When news broke of the Minnesota Vikings' sex cruise on Lake Minnetonka two weeks ago, fans were flabbergasted and the owner was downright disgusted.
But you'd think this type of incident would come as no surprise for fans of an organization noted more in recent years for booze, broads, drugs and guns than for onfield success.
In fact, this wasn't even the first sex scandal inside the Animal House that is the Minnesota organization under head coach Mike Tice. The team went through eerily similar accusations of sexual impropriety just two years ago, following an incident that seems to have been forgotten amid the "shock" over the Lake Minnetonka Love Boat. The 2003 episode was probably even worse than the October orgy of 2005. After all, the earlier event involved allegations of videotaped sexual assault.
The only thing surprising to us about this most recent incident is that Tice continues to keep his job. New Vikings owner Zygi Wilf was handed an easy excuse to clean house. Instead, while the organization flounders, he's done little more than place coach Bluto Blutarsky and his frat-mates on double-secret probation.
Tice was handed a team in January 2002 that was loaded with offensive talent (center Matt Birk, wideout Randy Moss, tight end Byron Chamberlain, running back Michael Bennett and quarterback Daunte Culpepper were all recent Pro Bowl performers) and that had a relatively long string of recent success. The 5-11 campaign of 2001 that hastened previous head coach Dennis Green's departure, for example, was Minnesota's first losing season since the Vikings went 6-10 under Jerry Burns back in 1990.
But Tice has made the playoffs just once in three seasons, and that was after a ho-hum 8-8 record last year in a historically weak NFC
. And with a 1-4 mark to start this season, it will be a grind just to make it back to 8-8, much less the postseason.
For all of the inconsistencies of Tice's team on the field, it seems to be fairly consistent off of it: the Vikings are going to thumb their nose at authority, decency and Dean Wormer and find themselves in legal trouble several times a year.
To an outside observer, it appears that Tice has no control over the non-stop toga party that is his NFL club. Sometimes it seems like he's an active participant, the good-time frat boy buying the booze and bringing over the under-aged school girls. After all, this is a coach who watched Randy Moss give Green Bay fans a mock moon during his lone playoff victory and then, just two weeks later, was caught and fined for scalping his Super Bowl tickets.
Here then is a chronicle of Minnesota's off-field troubles under Mike "Bluto" Tice, including individual acts of perversion so profound and disgusting that decorum prohibits listing them here.
But we'll do it anyway.
A lawyer representing a charter-boat cruise company said Vikings cornerback Fred Smoot reserved two boats for a nighttime excursion.
The night the Vikings set sail, a woman called Mound, Minn., police to report allegations of "possible prostitution, drugs and live sex acts" on the two boats.
Approximately 90 people were on the cruises, which sailed two hours less than scheduled because boat personnel complained about the lewd behavior and demanded the ships be docked.
Wilf, the Vikings owner, enraged over the incident, apologized to Gov. Tim Pawlenty. He then addressed his players and installed a code that will demand "high standards, high morals and success."
A woman files suit against suspended Vikings running back Onterrio Smith after claims that he sexually assaulted her last year. The woman, 21, is seeking $150,000 in damages.
Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg for Smith, who was suspended for the season after he turned up at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in April with several vials of dried urine and "The Original Whizzinator
," which is marketed as a way to beat drug tests. He was also suspended for four games in 2004 for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.
Vikings offensive linemen Bryant McKinnie and Marcus Johnson are arrested because they refused to leave a 24-hour service station. The two were charged with disorderly conduct and obstruction of justice, which are misdemeanors.
The police report said officers responded to a disturbance at Bobby & Steve's Auto World in Minneapolis. Upon arrival, the police saw Johnson and McKinnie involved in an argument with other customers. Police attempted to clear the group. The two linemen refused to cooperate and were arrested. They were released from jail after posting bond.
Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams is arrested for domestic violence. The All-Pro is charged with fifth-degree domestic assault, a misdemeanor, after his wife called 911 during a struggle in their home that involved a 13-inch kitchen knife.
When police arrived at 3:15 a.m., Williams appeared to be intoxicated and his wife, Tasha, had blood on her shirt and two lacerations on her left forearm.
Vikings wide receiver Kelly Campbell is stopped by Atlanta police after crossing the center line in his 2003 GMC Denali and driving in the wrong lane for up to 500 feet. Campbell is arrested on weapons and drug charges after authorities find him in possession of a stolen Smith & Wesson handgun and 16 grams of marijuana.
Campbell, Georgia Tech's all-time leading receiver, was also charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession while in college back in 1999. He has also found himself in trouble with the NFL on several occasions. In 2004, he was penalized once for excessive celebration and then fined $5,000 by the league for another excessive celebration incident. Campbell is no longer in the NFL.
Three Vikings – linebackers E.J. Henderson and Mike Nattiel and tight end Steven Farmer – are arrested for assaulting a man outside the Tabu nightclub in Minneapolis. The players dodged further trouble when no criminal charges were filed.
Vikings backup quarterback Todd Bouman and former running back Ted Brown are charged in separate sexual assault cases, stemming from the club's three-day fundraiser in Mille Lacs County, Minn. Called the "Arctic Blast," the event was a chance to raise money for various charities and for fans to bond with team members.
Apparently, there was a bit too much bonding.
A 22-year-old woman at the event said she was feeling sick and that a player brought her to a hotel room where she vomited in the bathroom. She settled into bed and when she awoke, she was naked with an unidentified man on top of her. Brown was named in the sexual assault case, though a plea agreement reduced his charges to fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct. (It should be noted that Brown was not a player for Tice. He played for the Vikings from 1979-86 and was among the alumni who participated in the event.)
A 30-year-old woman also at the "Arctic Blast" told investigators that she was hanging out around a hot tub with Bouman when someone slipped her a mickey. She said that she was then sexually assaulted and that she had bruises on her knees, wrists, thighs, forehead and face, along with – get this – internal injuries. The woman also said that the episode may have been videotaped. (In an incident that allegedly began around a hot tub, it's interesting to note that Bouman at the time was a spokesman for Valley Pools & Spas in Andover, Minn.)
The quarterback and the Vikings reached an out-of-court settlement with the woman. Bouman was later traded to the Saints and today is no longer in the NFL.
As his players are caught up in one alleged criminal act after another, Tice has maintained his job. And the owner went on record last week to say that the coach's status with the organization is not in jeopardy.
You can't help but wonder which laws his players have to break before Tice is finally held accountable. Wilf may demand "high standards, high morals and success." But actions – like booting pledge-party chairman Mike Tice – would speak a lot louder than words.
Tim Sullivan is the deputy sports editor for the New York Post.