Vikings Fans, Prejudice & Love

An interesting thing occurred to me today. Not really all that strange in the ways of the universe..a common occurrence actually. The moment when love defeats prejudice and banishes it’s existence into nothingness.

Oh, Ya sure… I didn’t think I was ACTAULLY prejudice… I’m not THAT heartless.

You see I had a predisposition towards Vikings Fans. I am from Chicago. I gotta root for da Bears. But back in 1998, when I first moved back to MN I got caught up in the Vikings. Until THAT DAY. And I vowed never again.

I live in close proximity to the HHH Metrodome or what they now call Mall of America Field. And its good, because that is where I inline skate during the winter.

But during the fall there is this purple and gold invasion into my neighborhood. And like most prejudices I was afraid of what I did not understand or know.

A couple of weeks back I was a volunteer for the NOH8 Campaign when it set up it’s Open Shoot in St.Paul at Macalester College. While I was there I met Erin Darsow. Then Chris Kluwe walked in the door. I had just read his letter that is now infamous and was blown away by it all.

Erin friended me on Facebook. A week ago she invited me to an event called Vikings Fans SACK Cancer. This event was in conjunction with October being National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Erin had created this event where people who were at the Vikings Game in ‘Purple Lot #1″ could get their head shaved in honor of and to support Breast Cancer Awareness. The Vikings got involved and chipped in a cash donation per head. And then Erin and her crew raised some funds as well.

I contacted Erin and told her I would donate my photographic time to the event and show up and take pictures if she wanted. She was very keen on the idea.

I headed down to the parking lot around 9:30. The game started at 3pm. The smell of bar b que waifed thru the air. Music was bumping from various stereos, and set ups better than my living room were set up around the parking lot. I sent a message to Erin, she had me call her and then I found where she was in all her pink purple and yellow glory.

She introduced me to a bunch of people and they thanked me for being there to take pictures. I was offered a beer but declined gracefully without the whole “recovering alcoholic ” bit. I met more people.The warmth and friendliness was too cool. I fit right in.

As the cutting, no the electronic shaving of peoples head began, another photographer showed up ..we introduced ourselves. And I remembered his name: Craig. Which is good for me because usually in situations that are new to me, my short term memory is just fucked. And names just slip away.

People started to crowd closer to the chairs to watch people getting their heads shaved. I worked on pushing the crowd back so Craig and I had more room. And people obliged. Craig and I took turns shooting. But it was difficult to shoot. The sun was right into the lens, I had no lens hood, so I used my hand. In some shots you can see my finger. I had my buddy Fill with me, Fill Flash and it lite up the shadows nicely.

I worked my way around and through out the crowd, capturing images of folks in their pink, Purple and Yellow.

At one point a woman sat down and the head shavers pulled her long blond hair back into a pony tail, then cut it off. Then they began to shave her hair down to the scalp as the woman yelled “This is to honor my grandfather who died last night from kidney cancer!” Ok, That was it. I broke and just began to cry…in the middle of all these people. I shook it off..and took pictures of this woman as she became a bald head.

Folks arrived with pizza and pans of pasta. I was offered food. I accepted. As I was eating I saw a scene, placed the plate in my left hand, grabbed my camera hanging at my right side,stepped forward, took the shot, stepped back, let the camera fall to my side and continued eating. Some guy came up to me and gave me a fist bump for not missing a beat eating and shooting. I thanked him.

Oh, yea, the fist bump…any idea how an awkward geek like me tries to be cool in a mass like this? It’s a challenge and at times, not very pretty. After a few ridiculous attempts I figured out the ritual.

So where is all this yammering on leading to?

My unfounded prejudice of NFL fans, um , Vikings fans in particular was COMPLETELY dissolved this morning by the love, acceptance and gratitude these total strangers shown upon me, as I am sure they would to any one who walked into the camp. Except maybe for the stuffed dummy laying on the ground dressed like a member of the opposing team..but I got some good shots of kids kicking it.

And isn’t this the way of prejudice? An unfound fear based on lack of understanding….only dissolved by love and acceptance.

Rock ON VIKINGS FANS! You had a little Bear in your camp this morning and for a brief time he felt as if he was in Valhalla!

Here is the link to the pictures:
“http://www.flickr.com/photos/joebielawa/sets/72157631716790005/”

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