EAGAN, Minn. – Fans have a chance to engage in a competition themselves before the Vikings season opener Sunday.
Minnesota's Week 1 contest will pit the Vikings and Bucs against each other at U.S. Bank Stadium. But just beforehand, actor and lifelong Vikings fan Josh Duhamel will host a unique, high-energy Buddy Games event on The Commons.
The festivities will help celebrate the premier of Duhamel's new TV show, Buddy Games, which will premier Sept. 14 on CBS.
The show's concept was inspired by Duhamel and a tightknit group of his friends who have annually gotten together during the summer for some good-natured (but certainly not half-hearted) competition.
"[Some of my favorite memories include] shooting paintballs at my friends as they run across the field in their underwear," Duhamel quipped.
But as goofy and rambunctious as the games get, he noted, the pals have come to value the yearly get-together for much more than a rivalry.
"We're all in our high 40s – or 50 – now, and as competitive as it is, it's really about the camaraderie, the brotherhood and how long [we've been friends]," Duhamel told Vikings Entertainment's Gabe Henderson in a recent interview. "I've known some of these guys since kindergarten. So those friendships mean more to me now than they ever have.
"I think as you get older, you value those friendships that much more. 'Old friends' are hard to make," he added. "So, it's as much about getting together and being around the guys as it is the competition."
What used to simply be a fun tradition – which was started, by the way, by Duhamel's longtime friend nicknamed "The Bob Father" – has now developed into a highly anticipated reality TV series.
"We took the idea to CBS, they loved it, and now here we are," Duhamel said. "It's kind of a dream come true, honestly."
The North Dakota native hopes viewers will enjoy the show because of its relatability.
"People do versions of this everywhere. You've probably got a group of friends you play dumb games with in the backyard … or see how many balls you can catch jumping into the water," Duhamel said. "We just never stopped as kids. We were just always competing. And I think that's probably the case [for groups of] friends everywhere.
"[Viewers] can expect to see themselves in a lot of these groups, probably. This is not American Ninja Warrior; it's not Survivor or any of those shows where you have to starve yourself or be the most athletic," Duhamel continued. "These are just normal people with that competitive fire, and I think that's what people are going to love about it."
Season 1 of Buddy Games was filmed outside the city limits of Bogotá, Colombia, where all the teams of friends stay together in one gigantic cabin – creating what Duhamel called a "Big Brother feel."
He and "The Bob Father" worked with CBS to design some of the "ridiculous games" that will debut on the show.
"We play the normal ones – golf, whiffle ball, cornhole … and then we always have one outrageous game," Duhamel laughed.
And though he won't be the one competing this time around, don't think for a second Duhamel kept himself entirely on the sidelines.
The actor noted that many reality show hosts tend to stay out of the fracas and offer play-by-play. He wanted to change things up.
"I got in there, man. Partly because I just couldn't help myself," Duhamel said. "I was the test dummy for all the games, all the crazy stuff they do. I got in there and tried it first. I actually had a 'Test Dummy' T-shirt, and I would go in and do these things so players knew how each game was played.
"Between that and just going through the process with them, I felt like a head counselor at a big adult summer camp," he added.
Duhamel hopes that same feeling is true Sunday morning on The Commons.
Bringing together Buddy Games and the Vikings was truly a no-brainer, he said.
Duhamel emphasized the "natural connection" between the competition and Minnesota, which is where much of the original tradition originated. As he and his friends grew up, got into their careers and dispersed around the country, they often returned in the summer to "The Bob Father's" Minnesota home or to Duhamel's off-the-grid cabin also in Minnesota..
Add to it that CBS President and Chief Marketing Officer Mike Benson also is a Minnesota native and graduate of the U of M, and Sunday's kickoff outside U.S. Bank Stadium just made sense.
"[Mike is] also a Vikes fan, and he was like, 'How about we do it in Minnesota at a tailgate – the home opener?' And I said, 'Count me in,' " Duhamel said.
As he and Vikings fans everywhere look forward to the 2023 season and Head Coach Kevin O'Connell's second at the helm in Minnesota, Duhamel is also excited for friends and families around the country to experience Buddy Games.
"You'll get the reality of what happens inside the house, the competitions, the alliances, the camaraderie that was formed," he said. "We've got all the games, the competitive stuff, but we also get to see how the histories of these groups of friends play out and how they interact with other people in the house.
"We thought this would be fun to see friends competing against other groups just like them. We thought there was really a commonality between what my group of guys is like and what they're like in this game," Duhamel added. "I tell you what, man, they were all in. It was so competitive and dramatic and emotional and funny. It couldn't have turned out better, to be honest."
Click here to learn more and to register for Sunday's event.