Minnesota Vikings fans older than me think of 0-4 as the Vikings record in the Super Bowl. I haven’t seen the Vikings in the Super Bowl. I have’t felt that heartache. So for me, 0-4 is the Vikings record in the NFC Championship. Equally as disappointing and possibly more embarrassing.
I don’t need to regurgitate the agony Vikings fans have endured. So I’ll regurgitate my own agony.
See when I was little I was die hard. Didn’t know any better. Usually don’t when you’re growing up. I was 1 1/2 the last time the Vikings were in the Super Bowl, so that I don’t remember. But I do remember bits and pieces of the 1988 championship game, v. Washington Redskins. I remember enough to be let down. I got over that pretty easy though – the Twins had just won the World Series a few months earlier.
The years that followed were the beginning of my Vikings cynicism. The team seemingly every year had a team that could contend for the Super Bowl, and continually would fall flat on their collective face and would not live up to the hype. I would be let down every year. Tommy Kramer, Wade Wilson, Sean Salisbury, Joey Browner, Anthony Carter, Keith Millard, Darren Nelson, Brad Johnson, et all. These are the guys that made me a Vikings fan and also made me sad every year.
Then came the 1998 season. Suddenly the Vikes were a high-flying offensive juggernaut. Randall Cunningham, Randy Moss, Chris Carter, Jake Reed, Robert Smith, John Randle, Robert Griffith. They won at a pace that I had never seen by a Vikings team. 1 loss in the regular season, homefield throughout the playoffs. Seemingly unstoppable. And we all know what happened in that NFC Championship game v. Atlanta. Cunningham interceptions. Gary Anderson wide right. Denny Green takes a knee. OT loss. I was working that day at BBY Minnetonka, and you can not believe the sense of let down, for me, for my coworkers, and for the handful of customers that came into the store after the loss. The whole state was like a morgue. Ridiculous that they lost that game, in the way that they lost it.
So in 3 or 4 years we got over that one. It was still there, but the sting would be lessened in 2000 by Daunte Culpepper and Randy Moss. Again the squad put together an amazing offensive season and would wind up playing the NY Giants in the NFC Championship. Yeah, they were on the road, but hey, maybe this would be the year? Eh, neh. 41-0 (more affectionately known as 41-doughnut). They didn’t even show up for this game. Randy Moss was more concerned with getting his homies out on the field. Perhaps the most embarrassing showing in MN playoff history.
Not even touching on all the off-the-field embarrassment Vikings fans have endured, it’s so hard to be a fan of this team. For me, it’s just not like the Twins or Wild. Even when they have bad teams, I’m still proud to say I’m a fan. But the Vikings, I convinced myself that it was OK to be a fair-weather fan. As long as I announced myself that way, no one could rip me for it. It allowed me to watch casually, and inevitably weather the failure without going off the deep end. I would sort of disguise my fandom by enjoying the train wreck, almost reveling in it. But deep down, I want the Vikings to win.
But we seemed to be slated for be more of the same. Brad Childress never seemed to be THE guy that would be a great coach. There would be some talent, but they had NO quarterback.
Then Chilly got Brett Favre to play.
At first it was the “What’s going to happen?” factor. How would he look in purple, was he going to keel over the first time he was hit? Could he really play a whole year? Was he going to be the Brett Favre that made all Vikings fans hate him but respect him at the same time?
He was that Brett Favre. He carried this team all season. With Adrian Peterson not being the explosive back we’re used to seeing, the Vikings were dead in the water without Favre. It would have been another loss on Wild Card Sunday. But instead it was a shellacking of “America’s Team” Dallas Cowboys, and suddenly here we were again. The NFC Championship v. New Orleans Saints. I’d tell myself “Don’t get wrapped up in it! It’s going to end badly!”
But as I watched the game it all came back. The nervousness and anticipation. Cheering at the TV, flipping the remote in disgust. Diverting to watching something else in an attempt to calm down when it was going bad. Even after all the fumbles, during that infamous last drive, my mind was wandering to Super Bowl Sunday. As Favre drove us across midfield – finally all the Super Bowl hype was going to be about the Vikings. All the previous championship did not include Brett Favre, the chosen one!
19 seconds to go, about a 51-yarder. Ryan Longwell is a stud, he’ll nail this kick and finally, the ghosts will be exorcised. We’re gonna run a play? Ok, good idea, get a little closer. Take a timeout, ok, no problem. What’s this flag? Too many men in the huddle? HERE WE GO! That’s out of field goal range. Ok, we need to get that back. This does not feel good at all. Rollout Brett…OK you got room to run. What are you doing? Throwing downfield? Aaaaah, there it is…there’s the Vikings curse. From then on you knew it was over. The Vikings were not going to win this game. No matter how the calls went in the OT, the Vikings were not going to win. There was no chance. All the ridiculousness of previous losses had just been topped.
And all the cynicism came rushing back.