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A Mystery, Part 1: Wobby Departs

Photo: Mike Wobschall
Mike “Wobby” Wobschall

Mike “Wobby”Wobschall, the Vikings senior digital content manager, abruptly left/was fired by the team this week.

Wobschall had a very public role with the team. He appeared often on KFAN, the Vikings flagship radio station, alongside host Paul Allen; he teamed with Allen for in-stadium programming, including the “Between the Lines” post-game video segment.

He was also a regular on the “Winning Forumula” game preview video segments.

Wobschall hosted “Skol Stories,” a series of interviews with Vikings alumni.

And he handled the “Monday Morning Mailbag” column on Vikings.com.

Neither the Vikings nor Wobschall himself would say why he is no longer employed by the team. The Vikings simply confirmed that he was no longer an employee. Star Tribune‘s Paul Walsh has Wobschall’s reaction:

“I’m not going to say anything about that now.”

Mike Wobschall

And since no one is saying anything, that leaves the field rife for speculation. And you know the interent will speculate.

These are the two prevailing theories:

Fired For Pro-Trump Views

I have heard from a source close to the Vikings that Wobschall was a virulent Trump supporter and made those views known within the walls of the Vikings organization. His Facebook profile shows he follows both Trump and his daughter.

But people do not think he was fired simply for his conservative political views. The online chatter centers around a since-deleted Twitter tirade in October about the need for Trump to build his wall.

I find this theory dubious. There are plenty of conservatives employed by the Vikings, both as staff and players.

The analytics site Five Thirty-Eight conducted a survey in 2017 of the political leanings of every NFL Team’s fans. While Vikings fans lean somewhat Democratic, there are plenty of conservative fans as well.

Chart: Political leanings of every NFL team's fans

Firing a very public face of the team for his political views would be asking for a public backlash.

Erin Andrews

The other theory is that he was fired for something involving Fox sideline reporter Erin Andrews, presumably harassment.

Though this is strictly speculation, there is at least a timeline that would support the theory.

Wobschall conducted an interview with Andrews when she was in town to cover the Vikings’ Thursday night game against Washington. That interview was uploaded to YouTube on Wednesday, October 23, the day before the game.

Wobschall’s most recent tweet was from late during the game against Washington at US Bank Stadium.

He recorded his regular “Between the Lines” post-game segment from the field.

He did not appear, as he usually does, on the following week’s segment of “Winning Formula”.

Nor did he appear, as he usually does, on the post-game “Between the Lines” segment following the loss to the Chiefs, with Ben Leber joining Paul Allen as his replacement.

Bring Me The News noted that the “Monday Morning Mailbag” column that Wobschall usually handles is now in the hands of team reporter Eric Smith.

Bring Me The News also reported that Wobschall’s weekly KFAN show “Vikings Final Preparation” on November 1 was hosted by “Vikings’ Chris Corso, not Wobschall.”

KFAN did not give them a statement about Wobschall’s role at the station, so it appears that relationship has ended as well.

Fired For Negativity

I prefer Patrick Reusse‘s take on the situation:

I’ve made no secret of my disdain for “The Voice of the Vikings,” Paul Allen.

Look, Wobschall’s politics are as opposite of mine as you can get. And all of the above is speculation absent any actual facts beyond his dismissal from the team. So ultimately, I don’t know whether any of it is true. And generally speaking, you don’t root for someone to lose their livelihood.

But in terms of his “coverage” of the team, I’ll just say that his unrelentingly positive take in the face of obvious problems with the team’s performance is not my cup of tea. That, and, like Allen, I’ve never really learned a thing about the game of football or the team from “Wobby” that I didn’t already know.

Perhaps, that’s exactly what the Vikings wanted out of him: Homerism, pure and true. Perhaps he was secretly a much savvier football mind than it appeared but was never allowed to demonstrate.

There certainly is a significant percentage of Vikings fans who only want to hear that kind of glass-entirely-full perspective.

Filling The Open Role

Speaking for the more sophisticated Vikings fans, I’d like whoever the team brings in to take Wobschall’s place to be given the latitude to air more objective views about the state of the team.

I have written before about how the NFL, and the Vikings by extension, are not merely a sports league/team but also a content company.

If you take a look at how the NFL produces content, it is clear that they hire reporters to be journalists, not homers of the Allen/Wobschall variety.

Read a few stories from NFL.com and then compare that coverage to what we’ve become accostumed to the Vikings’ content producers.

The league’s reporters don’t shy away from citical analysis. Sure, there are certain topics they’ll tip-toe around but overall, the nature and tone of NFL Network fare is what you’d expect from ESPN, the Star Tribune or Skor North.

The Vikings should use the NFL as the model for their content shop. That doesn’t mean they can’t do the warm and fuzzy stuff but it would require a greater objective distance between the Vikings Entertainment Network and the actual team.

A Mystery, Part 2: Cris Carter Fired

Photo: Greg Coleman interviews Cris Carter
Greg Coleman interviews Cris Carter

A lot of the online commentary about Wobschall’s dismissal included a call to bring in former Vikings Hall of Fame wide receiver and recently-available Cris Carter as his replacement.

The problem with that is that Carter was fired from Fox Sports under as equally mysterious circumstances as Wobschall’s release from the Vikings.

Neither Fox nor Carter have said anything about why he’s no longer with the network.

Much of the speculation about Carter’s dismissal argued that he was unhappy with being passed over for a spot on the Thursday Night Football pre-game crew for the likes of Tony Gonzalez, Rob Gronkowski, and Reggie Bush.

But Ryan Glasspiegel of The Big Lead reports that Carter was suspended from his popular show First Things First “pending the results of a Fox investigation.”

Internal investigations are typically conducted for much more serious transgressions than temper tantrums, so Carter is likely not an option.

8 Comments

  1. casey moore on November 18, 2019 at 10:59 am

    I have been a hard line Minnesota Viking fan for 49 years. That doesn’t mean I give up my right to be critical. I have however found some strange circumstances in how they deal with team coverage.#1.) They have silenced the voice of the “Viking Faithful”. Example: They control all narratives and have made sure the “Fans” can’t make comments on any of their team sites. #2.) In the past I’ve talked with staffers in the building, through email and on the phone. Viking officials would not comment on any criticism. Head coach and GM would not take direct questions. You will often find that the GM hides and dodges questions when things aren’t going well. The coach doesn’t like to be challenged when it comes to tough football questions. He has a hard time with accountability. I asked this question to both: “How long in your opinion should a coach and or a Gm be given to implement their program in order to win the Super Bowl?” Crickets could be heard in the room. The sound of silence suddenly shed its light on the truth.

    Speaking of Wobby, I can tell you I have had some heated discussions with him in the past because of his one sided view of the Vikings. God he had more excuses than the coach himself. Wobby was a conformist who always toed the corporate line. He was never willing to be critical of the team. You certainly can’t question the brass medal of management. He knew if he did, the Vikings would fire him. That is not being a journalist. That is not freedom of speech either. Even though I didn’t like Wobby I can tell you he was loyal to the team in purple. If only the management had the same loyalty to its fans and former employees. Do as I say, not as I do. Right, Spielman?

    The organization is not willing to take responsibility for not winning the Super Bowl even though they have the best stadium, facilities and fans. The coach remarked when questioned by a Viking Fan, “What the hell do the fans know about football?” As if only he knew better. 6 years, no Championships to speak for, lol.

    So if your a Viking fan, you best spend your hard earned money on over priced jersey’s (price gauging on merchandise), outlandish game tickets, parking(ridicules stealing), stadium food/beverages (greed and lack of quality), toe the team line (or you will be shamed and punished) and you best never question management ( How many Championships have they won again?). After all, your just a fan who supports his team loyally and spends money on the team they love; Apparently you don’t know what’s best for the team, ONLY THEY DO. And “they” have no championships to show for it.

    I keep waiting for the day when the fans from across the country get to ask the tough questions. It’s obvious the media doesn’t have the ability to ask what is obvious to the fans.

  2. Randy Brennan on November 21, 2019 at 4:27 pm

    Casey is spot on. I have been a fan since 1968 and I just don’t get it. They get to the playoffs and fold. I would like the Vikings to add a comment section to their web site so we could at least vent our frustration. Another thing I would like to see happen with the Vikings is for them to knock off all the celebration crap. They celebrate for first downs, catches, sacks,TD’s and just about any other thing they are paid mega bucks to do. Every team does this and it makes them look like a bunch of fools. I like the old days when after a touch down the player would hand the ball off to a ref and go back to the sideline. These are grown college educated men. It’s about time they started acting like it. They can celebrate in the locker room. I have my doubts about them ever being in another Super Bowl, let alone winning one.

    • Corey on December 15, 2019 at 7:48 pm

      Well say your wrong football celebrations is it entertainment never know when going score a touchdown again yes there grown men playing a childs game dont forget that when the team has quality depth thats when they’ll win a Superbowl

      • Julian Rhoades on December 23, 2019 at 9:31 pm

        That’s how we know you are 1000 years old

  3. Kevin Bartman on December 15, 2019 at 8:47 pm

    I liked Wobby. He’s very intelligent and tactful. Was wondering where he went so abruptly. Hope the item that got him fired was not too heavy. To Mike Wabschall: Thank you for your years of service. I think you did a good job. Hope all this hasn’t soured your own personal fanship. skol Vikes!

  4. Hecules Hercules on December 22, 2019 at 5:08 am

    My take: Wobly got canned because he couldn’t stop talking / arguing about Trump. He was probably told at a certain point not to discuss politics and probably got repeated warnings but he couldn’t keep his far right (unwittingly facist and alt right) views from seeping out and creeping out everyone.

    Yes, I’m sure there are some conservatives in the Vikings fold; but they ain’t that conservative that they’re going to put up with his diarehia of the mouth especially when 70% of the team is African American and you can bet 0% of them think Trump is wonderful.

    As for Carter, he has a terrible reputation. Did you see his Hall of Fame Speech? The dude has zero humility. Did you see his impulsive and hyocritcal tirade against Adrian Peterson on ESPN? The dude has zero self-awareness and impuse control. Did you see his advice for newly drafted players at the NFL rookie symposium? The dude has questionable ethics. He’s also known to be a difficult person to work with and even mean to fans seeking autographs.

    Now both of them suck big time. But I must admit, a “CC and Woby Show” sounds like an amazingly interesting podcast. It’s the Odd Couple! Can these two cast-offs share a mic without driving the other one crazy?

  5. Elmer on December 24, 2019 at 5:12 am

    This franchise is a joke

  6. Michael on January 15, 2020 at 5:02 pm

    Wobby started out great but he started getting to cocky and opinionated for my taste and I didn’t even know his political views. I stopped watching him mid 2018 season. This was a good move! Always enjoy Allen and Leber!

    Same can be said for Carter.. I always placed carters character above Moss during their playing years but after both got media roles, It’s clear Moss is the more genuine person and does a great job for ESPN.

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