Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Closure

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.

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.
Needless to say I was crushed.

Again.

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.

35 comments:

ann of the gap tooth said...

I feel your pain, although it's really my husband's pain. He's a diehard Phillies fan. I believe the last time they won a World Series was in 1980. This team regularly raises his hopes and crashes them down again and again. It's very stressful for him AND for me.

Maybe all the wives can start a prayer chain on behalf on our husbands.

Gette said...

Ditto.

Roger said...

Just be glad that your Vikings lost that game. Why, you may be asking? Well, because they would have run into my beloved Denver Broncos, and been manhandled to their fifth Super Bowl loss.

Trust me, I feel your pain, but at least the Broncos have won two, so I can rest easy, even if I have to listen to these Bear fans go on, and on, and on, AND ON, about the dang 1985 Bears team. They still get more press than the team that just went, two years ago. Unbelievable.

One more thing for you...

GO BRONCOS!!

Just had to throw that one in there. :)

Jeff said...

ann - Please do. They need all the divine intervention they can get.

gette - I knew you'd understand.

roger - That would have been a good game... provided we got past the Packers that year. I remember being so happy the Broncos beat them.

Heather said...

Eh, I was a Vikings fan for a brief time in college, when it handily coincided with my desire to drink beer and do shots on a Sunday afternoon.

Some of the players would hang out at some of the bars in Mankato on their by weeks and their behavior was often a turnoff.

Michelle said...

Oh, I'm so there with you, Jeff. 1998 I had the hotel room booked and a flight ready to be reserved once they clinched that last game... and the ticket wasn't horribly expensive (granted, I was coming from Chicago vs MN).

Does it say something about the Vikes that Alan Page is now a Supreme Court Justice? It's going to be a looong year.

The Doozie said...

Sports stuff is horribly boring, so pretty much all I got out of this is that you laminated your wife? Is that against the law?

Sandy said...

And THAT is why we are Packer fans. Well, that, and the fact that I'm married to a man from Green Bay.

Elizabeth said...

Ugh, is it football season again? I thought they were still playing baseball?

Dorky Dad said...

Oh, the sad, sad life of a Vikings fan. It's as if I wrote that post (well, except for the age and all).

The Vikings just make me mad. I can live with the Twins not winning recently and some of the idiot things they do. But the Vikings just raise my blood pressure.

Bill said...

By the way "How good is St Louis Charlie?

Ed (zoesdad) said...

I loved growing up watching Fran. Great years and I did feel a little bad for them. I, however, had a much worse fate as I grew up in Louisiana and was/am/is/are a Saints fan. Now that's pain!

Gette said...

To Roger:

I have a friend who cheers for the Bears, and every. single. year. she raves about the '85 Bears. "At least we've WON a Superbowl!" she crows. And every year we remind her of how much farther that one victory is fading into the past. It does make winning against the Bears that much sweeter, though...

Rickey Henderson said...

Great piece. But can a team entitled "The Purple People Eaters" ever truly be feared and/or respected?

Maureen said...

You know who Bud Grant was with for nearly 15 years, don't you???? He played, then coached for 10 years for our Winnipeg Blue Bombers, winning the Grey Cup four times... ah, those were the years. We need Bud again too...

Which is why the Vikings are my favorite NFL team too.

VE said...

Don't give up hope. Our lowly Oregon Beavers took down No 1 USC last week! Miracles happen...

cathouse teri said...

Aw... poor kid. If it makes you feel any better, that Viking picture looks just like my boyfriend!

(I have no idea how that would make you feel better.)

But you should have seen this boyfriend last week when he found out last week that I'm a bible thumper!

Fancy Schmancy said...

I stopped watching football after my Bills lost their fourth superbowl in a row. Twice to Dallas. Ouch.

Jeff said...

heather - You must have run into Randy Moss then. His behavior was normally a turn off - drunk or not!

michelle - I too was ready to pounce on a play-off ticket. Maybe I should thank them for saving me some money?

doozie - What I do with my wife in the privacy of my own home is my own business. But yeah, being laminated is more fun than it sounds.

sandy - It's ok, I understand. You have to say that. You're a good wife Sandy.

elizabeth - They are. For a brief period every fall Minnesota sports fans have to decide which venue they will waste their money on each week.

dorky dad - You actually did write this post. I stole it from your archives. You should really pay more attention to your blog dude.

bill - Who is this St. Louis Charlie you speak of?

ed - And I feel your pain. We should get together and cry in our beers some time.

gette - That's right. Nobody likes a sore winner.

rickey - Well, in those days the phrase was one of fear and respect. But now that you mention it...

maureen - Well then, thank you Winnipeg for training him properly.

ve - Oh, I gave up hope long ago. But hey... go Beavers!

teri - What does that mean... you hit him over the head with your bible?

fancy schmancy - We should put together a pity party for all the poor bloggers who can't get a break. I'll bring the beer!

Flip Flop Momma said...

oh shit sorry, I fell asleep when u said football..

;)

rick said...

The Vikings always trained in Mankato. Tell about when you played at Sneaky Pete's.

cathouse teri said...

Actually, he caught me alluding to something spiritual (and by spiritual, I mean I was making reference to darkenss and light) over the telephone to my daughter. But he looked as if I had just hit him over the head with the bible! ;)

It's ok. He recovered.

Mom Thumb said...

Try being a Cowboys fan in a room with 30 Minnesotans while the Vikings cream Dallas. That's brutal. Yes, the Vikings are disappointing, but at least they're not the Packers.

JD at I Do Things said...

I know better than to encourage my husband to elaborate on his love (slowly dying) of the Cubs. Lately he's taken refuge in a fantasy baseball league. At least he has some control over the outcome of that.

JD at I Do Things

carlae said...

Go Seahawks! Yay!

Mooselet said...

I was a Vikings fan when I was a kid because a)the Patriots sucked then and b)they wore purple, which was (and still is) my fav colour.

And since I did grow up in New England, I feel your pain. Say '86 Red Sox with me...

Bil;l said...

The Saint Louis Rams have lost 17 of their last 20 games. They have lost 4 already this year, a worse record than the Vikes. Your wife is named Charli and is from St Louis, do you get the connection?

Jennine said...

Jeff...tell me about it.

Football season is nothing more than opportunity for all the men in this house to scream and shout at an inanimate object and spend an entire week trash talking the Vikes. The cycle repeats itself until the season ends and they resume their Stargate marathons.

Between football season and the presidential election, I'm ready to donate my eardrums.

Windyridge said...

Try being a NY Mets baseball fan. It doesn't get worse than that these past two years as they blew leads in the division and never made the playoffs TWICE in a row.

Prefers Her Fantasy Life said...

I'm trying to put this into a metaphor I can understand. Is it kind of like Wilco losing the grammy to those overrated Foo Fighters?

Kathy said...

Oh, Jeff. I can't contribute anything here since I'm hopelessly sports-ignorant. The only thing I've ever written about sports is how all the baseball players spit too much during games. I need to go to one of those football classes that teach wives what all their husbands are screamin' about.

Bill said...

Hair today, gone tomorrow! Kathy had me laughing out loud, along with a few of the other wits.

Sexy Housewife said...

My hubby totally feels the same way you do! In fact, I think I have heard the exact same soliaquey from him...over...and over...and over again. I am a fair weather fan of all MN sports teams. They just can't seem to get it all together.

April said...

This is what I don't get about sports. People spend money, time, pour their heart and soul into something over which they have no control. And if they do win? What do you get out of it, really? What's the closure?
I was once a die-hard Lakers fan. But they broke my heart one too many times.

Jeff said...

april - That's an interesting question. For some reason, fans seem to have a need for an emotional investment in a sports team. Almost as if some basic primal instinct for competition needs to be fulfilled vicariously through someone else. I guess it just plain feels good to win something - even if you're not doing the actual winning yourself.