Why do I carry this? Why do I walk around with the weight of 10 epic Vikings losses on my shoulders? It’s three days after the Philly Meltdown, and that terrible loss is finally starting to settle into the long list of other terrible Viking losses (my colleague LBVikings compiled some of them here). I am slowly working my way out of the morass, but why do I let it affect me this way?
What is wrong with me? It is only a game, and a game that I didn’t participate in, but I feel like my wife left me or my dog ran away. (And this is not a country western song, even though it is beginning to sound like one.)
I should know better. I have been here before—as Luke Braun (LBVikings) points out—in 2009, 2000, 1998, 1987 and 1977. And in reading his piece, it occurred to me, that the list of Vikings big stage losses is much longer for me. He was merely compiling the list of NFC title game losses, but for me, a Mankato native who grew up with the team in my home town each summer for 52 years, annually used family half-season tickets to the Old Met, and was a fan since I was old enough to toss a football around, the history of suffering is comparable to the Pit of Misery on steroids.
You have to include the four Super Bowl losses on my list—1969, 1973, 1974 and 1976—and this NFC title game loss ranks right up there. Because as Paul Allen of KFAN once famously said, “This isn’t Detroit, this is the Super Bowl!” This past Sunday was the Super Bowl. It presented the Vikings’ best chance since 2009 and the 1970s to win the Super Bowl. They had the chance to do it in their own stadium, in front of some of their own fans, and an opportunity to fill the streets of Minneapolis and St. Paul with celebratory revelers we haven’t seen since 1991. To answer Luke’s questions in his story, this one was the worst because it was like losing the Super Bowl.
So, that begs the question, what would have happened if the Vikings had beaten the Eagles and lost to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII, would I have felt any better (or worse) than I do now? I am different than my Purple Journal Podcast brethren in that I have more Vikings-mega-loss scar tissue than they do. The fact alone that Luke’s list only includes NFC title games speaks to how much different I am than he and Joe Johnson, who have only known conference title game disappointment since they have never seen their favorite team lose (and lose badly) on the biggest stage in the sporting world. I am simply chronologically predisposed to view this latest debacle differently than they do. (Tune in to the podcast this week and you may be able to hear it.)
That, of course, makes me no better or worse than them or anyone else when it comes to following this team. It just makes me more experienced than many—and that fact alone should allow me to handle this every half-decade (on average) debacle better. But I was surprised to find out it doesn’t.
I got caught up in the Minneapolis Miracle. I hated hearing “team of destiny” with the home Super Bowl looming, but it did creep into my psyche. I let myself imagine that I was going to be watching the Vikings play in U.S. Bank Stadium on Feb. 4 from my auxiliary press box seat and potentially check off two bucket list items in one fell swoop.
But instead, my son, Seth, called from Chicago the day after the big loss and we talked about the game—like we had done every week throughout the season that we weren’t actually watching the game together (which happened more often this season than in any season since he left home). We had texted right after the game on Sunday, but this game required further debriefing—and so he called.
We talked each other through our misery by trying to understand what happened (I’m still not completely sure on defense) and offered each other hope for the coming season in saying the defense will never be bad with Mike Zimmer at the helm, and that means this team will always be in the conversation. We talked about Dalvin Cook returning next season, and thought it be like getting an extra draft choice as he only played 3.5 games this season. We talked a little about the draft, but mostly we scratched our head about what happened to this 13-3 squad—one of the best in team history.
And then, after we hung up, it hit me; I hadn’t even noticed it before. But this is exactly what I would do each fall/winter weekend with my dad. From the early 80s when I left Mankato for the Twin Cities until he passed away following the 2010 season, we would talk after Vikings games. Sunday nights following all the NFL games, postgame chatter and highlight shows, one of us would call the other one and we would rehash the game. Sometimes the conversations were frustrating, but they always ended hopeful. I never felt a Vikings game weekend was complete without that phone call.
It really hit home in a text that Seth sent me. After we had rehashed the game and there were a few more texts back and forth, I thanked him for the postgame calls all season—those mostly coming when I was walking to my car after posting my game wrap stories and most of the happy Vikings fans had already departed downtown Minneapolis. He responded: “Favorite part of my Sunday’s!! We will do the same next year.”
(Okay, how a Harry Chapin song, then.)
I guess the point is we all have a back story, including the Vikings. And the Vikings’ back story is part of ours. Either embrace it for what is and make it work for yourself or let it go. I guess I’ll take an appearance in 14 big games rather than none at all (the Detroit Lions have one).
So, why do I carry this? Why do I get so worked up about a football game, and a football team and their inability to win the big one (or get into the big one)? Why do I let the ups and downs of a group of people I am not related to make me feel good when they win and mope around when they lose? It’s just a game. It is not life or death. It is a diversion. It shouldn’t be like this.
So, after all these seasons of unfulfilled wishes, why do I continue to care? What is my deal?
Well, I think you probably know.