As TVG Hits 1-Year Anniversary, We Reflect on Joe Johnson

Yesterday, The Vikings Gazette hit its 1-year anniversary. Our original plan was to write a celebratory post detailing all that has been accomplished in this relatively short amount of time. A pandemic project that languished in utter obscurity for the first little bit has grown to the point where its getting tens of thousands of reads a month (if I’m not mistaken, our most popular article had the possibility of a drunk Kirk Cousins in the title). Compared to really established sports sites, TVG is still quite humble. Nevertheless, I’ve been largely encouraged by the growth in this first year, especially since we continue trending upward.

With all that being said, it’s really best to spend our attention on Joe Johnson. Earlier this week, I received the very unfortunate news that he passed away. Joe Oberle – whom Joe repeatedly identified as his mentor – explained that the family is asking for privacy and donations to the University of Minnesota journalism school:

I was one of the young writers Joe sought to inspire. He gave me a chance at Vikings Territory and Purple PTSD before anyone else was willing to give me a chance. I was excited to announce this news back in early November. I’m still supremely thankful that he gave me an opportunity.

It’s always startling whenever someone dies so young. Honestly, I’ve been struggling with this news, and I’ve chosen to respond by spending more time in Old Testament wisdom literature. The Psalms can be particularly comforting, but I often find myself reflecting on Ecclesiastes in times like these. Ecclesiastes 7:2 says that “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.” Now, anyone who’s familiar with this book knows that it tends to be a little more sombre than cheerful, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that Solomon favors the house of mourning over the house of feasting. I’d by lying if I said I completely understood Solomon’s odd, confusing book, especially the admonition that grieving someone’s death is better than feasting. Perhaps it’s because mourning offers a renewed understanding of our various frailties, causing us to humbly reflect on our lives.

If you’re inclined, go read Dustin Baker’s Ode to Joe Johnson. You’ll get a sense of his impact on people. He had the capacity to be extremely generous with not only his money but also his time & energy. Joe taught me a ton, and I considered him a friend. He will be dearly missed.