Yesterday I was lamenting to my wife about how disappointed I was in the Vikings. Again.
"You know," she said, "when I first met you I didn't even know you liked the Vikings, let alone football at all."
"Well then sweetheart," I replied, "pull up a seat and let me tell you about my childhood."
She immediately regretted having made that statement.
That fact is, when I was a kid the Minnesota Vikings were important to me. This was during the Bud Grant era when their defense (respectfully feared as the "Purple People Eaters") was led by Hall of Famers Alan Page, Carl Eller and Jim Marshall and their offense was powered by the great Fran Tarkington and Chuck Foreman.
Between the ages of 8 and 15 (1969-1975) I watched as the Vikings dominated the NFL as one of the most powerful forces in football. So much so that during this time they made it to the Super Bowl four times. Did you hear that... FOUR TIMES! And three of those were within four years. That's good stuff. And like many Minnesota boys at that time, I was completely infatuated with them.
But making it to the Super Bowl and winning the Super Bowl are two totally different things - and unfortunately the Vikings were never able to bring home the ring. Not once. In four shows.
Here's how they played out:
Super Bowl IV (69-70) - KC Chiefs [23-7]
Super Bowl VIII (73-74) - Miami Dolphins [24-7]
Super Bowl IX (74-75) - Pittsburg Steelers [16-6]
Super Bowl XI (76-77) - Oakland Raiders [32-14]
Each year, me and several million other fans were brought to the highest hopes possible. And later each year, me and those same fans collectively moaned with heartbreak as our beloved Vikings managed to somehow find a way to lose.
During the 80s and most of the 90s the Vikings pretty much coasted. It wasn't until the mid 90s that things started looking up again for the first time in a very long time as they made it to the playoffs six years out of seven. And then in 1998 I felt it once again. That old flickering pilot light of hope was awakened within me from deep inside. Could it be? Could this be the season of vindication... the season that would finally heal the gaping wounds of loss I suffered as a child? Could it? COULD IT?
Here, lifted from Wikipedia, is how that worked out:
1998 was a year to remember for the franchise. With a spectacular offense led by quarterback Randall Cunningham, who had his best NFL season ever, running back Robert Smith, veteran wide receiver Cris Carter, and explosive rookie Randy Moss, the Vikings set a then-NFL record by scoring a total of 556 points, never scoring fewer than 24 in a game.Needless to say I was crushed.
The Vikings finished the season 15–1, their only loss by 3 points to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in week nine. In the playoffs, the Vikings rolled past the Arizona Cardinals 41–21, and came into the Metrodome heavily favored for their NFC title showdown with the Atlanta Falcons.
However, kicker Gary Anderson, who had just completed the first perfect regular season in NFL history (not missing a single extra point or field goal attempt the entire year), missed a 38 yard attempt with less than 2 minutes remaining. That allowed the Falcons to tie the game. Though the Vikings won the coin toss, Atlanta went on to win it 30–27 in overtime on Morten Andersen's field goal, which was, coincidentally, also a 38-yarder.
The Vikings became the first 15–1 team to fail to reach the Super Bowl.
In fact, that specific game was the beginning of the end of my eternal hope that the Vikings would ever win a Super Bowl in my lifetime.
And now today I'm an apathetic fair-weather fan at best. "Ya, I'll see it when I believe it" is about as much enthusiasm as I can muster anymore. But the odd thing about all this pent up frustration is that I don't actually care if the Vikings win a Super Bowl for me today. It's the 15 year old kid who was robbed of the thrill of watching his team come home with the big prize that I really want it for. He deserves it. He's the one who sat on the living room floor screaming for every first down, peeking through his fingers at every third down and going crazy for every touchdown.
He's the one who needs the closure.