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The Hunter’s American Sports Tour – Part One

U.S. Bank Stadium Minneapolis. Photographed by Gian Lorenzo Ferretti. Image via Shutterstock

Minnesota Vikings vs Chicago Bears

SKOL!

The Viking chant echoes throughout U.S. Bank stadium as I sit in my – admittedly nosebleed but still ridiculously overpriced – stadium seat. An IPA in one hand and a hot pretzel in the other, I’m more ready than anyone for this game as the Gjallarhorn sounds and the players in purple and gold storm onto the field amid raucous cheers. This being the last game of the regular season, and against a fierce rival like the Bears, the tension in the air is palpable and the atmosphere electric as both teams line up for the kick-off.

It’s difficult to compare the atmosphere of an NFL game to anything in Australia. For years, Aussie marketing gurus have tried (with varying success) to emulate the energy of American sports, from BBL to NBL – none have ever quite hit the mark. Whether that be due to a lack of history, the smaller population, or any other of a million confounding factors remains a mystery. But, the fact of the matter is, nothing will ever compete with the atmosphere of one of these games. It truly has to be seen in person, there is no substitute.


The Venue

U.S. Bank Stadium is arguably one of the coolest stadiums in the NFL – if not the whole world. The wholly enclosed venue seats upwards of 66,000, with a half-metal half-transparent-plastic roof arching high over the field. Its construction in 2017 required the second-largest crane in the world, and the walls around the stadium are adorned with over 500 pieces of Minnesotan art. The result? A visual spectacle that’ll make any fan eager with anticipation for the game ahead. The enclosed nature of the stadium makes the crowd sound cacophonous, and the whole four hours seemed to fly by when I was there. If you get the opportunity to go to a game here or take a tour, I simply can’t recommend it enough.


The Game

Minnesota Vikings vs Chicago Bears. Image photographed by Ben Holmes for Hunter and Bligh.

Minnesota Vikings vs Chicago Bears. Image photographed by Ben Holmes for Hunter and Bligh.

How lucky I was to see such an intense match for my first NFL game. With the Vikings already locked into the playoffs, this game could easily have been a throwaway – thankfully it was anything but. With the first play of the game, the Vikings’ running back sprinted halfway up the field to Chicago’s twenty – looking certain to score – then fumbled the ball on the very next play. At half time there had been no touchdowns, just a few field goals and a safety (a rarity in the modern game) to make the score 11-6 in Chicago’s favour. Following a third quarter touchdown by the Bears, the Vikings looked to have a large task on their hands, down 18-6 with 12-minutes left.

But, spurred on by the home crowd and unphased by the scoreline, the Vikings put in a quarter to remember. A 43-yard drive set up a quick touchdown by the Vikes, with Bailey kicking 100 per cent on the day. A quick three and out saw the Vikings with the ball again on their 20, nine plays later and they had another field goal. The Bears looked certain to wind the clock down on the next drive, until Trubisky fumbled for a recovery touchdown (later ruled down by contact). The Vikings scored a field goal to compensate, and now had a one-point lead with just 4-minutes to go!

Unfortunately, this is where the fun stopped. Trubisky and his offence – arguably one of the league’s worst all season – put in an uncharacteristically stellar example of 4-minute offence, winding the clock and putting up yards to the point where they were kicking from 20-yards with 20-seconds left. As Vikings fans, our final hope was that Piniero would pull off a bears-2018-playoffs and double-doink the kick.

Today was not the day, and a wave of disappointment washed over the fans as the kick sailed through the uprights. As a Vikings fan, I was disappointed. But as someone attending their first-ever game – I was thrilled to have had the pleasure of attending such a back-and-forth spectacle.

A game to remember. And that’s an understatement.


The Aftermath

Despite the close loss, there was still plenty to celebrate. The Vikings were through to the playoffs! The Patriots had lost to the Dolphins! And the Packers looked like they might just taste defeat at the hand of the Lions! The only destination from here was the pub. I, along with half of Minnesota it seemed, rolled into Erik the Red (the pub next door to the stadium) and let the beers flow.

For anyone looking to go to a Vikings game, your trip simply wouldn’t be whole if you missed this off your list. The atmosphere of the pub, and the Minnesotan drinking culture, is second to none. You can drink away the hours in the cosy and exciting venue. And I can’t imagine any other place you’d want to be after the game.

Feature image via ShutterStock.

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