Purple problems

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Born in a suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota, my earliest childhood recollections are dominated by a few recurring themes: catching minnows on the shores of a hundred different lakes; bright lights and cheese curds at the Minnesota State Fair; the great mounds of snow being plowed to the center of our cul-de-sac where the neighborhood children would collect, burrow and climb with delight.

In one way or another, these memories were all colored with the same palette. Whether it be a television set blaring play-by-play in the background of the family room or my snow-pants in the winter and T-shirts in the summer, all of my childhood memories are tinged with the purple and gold of the Minnesota Vikings.

I was bred to be a fan from birth. The Vikings are so dramatically imprinted and intricately woven into my psyche that they’re responsible for a portion of my identity. Unfortunately, that portion of my identity is littered with astounding disappointment.

From Jim Marshall running the wrong way for a touchdown to the horrible Herschel Walker trade that dismantled the franchise for a decade, and from Gary Anderson’s infamous missed field goal in the 1998 NFC Championship Game to being the most affected victim of the ‘Bountygate’ scandal in 2009, the heartache has outweighed the triumph many times over.

It’s common among the Viking faithful to discuss and dissect just which embarrassing incident or terrible tragedy was, or is, the most difficult to stomach. But after the events of the last several weeks, I feel as though it’s safe to say that the debate is over.

Adrian Peterson, my favorite player on my favorite team, was indicted on allegations of child abuse earlier this month, sending me into a hazy daze from which I have yet to emerge. The incident has me thinking and rethinking everything from social justice and corporal punishment to the National Football League’s handling of issues not related to the field.

First, I had to reconcile with the idea that Peterson, the face of the Vikings since his rookie season in 2007, may have played his last game in Minnesota — a thought that was unfathomable just a few days prior. My instinctual urge was to want him back on the field, even if I was only partially conscious of it. I was rooting for Peterson in a personal matter because I liked the way he played football and who he played for.

It wasn’t until I shifted my attention to the more devastating issue of child abuse, alleged or not, that I noticed something frightening going on in my brain: I was making excuses, looking for loopholes, and shifting my judgment as it pertained to abuse because the man involved was my personal, sports hero.

I had to revisit those early Minnesota memories to help myself divorce from the issue. It is, after all, the children innocently rooting for their favorite teams who could be facing abuse at home. My inner child knows that those are two very separate issues with very separate consequences and realities.

I don’t know exactly how to feel about a parent’s right to discipline their child in the manner they see fit; I’ve never had to think about it. I imagine it’s an opinion of mine that will slowly form and morph over time as I have new, personal experiences and perhaps children of my own. But I’ve learned that when the sports world shifts its focus to real societal issues, wins, losses, colors and logos need to be kept out of the conversation.

Nic R. Krause was born a cranky, curmudgeon of a child in a Minnesota suburb. He was plucked from the muggy tundra and relocated to Colorado Springs 22 years ago. From intramural jai-alai, to his complicated relationship with the Minnesota Vikings, Nic, plainly stated, is bonkers for sports. Follow him on Twitter @NicRKrause.

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