Jared Allen: He Made Being a Vikings Fan Fun

Jared Allen: He Made Being a Vikings Fan Fun

I don’t own a lot of jerseys, especially for a supposed sports fanatic. Maybe it’s having been burned too many times in life by players turning out to be duds, evidenced by my questionable purchase of a Marty Cordova No. 40 in 1995, or the player being reduced to a sidenote, as my $100 Brad Johnson No. 14 in 1998 would prove.

No, my closet is not a shrine to players and teams that I have followed, enjoyed, or loved like a true fanboy, and as a 39 year old father of two, that’s probably okay. I have a Joe Mauer No. 7 Twins jersey, bought days after the hometown hero signed his 10 year deal and I have a Matt Birk No. 78 because, well, it was one of two player options the Big and Tall store had and I was getting a jersey for a birthday gift (the other player was Darren Sharper’s No. 42, so yeah, it could’ve been worse).

Jared Allen

They don’t get a regular rotation. They come out occasionally for a July trip to Target Field, or to now fit over a winter coat at TCF Bank stadium in December. But there’s one jersey that hangs in the back of my closet that might be my most prized piece of clothing I own, but I almost never take it out and wear it; my Jared Allen No. 69 jersey from 2010.

I thought about that jersey tonight when I heard that Allen was retiring, doing every headline writer a favor and literally riding off into the sunset. Ever since leaving the Vikings in 2013, I’ve always kept an eye out for him when he played for the rival Chicago Bears and ultimately with the Carolina Panthers and it had become painfully clear the end of his career was nigh, so the announcement today came with little surprise.  Looking at that jersey, though, all I remember was the player who became a fan favorite almost instantly when he joined the Vikings in 2008.

Although he was player with off-the-field issues with alcohol when he arrived, Allen immediately garnered fan attention through his play on the field. In one fell swoop, the Vikings had a sack machine on the defensive line that wreaked havoc on opposing offenses, and the fans couldn’t get enough.

But it wasn’t just his play on the field that made him one of the most popular Vikings players in my lifetime, though.  Allen had a charisma, a boyish love of the game, and a unabashed…shall we say,  “immaturity” that had us all donning No. 69 jerseys and drunkenly yelling out “WINE ‘EM, DINE ‘EM, 69 ‘EM!!!” and “I like to parrty, with TWO R’s” in the tailgate lots.  The wild hair and his unabashed pride of the mullet was a storyline unto itself.

We all roped the calf after each of his sacks, and we stood on our feet and screamed as loud as we could as he cajoled us from his 6’6″ frame.  He made it okay to be a rabid Viking fan and we loved him for it.

Unfortunately time rolls on for all players, and that included Allen. That wild party hair got cut short in the back and the headbands covered the receding and thinning business top.  The dominating defensive end from 2007-2011 began to wear down and by his last two years on the team he had basically become a sack specialist, unable to continue the high geared all around play of his younger years.  The boyish charm that we all loved had been replaced with now the savvy vet.

His time away from the field was spent more on time with family and charity work than making goofy videos and doing silly interviews.  I don’t ever want to give the impression that these things are a bad thing for a young man to grow into, but our view of him from the fan’s perspective changed.  Watching him struggle in Chicago and Carolina, it was all to obvious that the player we went crazy for was long gone and what was left was a man clinging onto one last chance to bask in the glow of the spotlight.

As he trudged off the field after Super Bowl 50 I found myself sad, not only at him losing possibly his last chance for a championship, but also for how far he had fallen from those years where he could do no wrong in my eyes.

Yes, that Vikings #69 jersey still hangs in my closet.  Like Allen, time has rolled on for me as well as the jersey is now too small for me to squeeze into anymore. I know that at some point I’m probably going to have to give up the dream that I’ll ever fit into it again and donate it to Goodwill and have some lucky scrounger score a soon-to-be vintage jersey.

But for now, I’m keeping it because every time I look at that jersey I think not just of Jared Allen, but what it was like to be a fan during his time in Minnesota. And those are memories that we all should keep around for a little while longer.

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