It all began with Syd Davy. One of the NFL’s most recognizable fans, Davy—decked out in Viking warrior gear and face paint—has been literally catching Vikings players, like Randy Moss and Adrian Peterson, for the last two decades as they leaped into the end-zone seats in touchdown celebration. In 1997, Davy and a few friends started a grassroots mission to convince the Minnesota Legislature to help build a new stadium for the team.
“For two months in 2012, we were there 20 or so times, all hours around the clock, and that made a super huge impression. It scared the heck out of the opposition,” says Scott Asplund, a Viking World Order (VWO) member, who played a large part in that stadium push.
They succeeded. In May of that year, the legislature approved funding, and the $1.1 billion, fixed-roof U.S. Bank Stadium opened two years later. The Vikings played their first regular season game on their new field on September 18, 2016.
“I’m extremely proud that we stood strong for the stadium, stood positive. No one got vulgar or negative,” Skolt says. Skolt is Asplund’s VWO name. Every member chooses a name when they join the group, usually one with a Viking culture connection. “My name is Scott and the Vikings cheer name is Skol, so put them together, that’s Skolt. It stands out and it’s easy to remember,” he says.
But nothing is done by halves in the VWO. So the naming comes with a full-fledged knighting—sword and all. Usually conducted by Davy, whose fan name is 100% Cheese-Free (a reference to their bitter rival, the Packers), the knighting commences a few hours before each game at the start of the tailgate.
Davy steps up onto a small box, decked out in his signature get-up of a chain-mail mantel, purple-and-gold face paint, a humongous replica championship belt with “VWO” painted on it, and a horned helmet. The first male inductee moves forward, is introduced, and kneels, just like the knights of yore. Davy recites the VWO pledge to be a lifetime Vikings fan, loyal to the VWO, and serve with integrity and respect. With each of the three pledges, he lightly touches them on their shoulders with his three-foot-long sword.
“Some kind of get boisterous,” Skolt says. “Then he’ll hold their arm up and welcome them as Sir whatever name they’ve chosen. Or if it’s a woman, it would be ‘Lady’.”
The ladies are not knighted. Nor do they kneel. Instead, Davy gives the pledge to them as a group and gallantly kisses their hands as he welcomes each one with their new VWO moniker.
Once the knighting ends, “we sing Skol, the Vikings fight song,” Skolt says. “That will get loud, and we do it well. You don’t have to have choir voices, you just have to sing with gusto.” Then the celebration breaks up and gets on with tailgating. “There’s no hazing or anything. The knighting ceremony is the whole thing,” he says.
But reaching that knighting ceremony is no cake walk. First, the person has to garner a recommendation from someone on the 32-member nomination committee. “It’s work at my end to nominate someone,” says Skolt, a committee member. As the sponsor, he holds the responsibility for ushering the electee through the process while lobbying the other voting members.
Then his nominee has to compose a fan bio. “They probably do a better job on these than on a regular resume,” laughs Skolt. The bio answers some basic questions meant to outline their commitment to the group’s ideals of loyalty to the Vikings and supporting the community, including volunteering at VWO charity events and helping at the tailgates.
“I’ve seen it take months to be approved,” recalls Skolt. Though his friend Kira—now Lady Kir— received the nod in a day. “But she’d been doing events for a year and was very patient with the process,” he says. “If you’re pushing too hard, that will slow it down.”
Founder Syd Davy has the final approval. “He could nix the process right there, but I don’t recall that ever happening,” says Skolt.
The horde usually accepts enough new members during the off-season that they need to hold a knighting ceremony the Friday night before the season opener and finish it up the next day at their regular tailgate. “We could have around 25 on the season opener versus last week (in January) we had one,” says Skolt.
Skolt knows the process may seem extensive among tailgating crews. “Some people will classify us as elite, but we want you to grow and be stronger as a Vikings fan,” he explains. “We don’t want Vikings fans to be fair weather. I almost dislike them more than I dislike our opponents.”
He admits that officially joining the VWO isn’t for everyone. “Some people hang out, and some do a lot of stuff with us,” he says, but they cannot commit the time or do not want to make a lifetime commitment at the level the VWO asks. “And that’s fine.”
A Permanent Pledge in Ink
One of those commitments is to get a tattoo. “It either says VWO or spells it out,” Skolt says. Otherwise, the size, color, placement, and content are up to the new member. Some can be released from the oath of ink due to medical or religious reasons. “I was not raised with tattoos as a positive, and it was not something I really wanted,” admits Skolt. His daughter Jasmine—10 years old at the time—did not like tattoos and made him promise to not get one. VWO granted him a release. But about 85 to 90 percent of members happily get inked, some extravagantly so.
The Full Regalia
The Viking adornment doesn’t stop there. The knights and ladies of the VWO dress for the occasion as well. “You can be as creative as you want to be to show off your pride and spirit,” explains Skolt. “It’s loud and colorful.” Rarely does someone come in jeans and a jersey. There’s fur boots, capes, chainmail, leather wristbands, eye patches, and a tankful of purple camo. The weapons run the gamut from spears to battle axes and Thor-like hammers.
Skolt dons a Vikings jersey, scowling face paint with a Batman vibe, and the iconic horned helmet, all while carrying a custom-designed shield and sword. Even into the stadium. He had to get special dispensation for the very realistic-looking, latex-foam prop sword even before the stadium was opened. “This is my way of being a Vikings fan. Not as a character, but as part of who I am as a Vikings fan. I like to show my love for my team,” he says.
“We certainly have a lot of fun,” adds Skolt, referring to the get-ups. One of the surprising things for the “armed” warriors is being asked to pose for photos as if they have vanquished or are fighting a fan of the opposing team. “It’s amazing how opponents get into that,” he says.
When the Viking World Order was pushing for the new stadium, they would besiege the capitol geared up in their warrior raiment. “We had rallies. And 50 or 60 of us would visit the senators’ and representatives’ offices in full gear,” recalls Skolt. “We’d go right up to a desk, and you could see the receptionist dropping their jaw. They’d never had anything like that happen before.”
Rank and File
That warrior energy within the VWO culture includes the assignment of a military-esque ranking to all the men. Chosen by Davy—the only five-star general—and his second-in-command Diggz, the designation denotes one of six divisions—air force, army, special ops, navy, homeland security, and marines—along with a personal rank, such as corporal and colonel.
“If issues come up, like personal disputes, the idea is that you don’t run to Diggz, you go to your general first and then vet it through that way,” explains Skolt. “And that has helped with some of that, but people still circumvent it.”
Promotions are doled out in recognition of service and achievements. Skolt’s efforts during the stadium lobbying elevated his rank up to three-star general. “I was involved front-and-center a lot during that time,” he says.
But soon the randomness of the designations will cease, and the women—who make up about 40 percent of the VWO—will also receive a rank. “In the last month or so, there’s been a decision for rank to be based more on time of service,” says Skolt.
When Vikings players asked to join their tailgating tribe, the VWO created a venerated military branch just for them. “We have a special players division. It’s like our Valhalla,” says Skolt. So far, five retired players have become members—Jim Marshall, Carl Eller, Mick Tinglehoff, Tommy Kramer, and Jake Reed. Two are NFL Hall of Famers.
They also recently started a kids’ division. “It’s a great way to raise a kid in the family of the VWO world,” says Skolt. The bulk of the group falls into the 30- to 55-year-old age range. “We’re not stupid. We’ll all get older and peter out in time,” explains Skolt. “This way, they see how it’s done and can take over down the road.”
Viking-size Birthday Party
“Vikings fans are literally all over the world. That’s why you’ll never hear me say ‘Vikings Nation’, because it’s all over the globe. We don’t go looking for them, they just come,” touts Skolt. He has met fans from England, Australia, Scandinavia —“a given,” he says—and Central America. “Luxembourg was the most unique one,” he adds.
“The biggest aspect of the VWO is that we promote loyalty and pride in the team,” sums up Skolt. With Super Bowl LII being played this year in their stadium, the Vikings loss against the Eagles in the NFC Championship was a cruel blow. “There’s always another season,” he says.
But Skolt says he got a solid gift this year from the Vikings in the playoffs. Held on January 14 on their home turf, the Vikings won their playoff game in a crazy last minute catch against the Saints in a 29–24 victory. “It was the best birthday present ever,” Skolt says. Then adds, “I should thank the Vikings for inviting 66,000 people to my birthday party.”