Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Punter Who Was Ain’t No More!

Chris Kluwe has been the punter for the NFL Minnesota Vikings for the last 8 years. He’s a very good punter. He’s also a good person, but it’s clear the Vikings’ coaching staff thought their punter was too outspoken and they ditched him.
by Charlie Leck

The headline in this morning’s local paper: Chris Kluwe Gets the Boot! (Clevvvver!)

Et tu, Brutus?
I don’t write about sports here very often (about baseball occasionally, but I try to avoid commenting on sports because I’m just a spectator – and a rookie at that). However, I’m a little rattled and upset by the move on the part of our local National Football League team to ditch a player just because he’s outspoken on some issues they’d rather he shut up about. Of course, they say it’s because he all-of-a-sudden couldn’t punt.

Chris Kluwe was fired by the Minnestoa Vikings yesterday and it appears Jeff Locke, a recently drafted player from UCLA, will be the Vikes’ new punter. Kluwe, after all, spoke with a sharp and slightly profane tongue about the fact that gays and lesbians ought to be allowed to enjoy the benefits of marriage just like anyone else.

Kluwe has a strong fan base up here. Lots of us admire his kind of renegade attitude and his refreshing language. He’s not your normal (or should I say “ordinary”) professional football player. He’s a bright lad, has formed a popular and successful rock band, and speaks out plainly and loudly on both political and social issues.

Of Kluwe and his persona, his position coach was heard to say: “It’s getting old!” Another Viking insider, off the record, told me that the staff is “tired of it.” If you follow professional football closely, you’ll understand that this is like the kiss in the garden – or, perhaps, like Caesar’s friend Brutus and his dagger.

Our favorite team spent a fifth round draft pick on a “potential” punter in this year’s draft when they had a proven punter already on the roster. Someone out at the Vikings’ office forgot that “a bird in hand in worth two in the bush.”

I’m pissed at the Vikings – plenty angry, indeed! Football players ought to be able to have a private life and their own opinions about societal matters. Kluwe’s comments and antics really haven’t even caused a ripple among the Vikings’ army of followers nor among his teammates.

No one in football gave a damn when the Baltimore Ravens’ star center came out in opposition to gay marriage. That player, Matt Birk, a devout Roman Catholic, has taken strong, simple-minded political stances that mirror the positions of his church on a whole host of issues. Birk is the opposite of creative. He’s very drone-like. With that an NFL team could put up.

Chris Kluwe is a breath of fresh air. The younger generation of Vikings’ fans love him because he speaks their language and understands what’s important to today’s youth. If there were anyone in the Viking organization with any marketing sense they might have seen that as something important. I’m part of the very older generation, but I liked him too – I liked him a damned awful lot. He has a peppery tongue and a razor-sharp wit. He’s creative! He cares about what’s right and wrong; and justice is very important to him.

But, this stuff – this Viking attitude and total lack of any sense of humor – it’s getting pretty old! Indeed! And tiring!

Mike Prieffer, the Vikings’ special team coach, is not someone you should spend a lot of time getting to know. He won’t be around all that long. Especially now that he hasn’t got Percy Harvin on the team to make him look good. Teams tire of special teams coaches pretty easily. Prieffer is placing his bets on a rookie. We’ll just have to see how it works out.

The Vikings General Manager, who had to be the guy who cut ties with Kluwe, is quite difficult to explain. The word wimp comes to mind. He butchers the English language, by way of a strange Pennsylvania accent*, and he’s got an ego bigger than the Hindenburg. He has a fantastic work ethic (I’ll give him that), but only a simple mind to go with it. Yet, right now he’s feeling his oats and yapping like he got to the NFL championship game last year – but was far from it! Frankly, his chips are all in on a quarterback who has not yet passed the taste test (again, far from it).

Our old, legendary coach, Bud Grant, was a guy I’d have spilled blood and guts for. He was one of the most remarkable leaders ever seen in sports. A scout once came back to Grant with a report about a prospect being kind of a trouble-maker. Grant’s only question was: “Can he play?” The scout told Grant that he certainly could. “Get him,” Grant said. “I’ll take care of the rest!”

Chris Kluwe was a player and the Vikings’ brass knows it. The punter just got too much attention outside of football and they didn’t like it. If there is going to be excessive attention paid to anyone, the General Manager wants it. He’s a peacock who loves to primp before the cameras (or is the word “pimp?”).

*Spielman actually grew up in the town of Massillon (in eastern Ohio), an area greatly influenced by the speech patterns of western Pennsylvania.

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1 comment:

  1. I agree with you. I was once an NFL football fan but the politics of NFL football was way too much to stomach so I just puked my football fervor. So far baseball still has my attention.