The Secret to Happiness, Minnesota Vikings Edition
Now that I’m a man of a certain age, I’ve noticed that some people around me are actually paying attention to my life advice. Perhaps it’s the alarming amount of gray hair, or the increasing number of lines on my face, each one implying that I might possibly know what the hell I’m talking about. I’ve become a bit of an elder statesman, something of a mentor, perhaps even some kind of sage, who’s been around the block and seen it all. And it’s true, I have seen it all—everything, I tell you!—except of course for the one thing that matters most.
I, like you, have never seen the Minnesota Vikings win a Super Bowl.
I spent my formative years expecting huge things from the Vikings. After all, from my age-5 season through my age-12 season the Purple People Eaters went to four Super Bowls. Granted, they won none of them despite having a ferocious defense, a multi-faceted offense and a terrific group of special-teamers. I expected big things, but I don’t think I expected them to actually win any of those Super Bowls, so I kept some degree of joy in my life watching them roll over each time they reached the Big Game.
I’ve also seen them lose NFC Championship games while in my teens, my twenties, my thirties, my forties and my fifties. They lost, despite having Hall of Famers and near Hall of Famers at key positions. From Page and Eller to Tarkenton and Foreman, from Carter and Moss to Favre and Peterson, they knocked on the door, but they never went in. We all know this, all too well. With the exception of the ’98 Vikes, I never really even expected those teams to get that far—so when the inevitable defeats occurred, I again avoided the deepest of depressions. After the Vikings-Falcons game in January 1999 I cried like a baby right along with everybody else.
So now, here we are kicking off another NFL regular season. Last year’s squad, like nearly every Vikings team, carried high expectations for playoff contention and, dare we say it, a Super Bowl appearance. They finished a disappointing 7-9, despite (There’s that word “despite” again) having two of the NFC’s most electric offensive stars in Dalvin Cook and Justin Jefferson.
The team will benefit from a promising draft class (but then again, all other NFL teams can claim the same) and the return of Danielle Hunter and Michael Pierce. Otherwise, the team has chosen to largely stand pat—or, more accurately, boxed themselves into having to stand pat. Is this the formula for turning 7-9 into a Championship Team? That’s debatable, but when the Purple are involved, we all know in our hearts that almost anything can happen. We could have a big season and a playoff push, or it could all blow up in our faces.
I’m here to tell you, do NOT expect a Super Bowl winner. For your own mental health, I beg of you: do not expect a Super Bowl winner this year. Or any year.
You know the Vikings are always worth giving them our highest hopes, but let’s be honest—if you’ve been paying attention at any point in the last 50 years you should also know they are never going to fulfill our highest expectations. And therein lies the conundrum of the Vikings fan. How do we keep our sanity and root for this team at the same time?
Allow me, as an elder statesman, mentor, and sage, to share with you my Secret to Happiness: High Hopes and Low Expectations. I live by this mantra in all facets of life, but nowhere is it more appropriate than for those living a Life of Viking Fandom.
I, for one, will still go ahead and hope beyond hope for a Super Bowl winner, while watching every last down of every last game. They are, after all, my Vikings. And yours. Even though they have never proven themselves “The Best”, they’ve almost always entertained us every step of the way. (OK maybe not in the Les Steckel era). We’ve had more than our share of thrilling victories along with those agonizing defeats, and we’ve seen performances that we still talk about years later. We’ve got players worth watching and rooting for. They don’t have to be The Best. But it sure would be nice, wouldn’t it?
Here’s Hoping for a Super Bowl season for our Vikings. Just don’t expect it.