Viking fans love the Terrible TowelSteeler staple is Mattsons’ ticket to Sunday’s game in London
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
The Minnesota Vikings will be a long way from home Sunday when they face the Pittsburgh Steelers at Wembley Stadium in London.
Greg Mattson and his son, Shaun, will be making the trip too. The two Superior men are lifelong fans of the Minnesota Vikings, but their trip to London actually comes courtesy of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“This is what’s responsible for us going,” said Greg Mattson, patting a Terrible Towel spread on the table before him.
The distinctive gold rally towels — a hallmark for Steelers fans since 1975 — are Mattson’s golden ticket to Sunday’s NFL International Series showdown.
Mattson’s brother, Neil, has been in the Terrible Towel business for years, first with McArthur Towel & Sports in Baraboo, and now with present manufacturer Little Earth Productions Inc. in Pittsburgh.
He works closely with the Pittsburgh Steelers to keep the supply of merchandise flowing. Fans scoop up the popular rally towels by the thousands every year, and the line has expanded to include skirts, ties and even bibs for toddlers.
Terrible Towels are big business for the Steelers, so naturally, Mattson has made connections in the organization.
But Greg Mattson was still surprised when his brother called and told him to pack a bag.
“Basically he called me one afternoon and said, ‘We’re going to London,’” Greg Mattson said. “He does all the Terrible Towels for the Steelers, and through connections there, that’s how we got the contacts to go on the trip.”
It wasn’t until a month or two later that Greg Mattson’s son, Shaun, learned he’d also be making the trip to London.
“I live up by UMD now because I go to school there, and I was just sitting in my apartment when he gave me a call,” said Shaun, a 2011 graduate of Superior High School.
His father had been teasing him for weeks about the game, “rubbing it in,” as Shaun put it.
The 20-year-old student was stunned when Greg Mattson asked if he was “ready to go and have tea and crumpets with the queen.”
“I just said, ‘Yep. I’ll go,’” Shaun Mattson said.
The duo applied for their passports near the end May and then made flight arrangements. Neither had ever had a passport before, and neither had been to the U.K.
“This will be my first time out of the country,” Shaun Mattson said.
“I’ve never been over the pond that way,” said Greg Mattson. “I never thought I’d be going there.”
While in London, the Mattsons plan to tour some of the major attractions. Riding the London Eye is high on their list, as is a trip to Madame Tussauds wax museum. They also hope to catch a double-decker bus to view the standard tourist highlights.
“Our number one goal, though, is to get the fish and chips wrapped up in newspaper,” Greg Mattson said.
Game day is all planned for the Mattsons. Shuttles will take them to and from the game, and seating in the stadium has been arranged by the Steelers.
Both Shaun and Greg say it’s the experience of a lifetime, but there’s one problem.
The Mattsons are Vikings fans.
“The last thing my brother told me (is) we’re going to get to be down on the sidelines prior to the game — amongst the Steelers,” Greg Mattson said. “So he said, ‘If you have a Vikings jersey on, be sure you bring another shirt to put on over it while we’re on the field.’”
During the game, the Mattsons will have prime seats — about 10 rows back at the 40-yard line.
They’ll be deep in Pittsburgh territory, so Greg Mattson doesn’t plan on wearing the Vikings’ purple and gold.
“Oh, I am,” said Shaun Mattson. “It’ll be fun.”
Neil Mattson will probably be decked out in Vikings gear too, Greg Mattson said. That will make it easy to spot the Wisconsin men on TV: two proud Vikings fans in purple amid a sea of Steelers’ black and gold.
Greg Mattson said he’ll cheer for the Vikings, but his wardrobe will be neutral.
“I’ll probably just buy one of the T-shirts over there that has both of the helmets on it,” Greg Mattson said.
The Mattsons boarded their flight for London on Thursday. They plan to take in the sights on Friday and Saturday, but Sunday will be devoted entirely to football.
“I would love to see Adrian Peterson go for 300-plus (yards); break his own record,” Shaun Mattson said. “And obviously I would like to see the Vikes come back with a win, because we’re kind of lacking in that column right now.
“Someone’s got to win. They’re both 0-3.”
Back in the United States, Mattson is hoping for a victory from the Superior Spartans as they take on Eau Claire North. Superior is off to a 5-0 start this season, the best start for the football team since 1990.
“It hurts to miss it, but it’s hard to pass up this opportunity,” Shaun Mattson said. “Hopefully, Superior comes through and gets another win, and I can come back knowing we clinched a playoff berth.”
Mattson coaches the Spartan junior varsity team and also helps out at the varsity level. Superior’s JV squad plays ECN on Monday.
“I think we land in Chicago at 8 a.m. on Monday, so maybe I’ll make it back for the fourth quarter,” Shaun Mattson said.