Phil Finanger will spend this Sunday a little differently than most football fans. As part of the “chain gang” for the Minnesota Vikings, Finanger has a front row seat to Sunday’s Superbowl matchup at the Minnesota Vikings stadium.
For the past 23 years, Phil Finanger has worked for the Minnesota Vikings in the National Football League (NFL) as a member of the chain gang.
The chain gang, also called the chain crew, consists of 10 members who carry the stakes marking first downs, recording penalties and signaling commercial breaks.
The Minnesota Vikings play in the newly built US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, which seats 66,200 spectators, expandable to 73,000 seats for the Super Bowl.
“My chain crew co-workers and I have the best seats in the stadium for Minnesota Vikings home games,” said Finanger. “There are only a few people who are closer to the action than we are.”
Those would be the players and referees on the field.

History
Finanger developed a love for football at an early age. He is a Decorah High School graduate of 1975 and was a member of the Decorah Vikings football team that won the 1974 Division III State Football Championship in his senior year.
“I guess you could say that I’ve been a Viking most of my life,” joked Finanger.
He went on to become a Hall of Fame athlete at Luther College, graduating in 1979. Finanger recently retired from Edina Schools in Minneapolis, Minnesota following a 35-year teaching and coaching career. In addition to teaching Physical Education and Health, Finanger was a coach of football, basketball, baseball and golf. His golf team won the Minnesota State championship in 2014.
“I was working at the right place at the right time,” explained Finanger about landing the opportunity to join the Minnesota Viking’s chain crew 23 years ago. “I was hired by the coordinator of the chain crew, Frank Fischer. Fischer was an Edina Schools teacher who knew me as a member of the Edina Schools staff.”

Game Day
Traditionally, the home field crew gets to work the Super Bowl game, so Finanger and his co-workers will be ready to go on Sunday, Feb. 4, for Super Bowl LII (52), when the Philadelphia Eagles play the New England Patriots.
“We arrive a couple of hours before the game to put on our yellow-and-black uniforms and get a briefing from the ‘Down Judge, or DJ.’ The first instruction from the ‘DJ’ is a note about our personal safety; we’re told to stay out of harm’s way,” said Finanger. “We do not wear any protective equipment. We’re on the field with elite athletes, who are padded to the hilt. They can come at us like freight trains. When that happens, we drop our equipment and run.”
Finanger holds the marker, which represents the spot where the offense needs to move the football to get a first down. He brings the chains out onto the field of play whenever the referee needs a closer, accurate measurement to determine if a first down has been achieved.
“The crew members have the same assignments for every game,” said Finanger, “but we switch sidelines at the half. Typically, I’m assigned to the visiting team’s sideline during the first half and the home team’s sideline during the second half. That will probably stay consistent for the Super Bowl. The home team for this year’s Super Bowl will be New England. Therefore, I’ll start on the side of Philadelphia.”
The job is hardly luxurious, and barely pays, but the chain gang members stay for decades.
“We love what we do,” said Finanger. “After this many years, you feel like you’re part of the Viking’s family.”
After the game starts, halftime is our only break and it’s only 10 minutes, time enough to use the restroom and get back to the field, Finanger said.
While it signals and enforces the decisions of the officials, the chain crew does not make it’s own decisions.
“Members of the chain gang must remain neutral,” said Finanger. “Having said that, one player really stands out from the rest to me. Brett Favre has played against the Vikings as quarterback for the Green Bay Packers. He has also played as a member of the Vikings. He was my favorite to watch. My most memorable Viking athlete was Randy Moss. He was a phenomenal athlete.”
Finanger said he can’t wait for the big day.
“This is a chance of a lifetime. From the moment the teams emerge from the tunnel, I’ll be able to sense the energy, depth of discipline and preparation of the players and teams. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are preparing to play in their 8th Super Bowl together. They have five Super Bowl rings. They will be in Minneapolis to take care of business,” said Finanger. “But Philadelphia will also be there with one goal in mind: to win. It will be a great game to be watching from the sidelines.”
Phil Finanger is the son of Kent and Lucia (deceased) and Lois Finanger; he is the brother of Dan Finanger of Charlotte, North Carolina and Mark Finanger, Judy (Finanger) Moen and Sarah (Finanger) Chyle, all residents of Decorah. Phil lives in Richfield, Minnesota with his wife Kim and three daughters Anna, Erika and Christa.