Sunday, April 23, 2017

Vikings Fan Spotlight

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(photo used with permission)

When the 2015 NFL schedule came out, I found myself frustrated and complaining because the Vikings’ season opener doesn’t start until after 9:00 p.m. Which means I will be awake until after midnight. On a Monday. I couldn’t believe this level of inconvenience.

And then I met Erik Sandgren.

Sandgren lives in Täby, a suburb of Stockholm, Sweden. There is a seven-hour time difference between Minneapolis and Täby. When the Vikings play the 49ers on Sept. 14, Sandgren will be tuning in at 4 a.m. And suddenly, just like that, I feel like a much less dedicated fan.

Sandgren’s story is a good one. Now 35 and loving life with his wife and daughter, Sandgren first became a Vikings fan almost 20 years ago when he lived in Boise, Idaho as an exchange student. His host family, the Fends, provided Sandgren with plenty of rich experiences and helped integrate him into the U.S. culture.

As Idaho has no NFL team of its own, John Fend adopted the Denver Broncos as his team years ago. His son, Kyle, supports the Green Bay Packers (but we won’t talk much about that). Sandgren was a big fan of European soccer, and he was disappointed that the U.S. did not have a big emphasis on the sport at the time. Both being big American football fans, John and Kyle introduced the sport to Sandgren. At first, he was less than fascinated.

“I enjoyed watching the games, but I really had no tooting interest,” Sandgren recalls.

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John Wolfsberger is a man of many talents and interests. I initially made his acquaintance as a fellow Vikings fan, and when I came to know more about his life outside of the football, I discovered he is a husband, a father, a firefighter and a voiceover actor.

I assumed that Wolfsberger tried one career, then transitioned to something different. I was wrong. Wolfsberger navigates the schedules and atmospheres of both jobs, and he loves each of them.

Working out of Station 7 on the East Side of St. Paul, Wolfsberger is a full-time firefighter and takes great pride in his job. He has had hundreds of calls over the years, some more memorable than others, but one day that stands out clearly in his mind happened a couple years ago.

We received a call with a report of a house fire and a person still trapped inside,” Wolfsberger recalled. He explained that crews got to the fire extremely fast and were able to save the little girl. “The paramedics stabilized her and got to the hospital quickly. After her recovery, she and her family stopped by the station [to meet us]. It was so cool to see that she was doing great!

His everyday job is often rewarding, but Wolfsberger doesn’t deny the intensity of it, either—which makes it that much more fun to have such a vastly different side gig.

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Living in Sebeka, MN, Mike Arthur proves to be another storied Vikings fan, his childhood filled with memories surrounding the purple and gold. When Arthur was in kindergarten, he played football with his friends, and they each picked players to act as. Arthur always chose Anthony Carter or Tommy Kramer.

Things really picked up for Arthur when Hall of Fame WR Cris Carter entered the picture.”I became a super fan when Warren Moon and Carter started connecting for all those touchdowns,” he remembers.

There has been plenty of disappointment between “the good ol’ days” and now, and Arthur has endured the pain and heartache with the rest of us. However, he’s ready and excited for a season that will hopefully go a little more according to plan.

The offseason is in full swing, and the Vikings have made plenty of moves praised by the fans, including Arthur. Drafting CB Trae Waynes and LB Eric Kendricks will prove significant for Minnesota. Arthur weighs in on the selections:

“Waynes will be a huge upgrade in our secondary and should help this defense turn the corner from being good to great. I think of all the trouble the Vikings had getting off the field on third down last season, and he should be the key to that puzzle.” 

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(photo used with permission)
If you are a Minnesota sports fan and a memorabilia collector, chances are you’ve seen a piece of Ryan Fors’ artwork along the way.Fors is an avid Minnesota sports fan himself, and he has loved to draw and paint for as long as he can remember. It only makes sense that his two interests would combine, but he never imagined it would grow the way it has.

“I got into the stencils and sports paintings about 7-8 years ago as an inexpensive gift I could give family members,” Fors explained, “and things kind of took off from there.”Randy MossOver the past several years, Fors has created over 400 pieces, many of those being likenesses of Minnesota athletes.

Of course, several of the paintings feature Vikings players. Fors has been supporting the purple and gold since Day 1.

“My earliest memory is when I was given an autographed Carl Lee napkin from a family friend,” he said. “As a kid, I thought that was the coolest thing.”

Although Fors didn’t play football himself–rather, he was a basketball player–he loved watching the Vikings and had many player favorites throughout the years. The fan has no doubt in his mind when it comes to his all-time favorite player, though: Randy Moss, hands down.  Moss played with an intensity and natural talent that Fors (and many other Vikings fans!) thrived on, and Fors’ prints featuring Moss are incredibly popular.

Like most die-hard fans, Fors feels plenty of excitement surrounding Minnesota’s current roster and upcoming 2015 season. Despite the unforeseen road bumps in 2014, Fors reflected on the positives of the situation and also high expectations for next year:

“With what we had to deal with throughout the season and with a new coach, I think we did well. Teddy [Bridgewater] got some experience, hopefully AD comes back, and hopefully the new guys and Draft help us out. I think anything less than the playoffs next season would be a disappointment.”

Fors hopes to see Minnesota draft well at the end of the month, and he would love to see cornerback Trae Waynes playing at TCF Bank Stadium next year.The Vikings have made some decent free agency moves as well this offseason, including adding wide receiver Mike Wallace to the roster.

“I’m excited to see Wallace in purple,” Fors said. “I’m hoping he can help Teddy out downfield and also open things up for Adrian [Peterson].”

Who is he most excited to watch next season? Fors said it has to be his favorite player on the current roster: linebacker Anthony Barr, who will be entering his sophomore season with Minnesota.”The combo of speed and power is just fun to watch,” Fors explained. “[Barr has the] ability to make a game-changing play at any moment. Plus, he’s a fellow sneaker lover!”

Play-by-Play with Ryan

Cris CarterTop-Selling Paintings: Cris Carter, Kirby Pucket and, surprisingly, Buster Posey

Vikings Jerseys in Your Closet: Jared Allen, Adrian Peterson, Harrison Smith, Anthony Barr

Athlete You’d Like to Paint That You Haven’t Yet: I’ve been trying to clear up some free time to get a Purple People Eaters piece done.

Favorite Movie: So many to choose from! But I think I have to go with Pulp Fiction … with Kingpin being a close second.

Ryan on the Web:
Twitter: @ryan_fors
Contact: info@ryanfors.com
See more of Ryan’s work and his online store at ryanfors.com!

 

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This week’s Vikings Fan Spotlight is the final segment of a 3-week project. I had such an amazing response on Twitter from Vikings fans all over the world, and I decided to break this feature into three separate parts. 

Simon Bruus – Denmark – @Bruusen

SimonQ: How did you first become a Vikings fan?
A: My grandfather’s great grandfather is from Minneapolis, and my grandfather […] calls himself “The biggest Vikings fan in Europe.” He religiously follows the Vikings every Sunday when they’re on, and he also religiously watch[es] the University of Minnesota’s football team, the Golden Gophers. Sometimes when I was younger, [I would] stay at my grandparents’ just to watch the Vikings with him, therefore the transition to becoming a Vikings fan was very easy.

Q: Are there a lot of other Vikings fans in Denmark?
A: In Norway [where I am studying abroad], there are almost none as I know of, but in Denmark there is a huge Vikings community. Denmark in general is a very “NFL-happy” nation and as far as I know one of the biggest followers of the sport outside the U.S.

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