Vikings Owners Zygi and Mark Wilf grew up watching the New York Giants at Yankee Stadium.
The family's journey to those moments, and owning the Minnesota Vikings since 2005, is a story of courage, survival and luck that helped their parents overcome the Holocaust.
Mark Craig of the ***Star Tribune*** tells this story in Sunday's paper as the Vikings (9-5) prepare to host the Giants (6-8) on Sunday Night Football.
The story includes harrowing experiences that family members faced in Europe, where Zygi was born in 1950, and the promise they came to discover in America. Football became a family tradition that Joe Wilf enjoyed sharing with his sons, Zygi, now 65, and Mark, 53.
Zygi is Owner/Chairman, Mark is Owner/President, and their cousin Lenny Wilf is Owner/Vice Chairman of the Vikings, the organization they've led since purchasing the NFL franchise.
Craig wrote that as the business founded by Joe and his brother Harry took off, Joe had opportunities to buy the New York Titans and the Philadelphia Eagles but wasn't interested. Zygi reflected on how personal he took Giants games in the 1960s and 70s.
"The Giants in the '60s and '70s lost lots of games," Zygi said. "I would be very distraught about the way we lost games. My father used to always go, 'Don't feel so bad. Think how the owner must feel.' Here I am now, and I know exactly how the owner feels."
The Vikings, however, now have an opportunity to secure their first postseason berth since 2012 and enter Week 16 in contention for their first NFC North crown since 2009. A new, state-of-the-art, climate-controlled home is on the horizon, with U.S. Bank Stadium scheduled for completion in July 2016.
The Wilfs have overseen the promotion of General Manager Rick Spielman, as well as the hiring in 2014 of Head Coach Mike Zimmer.
Craig reported on how that structure is off to an impressive start and is showing signs for a bright future:
"We put a lot of effort into making sure we got the structure right," Mark said. "We put a lot of effort into making sure we have the GM that can evaluate talent. We took a lot of time traveling around the country interviewing many coaches.
"Mike Zimmer is the whole package, and that came through very clearly," Mark added. "What happened with him in past interviews with other teams, I have no idea. We're excited about this year and the future."
*From Spielman's perspective, the Wilfs walk the line between "staying informed, letting you do your job" and providing the necessary resources. *
"In the 10 years I've been here," said Spielman, "there has never been a time they've said no to providing the resources we need for us to do what we have to do to try and win now and in the future."
*The future is something [Zygi and Mark's mother] Suzie and Joe focused on without sharing stories of the Holocaust until Zygi and Mark were grown. Now, Suzie has nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. She's often asked to share her stories in her grandchildren's grade schools so the Holocaust is never forgotten. *
''It was not easy to go back to those times," she said. "We pushed away the memories of those life-threatening times and took to the good life of America. Americans should be more appreciative of America and be more tolerant. Even with all the things going on, it's still the best country in the world."