In the land of the walleyed pike the most radical media reaction to the Minnesota Vikings' 3-5 record has been a suggestion that they seed the clouds -- an allusion to the reputation the Vikings once had for being able to psych out George Allen's Rams, from the hot tubs of Los Angeles, in snow and sub-freezing tempratures while wearing short-sleeved jerseys.
Since Sunday's game against the Redskins will be played in RFK Stadium, there is another suggestion, that the Vikings attack the Redskins by recourse to a hypnostic in Duluth. That practitioner has insisted that he can take any group of ineffective people and, within an hour, give them an aura of dynamism.
It is not that Minnesotans are paniking, says social historian Jim Klobuchar of the Minneapolis Star. "It is very hard to generate any kind of hysteria here, over winning or losing," he says. "The quality of the people is sedate, accepting and intelligent. In Baltimore, Boston or Washington there would be a scrable to fire the coach. That doesn't occur here.
"In their Scandinavian gloom the people here have conceded that the Vikings are in no way a title contender. They forget the team is in the NFC Central Division, from which you can't be eliminated. The division winner may have a losing record.
"The fans here had their shock last year, when the Vikings didn't make the playoffs for the first time since the Renaissance. The only serious effort to fire a coach here was in the 1950s, when some University of Minnesota alumni tried to remove Murray Warmath with a campaign in the media.
"Someone made a tactical blunder by throwing garbage on Warmath's lawn. That did it. It aroused the smorgasbord culture of the Swedes to gathering together with Warmath against the storm. Warmath won the Rose Bowl two years after that and the national championship three years after that. So, since that time nobody has ever tried to fire a coach."
What about those fans who get juiced up at the tailgate parties in the stadium parking lots and have been known to throw bottles and ice balls at the game officials and visiting teams?
"That's ritualistic in December. Ordinarily, the major passion of these people is watching ice form on the lakes. (Coach) Bud Grant's idea of panic is being two minutes late to go out hunting at 5 a.m., which he does during the football season."
What is wrong with the Vikings, whose offense used to be a blocked kick?
"The speculation and talk has been about the quarterback, but this offense is feudal, even by National Conference standards. The longest drive has been for 48 yards. Tommy Kramer has been a mystery. He throws well and is mentally tough, but his confidence is down since being intercepted five times each in two straight games.
"He is best when he is the free-wheeling, uninhibited Texas-style quarterback. He likes to throw deep, like Terry Bradshaw. He never used to worry about interceptions after talking to Fran Tarkenton. But after Kramer's run of interception, the coaching staff gave him an offense that was a little safer.
"He got prudent, took sacks rather than risk interceptions. He's changed somewhat. Now, the staff has the problem of trying to shift gears back to Kramer's relaxed, wide-open and instinctive game. They tried to establish a running game but they don't have runners."
The advance man for the Vikings notes that the offense has produced only 16 points in the last three games and only one touchdown over that span, none in the last eight quarters.
"But we are a little more patient in the Midwest than on the coast -- either coast," Merrill Swanson, publicity director, says. "The place is different in Minnesota. It is tough to get the guy in Washington or New York to wait for youngsters to develop because there is so much 'rush-rush-rush.'
"As Bud Grant says, 'We can't fire the whole team.' Kramer has a jammed thumb and dislocated fourth finger on his throwing hand. When the line couldn't protect him long enough, he had to hurry the ball; with his hand hurting he had to force the ball, and when he forced it he got intercepted -- 17 times so far.
"His hand was still stiff and sore on Monday. We don't know if he will play on Sunday.If he doesn't, (second-year quarterback) Steve Dils will." p