Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Ryan Longwell - Traitorriffic

Longwell loving life with former 'enemy' Vikings

The Associated Press

MANKATO, Minn. — Ryan Longwell doesn't look like the kind of guy who likes to wear the black hat.

He's the poster child for nice guys — affable, unassuming, and great in the community and with fans.

Playing the previous nine seasons with the hated Green Bay Packers, and the annual trip to the raucous Metrodome in Minneapolis that came with it, taught Longwell all about playing the role of villain.

Beneath his choir-boy appearance, Longwell had a ball being the bad guy.

"I really loved being the enemy," Longwell said. "I always thought that it was fun. And there was no better place to be the enemy than in the Dome, because it was so loud and they were so against you."

So when the Vikings lured Longwell away from the Packers in the offseason, they signed perhaps the biggest target for Vikings fans' fury outside of Brett Favre.

"We had some huge wins over here back then, but at the same time, it's fun to be on the other side of the battle now," Longwell said. "I'm excited to go to Lambeau for the first time, and I'm excited to play the Packers for the first time, because I still have some great friends over there."

After spending so much time in one place, Longwell said the change has been refreshing.

"The transition has been a lot smoother than I anticipated," he said. "It's been a blast. It's been a lot of fun. It's been really exciting just to have everything new. Getting a chance to hang out with Darren Sharper again is great. He's changed a lot. A lot. He had me over for dinner the first night here, he's a good cook."

And what did the former Packers player have to say?

"At first, not much, he was focused on dinner. He was explaining how things were different now that we're Vikings and he was going into this whole deal about how to properly eat babies and stuff..."

Eat what now?

"Babies. All Vikings players eat babies. We feed on the souls of the innocents. I was pretty nervous but you'd be amazed how good Blackened Baby is with a good Riesling. Now I eat 'em all the time."

Baby eating? Did this happen in Green Bay?

"Oh no. Those bible thumpers frown on that sort of thing. Actually no other team in the league does it. I don't know the legality of the thing, I just know that I need to eat babies because otherwise my soul will die. It happens as soon as you sign with the Vikings."

He won't take his first Metrodome kick in purple until the preseason opener against Oakland on Aug. 14, but the idea of spending most of his season indoors after enduring the harsh elements of Lambeau Field didn't hurt the Vikings in negotiations.

When the Vikings venture outdoors, they shouldn't have to worry much about their kicker. Playing in the NFC North his whole career, Longwell is used to kicking in Soldier Field's wind tunnel in Chicago and, of course, on the icy turf at Lambeau Field.

"There is definitely a technique and a tact for kicking in those places, and the only thing that you can do is have more experience, I used to rely on my ability but now I'll just let satan guide my leg." Longwell said.

"Fortunately I have a lot of experience kicking in Soldier Field and kicking in Lambeau, so that will be an advantage for us. Plus I'm looking forward to Chicago, I hear you can get deep dish baby pizza there."

The kicking thing has come easy for Longwell, who grew up in Bend, Ore., before going to college at California.

This season has brought a new challenge — breaking in a new holder. Punter Chris Kluwe is training to be the holder on field goals in camp despite never having done it before on any level.

Longwell, who has been known to call out the holder or long snapper after a missed field goal, has been working with the second-year player to get a comfort level.

"I think the good Lord still has his hands on Kluwe in some way. He's not entirely evil just yet. It'll happen. Darren's having a banquet at the end of training camp and I'm sure after a full meal of Baby Stroganoff and Lemon Pepper Baby he'll be good to go."

ps. It's entirely possible the vikings and their players are not actually evil. Frankly I don't see how but others have mentioned that it is plausible. Just so you know...


Packman said...

Great story. Right now I can picture Longwell sitting with Bud Grant over a big bowl of Baby Back Ribs.

Anonymous said...

Let's get one thing straight. There is no such thing as enemy or traitor in pro sports. It's all about the money. That's why they're called "professional" sports.

Words like enemy and traitor are for amateurs and and small-thinking fans. It's all about putting the best players on the field within the budget. Owners have no loyalty beyond the current play/game/season, so why should players? When coaches and owners start showing loyalty to players its only a matter of time to the bottom of the standings.

Packman said...

"Words like enemy and traitor are for amateurs and and small-thinking fans."

I guess it's better to be a "professional" fan of sports?

Anonymous said...

Oh! Anonymous, you're so right! I really hate it when sports fans show loyalty to just one team! I mean, it's so idiotic for people to get upset when a talented athlete leaves their favorite team, possibly affecting said team's Super Bowl prospects!
I can tell that you, Anonymous, are a man of my own heart. Just as the players go where the money is, we sensible fans cheer for the team that's kicking the most ass! And let's face it...that means neither of us has been much of a Packer fan lately!
Right on, brother Anonymous. You rock!

MF said...

I think the problem for Anonymous is that he (or she, I guess) is acting like following a sports team is rational in some way. It's not. Let it go. Get fired up about a team, don't just sit on the sidelines and act like caring about a group of players is beneath you. Have some fun. What's the point of watching sports at all if you don't care who wins and who they win with?

Anonymous said...

This is anonymous again trying to set you small thinkers straight. You guys miss the point and still don't get it.

The chastising was not a reference to fans, but to owners and players. By definition, fans are are loyal to a team. An unloyal fan is not a fan at all (that's also why the vikings have no fans, just spectators).

Most of us real Packer fans have been through the tough times, when players leave, or even replacements come in. In fact, the first Lambeau game observed first-hand by yours truly was during the strike of 1974 with replacement players. Get it?

Packman said...

"set you small thinkers straight."

That's real cool.

MF said...

Anonymous - try to keep up, seriously. The issue on the table isn't whether the owners/players/coaches/cheerleaders are always going to be loyal to one team. Of course they're not. They have their reasons and that's fine, they can chase the money or a title or whatever. There's no issue with that at all. The issue is this: AS FANS WE CAN STILL MOCK THEIR DECISIONS. So have some fun with it. Why would you bother following a team if it's not fun?

Also, please be honest with yourself and admit that while a win over the vikes, bears, whatever is fun it's even more so because of the relationships of the players involved. Watching as Longwell shanks one late in the game will be more entertaining to fans because of his prior history with the team. It's not small-minded to enjoy that, it's part of life. Live a little buddy.

MF said...

by the by, welcome Sid, if the Strib ever tells you to go sell crazy somewhere else you'll have a home here.

Anonymous said...

m.f. pack, you're right on the m.f. money!