The technology that allows one to put money into a machine in exchange for an icy cold beverage has existed for decades.
But apparently never before has this technology been put in place to dispense a can of Budweiser at an arena — never, that is, until Thursday night when such a magical thing will happen at Xcel Energy Center during the Wild’s game against the rival Blackhawks.
Per a news release from the team, the machine will debut Thursday on the lower concourse near section 113 and “will dispense 25 oz. cans of Budweiser.” This is not to be confused, of course, with the self-serve beer stations that debuted at Target Field in 2014.
But similar to that setup, an official will be on hand to check IDs and provide any other assistance (though really, once you’ve bought a can of beer, the rest is pretty much self-explanatory).
“This is the first Budweiser Smart Vending Machine in any entertainment venue in the world,” the release notes.
There are a lot of ways to get beer at a game, but we do imagine there is a certain satisfaction and novelty to having it dispensed from a machine. Just to be sure, we’re going to head over Thursday before the game and check it out.
The NFL announced today that Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is one of five finalists for the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year Award.
Bridgewater completed 64.4 percent of his throws, third all-time for a rookie. He had 2,919 passing yards and 14 touchdowns with 12 interceptions. He also rushed for 209 yards and another score.
The winner of the award, which will be announced the weekend of the Super Bowl, is determined by fan voting. You can vote here. The virtual ballot box closes Jan. 29.
The four other finalists are Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans, Bengals running back Jeremy Hill and Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins.
It’s probably human nature to devote more attention and headlines to the surprising fall of a star player’s much-anticipated career than appreciate the striking rise of a career belonging to an unknown player on the same team.
Now amplify that human nature for those of us in the media.
We determined last spring that Vikings receiver Cordarrelle Patterson would be at the top or among the top NFL “breakout” candidates in Year 1 of playing for new offensive coordinator Norv Turner. We didn’t have an opinion on Charles Johnson because, well, he was a nobody in Cleveland recovering from ACL surgery the fall before.
Charles Johnson was a seventh-round draft pick of the Packers in 2013. They cut him and Cleveland added him to its practice squad.
The Vikings not only drafted Patterson in the first round in 2013, it cost them extra draft picks to move back into the round to make the pick.
Now, with the 2014 season recently concluded, there isn’t anyone who would say Patterson is Johnson’s equal as a receiver. Not … even … close.
He can still get there. But it’s up to him. He turns 24 on March 17 and, hopefully, there’s a sense of urgency because if he doesn’t apply himself to his trade this offseason, the Vikings’ patience with him will expire at this time next season.
“It’s frustrating for him; it’s frustrating for all of us,” Turner said. “We’ve talked a lot about what we need to do, what he needs to do. But a big part of it for him is understanding how detailed and how hard this is to be a receiver in this league. And then he’s got to put the work in.”
Meanwhile, Johnson turns 26 on Feb. 27 and, unlike the feeling for Patterson, the assumption by the team is Johnson will continue to improve. In just 12 games (six starts) this season, Johnson finished third in receiving yards (475) on 31 catches as he morphed from “who’s that guy?” to “he’s the No. 1 receiver on the team.” Johnson’s two touchdown receptions tied for second on the team, while his 15.3 average per catch was No. 1 among players with more than nine catches.
When the Vikings lost Adrian Peterson after Week 1, they struggled for weeks without an offensive identity. Turner said it wasn’t until after the Nov. 16 Bears game that the Vikings established an identity with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater running a spread-it-out offense over the final six games.
“Part of that was we started playing Charles Johnson, which gave us a different guy on the outside to attack,” Turner said. “It created some differences in how people defended us. I think we became a much more efficient offensive football team and put ourselves in position to win games. We won some and there were some that a year from now, put in the same situation, we’ll be ready to handle it and be ready to win.”
In the six games after the first Bears game, the Vikings averaged 24 points and 342.5 yards per game. That’s about four more points and about 30 yards more than the team’s averages for the entire season.
In December, Bridgewater ranked first in the league in average yards per attempt (9.18), second in completion percentage (72.3) and fourth in passer rating (99.8). Meanwhile, the team ranked 12th in net yards and seventh in net passing in December.
Who knows if Patterson will pan out as a receiver. The Vikings, however, can no longer count on it happening. That increases Greg Jennings’ value, especially since he was establishing a chemistry with Bridgewater in the latter part of the season.
The team also will need to at least look at receiver high in the draft. And then there is the 6-2, 215-pounder who came out of nowhere to help them this season. A 6-2, 215-pounder who thinks he’ll be better a year from now.
“Next year will be my first year to actually get my first full year to play in the NFL and two years in a row of practicing and playing in the same system,” said Johnson, who was with Turner in Cleveland in 2013, but was rehabbing his knee the whole season. “Even Norv said the first season in this system is all right, but the second season is always better.”
Johnson also said he expects to be physically stronger and faster next season. And, remember, this was a guy who ran a 4.39 at the 2013 combine.
“I’m going to be a little bit more comfortable because I am coming off ACL surgery,” Johnson said. “I can say that I’m coming off ACL surgery and not fully confident in myself. training this offseason is going to be important for me. I look forward to it.”