At some point in the middle of last week’s 27-19 victory over the New Orleans Saints, I turned to my wife and asked, “Should we buy astronaut costumes and go to the Vikings game next week against the Broncos?”
Like most of you, my better half is a die-hard Vikings fan, and she’s all-in on Josh Dobbs, aka The Passtronaut. As born-and-raised Minnesotans who made the move to the West Highlands neighborhood in Denver last fall, we couldn’t let this opportunity go by without taking full advantage of it.
Here are a few observations from attending my first NFL game while dressed as an astronaut.
On our half-mile walk from the neighborhood where we parked to Empower Field, there was no shortage of peculiar looks from non-football fans. As we were crossing one of the neighborhood streets with a car waiting patiently at the stop sign, I thanked the vehicle for letting a few astronauts pass with a Vulcan salute. Little did I know at the time, but said salute would remain a theme throughout the night.
As we entered the Empower Field plaza, I was surprised by the number of Denver Broncos fans who were downright clueless as to not only who we were cheering for but why in the Sam Hill would you come to a football game dressed in that?
“Our quarterback is nicknamed The Passtronaut,” Kortni tried to explain. Most of the folks dressed in orange and blue stared back at her as if she was speaking Russian.
Minnesota Vikings fans, though? They couldn’t get enough of it. I had never taken so many pictures with random strangers in my life. And for someone riddled with social anxiety, that astronaut helmet sure came in handy!
“We landed on the moon!”
Folks in purple and gold were eating this up, and Kortni was absolutely loving it.
Walking the concourse, there was a palpable buzz among the tens of thousands of Skoldiers who made the trek to Mile High. You would’ve never known that this was a fanbase still without its best player, Justin Jefferson, and opening-day quarterback, Kirk Cousins. Riding high on the backs of a five-game winning streak, these Vikings fans didn’t give a damn that our friends in Las Vegas pegged Minnesota as 2.5-point underdogs to the Broncos. And why should they after all the magic that has accompanied Josh Dobbs’ arrival?
Strangely enough, it felt quite similar to the Week 4 Chiefs/Broncos game on Monday Night Football in 2018 that I attended. At the time, Patrick Mahomes was quickly becoming the biggest story in the NFL as a first-year starting quarterback, and Kansas City Chiefs fans were walking tall throughout the halls of Empower Field. The bravado with which Vikings fans comported themselves pregame was much the same. The Passtronaut was about to introduce himself to the entire football world on the primetime stage.
When Dobbs turned in yet another jaw-dropping highlight in which he escaped a sack outside the pocket on third-and-one and found Josh Oliver in the end zone in the opening seconds of the second quarter, flashbacks of 2018 Chiefs/Broncos reappeared. The look in the eyes of Vikings fans who couldn’t believe what had just transpired was the same look of disbelief that Chiefs fans had when Mahomes escaped a Von Miller pass rush and converted a third-and-five by completing a pass to Tyreek Hill with his left hand.
The Vikings fans in attendance unleashed pandemonium midway through the third quarter. Facing a third-and-eight from Denver’s 10-yard line, Dobbs took matters into his own hands and found the end zone with his legs, putting the Vikings up 17-9. It was the third-straight game in which Dobbs ran for a touchdown on third down.
Towards the end of the video below, you can hear a particular astronaut sitting in section 127, row 35, seat 20 downright cackling as I locked eyes with the fellow Vikings fans sitting directly in front of us. How else is one supposed to respond after witnessing the most magical story in American sports right now pull yet another rabbit out of his hat?
No, Dobbs will never come close to being the quarterback that Mahomes is. But when the shiniest new toy in all of sports continues to make spectacular plays, this time in front of a national television audience, it’s impossible not to be reminded of what I witnessed in that same building five years ago with Mahomes making his first career primetime start. And it wasn’t the first time I had seen the pure euphoria on the faces of starved football fans soaking in all the wonders that come with having a relative unknown becoming the new face of a franchise (and, albeit temporarily, the entire NFL).
I’m not casting blame on Minnesota’s defense, but if the Vikings force Russell Wilson off the field on fourth-and-three from their own 32-yard line with just over two minutes remaining, we’re probably already in an entirely new stratosphere of Dobbs Mania with the Vikings on a six-game winning streak and sitting at 7-4. Having said that, seemingly all of the Vikings fans that we had the pleasure of sitting by on Sunday night fully expected The Passtronaut to lead his second game-winning drive in three weeks. That’s just how the script is written for the Hollywood film that Dobbs is currently putting this franchise through right now.
When we look back on this season many years from now, Dobbs Mania will almost assuredly resemble football’s version of Linsanity, when Jeremy Lin took the New York Knicks and the NBA by storm in 2011-12. But while the Vikings are sitting at 6-5 in the midst of their playoff push with The Passtronaut at the controls, there appears to be no shortage of fun on this odyssey through the stretch run of the 2023 season.