The Minnesota Vikings are 6-0. Undefeated and on a roll, they are beginning to play the caliber of football their fans have long awaited for. Growing up, I never was a diehard Viking fan, but with the acquisition of a few key players over the past couple years, I have started to pay more attention to what is happening in the Viking camp.
The Vikings matched up against a formidable opponent last week, the Baltimore Ravens. For the game, I traveled to Cathedral Hill, where a friend was hosting a get-together at his apartment to watch the Vikings take on the Ravens. As people trickled in and the game progressed, I couldn't help but notice a hierarchy of fans within our little community. Some fans were dressed in Viking regalia and were entirely committed to the game. Late in the game, as things were looking grim for the Vikings, one of these diehard fans remarked that "if the Vikings lose this game, the rest of my day is shot," and I believed him. Other fans, which I will refer to as followers, rooted for the Vikings and hoped for the best, but their emotional state was not affected by the ebbs and flows of what turned out to be a thrilling victory for the Vikings/crushing defeat for the Ravens. The more fair-weather Viking fans, remembering let downs of seasons past, maintained a healthy skepticism throughout the game and occasionally heckled the more involved diehard fans for their relentless Purple Pride. Hence, a Viking fan hierarchy seems to exist and, below, I will attempt to further detail the characteristics of each level.
Diehard fans are everyday fans who closely follow the team throughout the entire year (not just during football season). They are fans who have been/will continue to be there for the Vikes through thick and thin. To stay informed of the latest news (injury updates, team strategies, player acquisitions, etc.), they may listen to local radio channels, follow the blogs of sports analysts, and read the articles of columnists in the sports section. For the diehards, the Vikings influence their day-to-day social interactions. For some, this means making an annual pilgrimage down to Mankato for training camp, while others use the Purple and Gold as a key conversational piece. Some, at their worst, may become confrontational with fans of a division rival or an opposing team. During the season, missing a game is not an option for diehard fans. The diehards frequently attend games or social gatherings to watch games. At these gatherings, Viking regalia, which can range from wearing the jersey of a favorite player to dawning a pair of Viking horns, is extremely important. With each Viking win and loss, the emotional state of the diehard is strongly affected.
Followers are Sunday fans who pay attention to the Vikings only during the football season. Though followers do not support the Vikes through thick and thin, they have found ways to weather decades of disappointment and remain fans. For these fans, the Vikings are not a number one Sunday priority and, if there is something else going on, they are not devastated to miss a game. That being said, if they are to miss a game, they likely would try to find out if the Vikings emerged victorious later in the evening or early the next day. As for social interactions, followers use the Vikings as a fall-back conversational piece and occasionally attend a gathering to watch a game. They may visit the Metrodome every now and then to see a game, but are usually content with watching from home. When it comes to regalia, it is likely followers own some sort of Vikings shirt or jersey (though this isn't required), but they tend to resist anything over the top (Viking horns, face paint, etc.). With each Viking win and loss, the emotional state of the follower is mildly affected.
Though they might not admit it, in most cases, fair-weather fans have followed the Vikings for quite some time. Fair-weather fans have not been able to navigate the decades of disappointment like the followers have and usually tend to be recovering diehards. Their fan-ship is always in motion, ebbing and flowing with the ups and downs of the team. As a new football season begins, these fans, disenchanted and occasionally bitter, start to wonder if paying attention to the Vikes is really worth their time and energy. They may watch or listen to the first game, but once something goes wrong, they turn the game off, grumbling something along the lines of "here we go again." Fair-weather fans take pride in their cynicism and may even project a sinister grin upon hearing of a recent Viking loss. A favorite past time of the fair-weather fan is to create a common scapegoat to blame for each loss. Though this scapegoating helps increase the bitterness of a fair-weather fans, by uniting them against a common enemy, it also sustains the cycle of their ever-wavering fan-ship.