A Mystery, Part 1: Wobby Departs
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.
Firing a very public face of the team for his political views would be asking for a public backlash.
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
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.