Monday, January 03, 2005

Message in the Mail

When the Vikings began the season at 5-1 and looked down the schedule to the game against the Giants, Vikings' head coach Mike Tice said that his team was prepared for New York and would exact revenge for two previous defeats at the hands of the Giants. Tice was wrong. Very wrong. Not only did the Giants beat Minnesota, they beat Minnesota badly.

Tice told us not to worry. He told us the Vikings would not crumble this year as they had after a similar demoralizing loss to the Giants in 2003. Tice was wrong again. Very wrong. Not only did the Vikings crumble after this year's loss to the Giants, they crumbled mightily, losing seven of their final 10 games in what Tice termed "the light part of our schedule.""We expect to get healthy here," the coach predicted. "If we don't, my butt should be on the line," he quipped.

Unfortunately, Red is not going to hold Tice to his words. And we know why. We know Red supports Tice for one reason only. Not because Tice is the best coach for the team. Not because Tice has made the most of his opportunities. Not even because Tice has demonstrated a steep learning curve on the job. No, those possibilities are eliminated from consideration if for no other reason than that they are quantitatively falsifiable.

But understanding Red's motivation for keeping Tice next season at $1 million requires much less work than would sifting through the numbers. The reason that Red opted to keep Tice this season is, of course, that keeping Tice saves Red money.

No, keeping Tice as head coach next season doesn't save Red money the way Bob Kraft "saves money"--by hiring an astute, experienced coach that gives the team a chance to win under any circumstance, thus ensuring a growing legion of loyal fans. Instead, keeping Tice as head coach next season saves Red money because Red understands that: (1) he needs someone that he can call his head coach; (2) Tice is willing to work for less than the league average despite having four years of "experience" as a head coach; and (3) Vikings' fans are so fanatical about the Vikings that they succumb to the annual tradition of applying blinders to the woes of the team.

The result is that the Vikings have an overwhelmed head coach with a packed stadium. And that's all good to Red. That's the bottom line.

And the bottom line here is that, if you really are a diehard Vikings' fan and a season-ticket holder, you will promptly send the Vikings' ticket office a letter stating that you are no longer interested in reserving season tickets--even if the price gauging ceases--until there is a change in ownership or ownership philosophy. That change, you will note, must include a focus on hiring quality coaches and qaulity (read "experienced") player personnel. Absent these changes, you will note, you will be happy to spend your season-ticket dollars elsewhere. Like on paying down the mortgage. Or taking the family on a vacation. Or even buying bags of rocks.

Sooner or later, Red should get the message. Sooner or later, the fans' decision not to renew season tickets will hit Red where it needs to--in the pocketbook. And if we are to accept that football is a business, and I do, then we should treat it as one. We should spend for a good product and turn up our noses at a bad product. And this team currently falls in the latter category.

You can cower and concern yourself over the prospect that the NFL will let Red take this team to LA if fans fail to gobble up season tickets, but why would you care? Your options are to: (1) continue to pay homage to an ownership that has no interest in bringing a championship caliber team to Minnesota or (2) refuse to pay homage and risk seeing the owner take his team to another city, where he will play his same used car game. merely do there what he has done here. As anyone so enamored with the Vikings that a lifetime of Les Steckel-like seasons is of value? Come on!

Send Red a message by not renewing your season tickets. Then we'll find out whether the used car salesman truly understands his audience.

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