When the Vikings are losing, 99-year-old Millie Wall throws a yellow foam brick at her TV. A few years ago, Wall was throwing the brick so much that she attached a string to it so that she wouldn’t have to get out of her chair to retrieve it.
“I got tired of getting up so much,” Wall said.
But this year is different.
This year, the Vikings are winning — and so is Wall. Last week, the longtime fan received a gift from the team: tickets to Sunday’s playoff game against the New Orleans Saints to celebrate turning 100 this year.
“I’m so shocked. This is right out of a movie,” Wall said. “I said, ‘Why are they doing this? Because of my age?’ I suppose it’s because I’ve been a fan forever, since they started.”
The surprise was captured on video by Millie’s granddaughter, Ashley Wall, and shared to Twitter. The Vikings shared the video too — it has more than 240,000 views on Facebook. Watch it here:
With astonishment, Millie opened a care package of purple and gold memorabilia, and read the letter aloud.
“You’ve gotta be kidding,” she said.
The letter said:
“We would like to invite you, one of the biggest fans, to attend our playoff game on Sunday, Jan. 14. We know you will bring us luck as we enter into this playoff run and hope to bring it home. Thank you for the many years of supporting and cheering on our team, and making us part of your life.”
After the Vikings were founded in 1961, Wall became an instant fan. With three sons who were into sports, it was inevitable. While Wall said she loves every sport, the Vikings have a special place in her heart, and she has remained devoted to the team even during the rough seasons.
“Some years I was throwing my brick an awful lot,” she said.
Still, during every game, Wall was in her chair watching her team play with her brick in her hand. In her other hands? A screwdriver cocktail with a splash of cranberry juice.
“That’s the greatest thing about my grandma — every year since 1961 she continues to have hope in this team,” Ashley said.
When the news of Wall’s early birthday gift broke, Vikings fans and rivals alike shared stories, videos, tweets and Facebook posts. At 99, Millie Wall had gone viral.
“I’m from the old school, you know,” Wall said. “It’s been overwhelming, but awesome.
“My son was reading a couple of Twitters that came in and they are so funny.”
In one of the tweets, a Saints fan noted that it was great what the Vikings were doing for Wall, but joked that if the game turns out to be a close nail biter she might have a heart attack.
Upon hearing this, Wall laughed hysterically. “I think it’s the funniest thing,” she said. “I’ve been laughing all morning.”
Between comments on the Vikings and Sports Illustrated websites, and hundreds of tweets, Wall said she’s aware that Vikings fans are counting on her for a win.
“I know and I don’t like that,” she said of the mounting pressure. “I’m praying every night. Don’t let me down.”
First game at U.S. Bank
While Wall has watched the Vikings play at the old Met Stadium, the Metrodome and even Lambeau Field, Sunday’s game will be her first Vikings playoff game and first game at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Wall said she’ll attend the game with her sidekick, granddaughter Ashley. Wall will meet up with her family for brunch on Sunday and then the Vikings will send a limo to pick them up for the game.
“She toured the stadium when it was empty, but I think the atmosphere during a playoff game, the amount of people, the noise, will be so overwhelming for her,” Ashley said. “In a good way. It’s all going to come to life for her.”
The Vikings said they will roll out the red carpet for Wall, and she’ll have a chance to meet the Wilf family and team executives.
“We’ve had a chance to host dignitaries and fans from around the world and while all of them are important, Millie is the most unique fan we have hosted in my 13 years here,” said Kevin Warren, chief operating officer for the Vikings. “She is older than the NFL and that is really cool to think about.”
Wall said she is grateful to the Vikings for making her 100th year so memorable. But there’s one thing that could make it even better:
“All I have to say is they better hurry up and win the Super Bowl,” Wall said. “Because I can’t live forever.”
Aimee Blanchette • 612-673-1715 @aimeeblanchette