legend Prince, while we lost music legend Pete Fountain.
The roof of your old Metrodome was partially destroyed by snow. The roof of our Superdome was partially destroyed by a hurricane.
Running back Adrian Peterson spent 10 years with the Vikings, and what seemed like 10 minutes with the Saints.
But there are differences.
During football games, you blow a Gjallarhorn, an instrument of Norse legend whose name translates as the distinctly unmusical-sounding “yelling horn.” We groove to the decidedly more melodic Mardi Gras anthem “Second-Line, Pt. 1.”
We prefer ice in our drinks, not coating our eyeballs.
In short, you get cold, while we get crunk.
At first glance, naming a landlocked team the Vikings makes about as much sense as naming a team that plays within staggering distance of Bourbon Street the Saints.
But Minnesota is stocked with Scandinavians whose ancestors were actual Vikings. And Saints fans have historically spent a lot of time praying. For far too many seasons, divine intervention was our team’s only hope.
The Saints posted several decades’ worth of pitiful records. The Vikings, by contrast, have consistently rung up impressive win totals during the regular season.
But you inevitably lose the games that matter.
And at least two of the most bitter losses were in New Orleans.
In 1974, you triumphed in two playoff games outdoors in the frigid cold of your hometown, only to blow Super Bowl IX against the Steelers at Tulane Stadium.
Overall, I suspect any Vikings fan would gladly trade your four Super Bowl losses for the Saints’ single Super Bowl appearance/win.
And we all remember how the Saints got to that Super Bowl — by beating the Vikings in an NFC Championship Game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. When Garrett Hartley’s field goal sailed through the uprights in overtime on Jan. 24, 2010, New Orleans was thrown into a state of ecstasy. Minnesota was thrown into an all-too-familiar state of despair.
You’re no doubt eager to avoid another disaster. But be warned: Saints fans, players and coaches are hyped.
Check out the viral video of the Saints locker room celebration following last Sunday’s gutsy playoff win over the Panthers. Buff men are transformed into a scrum of giddy schoolboys by the sheer exhilaration of a hard-fought, down-to-the-final-play victory.
Coach Sean Payton, in his rhythmically challenged way, led his players in a goofy, utterly un-selfconscious dance. A clip of the scene inspired local musician Shamarr Allen to write a song. His “Hit the Sean Payton” has subsequently inspired even more dancing citywide.
Could your head coach bust a move like that? Probably not. And “Hit the Mike Zimmer” just isn’t as snappy.
No NFL team has ever played a Super Bowl in its home stadium. You’re two wins away from being the first.
Honestly, none of us expected the Saints to be one of your roadblocks. Certainly not after the Vikings and Patriots dealt Saints fans a dose of pessimism early in the season.
But our young defense has jelled, and the team as a whole has filled the gaps left by injuries. Like the molten, liquid-metal “Terminator,” we’ve been damaged, only to reform stronger than ever.
Drew Brees turns 39 on Monday. He’s nine years older than your upstart, similarly undersized quarterback, Case Keenum.
But Brees isn’t bound for the broadcast booth any time soon. As the Panthers learned the hard way, you underestimate him at your peril. He carved up the Panthers like an ice fisherman filleting a walleye.
The Superdome was absolutely electric that night, and the city’s excitement level has only amped up since then. On Sunday, that electric charge will crackle up the Mississippi River all the way to Minnesota.
Provided, of course, your stretch of the Mississippi isn’t frozen.
The Who Dat Nation