Everyone should have a hobby. I say that because hobbies are fun to envelope yourself in after the pains of normal life take their toll. Luckily for me, I have found a hobby that is almost directly involved with the normal American love of sports. This means there are a lot of people out there with a connection to the individuals who make up our athletic landscape. For me, I have had the opportunity, a few times now, to meet and talk with my favorite people from my favorite parts of the hobby I love, and last night was definitely one to remember.
When I came home from San Antonio to Minnesota to visit family for thanksgiving, I was notified by my father that we were going to have the opportunity to go to a “customer appreciation” night at Continental Diamond (website here), a jewelry store which my family has been long time friends with the employees and owners. Many other people had gotten a similar invitation, which included the chance to get autographs and pictures with a few of the Vikings players. My parents were able to go last year, when Christian Ponder and Chad Greenway were there signing for the patrons and friends of the store. This year, as tends to happen, the event was bigger and better than ever.
Paul Allen, the voice of the Vikings is a close friend of Continental Diamond, and thanks to his involvement, Ponder and Greenway were back, as were a few other players – but ill get to that. In reality, the Vikings players were there solely to sign autographs and hobknob with the invited guests, but the night was more dedicated to promoting the high end product that the store is known for. I would be remiss in saying that there was equal interest in both, as I wish I had the kind of money to buy some of the amazing wares that were on display. Let me say that this store earns its reputation.
As the players showed up, they were positioned at stations around their expansive store, with photos and pens to help speed things along. Kyle Rudolph (a great second year tight end), John Sullivan (our Center) and Chad Greenway (LB) showed up first. I happened to be standing right next to where they put Kyle Rudolph, and he happily signed my Vikings mini and rookie cards before anyone even knew what was going on. He could not have been more nice (a common theme for the night), and even offered to sign more if I had it. Once Paul Allen announced Rudolph was there, it was a mad rush to get in line.
At the same time, Chad Greenway started to sit down and sign across the store, and again, I was able to beat the line because everyone was still waiting for Kyle Rudolph. When I say line, there were about 150 people who were in the store, 75 of which cared about these Vikings appearances. The other people’s focus was more on taking pictures than getting autographs, so the players were happy to sign A LOT when needed.
Greenway signed another Mini Helmet I had brought along and also signed my rookie card for good measure. Like many of the other players, he offered to sign photos too, but the line was forming behind me. I wished him luck, and he shook my hand and said thanks. The guy was great.
Antoine Winfield, the anchor of the Vikings secondary was next, but I was unable to secure anything for him to sign in time for the event. The photos were just their team shot, which I wasn’t too keen on getting, so I just went over and said hi. By this time, everyone had figured out the pattern, and the lines were starting to form before the players sat down. I had a list of players that were going to be there prior to showing up, and was able to prepare a bit more than the other guests. I also had a feeling that there might be a few surprises in store, and brought some extra items just in case.
Christian Ponder showed up around 7:30, and despite his recent downturn in production on the field, everyone there (now about 200+ people) were happy to see him. Because I had so much Ponder stuff already, including some items from last year’s customer night, I wasn’t as willing to fight the line. People were getting pushy, mainly because there were a few players now signing, and quarters were tight, but I managed to get up to the front after a while and get my card and photo signed.
Then it got nuts. Buzz was starting to go around that Adrian Peterson was going to show up (unannounced), and when he walked in the door, it was like black Friday doorusters to get back to the place where they thought he was going to be. I staked out a less likely spot where I thought he would be, and much to my surprise, he was stationed just a few feet down the counter. Obviously, this caused a tidal wave of people to pack into this other corner of the store, with me about 10 people back. The event was scheduled to end at 9pm, and it was already 8:20, so Peterson would have limited time to sign the massive amounts of autographs everyone wanted.
I was expecting him to sign his shortened signature for everyone, considering the number of people, but the guy was a complete saint. He took pictures, shook hands, and stayed after to make sure he got people taken care of – full signature with inscriptions for anyone that wanted an autograph. He was the one guy my dad wanted, and we waited in line with a family friend to get stuff signed. I got a Mini and a card, and my dad got a photo and a football all signed. After meeting him in Houston last year, I knew he was a nice guy, but that was highly controlled and organized. He actually performed better under pressure. Not only did he personally greet everyone and fufill whatever requests they had (just like every player there), but he took much needed extra time with kids and their parents too. It was great.
At the end of the night, I came away with quite a haul, and I believe that the staff at Continental Diamond deserves a medal for making this happen. This was an incredibly memorable night for all involved thanks to great food, open bar and a smile from their impeccable staff and the owners, I have to say this is another rousing success. It sure doesnt hurt that the top players from the Vikings were nothing but class acts. They knew their mission and executed it with amazing resolve – treat the people of this event as though they were friends, and in the end, that is how many walked out of the store.