Minnesota Vikings: A Love Story
Twelve years ago, I started watching football. Twelve long years ago, Randall Cunningham, Cris Carter, and a rookie sensation, Randy Moss, lead the most prolific offense ever to the precipice of victory.
Now, I’ll admit that I was a bandwagon fan (hey, I was eight, can you blame me?), but by the postseason I knew every statistic to show that my Vikings were surefire favorites to win the Super Bowl. Even the instability of their defense couldn’t stop them against the hapless "Dirty Bird" Falcons, or so I thought.
Well, it’s history now. The kicker who hadn’t missed a field goal or extra point all year missed a 38-yard field goal that would have sent my Vikings to the Super Bowl. The Vikings, in their 38th year of existence, had never won the Super Bowl—and this should have been their year. But, low and behold, Morten Andersen would kick a field goal—a 38-yard field goal—in overtime to send the Falcons on to defeat in the Super Bowl.
Enter Daunte Culpepper. Another young phenom, this one out of University of Central Florida, would again lead the Vikings to contention. Entering the NFC Championship Game, the Vikings were favored to beat the Giants, but were slaughtered wholesale, 41-0.
I remember sitting until the end of the fourth quarter, counting the number of onside kicks and touchdowns the Vikings would score before they’d go on to face the Ravens in the Super Bowl. I was let down.
Like all good epics, time came and went.
The Vikings followed the ebb and flow of a rebuilding and transitioning football team: like a houseboat set adrift, the team needed a mooring. Enter Zygi Wilf, owner extraordinaire. Setting to work, Wilf fired the massively incompetent Mike Tice before hiring the equally incompetent Brad Childress. It looked like I’d have to find a new sport.
But the team got better. With Adrian Peterson, Sidney Rice, and eventually Brett Favre (among others), the team looked like a reincarnation of the 1998 team—the most deserving team in Viking’s history.
Every week, the team looked better, dominant even. In their first round of the playoffs, the Vikings decimated a respected Dallas Cowboys team on both sides of the ball. The showdown was set for the two most powerful offenses to go head to head for a chance to play in the Super Bowl.
It seemed like this would be our year.
The game was all Minnesota: They dominated both sides of the ball, the only statistic they missed was the scoreboard. But, nearing the end of the fourth quarter, the Vikings were nearing field goal range. Their kicker, Ryan Longwell, was nearly automatic. I sat thinking to myself of the cruel irony if he were to miss the game-winning field goal as time expired.
He never got the chance.
In a game marred by offensive mistakes, Favre made among the biggest of his career, throwing an interception to end the fourth quarter.
At this point I knew our fate was sealed. A few minutes later, the Vikings lost.
There may be a few franchises that are more difficult to be support (read: Chicago Cubs), but I can’t imagine anything but supporting the Green Party is worse. Here’s to hoping 2010 ends with a parade in downtown Minneapolis.
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