About three years ago, I can recall picking up the Pioneer Press and reading how the Vikings had traded for All-Pro defensive end Jared Allen. While the trade itself was exciting, one quote from Allen always stuck with me.
"I'm excited to be on a team that I feel is on the verge of a Super Bowl."
Super Bowl? The Vikings? The MINNESOTA Vikings? Coming off an 8-8 year, I was just hoping for a playoff appearance. Super Bowl seemed like a big word, something mythical and far, far from the Vikings' grasp.
Nevertheless, the mere mention of "Vikings" and "Super Bowl" in the same sentence got my heart pounding. I felt an odd sense of excitement, despite the fact my team still had holes to fill and were still inferior to even non-playoff teams. Still, my homer senses said we'd find a way to make something happen.
Two and a half years later, I sat in my friend's living room, watching Chester Taylor scramble inside the 40 yard line in the NFC Championship Game, with under 2 minutes remaining, and a field goal away from Super Bowl glory. Not to mention, a guy named Brett Favre was now the quarterback of my favorite football team.
Had I had my wits about me, I probably would have stopped to ask myself "How did we get here?"
But like any sports fan living in the moment, the only thing I was thinking about was how I'd celebrate our game winning field goal. Would I hug everyone in the room? Would I cry? What kind of dance should I do? Is the Macarena still in style?
The clock continued to tick and my friends were asking why we were taking so long to get a play off. I remember saying,
"We're gonna let the clock tick down to 3 and bring in Longwell. We're going for the game winner in a second."
Oh how I wish I had been right.
I won't put you through the painful details of what happened next, but looking back, and forward, I've come to realize at least one thing:
The 2010 Vikings season is boom or bust
The phrase has been thrown around when describing the Vikings for the past three seasons, but each year we seem to one-up ourselves. It's a more exciting rollercoaster every time, as well as extraordinarily stressful.
I forgot what it had felt like to be the fan of a consistently winning team. I thought I'd love the feeling of dominance, but instead I felt stress and anxiety the entire week, wondering how we'd perform at our next game. The top teams in any sport are always ridiculed by any little mistake they make, so every week I had to be assured the Favre wasn't throwing interceptions, Adrian wasn't fumbling, and Allen was getting sacks against legitimate tackles.
Entering into the 2010 season, I can feel that same anxiety and stress returning. With or without Favre, I think this entire season will be dictated by game one: against the New Orleans Saints.
Still, a win against the Saints doesn't assure a Super Bowl march.
A win won't assure a Super Bowl, but a loss will do no better. Right now, at this point in time, Favre or no Favre, I feel the Vikings NEED to beat the Saints on opening night. They need it more than anyone could ever imagine. A win could (keyword: could) jettison them to the heights I've always wanted to see them reach.
A loss could bring them right back into the bumbling, stumbling mess of mediocrity in the NFL.
At the risk of sounding cheesy, I quote Highlander.
There can be only one.