Minnesota, Sports

Why Vikings fans are better than Packers fans

The regular season christening of U.S. Bank Stadium is finally upon us, and the opening opponent couldn’t be bigger. This Sunday, the much-reviled Green Bay Packers will make their way to Minneapolis to take on the hometown Minnesota Vikings in a Week 2 matchup of long time division rivals. Purple people like myself have been waiting a while for this moment. The stadium is an awe-inspiring architectural feat, and while I’m not crazy about how the politics went down, I can’t deny my giddiness towards the finished product. And with a football club that looks ready to take the next step, what better way would there be to break in the new building than kicking the crap out of my all-time least favorite team.

Annoying Packer fans will surely be looking to spoil it for us. Twin Cities-based Cheeseheads have most assuredly swept up their fair share of the tickets, and with a fanbase that travels as well as any team in the league, there is no doubt that plenty of lifelong Wisconsinites will be waddling their way into the stadium as well. If things don’t go the Vikes’ way, which would be less than surprising, “Go Pack Go” chants could very well become distressingly audible through our television set speakers.

This is why the Green & Gold believe themselves to be the greatest fans in all of sports. Their passion and loyalty is difficult to match, especially when it comes to an organization as unfortunate and undecorated as the Minnesota Vikings. But despite outward appearances and all the success and accolades that the Green Bay Packers have amassed on the Vikes, one thing that they don’t have is better fans, and they never will. Here’s why:

Let me start with a concession: The Green Bay Packers are the greatest football franchise of all time. I don’t want that statement to be true, but it probably is. This is Title Town we are talking about after all—home of thirteen NFL championships, four of which were Super Bowls.

Even when they’re not winning titles in Green Bay, they are still winning football games. The Packers are the third winningest team in NFL history, an unsurprising stat for anyone that has been watching football for the past couple of decades. Twenty-two of the Pack’s last twenty-four seasons have resulted in .500 football or better. For Vikings fans my age, that means that the Packers have been winning basically our entire lives.

And winning aside, the team itself is just fucking cool. They are the only professional sports franchise that I can think of that is both named after and located in suburban America—a refreshing phenomenon for those of us who didn’t grow up in one of America’s thriving metropolises. What is more, that suburb owns them. Their system of public ownership is one of the most unique arrangements in all of sports. The stupid certificates that they hang on their walls may be meaningless, but I’d still rather be the pretend owner of a NFL franchise than the real life bitch of a billionaire. At the end of the day, when it comes to storied franchises, there are arguably none more storied than the Green Bay Packers, even if you’re reading that story through purple lenses.

The Vikings story, on the other hand, reads more like a dark satire in which the protagonist accidentally kills himself. We’ve had some good runs, but none that have ended in anything other than epic failure. People tell me that the Vikings once went to four Super Bowls, all of which they unsurprisingly lost. Not that it matters to me anyway, considering their last visit to the big one was in 1977, nine years before I was born.

There have been times in my life where the Vikings have appeared to possess Super Bowl potential, but of course none of those years ended well either. From 1998-2009, we did make it to three NFC Championship games, but two of those ended in heartbreak so tragic that you couldn’t script it if you tried, and the other was a 41-donut blowout.

Other seasons have seen the Vikings rotate between uninspiring mediocrity and laughing-stock status, and in those seasons, us fans have seen some wild-ass shit. We’ve seen our stadium roof collapse in and our star wide receiver attempt to mow down a traffic guard.   We’ve had to learn terms like “love boat” and “Whizzinator” just to participate in team-related water-cooler conversation. We’ve witnessed two hardly believable flights down to Hattiesburg and followed the unfolding of an incredibly bizarre child abuse saga in which Adrian Peterson was at one point riding a camel. In a perverse sort of way, the Vikings have always been entertaining, but it has hardly ever been the kind of entertainment that us fans are looking for.

It is not likely that the Vikings will dramatically alter that legacy in 2016. Despite a 1-0 start, Teddy Bridgewater’s season-ending injury has already tempered expectations for what looked like a promising season. A one-time dark horse candidate for the Super Bowl, the Minnesota Vikings would now be lucky just to repeat as NFC North champions, but that seems like a tall order in a division with this year’s odds-on Super Bowl favorite. Even if next Sunday goes our way, this season, in all likelihood, ultimately will not.

The paragraphs above illustrate a lot of the reasons why Packer fans view themselves as “better.” They have a better team, better icons, better stories, better legacy…But while the success of their organization is indisputable, it is also that success that has turned Green Bay Packer fans into a bunch of spoiled little brats, brats who have zero conception of the tenacity and resilience that goes into creating better fans.

Packer fans may be as passionate and loyal as they come, but they have never had that passion or loyalty truly put to the test. I’m passionate about my team when they are winning too, but heartbreak hardens a person, especially when you experience it in the immense doses that you do when rooting for the Vikings. And how challenging is it to be loyal to a team that so regularly provides the positive reinforcement necessary for the continuance of that commitment? Live through 1998, 2009, and all the mediocre-to-terrible seasons in between, and maybe then you’ll have something to write home about.

And then there is the quarterback position, the most important position in team sports. Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers are two of the greatest quarterbacks ever to play football, and they are the only two quarterbacks that have started meaningful games for the Packers over the last twenty-plus seasons. You know how many starting quarterbacks the Vikings have had during that time? Me neither.  But I can tell you that that group includes names like Tarvaris Jackson, Christian Ponder, and two separate stints of Brad Johnson, which is really all that you need to know.

It also says a lot about why Vikings fans are the way that they are, and likewise, why Packers fans are the way that they are. Last year’s post-season is a perfect example. A week after Blair Walsh’s infamous blunder, Vikings fans, recuperating from another spirit-crushing loss, were doing what we do every post-season: hitching our wagon to another team, preferably the one that would next be playing the Green Bay Packers. Hence, we were all Cardinals fans that weekend, and vociferously voiced our new found fanship on social media as they took on the Pack in a Divisional Round showdown. Bitter after a heartbreaking loss of their own, Packer fans struck back, chastising fans of the Vikes for their shameless celebration of schadenfreude. “Don’t you have anything better to do than root against our team?” they whiningly asked. “Isn’t it pathetic that your team is so terrible that you have to get your kicks by rooting against ours?” they complained annoyingly. No, we don’t, and yes, it is, but what those Packer fans don’t understand is, as fans of the Minnesota Vikings, that’s all we’ve got. That’s all that we’ve ever had.

Packer fans do not understand that in the entire history of the Minnesota Vikings, there has never been one single year that has ended in a Viking’s celebration. Every season in the Viking’s fifty-plus years of existence has either ended with an unsuccessful regular season campaign or a painful post-season defeat. We have no legacy to hang our hats on—no Super Bowl victories to revisit. At some point in every season, rooting for, or against, other teams is literally all that we have been able to do.

Packer fans pretend that they are different—that they are the league’s shining example of sportsmanship, too pure to participate in the sadistic ritual of reveling in another team’s misfortune. But it’s easy to be a good sport when you’re sitting inside of a trophy room packed wall-to-wall with proof of past seasons’ successes. If that room were as dust-filled and depleted as that of the Viking’s, perhaps they wouldn’t be so gracious.

Being a Vikings fan, on the other hand, is not easy. Being a Vikings fan is hard. Us Vikings fans have weathered some shit. It would probably be easier for us to just pack away our purple jerseys, pick a different team or a different sport, and put an end to all of our self-inflicted misery once and for all. But what makes Vikings fans great is that we don’t do that. We’re still here, still cheering on our club, still singing the Skol song in spite of all the reasons that our team has given us not to. We’ll be there this Sunday, we’ll be there next Sunday, and we’ll be there the Sunday after that. We’ll be there next season and next decade no matter how many blown ballgames, and embarrassing controversies, and season-ending injuries we endure. That’s because we are Vikings fans. We’ve been disappointed, heartbroken, and humiliated all our lives, but we always come back for more. That’s what makes us better. That’s what makes us the best.

Someday it will all be worth it. On that fateful evening when the Vikings finally lock down that first Super Bowl championship, all that stockpiled suffering that we’ve carried with us for years will be suddenly transformed into a sensation so sweet words won’t suffice to describe it. It will be an elation that can only result from decades of misery and hardship—a feeling that a privileged Packer fan has never and could never know. For once we will have something that we can truly celebrate. For once we will have a team that we can really be proud of. For once the Minnesota Vikings, as an organization, will be as great as the fans that represent it. And if that day never comes, well, we’ll still be wearing purple.

Follow me on Twitter!!! 

Minnesota, Sports

How much does it cost to watch the last place Minnesota Twins on a Tuesday night following a nearly 3-hour rain delay?

Last night, my buddies and I walked into the Freehouse, one of my favorite Minneapolis establishments, to grab some drinks and food and continue our social outing. It was a little after 10:00 PM when we arrived, which is why we were surprised to see the 2nd inning of Minnesota Twins baseball in progress up on the television. This was not a replay, but a live game taking place a few blocks away at Target Field following a rain delay due to the most epic storm to hit the Twin Cities thus far this summer.

The stadium was barren. At any given camera angle, there appeared to be more players on the field than fans in the stands. This shouldn’t be very surprising. The Twins are by far the worst team in the American League, and a game against the struggling Oakland Athletics is hardly a draw for fans on any night, let alone on a Tuesday post-rain delay. But we were out, we were thirsty, we were hungry, we had money to spend, and we figured, perhaps, for once in our lives, that money might actually buy us a few bargains down at Target Field.

We were wrong.

$17. That is the floor price for tickets to watch two terrible organizations play a meaningless game of baseball in an empty stadium at fucking midnight. No bartering allowed. And for Target Field and the Twins organization in general, this is an unequivocal embarrassment.

Since Target Field was built on the promise of increasing revenue and, consequently, organizational success for the Twins franchise on the field, the Twins have made the post-season exactly one time—their first season in the new stadium back in 2010. Since then, the Twins had put together back-to-back-to-back-to-back horrible seasons, a trend briefly bucked in 2015 when the Twins contended for a playoff spot well into September before ultimately coming up short. At the time, that run created a lot of hope. After the historically bad start to the 2016 season, that run now feels like a distant memory.

Attendance has reciprocated performance. As beautiful as that stadium is, it has failed to compete with the ugliness on the field. In 2015, Twins attendance numbers dropped for the fourth consecutive season, a trend they are unsurprisingly on pace to continue in 2016.


Which is what made last night such a great opportunity for the Minnesota Twins to finally do something good—an opportunity to make up for some of its organizational failures, to open up the gates, to partially apologize to the taxpayers who funded this beautiful ballpark, to generate some positive publicity for the organization for the first time since Opening Day. With one generous gesture, the Twins had an opportunity to say to their fanbase, “We have really failed you, and we acknowledge that. Come enjoy a cheap game on us. You’ve been loyal, and you deserve it. Spend the savings on our vendors, and try to enjoy yourself as much as possible on this unique night of baseball.”

But like the Twins have done so many times over the past six-and-a-half seasons, they blew it. Instead of appeasing a resentful fanbase, they sent us away even more resentful than before. Instead of my buddies and I walking away from Target Field after a rare Twin’s win, a few domestics, and a renewed sense of good will towards our struggling franchise, we returned to the Freehouse more frustrated than Joe Mauer during one of his many batting slumps.

I live four blocks away from the stadium and have yet to attend a game this year, and after last night’s experience, that trend will likely continue through the season’s end. It’s not because I hate the Twins. I’m a loyal fan. It’s not because of a begrudging attitude towards the organization either, all though last night was annoying. It’s because the Twins don’t give fans like me a reason to come out.

The Pohlad’s have generated hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue off of the construction of Target Field, a project mostly built on public money. Yet the Minnesota Twins still rank 20th in the league in payroll, a factor that partially explains why the on-field product is so underwhelming—why the Twins consistently fail to compete with AL teams like the Red Sox and the Yankees, or even small-market divisional opponents like the Tigers and the Royals. This wasn’t supposed to happen in the post-Target Field era, but nevertheless, it has.

I’ve been to Target Field enough times now. It’s a beautiful stadium. I love it. I’m glad we built it. I’m glad we have it. But I’m also over it. At $17 a ticket, Target Field alone is not enough to draw me out on a Tuesday night after a rain delay to watch one of the most unwatchable teams in baseball. I need a team worth watching, or I need a cheaper ticket.

My experience last night felt like a personal ‘fuck you’ from the Minnesota Twins to their fanbase. I don’t know if it was out of a lack of awareness or a lack of respect, but either way, that is not the message that you want to send to loyal fans that have stuck with the Twins in spite of the organization giving them so little reason to do so over such a sustained period of time. The Twins continue to baffle me at almost every organizational level, and as much as I’d like to think that the tide will soon turn, that the Buxton’s and Sano’s and Berrios’s of the world will soon right this ship and make Target Field a local destination worth coming out to, with everything that I’ve seen from the Twins over the last several seasons, I think that I’ll reserve that good will until they can prove that they actually deserve it.


Follow me on Twitter!!!

Sports, USA

Pot in Football: A No-Brainer Brain-Saver?

The NFL has become tougher to watch in recent years. This is not due to the product on the field, which is as spectacular as ever, but the knowledge that we are gaining about the consequences of all the head-banging, bone-crushing hits that go into making that product.

Our knowledge of the immense damage to the bodies and minds of many of our helmeted heroes saps some of the fun out of watching the game, even though it is partly our innate savage bloodlust that makes that game so fun to watch in the first place. But while problems like concussions are a total Sunday morning buzz kill, our increased awareness of such maladies has also led to an increased initiative to address them. As a result of this exposure, the NFL has made sensible in-game rule changes to protect players, increased its support system for those who have left the game, and contributed to research that could have positive, life-changing impacts for all people who suffer from brain-related injuries.

Which is why the recent three-pronged proposal by Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman, Eugene Monroe, is such a no-brainer:


Surprisingly, this statement made Eugene Monroe the first active player in NFL history to openly advocate for the use of marijuana to treat chronic pain and sports related injuries. However, as reasonable as his proposition may seem, early signs point to a staunch resistance.


By all accounts, the NFL already has a fairly lenient, look-the-other-way approach in regards to marijuana use by players. Most players are only tested one time per year, and they are usually quite aware of where and when that test will be. Once players have tested clean, they are unofficially free to participate in clandestine cannabis use all season and off-season long until the next training camp test rolls around.

However, this should not be misconstrued to mean that the NFL is a progressive institution in regards to marijuana. Marijuana use is highly vilified in the NFL, despite the likelihood that over 50% of its players are regular users. Players who, albeit stupidly, fail their training camp tests, can get sucked into a system that is impossible to beat, where they may be subject to testing up to ten times per month. Players who are caught publicly have it even worse, acquiring a stigma that can have profound effects on their careers. Nobody knows this better than rookie Miami Dolphins offensive lineman, Laremy Tunsil, whose stock dropped drastically in the 2016 NFL draft when video surfaced of him ripping a bong through a gas mask just minutes before the draft began, a drop that could have cost him up to 8 million dollars.

And while the NFL is punishing marijuana users, it is also actively promoting the use of drugs that are far more dangerous: opioid-based painkillers. In his highly publicized essay, Monroe describes what he calls the “T Train,” a line that forms in his locker room prior to every game where players wait to receive their pregame shot of the powerful painkiller known as Toradol. While this drug is highly effective at making 60 minutes of professional football bearable, its effectiveness can be dangerous as it can often mask in-game injuries that really should be dealt with immediately. It is also highly addictive.

Abuse of prescription painkillers is nothing new to the NFL. Many people from my generation and my part of the country remember 20 years ago when our hero/arch-nemesis Brett Favre checked himself into rehab for the abuse of the painkiller vicodin. Painkiller abuse is nothing new in our country either, but it is on the rise. Everybody from Barack Obama to Macklemore is talking about the opioid epidemic which has led to a tripling of overdose deaths since the year 2000.


Which is why marijuana makes so much sense. Studies suggest that marijuana could be highly effective in providing relief for certain types of pain often associated with football without the accompaniment of the addictive properties possessed by prescription pain pills. What is more, some research even suggests that marijuana could possess some protective properties that may actually help to prevent the degeneration of the brain caused by concussions and other football related head injuries.

Unfortunately, the research on marijuana is pretty limited. Much of the evidence that is supportive of marijuana’s effectiveness is anecdotal as opposed to scientific, meaning that even though many current and former players “say” that marijuana has been beneficial to them in dealing with aching knees and throbbing skulls, there is insufficient scientific evidence to “prove” that what they are saying is true.

But this is what makes Monroe’s request so reasonable. Monroe is not calling for the NFL to replace the T Train with a locker room dispensary. He is simply asking the NFL to cease with its vilification of the drug, to remove it from the banned substances list on which it currently resides and treat it like the potentially revolutionary treatment that it could indeed be. He also wants research dollars that could add some scientific evidence to the immense body of anecdotal knowledge that already exist.

Marijuana might not work for everybody in every situation. While marijuana seems to provide plenty of post-game relief, nobody is suggesting a Sunday morning wake-and-bake to help reduce in-game injuries. Furthermore, it is important to note that marijuana use also has its dangers and downfalls, although they pale in comparison to those carried by prescription meds. As a current non-pot smoker who’s been high hundreds of times throughout his life, I think that I can safely state that, for me, the anxiety and paranoia that I personally experience from the use of marijuana outweighs many of the potential medicinal benefits. But who knows, maybe if I wreck my knees and back someday, I will change my tune.


If the NFL is serious about caring for its players, it will explore the use of marijuana as a potential alternative to more traditional pain treatment. It will fund marijuana research and help to provide the science that it says it needs in order to make any sweeping changes to official NFL policy. It will alter its cavalier attitude towards prescription pain pills, and double-down on its look-the-other-way approach as players continue to blaze up in private.

I’m not confident that the NFL will respond accordingly. Roger Goodell is a politician who, just like every major presidential candidate who threw their hat into this year’s election, won’t flip on marijuana until it is politically viable to do so. And that’s too bad. It would be nice to see the league that I love so much be ahead of the curve for once on something instead of awkwardly stumbling behind. But maybe nowadays, that’s just what progress looks like. #cannabis4pain


Follow me on Twitter!!!

Minnesota, Sports, USA

Why the Cubs and their ‘woe is me’ fans can suck it

Tonight begins the ALCS with Joey Bats and the Toronto Blue Jays taking on the returning American League Champ Kansas City Royals. There is a lot of intrigue around this matchup, especially considering the benches-clearing brawl that ensued the last time these two teams shared a field. But sports nation in general seems to be more looking forward to tomorrow night, when the new look New York Mets host the Chicago Cubs, a franchise looking to break out of a century-long slump of championship-less seasons, the longest drought by any North American professional sports team.

This factor has put a lot of people in the Cubbies’ corner, much like how folks from around the country got behind the Boston Red Sox of 2004, as they battled to bury their own impressive 86-year streak of World Series-less seasons. Everybody loves a good underdog, and no team seems to fit that mold better than the “lovable losers” themselves from Wrigley.

But I fucking hate the Cubs. I hate their team, I hate their fans, and I hate everybody that is rooting for them over this last half-month of baseball. Here’s why:

I don’t care how many years it’s been since their last World Series victory or how big of an asshole Steve Bartman is, the Cubs are not an underdog. You cannot be an underdog when you are a team from the third biggest city in the United States in a sport that has no salary cap.

It’s no coincidence that the city of Chicago ranks third on the list of cities with the most pro sports championships. Cities like that always have the advantage. They have more money, more media attention, and more appeal to make players want to play there.

Which makes the ‘woe is me’ Cubs fans all the more annoying—the intolerable pity parties that they throw at the end of every season where they get together and cry and bitch and moan about how sorry and unlucky they are, how they’re cursed, how the decks always stacked against them. You can be sure that if the Cubs follow suit and lose again this year, their pity party will get full coverage from First Take and SportsCenter.

The 2004 Red Sox were the exact same. They viewed themselves as these scrappy, bearded little underdogs trying to take down the evil, hegemonic Yankees.

They were right about the Yankees. I fucking hate the Yankees, too. But at least the Yankees fans know who they are. They are the privileged, they are the elite, and they don’t pretend not to be.

But so is Boston. As a matter of fact, do you know who had the second-highest payroll in baseball in 2004, right behind the New York Yankees? You guessed it, Boston. Moral of the story: you can dress yourself up as a working-class Irish asshole all you want, but you’re still as bought-and-paid-for as every and any clean-shaven Yankees player.

Chicago Cubs fans are no different. They think of themselves as underdogs because they don’t win. “We’re cursed,” they say. “Everyone is out to get us,” they say. Not so. I’ll agree that it is pretty amazing that their team hasn’t won a World Series in 107 years, especially when they play in a city like Chicago. But that is not because they are cursed. It’s because they suck.

And I would know a thing or two about sucking, just like I know a thing or two about losing, pity parties, and curses. That’s because I hail from a city with a real curse, and it’s not a fake curse from a fucking billy-goat. It’s the curse of living in flyover territory.

The Twins have two World Series championships, the last one taking place in 1991. And while 24 years isn’t exactly a drought to write home about, you know how long the drought has been for the rest of our Big Four franchises, the Wolves, the Vikes, and the Wild? Always. Forever. We were born in a drought, we live in a drought, and if everything else remains equal, we will die in a drought. For three of our four franchises, it has never rained and it’s possible that it never will.

And even though the Twins two World Series wins sound pretty epic, my generation is too young to remember them. I know they exist, but I never experienced them. I’ll tell you what I did experience though: the six NBA championships that Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls won in the 90’s, the three NHL Stanley Cups that the Blackhawks have won in the last six seasons, and the 2005 World Series won by none other than the Chicago White Sox. All this happened, may I add, while my clubs were rotating between moderate relevancy and laughing-stock status.

So suck it Cubs fans. Cry all you want about your Cubs if they let you down again this year, but don’t pretend that you’re an underdog. Don’t pretend that you know what it feels like to live in true sports misery. Don’t pretend that you live in Minneapolis, or Cleveland, or Kansas City.

There is a silver lining. If the Cubs win and the streak is over, maybe people will finally shut the fuck up with wondering aloud at the beginning of every season if this is finally the year that the Cubbies will take home the World Series title. Then we can focus on the true underdogs in sports, the ones that really have the decks stacked against them when it comes to being consistent contenders, let alone winning championships. Fuck the Cubs. Go Toronto. Go Royals. And, Go Twins.

Follow me on Twitter!!!

Minnesota, Sports

How I think I can maybe try to justify celebrating an Adrian Peterson touchdown

ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL!?!?!? We Minnesotans are. With the return of Teddy Bridgewater poised to build on his highly successful rookie season, the addition of speedy wide receiver Mike Wallace to give Teddy that deep threat and, as the experts like to say, take the top off the defense, and another anticipated year of defensive improvement under the auspices of head coach and defensive guru Mike Zimmer, the Minnesota Vikings are almost a lock to win the division, the Super Bowl, and launch a dynasty that will undoubtedly endure well into the next decade.

All this and I haven’t even mentioned our secret weapon: former MVP and freak of nature Adrian Peterson, who coming off a year of rest and resentment, looks again ready to transcend the limitations of age and physics and have a career year at 30 years old. But there is a problem with our secret weapon, and it has nothing to do with what he does on the football field. The problem is how we as fans can justify cheering for a man who, less than a year ago, beat the shit out of his own child with a tree branch.

This is not a problem for all Vikings fans. Some people are better at separating their moral compasses from their purple pride than others. But for those of us who struggle with said separation, the Minnesota Vikings, and the National Football League in general, are becoming more difficult to watch. Between the less-than-admirable off-the-field behavior of far too many players, the hostage holding of fans and taxpayers by billionaire owners to get stadiums built that enrich the owners while leaving the un-rich unable to afford entrance to stadium that their tax dollars paid for, and the increasing body of knowledge about head injuries that makes the game of professional football feel like a blood sport unseen since the times of the Roman Empire, there are a wealth of reasons for the morally righteous to leave their TV’s turned off on Sundays.


But perhaps for the purple, there is a justification—a way to celebrate an Adrian Peterson touchdown while keeping one’s moral compass intact.

First, a disclaimer: the sport of professional football and any importance that we attach to it pales in comparison to the importance of the domestic issues at play in this story, first and foremost of which is the health and well-being of Adrian Peterson’s son. Though this article is, in essence, a football take, this take is not being made in negligence nor ignorance of what is really important.

Back to morality. The struggle I personally have has nothing to do with Adrian Peterson the player and everything to do with Adrian Peterson the person. Like everybody, I was horrified last year when news of the events surfaced, and even more horrified upon seeing the pictures. But what I was never onboard with were the Adrian Peterson character assassinations, the people who declared Adrian Peterson a bad person, or even a monster.

Don’t get me wrong. What Adrian Peterson did to his son was abhorrent and unequivocally wrong, both legally and morally. I supported all sanctions and punishments levied by both the NFL and the legal system, and would definitely put myself in the crowd that believed said sanctions and punishments did not go far enough. That being said, I do not feel that, in spite of the horrifying results of his actions, I can condemn Adrian Peterson as a human being.

To flesh out this sentiment, it is perhaps best to offer a comparison between the actions of Adrian Peterson and the actions of the other NFL bad guy from 2014, Ray Rice. On September 8, 2014, a video surfaced of Ray Rice knocking out his then fiancé Janay Palmer in an Atlantic City elevator. The case of Rice and Peterson share many similarities: both are cases of domestic abuse, both are cases in which the victim was relatively defenseless…But there is one key difference, a difference which, I believe, should be taken into account when we judge Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice as human beings, and in turn, how we feel about them as players on our football teams.

The key difference is the moral context in which the two men committed their abuses. By this I mean the two men’s understanding of morality, what is right and what is wrong. When Ray Rice punched his fiancé in the face, he knew it was wrong. He knew it before he did it, he knew it when he did it, and he knew it after he did it. It may have been a momentary lapse in judgment, a brief break with Rice’s normally upstanding character, but either way, Rice consciously made a decision that he knew to be morally incorrect.

Adrian Peterson’s situation is different. When Adrian Peterson laid his child over his knee and proceeded to brutally beat his legs and buttocks with a stick, he was not only ignorant to the fact that what he was doing was wrong, he believed that what he was doing was right. Adrian Peterson truly believed that what he was doing was what a morally correct father does in order to ensure that his son grows up to himself become a morally correct human being.

Does this excuse Adrian Peterson’s actions? Absolutely not. As I stated above, Adrian Peterson deserved every punishment and sanction he received from both the NFL and the legal system, and probably deserved worse. However, it does change the way that I personally look at Adrian as a human being.

Adrian Peterson was a prisoner to the ignorance in which he was raised (all of us are, really.) He was raised in a culture where the use of a switch was both a tolerated and encouraged form of discipline. His father beat him as a child, and he turned out alright. In Adrian’s mind, he was just doing what good dads do.

Ray Rice is different. Ray Rice may or may not have witnessed spousal abuse growing up. I don’t know. But what I do know is that if he did witness spousal abuse, he was never under the impression that that was an OK thing to do. There is not a place in the United States where spousal abuse is not taboo. It may be something that in some parts is tragically common, but nowhere is it something that is morally correct. Spanking, on the other hand, is.

Thankfully, that is changing. If there is anything good that came from the Adrian Peterson case, it is the national awareness that was hopefully raised about the fact that hitting your children, even on the butt, is indeed child abuse and is never OK. Furthermore, we desperately, desperately hope that Adrian Peterson has learned from his grave mistakes, and that future beatings that his son may have received will now never happen.

But all things considered, can we justify rooting for Adrian Peterson? Has Adrian Peterson truly learned his lesson? Some of his own ill-timed comments would suggest that he hasn’t, but he has apologized numerous times and claims to be a reformed man and father.

You may believe, as I do, that his sentence should have been much more severe, but the fact is that his sentence has been served. He deserves a second chance. I just wish that second chance would have been somewhere else.

I’ll still be watching on Sundays, offering my patronage to a league, a sport, and a team that fly in the face of many of my moral values. I’m a hypocrite like that. As for Adrian, we’ll see how I feel after he scores that first touchdown. Maybe having him on my fantasy football team would help to counteract some of the guilt I might feel.

So in closing, will I cheer for Adrian Peterson? Probably. He’s a Viking, and I bleed purple no matter which direction my moral compass points. And, am I ready for some football? I guess. But not as ready as I used to be.

Follow me on Twitter!!!