Why Do I Root for the Minnesota Vikings?

Stephanie Smalls Discusses the Vikings, Fantasy Football, and 2022 NFL Takes
Vikings Helmet

The NFL season is upon us. On Thursday night, the Buffalo Bills throttled the Los Angeles Rams’ Super Bowl celebration, winning 31-10 and making a claim that they’re the team to beat.

As a Vikings fan, I had mixed emotions with this matchup. First, I was jealous that the Rams were celebrating the ever-elusive Super Bowl victory that I’ve craved since I started watching football in 1998. But I was also excited for the Bills, who share the Vikings’ infamous 0-4 Super Bowl record. Even with that being said, I was jealous that they seem on track to finally break through and return to the big game with all-world Josh Allen at quarterback.

It’s times like this that I question why I devote so much time and energy into the Vikings. The team has never been truly awful in my 25 years of watching the team. At its worst, we were 3-13 in 2011. But even then, we were mostly competitive before blowing multi-score leads every other week.

On the flip side, the team has never broken through and paid off my time as a fan. The closest the team ever got in my lifetime was in 2009 when Brett Favre had us on the doorstep to the Super Bowl down at the Superdome.

We get 51 hours of regular season football now to watch our Vikings. There’s a new regime in town, and while things look positive moving into the future, the chances are that we will once again see them fall short of a Super Bowl victory. With such bleak odds, why should anyone waste not only their time, but also their energy, with this team?

For as much as I love to rattle off the stats and scores of games from yesteryear, what sticks with me more than anything from these games are the memories and moments I spent with friends and family. Adrian Peterson’s 61-yard touchdown run against the Lions in 2012 was spectacular. But even more memorable was my dad busting his finger open on one of the janky Metrodome pipes on the top row of the upper deck as Peterson broke the final tackle on the run. “YEAAAAH!!!!! OOOOUUCCCHH!!!”

Another moment that stands out happened during the 2008 Sunday Night game at the Dome against the Bears. That goal line stand was impressive, but more impressively, I’ll never forget how loud the crowd got between third and fourth down. My dad and I looked at each other like, “Are you kidding me?” Hours before that, we were laughing hysterically as my Uncle Tim was getting screamed at by a parking attendant while going the wrong way into a parking garage.

There are countless other memories I could share, but I think you get the picture. As much fun as it is to watch the Vikings win, it’s the time that we spend watching them with others that makes this time of year special. But if you’re like me, some of the people that we shared these memories are no longer with us.

My dad passed away on Nov. 29, 2021. After a rough week of grieving, I finally was able to turn my mind off from the real world and watch the Vikings play the winless Detroit Lions. Unfortunately, Jared Goff would throw a last-second touchdown to stun the Vikings and give the Lions their first win of the season.

I immediately slumped down in disappointment. This time was different, though. The usual anger and sadness I’d normally have after a loss like that just… vanished. With the passing of my dad, I finally had the realization of what so many others had always told me.

“There’s more to life than football.”

It’s not like I didn’t know this before that game. As a kid, I was obsessed with the NFL and the Vikings. I memorized stats no one else cared about and knew all about games that no one knew about. People would tell me I should get another hobby, but it’s hard to tell a kid what they should pay attention to. If anything, that makes them dive even deeper into that passion.

As I grew older and got a full-time job, I began to find other interests and hobbies. In turn, this actually helped me appreciate football more as it felt like an escape from my every day life.

But when your best friend, who you watched all the games with and saw every day, is no longer there to share the disappointment of a loss, well, it feels different. It makes you look at everything in your life differently. All of a sudden, football truly is just a game, and the real world keeps turning, whether you want it to or not.

The next week, I was back to normal watching games. It was actually that Thursday night game against the Steelers, and I was in the living room yelling at the TV while family was coming into town for the funeral. Still, it felt weird. “I wish I could complain about this with Dad.”

With a new season upon us, I know my dad would want me to watch every game and keep our tradition going. I always wanted to see the Vikings win a Super Bowl with him, to make that decades-long pain finally pay off. We would have celebrated and remembered other family members we would watch games with, wishing we could have shared the moment with them.

As the game on Sunday approaches, I know that no matter whether the Vikings win or lose, Monday will come, and I’ll be stressed with work. Deadlines will have to be met whether Justin Jefferson catches one pass or 10. It’s just a game, and it’s only a small part of my life.

And because of that, it makes my time being a Vikings fan more special than ever.