MINNEAPOLIS – Mardy Fish is accustomed to being in the spotlight, but he enjoyed taking time to be a fan Sunday.
Fish took in the pregame energy from the sideline at U.S. Bank Stadium prior to the Vikings-Saints matchup, which he attended with his father. The former professional tennis player lives in Los Angeles, but he's never abandoned his Midwest roots.
"I can't root for anything outside of Minnesota sports," said Fish, who was born in Edina. "There aren't many Vikings fans out in L.A. anymore, but we try to find each other when we can."
Fish learned the game of tennis from his father at a young age, but he also inherited a love for the Vikings, as well as Minnesota's other pro teams.
Fish called it "a family thing," saying some of his earliest sports memories revolve around watching the Twins play at the Metrodome.
"With only eight home games [for the Vikings], we went to a lot of Twins games. But I got hooked on all of [the teams]," Fish said. "My father lived in White Bear Lake for like 35 years before we moved to Florida, so it was ingrained in me."
Fish added with a laugh: "I didn't stand a chance."
At a young age, Fish's attention was first caught by Hall of Fame receiver Cris Carter, who dazzled with his one-handed grabs before being joined in 1998 by Randy Moss.
"I can remember growing up and asking, 'Did the Twins win? Did the Vikings win?' when I got up in the mornings because my bedtime was a little too early," Fish recalled.
Fish started his professional career in 2000 at the age of 18. He earned his first title on the ATP Tour in 2002 playing doubles in the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships in Houston, Texas, with Andy Roddick.
In April 2011, Fish overtook Roddick as the highest-ranked American on the ATP Tour. In August of that year, he reached a career-high singles ranking of world No. 7.
While Fish's career on the tennis court has taken him all over the world, he's managed each season to keep close tabs on the Vikings. He continues to do so now from L.A.
"I plan my Sundays around the Vikings, for sure," said Fish. "My son is 4 years old, and he's got a little baseball league, and it just so happens to be around noon on Sundays, which is rough. So there's a lot of pausing the game and running over there and then coming back. But I make it work, and I watch every play."
Fish has developed a friendship with Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph and receiver Adam Thielen, with whom he often plays golf in the summer. He appreciates the rapport he's built with the teammates, which makes it even more fun when he's able to travel back to Minnesota and attend a game.
Fish attended the Vikings-Rams game in Los Angeles earlier this season and had the Saints game targeted on his schedule. Being good friends with Al Michaels, Fish accompanied the longtime NBC broadcaster to the Twin Cities for the weekend and took in a trio of games: Timberwolves-Bucks on Friday night, Wild-Avalanche on Saturday and capped off the visit at U.S. Bank Stadium.
"It's the perfect sports weekend for a big Minnesota sports fan," said Fish, who said he believes the 2018 Vikings are strong enough to win "any game" moving forward.
With talented athletes across the board on Minnesota's roster, the question of course had to be asked:
Which current Viking would make the best tennis player?
Fish thought for a few seconds before answering.
"Rudy (Rudolph) is so big, he'd have a really big serve. [Stefon] Diggs is so fast, it would be hard to get one by him," Fish said. "Dalvin [Cook] would be tough, and [Xavier] Rhodes, it would be hard to get one by him – he plays such good defense.
"Probably any of these guys," Fish added, gesturing toward the Vikings warming up on the field. "They're such good athletes, probably any of them could pick it up and do it."
Fish wasn't the only celebrity in the house for Sunday Night Football.
Afton's Jessie Diggins, who with teammate Kikkan Randall became the first U.S. gold medalists in cross-country skiing during the 2018 Olympics, sounded the Gjallarhorn prior to kickoff.
Country music artist Jordan Davis performed on the field during halftime, and Francesca Curran, an Eden Prairie native who is an actress in Orange is the New Black, also was in attendance to watch her hometown team.