Vikings Welcome Back Jefferson. Look Forward to Moving On Up and Good Times Ahead

Justin Jefferson Can Break All Sorts of Records in 2023
Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) looks on during warmups before a wild card game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Cue the theme music from the 70’s-era sitcom that launched the career of John Travolta: “Welcome Back”.

Possibly the most welcoming of any pop song, written and performed by John Sebastian, it kind of sort of captures the essence of relief that we Vikings fans feel now that our all-world wide receiver Justin Jefferson has been cleared to return from nearly two months on the injured list.

Vikings Welcome Back Justin Jefferson

Oct 1, 2023; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) catches a touchdown pass as Carolina Panthers cornerback D’Shawn Jamison (29) defends in the third quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Can it be overstated how much our Minnesota Vikings have missed Justin Jefferson? I don’t think so, but let’s try: we’ve missed him more than Tom Hanks missed his family while stranded on a deserted island in Cast Away; more than he missed Wilson the volleyball when he finally got home and discovered his wife had moved on. We’ve missed him more than small children miss Santa Claus in the months of January through November. We’ve missed him more than Juliet missed Romeo before offing herself in despair.

The Vikings have missed J.J. more than the American people miss compromise in Congress; more than Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams miss Beyonce; more than St. Paul misses the pavement on their potholed roads. We miss J.J. more than some of us miss Calvin & Hobbs, land-line phones and decent programming on the broadcast networks. We miss J.J. more than others among us miss the Backstreet Boys, “The Sopranos”, and the cute dance team girl from junior-year English class.

Really, how can you not miss a player of Jefferson’s caliber? Holder of the rookie record for receiving yards, All-Pro wideout in each of his first three seasons, scorer of 28 touchdowns in his young career, averages just shy of 100 receiving yards per game for his career. He’s clearly the best of a talented group of NFL receivers, and he has personally elevated Kirk Cousins from a vaguely respected top-15 quarterback to a top-shelf pro who was on his way to a career year in 2023 before first Jefferson, and then Cousins, went on the shelf with serious injuries.

Justin Jefferson
Sep 10, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) warms up before the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Now, with the Vikings fighting for their playoff lives at 6-6 and guided by an admirable backup quarterback / even more admirable runner—now thrust into the starting role–in Josh Dobbs, Jefferson’s return after seven weeks on the shelf couldn’t possibly feel more urgent.

J.J. has the ability to catch the ball anywhere on the field; his presence will free up Jordan Addison with more single coverage, and pull some of the clutter out of the running lanes for Alexander Mattison and Ty Chandler. He’ll bring down catches a mere mortal would not make, and instantly improve the optics on Dobbs as a passer. Whether Dobbs can consistently get the ball in Justin’s hands to the tune of 100+ yards and a touchdown each week is pure speculation at this point; we’ll need to see what happens on the field to answer that.

But one thing’s for sure, the Vikings of recent weeks, who have slipped by some average-ish teams with a win–and allowed some average-ish (or below) teams pin them with an L–will have their hands full down the stretch. Key games in the last quarter of the season against an always-formidable Cincinnati Bengals squad, a suddenly resurgent Packers team and home-and-home matchups against the first-place, 9-3 Lions will have everything to say about our post-season chances—and you’d have to rank each of those games as unwinnable without Cousins or Jefferson. Now, with J.J. back and presumably at full strength, there’s a chance.

So, I say “Welcome Back” to Justin Jefferson, and while we’re at it, how about a nod to the greatest theme song of them all. The time is now for J.J.’s return, and the time is right for theme song of them all, “Movin’ On Up” from “The Jeffersons” – a gospel-twinged ode to, um, moving on up. Which is what the Vikings will need to do now that they have slipped back to .500—they’ll need to move back up in the standings in order to qualify for the post-season tournament, and Sunday’s tilt against the Las Vegas Raiders seems like a good place to start.

And while we’re on the subject: neither of the aforementioned songs can be found in this week’s Fantasy Football / “Fun With Rankings” column by the excellent Jake Ciely of The Athletic. For the initiated, Jake is known to rank almost anything in his weekly deep-dive that also includes weekly-adjusted Top-150 player rankings for fantasy football addicts. This week, in ranking the best TV show intros of all time, he definitely showed his age by ignoring some tremendous theme songs from earlier eras. This needs to be corrected, and I will attempt to do so right here and right now – despite the fact that Jake’s readership no doubt runs in the hundreds of thousands and mine hovers in the hundreds.

The Jeffersons and The Top 20 Best TV Intros / Theme Shows Ever

NFL: Minnesota Vikings Training Camp
Aug 5, 2023; Eagan, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) during training camp at Twin Cities Orthopedic Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
  1. The Jeffersons – Jake, come on, how could you have missed this? I don’t care how old you are, this theme song is a banger and has to have made it into your psyche at some point, right? Plus, bonus points for a) the show being created by the great Norman Lear who passed away this week at 101 and created two others on this list, and b) the song being written and performed by Ja’Net Dubois, who played the next-door neighbor on another classic Lear sitcom, “Good Times”.
  2. Welcome Back, Kotter – Has this theme aged well? Meh. It was the number one single in the U.S.A. in May of 1976, so that’s good enough for me.
  3. Monday Night Football – well, this is a football column after all, what did you expect? But forget that – who among us hasn’t turned on our televisions at the top of the hour on Monday night, knowing our favorite team was in prime time, and gotten goose bumps as the long version of this gem plays while the announcers set the scene? Did you know that this theme actually has a name, and it’s even better than “Theme From Monday Night Football”? It’s called “Heavy Action”….booya!
  4. The Mary Tyler Moore Show – in the Twin Cities we are socially obligated to love this show and its intro, which features America’s Sweetheart bopping around various local settings like Lake of the Isles, some random grocery store that I like to think was a Red Owl, the IDS center and, of course, Dayton’s Department Store. Bonus points for this excellent Joan Jett cover version.  
  5. The Sopranos – speaking of setting a tone, “Woke Up This Morning” by Alabama 3 is ominous and exactly what you’d want from the best mob show in television history. Plus, the visuals—a trip tick sampling of Tony Soprano’s commute from New York city to his north Jersey suburban home, all seen from his point of view—serve as an absolute antithesis to that of the viewer observing Mary Richards strolling around Minneapolis.
  6. Greatest American Hero – the show was pretty mediocre, but this Mike Post-penned theme (yep, same guy) spent four months in the top 10 at peaked as the #2 single in August, 1981. The theme sounds suspiciously like a Christopher Cross song, but at least Joey Scarbury has a stronger, less-grating voice.
  7. Good Times – if just for the last few bars of this song (“Good Tiiiiiiiiiiii-iiiiiiiiii-iiiiiiiiiii-iiiiiiimes, yeah”) it belongs on this list, which is no discredit to the rest of the song. Good Times, indeed.
  8. The Simpsons – the opening matches the frenetic pace of the show, the Danny Elfman theme song didn’t seem so catchy at first but just dug into your brain and stayed there after decades of repetition, and who doesn’t like the episode-to-episode what-will-they-do-next features at the beginning (Bart forever writing “I will not….(insert gag here)” lines on the blackboard) and at the end (how will they tweak how the family comedically takes their seat at the couch).
  9. The Rockford Files – The OG for what-will-they-do-next openings; each week the introductory credits would start with a different message playing back on Rockford’s answering machine, usually playing up the character’s deeply flawed life as a private detective. The Mike Post theme song is utterly fantastic, and the title visuals, primarily made up of still photos from a day in the life of Jim Rockford—fishing with his dad, on a stakeout in his Firebird, hitting on a lovely lady—were spot-on.  
  10. W.K.R.P. in Cincinnati –  one of the funniest sitcoms of its era, it also features one of the most wistful theme songs ever, (baby, you and me were never meant to be, just maybe think of me once in a while). And bonus points here for also having a fantastic, rockin’ closing theme.
  11. Richie Brockelman, P.I. – This “Rockford” spinoff was left for dead after a short 5-episode run, but it left behind the best song named “School’s Out” not performed by Alice Cooper as its theme: a Beach-Boys’-inspired ditty backing various scenes of the young P.I. leaping into his beat-up Ford Mustang, culminating in the best-filmed car crash ever shown in any show’s opening credits. The song has gone through my head in early June each year since 1978.  
  12. Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? Goofy, catchy, and performed by Rockapella!
  13. Happy Days – “These Days Are Ours” – what a great theme song for a generation of kids watching a show set squarely in the midde of their parents’ glory days.
  14. X-Files – Kudos to Jake for giving props to this intro, which combines low-tech intro graphics with even lower-tech instrumentation wrapped around a 6-note instrumental hook that never failed to give the loyal sci-fi viewing audience chills.
  15. Peter Gunn Theme – I grew up without knowing the slightest thing about the late-50’s-era detective show, but the theme song was as iconic as they come well into the 80’s before fading from public consciousness, written by the great Henry Mancini. And yet, no matter your age, when you hear a few bars I’ll bet you snap your fingers and realize you’ve heard this tune before. You’ll probably remember it from this classic scene from The Blues Brothers. Or maybe just because you can’t help loving it.
  16. All in the Family – It’s rare that the lead characters from a sitcom would sing their own theme song, rarer still when they are fully in character and one plays a shrill housewife with an intentionally-grating vocal characterization. Caroll O’Conner, as Archie Bunker, and Jean Stapleton, as Edith, pulled it off seamlessly, and the show intro always set the tone for another one of Norman Lear’s great (probably greatest) works.
  17. The Muppet Show – takes “whimsical” to a whole new level, which has yet to be exceeded.
  18. Cheers – Super-catchy theme music + photos of old 19th and early-20th drinking buddies commiserating together = a perfect lead-in to the show about the bar “Where Everybody Knows Your Name”.
  19. Friends – though it may have been played to death in the 90’s (what #1 song from that era wasn’t?) “I’ll Be There For You” remains a perfect theme to the beloved sitcom “Friends”. Trivia: during development and through the initial pilot, the show was titled “Friends Like Us” and the theme song was “Shiny Happy People”, which also would have made for a kick-ass opening, although the six lovable characters probably weren’t deserving of the implied sarcasm present on the R.E.M. classic.
  20. Sanford & Son – Quincy Jones wrote the theme song, it’s title was “The Streetbeater”. Funky, perfectly matched with a show that takes place at a salvage operation, imminently cool.

If you’ve come to the conclusion that this Top-20 list is littered with shows from 20, 40, even 60 years ago and that the writer must be incredibly old, allow me to disagree. it’s just that they just don’t make intro themes like they used to.

Got other ideas? Hit me up on Twitter: @TomWoldum.