’69 Vikings: Remembered 50 Years Later

40 for 60. That was the mantra for what could be argued as the best Vikings squad to ever take the field.

Bud Grant, finishing his third season coaching with the young franchise, led the talented, yet tough Vikings to a franchise best 12-2 record and their first appearance in the big game: Super Bowl IV.

Although considered a contemporary problem for the franchise, getting to the big game proved to be an impossible effort for the talented squad in the ‘60s.

The Vikings, after stumbling through their franchise’s infancy dating back to 1961, began to build their roster with their newly appointed head coach, Bud Grant, in 1967 after the coaching tenure of former NFL star, Norm Van Brocklin (also known as the “Dutchman”).

What most people do not realize about the 1969 Minnesota Vikings is that they had a real shot at making it to the Super Bowl the previous year.

In 1968, the Vikings were playoff contenders and advanced to face the eventual representative of the NFL in the Super Bowl: the Baltimore Colts. It was a game in which the Colts’ Memorial Stadium was covered in mud. Joe Kapp, the team’s rough-and-tough starting quarterback, provided a valiant effort as the game’s leading rusher with 52 yards, but was battered around all afternoon as the Vikes fell to the Colts 24-14.

Kapp in the snow

Joe Kapp under center in a snowstorm at Metropolitan Stadium.

Kapp’s journey to the purple and gold was not a traditional one, to say the least.

After leading the BC Lions to a CFL Championship appearance in 1963 and a championship victory the following year (while being an all-star in both seasons as well), he held a desire to return to the U.S. to play professional football (he went to college at Cal Berkley). Grant and General Manager, Jim Finks – needing a replacement for the newly traded legend, Fran Tarkenton – both had experienced Kapp’s success in the CFL and wanted him to be their guy.

A multi-player trade occurred between the Vikings and the BC Lions that allowed Kapp to switch leagues in order for numerous Vikings players to switch over to the CFL.

After a rough start to his NFL career statistically, Kapp bounced back in 1969 to career highs with 19 TDs and 1,072 yards through the air, earning him a Pro Bowl selection. He also broke an NFL record by throwing for 7 TDs in one game against the Colts, the team that knocked him and the Vikings out of the playoffs the year before.

The other aspect likely incorporated into the decision of his Pro Bowl honor was his leadership. He was a fierce competitor that was the ultimate team player, often rallying the troops on the sidelines, commanding respect in the huddle, and never being afraid of putting his body out on the line to help the team.

Kapp is also famous for choosing not to accept the team MVP award given to him that season, stating that they win and lose as a team and he could not accomplish the feats he did without his teammates.

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The defensive linemen, known as the “Purple People Eaters,” sit together on the bench.

The real MVP of the Vikings, though, was their defense.

Stars like Alan Page and Paul Krause joined forces with the likes of Carl Eller and Jim Marshall to form the famous defensive nickname, “Purple People Eaters.”

The smashmouth-style defense, mostly known for their legendary defensive line, dominated opponents in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. They led the NFL in least amount of points allowed with 133 points, ranked as the number one team in pass defense with 116.5 yards allowed per game, and number two in rush defense with 77.8 yards allowed per game.

The “Purple People Eaters” invoked fear in the hearts and minds of opposing offenses, stopping them in every facet imaginable.

As explained in the episode of America’s Game: The Missing Rings about the team, Kapp was injured before the start of the season and did not start in the opener. Gary Cuozzo, the popular backup quarterback formerly under Johnny Unitas with the Colts, took the reigns and did a solid job, but the Vikes fell short of their former star quarterback, Fran Tarkenton, of the New York Giants: 24-23.

Kapp would return the following week and break the passing touchdown record vs. the Colts.

You also have to keep in mind that the NFL back then was quite a different landscape than it is today. It is often referred to as the “Dead Ball Era,” meaning that the rules of the game and the style of which it was played does not compare statistically in the slightest to the NFL today.

The rules did not favor the offense, including the quarterback position. The defense could body slam the ball carrier and not get penalized for it. In fact, it would be encouraged. Offensive lineman were limited with how they could pass block and pass interference did not exist like in the way it does today.

Most games were low scoring because of the ground-and-pound approach most teams used. The phrase “offense sells tickets, defense wins championships” was even more prevalent in the ‘60s.

In a way, this Vikings team benefited from the rules of that era.

Their defense would demolish opposing offenses and their run-heavy mentality made life easier for that vaunted defense.

Considering the bitter cold location of the team and their strong demeanor, the cold weather only played to their strengths even more. Offenses struggled with footing and speed was taken out of the equation. With how tough the Vikings defense was, adding the fact that the heart of their defense was on the defensive line, teams could not run or move the ball against them.

The Vikings embraced the cold – Coach Grant would not even allow heaters to be on their sideline during the game – as they would let the opposition take themselves out of the game.


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Jim Marshall reaches out to grab Rams quarterback, Roman Gabriel. Image rights go to getty images.

The Vikings first two playoff games in 1969 (and technically 1970) were indicative of that notion.

Their first of two home playoff games saw them hosting the Los Angeles Rams.

They were led by their All-Pro QB Roman Gabriel, whom won the NFL MVP award that season by throwing 24 TDs compared to only 7 INTS.

They also had a staunch defense of their own, known as the “Fearsome Foursome.”

The Rams had quite an interesting season, to say the least. They started off winning their first 11 games (still a team record to this day), but found a way to lose their final 3 games of the regular season. That is what helped the Vikings secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

The cold, steam-breath Rams gave the Vikings everything they could handle.

The usually dependable and solid halfback Bill Brown fumbled early in the 1st quarter and an offsides call against our defense nullified a pick-six by DE Carl Eller. Gabriel took advantage of the miscue and led the Rams down the field and into the endzone to take the lead.

Despite Kapp coming out of the gate throwing after the Rams touchdown and leading the Vikings down the field to score a touchdown of their own (a run up-the-gut to Dave Osborne), the Rams would go on to score 10 unanswered points, leading 17-7 at halftime.

A wake-up call to a team destined to reach the Super Bowl.

Despite two poor interceptions in the early stages of the second half, Kapp led the team down the field and scored two TDs – the first being a run by Osborne and the second being an outside keeper by Kapp – which gave the Vikings a 21-20 lead.

A sack for a safety by Carl Eller and an interception by fellow lineman Alan Page secured a 23-20 comeback victory for the Vikings and an opportunity to compete for the NFL Championship and Super Bowl (remember, those were two completely different games back then since the NFL champion and AFL champion competed for the Super Bowl).

Kapp vs the Browns

         Joe Kapp under center yelling the snap count. Image rights go to getty images.

The Browns stood in the Vikings path, but did not stand a chance against the purple gang. The Vikings were led out of the tunnel by their All-Pro center, Mick Tingelhoff, and they did not look back.

The Browns took a beating as the Vikings earned their NFL Championship by winning the game 27-7.

There were three iconic moments during the game at Metropolitan Stadium (back when the Vikings and Twins shared an outdoor stadium built for baseball).

The first of which occurred in the first half when the Vikings had the ball down inside the 5-yard line. Kapp turned to hand the ball off to Brown and instead they collided with one another. Kapp turned, held onto the ball, and fought his way through Browns defenders to score a touchdown. Talk about toughness.

The second big moment occurred late in the 3rd quarter when Kapp scrambled out to the right and took off upfield. He collided with Browns Pro Bowl linebacker, Jim Houston, and to everyone’s surprise, Kapp was the one that was able to get up from the hit.

The final iconic moment involved the fans overrunning the field and taking down the goal posts in celebration. The Vikings were going to the Super Bowl.

January 11, 1970. New Orleans, Louisiana. Tulane Stadium. The biggest moment in the franchise’s history as the Vikings are set to take on the AFL Champion, Kansas City Chiefs.

Everyone predicted the Vikings to win. In fact, they were 14-point favorites.

The NFL had just lost its first Super Bowl the year before in stunning fashion after winning the first two handily – the first one against the same Chiefs team – and, in the eyes of the NFL, the Vikings were supposed to show the world that the previous Super Bowl was only a fluke. The NFL had always been the superior league and were supposed to prove that theory true again.

Chiefs Super Bowl IV

Chiefs quarterback, Len Dawson, drops back to pass in Super Bowl IV. Image rights go to Roy Iman Photographics.

Everyone was in for another huge surprise on that afternoon – even the Vikings fan involved with the hot air balloon debacle on the field before the game.

The Chiefs head coach, Hank Stram, utilized a confusing offense to defend, known as: “Hank Stram’s Wild West Variety Show.”

The AFL in general was known for being more of a wide-open, high-octane league with lost of points (and even introduced the two-point conversion).

This gave the Vikings some problems in terms of defensive assignments. When watching highlights of the game, you can see moments where even the Vikings star-studded defensive linemen do not know where to lineup against the Chiefs underrated offensive line, which performed phenomenally that day.

That is just it, though. The Chiefs were an underrated football team from top-to-bottom.

They had a visionary head coach for that era in Stram – whom is also well-remembered for being an entertaining person to have mic’d up.

They had a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Len Dawson. They also had other future Hall of Famers on their roster, such as wide receiver, Otis Taylor, linebacker, Willie Lanier, and safety, Johnny Robinson.

Don’t forget that they also had to take on the likes of the previous powerhouse AFL Champions: the Oakland Raiders and the New York Jets – which one could argue was a tougher road to the Super Bowl than the Vikings taking on the Rams and the Browns.

Needless to say, the Chiefs and the AFL were for-real and the entire football world were sleeping on them.

Super Bowl IV was a game remembered for plays like the infamous “65 Toss Power Trap” and the quick hitch pass to Taylor that he took to the house for a game-sealing touchdown.

It was also remembered for the lack of a Vikings running game and the beating that Kapp took at the hands of the Chiefs defense.

Late in the game, Kapp threw two INTs – one to Lanier over the middle and the other to Johnny Robinson on a deep ball – effectively ending any hope for the Vikings, but it was the hit he took on the following possession that sums up his afternoon.

In what has since become known straight from the sources as a difference of opinion in terms of play-calling, Kapp called a bootleg to the left. As he did so, he was slammed to the ground and fumbled in the process, turning it over one last time.

The image of Kapp, perhaps the toughest Viking, staying on the ground around the Vikings’ 13-yard line and favoring his left side – officially diagnosed as a dislocated shoulder – is the moment that everyone knew that the Chiefs and the AFL were for real.

Outside of a possession on offense and defense to open the second half, the Chiefs were in complete domination of the game.

Bud Grant

Bud Grant on the Vikings sideline.

The entirety of that game changed everything moving forward.

The following season in 1970 saw the NFL and AFL merge together into one professional football league, the NFL, with two conferences: the NFC and the AFC.

The Vikings’ loss to the Chiefs would ultimately foreshadow the following three Super Bowl losses in the ensuing decade under Grant.

Kapp would fight through a contract dispute and never play for the Vikings again. He wound up being traded to the New England Patriots. After one lackluster season, he was out of the league.

The defensive stars would remain and dominate for many years to come, but even bringing back Tarkenton and drafting Hall of Fame halfback, Chuck Foreman, wouldn’t help the Vikings overcome their Super Bowl woes.

The 1969 Minnesota Vikings are not universally thought of as the best Super Bowl team under Grant, but it is a widely conceived notion that this game not only had the most importance for the team moving forward (much like the Buffalo Bills in the ‘90s), but was also the Vikings’ best chance at winning a Super Bowl.

Despite not ending the season they way they would have hoped, they proved themselves as a legitimate contender and paved the way for many great years ahead for the franchise.

Even 50 years later, this team is still quite memorable in the eyes of Vikings fans and for those interested, there is an excellent book about the team, titled The Last Kings of the Old NFL: The 1969 Minnesota Vikings by Pat Duncan.

Even though the Vikings couldn’t finish they way they would have hoped, their legacy will live on forever.

13 Reasons Why: Season 1 Review

Some television shows exist to provide comedy, while some others exist to provide action and entertainment. Left hiding in the shadows are a select few that have a strong message and purpose, such as 13 Reasons Why. This wildly popular Netflix-original show (produced by Selena Gomez) is one that leaves its mark on viewers and is created with such fervor that it rivals other top shows.

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The premise of the show revolves around high school sophomore / junior Clay Jensen discovering a set of tapes on his doorstep addressed to him. He is in for a surprise when he finds out that they were made by his classmate, co-worker, and friend, Hannah Baker, just before committing suicide. Each tape is about a specific person that is, in a way, responsible for Baker’s death and is filled with instructions and information related to that event. As Jensen starts listening to the tapes, he recognizes that others have listened to them before he had (each person passes the tapes along to the next person in the order of who is featured on which tape). Unfortunately for Jensen, the others do not want this information getting out and will do whatever is necessary to keep Jensen quiet.

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My favorite part of this 13-episode arc is the way in which it is written and directed. Every episode is sharp with transitions, misdirections, and misdirections of misdirections. The depth within the dialogue and what / who is in the shot reveals not just what is being spoken, but also conveys that information to what or who is being shown. Plus, the interweaving narrative of Baker’s retelling on the tapes combined with Jensen hearing the tapes in the present day is handled extremely well. The lighting in the past utilizes warmer colors while the present features darker illumination to further demonstrate the different feelings of before and after the death of Baker. It is not something new, but works well in the context of how it is used.

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The characters in 13 Reasons Why are, thankfully, not clichéd or stereotyped. They are unique in their own ways and are all well-developed. You know the writing is tremendous when we feel for a character that most probably could not stand in previous episodes. The entire purpose of the show is to demonstrate that every person is going through or dealing with something in their lives. The writers take the time in every episode to explore the different characters associated with Baker’s life. One might state that it might be a little too convenient for the plot to explore characterization through the tapes, but it is done in a way that ups the suspense and mystery – which makes the viewer want to know more, so in my mind it furthers the plot in an engaging way.

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There is no way to avoid the potential danger that accompanies this show. I realize that every episode begins with the warning and encourages troubled individuals to reach out, but with a television show that is centered on a likable female protagonist that puts so much thought into committing suicide and making tapes for those responsible to listen to afterwards, it could encourage those watching that are troubled to make a bad decision. I hope the show helps those in need to discover that suicide is never the right option and there is always a way through the dark times.

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There are also some dark, graphic, and violent moments peppered throughout the show that might not be best suited for the faint-of-heart. It is powerful, but could be too much for some to handle. As they say: viewer discretion is advised.

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At the end of the day, 13 Reasons Why is not only top-notch, but incredibly important due to the subject matter. While at first I was not sure how a TV-MA rating would coincide with a show based on a novel targeted for high school kids, it is clear that it is handled in the best way it possibly could. The acting is almost always on-point and combination of direction and writing is nearly masterful. I cannot wait for what the next season will unveil.

Grade: A

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13 Reasons Why features creator Brian Yorkey based on the novel by Jay Asher. The series entails directors Gregg Arraki, Kyle Patrick Alvarez, Carl Franklin, Tom McCarthy, Helen Shaver, and Jessica Yu and writers Nic Sheff, Thomas Higgins, Elizabeth Benjamin, Diana Son, Nathan Jackson, Nathan Louis Jackson, Kirk A. Moore, and Hayley Tyler. The show stars Dylan Minnette, Katherine Langford, Christian Navarro, Alisha Boe, Brandon Flynn, and Miles Heizer. 13 Reasons Why is produced by July Moon Productions, Kicked to the Curb Productions, Anonymous Content, and Paramount Television. Season 2 is expected to arrive on Netflix in 2018.

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Did Tom Welling Just Tease His Next Film Project?

Some might remember Tom Welling as Charlie Baker from the Steve Martin-led film, Cheaper By the Dozen, but most probably remember Welling’s portrayal of Clark Kent / Superman from the hit WB and CW series, Smallville. After the show’s 10-season run ended in 2011, he has only appeared in a handful of projects, including Parkland, Draft Day, and The Choice.
After The Choice debuted in February 2016, things have been mostly silent for Welling minus his St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital t-shirt campaign. He hasn’t been announced to be involved with any other projects for the past 17 months, but now we may have an indication of a new project he may appear in – with Welling’s Instagram as the direct source.
On July 7th, Welling posted the following picture onto Instagram (which has been screenshotted from an iPhone).

As you can see, he wrote “Back on set,” which is obviously a strong indication that he is filming something, but there is always a chance he might not be. As for what that project could be, your guess is as good as mine. I’m just happy that he might be involved with a new project. Let’s hope this is the beginning of his true comeback; he’s too talented of an actor not to.
Update: It has been brought to my attention that this picture is actually about Welling promoting Saddle Club with his girlfriend, Jessica Rose Lee. Sorry for the misinterpretation. It looks like we will have to wait longer to hear about any other potential projects. 

“Riverdale” Season 1 Review

This critically-acclaimed CW series, based upon characters from Archie Comics and currently available for streaming on Netflix, has some awesome, multi-dimensional, and relatable characters (and actors portraying those characters), intriguing murder-mystery moments, fun Easter eggs and references (hint, hint, DC Rebirth), and a refreshing tone and take on this type of source material. This will be a non-spoiler review, but a few very minor spoilers may appear. The basic, end-all, be-all question I set out to answer by the end of this review is the following: is “Riverdale” a good show that I can recommend to others?

When I first saw promotional material for the pilot, I was immediately intrigued by the plot and tone that the show was going for. “Riverdale” turns the opportunity for a stereotypical high school drama into a fun, dark, and wacky murder-mystery with a high school template. The plot of the pilot, which sets up the entire season, begins with high school reject, Jugghead Jones (Cole Sprouse), narrating the story he is writing about all the events happening in the small town of Riverdale, which happens to be the content of each episode. The opening finds a high school girl named Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch) located on a rock next to Sweetwater River with a distraught look on her face. It is revealed that her brother, high school football star, Jason Blossom, has been found murdered and the investigation begins.

One thing this show nails is characterization. The show revolves around a small group of attractive, yet real and believable high school kids. Football star and up-and-coming musician, Archie Andrews (K.J. Apa), appears to be the focal character of the show. He might appear to be the perfect “boy next door” type of character, but he is written in a way that makes him much more flawed and relatable. His best friend, Jugghead, might be the best character on the show. The constant turmoil that his character deals with and continues to rise above is something admirable and inspirational in a sense. The “girl next door” to Archie is Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart). She is another character that masterfully avoids being a stereotype. She has her own issues to deal with at home that complicate her life. Her best friend and new girl in town, Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes), is probably a fan favorite. She has charisma and charm, but despite her rich family and endless talents, she gets caught up in the heart of the story.

One aspect of the show that has surprised me is the critique of parenting. All of the parent/guardian figures have decent intentions at heart, but don’t always live up to expectations. Veronica lives with her mother, Hermione Lodge (Marisol Nichols), in which it is revealed that Hermione is not a completely innocent parent (Veronica’s father is in jail, so I suppose he isn’t innocent, either). Betty’s parents, Alice Cooper (Mädchen Amick) and Hal Cooper (Lochlyn Munro), are control freaks and believe in discipline and perfection, which obviously leads to conflict with Betty and others. Cheryl’s parents, Penelope Blossom (Nathalie Boltt) and Clifford Blossom (Barclay Hope), run a $1 million syrup company and are probably the most problematic of the parents on the show. For two people that recently lost a son, they still seem quite cold and suspicious to viewers. The most unsuspicious and well-hearted parent is actually Archie’s father, Fred Andrews (Luke Perry). We do get to meet his mother, Mary Andrews (Molly Ringwald), but Fred is the parent that everyone wishes they had. He is the heart of all that is good in Riverdale, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be human, either. The plot seems to hammer home the idea that too much power and control can lead to chaos (like strict parenting, for example), but chaos has already become a staple for the town of Riverdale – which is fascinating as a viewer.

When the plot takes a break from the murder investigation and slows down, there are some great musical moments. Following not just Archie’s storyline involving music, but also a band named The Pussycats are excellent and fit the show perfectly. Obviously the song lyrics are meant to subtly reflect and reveal the feelings of the character singing, but the music itself has great replay value – even outside the show. It’s not only that the musical scenes have good music, but it furthers the plot of the episode and adds to it tremendously. This is one area of the show that I cannot wait to see expand with the characters and the plot.

Riverdale main cast

Every television show or movie has pros and cons to them, and “Riverdale” is no different. Don’t get me wrong, I like high school shows (including this one), but there is one particular aspect of the show that bugs me a little bit. I cannot understand why the show has an elaborate kissing scene in almost every single episode. Most of them actually work well, but it can feel overdone at times to a point where it takes me out of it and it loses its impact. In addition, certain characters hate each other during one episode, then get along really well the next episode, and then hate each other the episode after that. I find it to be a little odd and somewhat unbelievable. Plus, some of the dialogue doesn’t feel authentic at times, but it never took me out of any particular episode.

I think it’s obvious that there will be some kind of reveal at some point during the season. For me, I didn’t find that specific reveal to be very rewarding or impactful, which negatively impacts the entire murder-mystery subplot throughout the season. All of the build-up, twists, and turns in regards to the murder is actually fascinating and digs up new questions, but how it all concluded feels like somewhat of a letdown – although it is actually filmed really well. In fact, after I initially watched the finale episode, I thought it was a weak ending to such a good show. After taking some time to process it, I’ve actually come to like it quite a bit more, but not entirely. I’ll let you watch and decide for yourself. What I can say is this: the best scene of the entire season is in the season finale.

My only other minor gripe about “Riverdale” is based on the season finale. To me, I feel like I already know exactly what is going to happen in the next season. I like the idea of how they were setting up the next season, but I think they set it up a little too well – although, I have to admit, a particular scene with Archie and Veronica is pure gold.

With everything considered, I think this is a show that I can definitely recommend to potential viewers. The good easily outweighs the bad. The show’s producers, writers, directors, and tech crew (most notably: executive producer, Greg Berlanti, and composer, Blake Neely) have a hit-show on their hands. I think the part I like most about “Riverdale” is that while the first season is a success, the future seasons have so much potential and ability to elevate the show’s quality even more.


Grade: B