This weekend's NFC Championship features the Vikings visiting New Orleans to take on the Saints. And I figured that it would be a good time to get to know one of our key football bloggers Daily Norseman's Christopher Gates. As you'll read, Chris wasn't a huge fan of bringing the aging and seemingly retired Brett Favre in to help the Vikings try and reach that next level at the beginning of the year. As you'll read, he's been persuaded. So without further ado, let's get to know Christopher Gates prior to the game in Sunday:
Tyler Bleszinski: Tell about yourself, how you came to be a Vikings fan, how you came to be at SB Nation.
Christopher Gates: Well, I'm 33 years old, originally hail from the great state of North Dakota, and have been a Viking fan for about as long as I've been watching sports, thanks largely to my father and my grandfather on my mom's side, both of whom were huge fans of the Vikings. The first season that I was a Viking fan, the team was a disaster, as it was the Les Steckel year that the team went 3-13. Despite that performance, I've stayed on board with them all this time. As far as coming to SBNation, a few years back I found the Bears' site on the network, and thought that I could bring something similar about the Vikings. I had never had any real experience, save for my own personal blog, but I submitted a sample of my writing about the Vikings to the SBNation higher-ups. 3 1/2 years later, I'm still here and still loving every minute of it.
Bleszinski: What's your favorite part about running a community like Daily Norseman?
Gates: By far, the greatest part of running a community like this one is being able to bring so many people together around one common goal. When you cheer for a team like the Vikings that is more well known for falling apart than they are for their big victories, you often wonder how many like-minded fans there are out there. Running this community shows that there are thousands upon thousands of us from every corner of the country, and in some cases well beyond our borders. Knowing that The Daily Norseman gives them a place to gather and talk about one of their biggest passions is what makes me the happiest about being a part of the site and being part of SBNation.
Bleszinski: How would you describe your community at Daily Norseman?
Gates: It's an outstanding group of Vikings fans. There really isn't a community like this anywhere that I've come across. Even in the off-season, we'll still have folks here talking about off-topic matters like music and TV and everything, so it's getting to the point where it's becoming a more well-rounded community. But make no mistake, I don't think you'll find a bigger, better, or more vocal concentration of Viking fans anywhere on the internet than you'll find at our site.
Bleszinski: So your team is in the NFL final four. What do you think is going to happen this Sunday? Can the Vikings take it in New Orleans?
Gates: I think this Vikings team certainly has the talent to come into New Orleans and win. They're a much better team than they were last season. . .then again, so are the Saints. I anticipate this weekend's game being a very close, back-and-forth type of contest, and it may simply come down to whoever has the ball last. Being down here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, I can tell you that the locals are incredibly excited for this weekend's match-up, and that the SuperDome will be absolutely rocking come 6 PM Sunday. But, despite all of that, I do think that the Vikings can beat the Saints on the road, and I'll be cheering like mad for it to happen.
Bleszinski: You didn't seem crazy about the idea of Favre in a Vikings uniform at the beginning of the year. How long did it take you to come around to him?
Gates: It's amazing how many things winning changes, isn't it? No, I certainly wasn't all that amped up about having Favre here, and I was skeptical for about the first month or so. Then came the game against the 49ers at the Metrodome and the 32-yard pass to Greg Lewis to win the game for the Vikings. Right about then, I realized that we might have had something special going on, and that Favre was going to be the catalyst for this team having a great year. Favre may still have a "diva" attitude when it comes to off-season stuff and training camp and everything else. . .but, as of right now, he's our "diva," and I'm quite happy to have him here as Minnesota's quarterback.
Bleszinski: Who is your all-time favorite Viking and favorite Vikings moment?
Gates: That's a great question. I've seen so many great Viking players over the years that it's tough to narrow it down to one favorite. . .but if I had to, I would probably still have to go with Daunte Culpepper. Yeah, I understand that he didn't have the most ceremonious exit from Minnesota and that there are plenty of people out there that dislike the guy. But since I missed the Fran Tarkenton era, I would say that Culpepper is the best quarterback I've seen in a Viking uniform (because I won't give that distinction to Favre after one season), and I loved watching Culpepper play when he was healthy. I was constantly amazed to see what a quarterback that size could do with that arm and the level of mobility he had. I never bought into the "he was only good because of Randy Moss" thing, either, because if anyone took a minute to look over the numbers, they would see that that clearly wasn't the case. But out of a group that includes names like Joey Browner, Steve Jordan, Anthony Carter, and a few others, I would have to declare Culpepper my favorite Viking of all time.
The favorite Viking moment is an easy one. . .9 January 2005. The Vikings, having backed into the playoffs thanks to the Saints losing to the Carolina Panthers, made their first ever post-season trip to Lambeau Field to take on the Packers. I can't remember one single football "expert" giving the Vikings even the slightest chance of winning. On ESPN, Steve Young even went so far as to say that Packers over Vikings was the "easiest game he picked all year." But the Vikings went out and took the Packers apart from the opening snap. Culpepper threw four touchdown passes, including two to a gimpy Randy Moss, the Vikings intercepted Favre four times, and won 31-17. I had a huge smile on my face from start to finish, and it was probably the most fun I've had watching Vikings football.
Bleszinski: How about your favorite current Viking and why?
Gates: My favorite current Viking is Antoine Winfield. No question. I love the way the guy plays the game. He's listed as 5'9", which is probably a little generous, but there isn't a cornerback in the league that hits harder than #26 does, and pound-for-pound there may not be a better tackler in the National Football League. For somebody that size to be so physical and so involved in stopping the run and getting in the faces of bigger wide receivers is a lot of fun to watch, and I try to focus on Winfield's play during games as much as the cameras will allow me to. He's been a great asset for the Vikings since coming over before the 2004 season.
Bleszinski: Tell me a little about yourself that people might not expect and would surprise your readers.
Gates: Well, it might not be a huge surprise to anyone that's followed the site for a while, but I've been an active duty member of the United States Air Force for almost 12 years and have loved every minute of it. So, with running this site for SBNation and my "day job," I have the two greatest jobs in the world, in my opinion.
As far as an actual surprise, there IS the fact that I've only attended one Vikings game at the Metrodome in my entire life, and it was almost 20 years ago. I saw the Vikings beat the Cleveland Browns 17-13 on 22 November 92 as part of a trip my family and I took to Minneapolis so I could try out for Teen Jeopardy. Unfortunately, I didn't make the show (though I came close), but the Vikings victory more than balanced things out. But I really need to make another trip to Minneapolis for a game. . .maybe next season if things work out.
Bleszinski: Thank you so much for your time and best of luck this weekend.