In the world of sport, the only thing I appreciate more than a talented professional athlete is an athlete who is talented at being a professional. You know, the type who carries himself or herself with decency, contributes to society and commits a random act of civil service now and then.
Maybe this speaks to my shamefully low standards as a Minnesota sports fan, but if a pro athlete chooses to stay here in the offseason instead of fleeing to more desirable climes found in Gulf Coastal Florida or Southern California, I am more willing to overlook an abysmal ERA, turnover issues or a staggering free-throw percentage. It’s just easier to cheer for someone who makes himself or herself one of us.
Cases in point: Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder, tight end Kyle Rudolph and center John Sullivan. At 26, Sullivan is the oldest of the bunch and started on the 2009 team that went 12-4 before losing in the NFC Championship game. Ponder, 24, and Rudolph, 22, are entering their sophomore seasons coming off ho-hum rookie campaigns. Nothing about these three screams football immortality and they will lead a 2012 Vikings that has gone 9-23 over the past two seasons.
Ponder, Rudolph and Sullivan have made the Twin Cities their home this summer and not just a P.O. box. What’s more, they really seem to like it here! And through what can only be described as brilliant personal marketing — intended or not — the guys have tweeted many of their great Minnesota adventures:
It used to be professional athletes gained equity by winning and signing autographs — simple as that. Throw in the occasional fundraiser or charitable contribution and you were everybody’s darling. Though winning still matters, professional athletes like Ponder, Rudolph and Sullivan understand the importance of simply and plainly being one of us. (Oh, and broadcasting it via social media.)
Here’s the thing: I have no doubt these guys genuinely like it here and they’re not going through the motions to gain fans. But, they’re winning over fans by using social media in the pure and honest way it was intended. And as a proud resident of Loserville, U.S.A., this makes it so much easier to root for the home team.