By Peter Christian
Every week I feel a little happier and a little more queasy at the same time. The Minnesota Vikings are currently sporting their best Week 11 Record since 1998. Yes, the same 1998 where the Vikings went 15-1, scored more points than any team in NFL history (at that point) and then lost in the NFC Championship game at home because Gary Anderson missed his only kick of the entire season blah blah blah.
So as the Vikings reel off win after win and play the most balanced brand of football that I can remember, I watch with one eye towards the future. With each long bomb by Brett Favre to Sidney Rice, Bernard Berrian or Percy Harvin I try and ignore the similarities of Randall Cunningham throwing to Jake Reed, Cris Carter or Randy Moss. The truth is however, that there are just far too many similarities between this 2009 team and the one that literally made me hate football for more than a year when I was in high school.
Randall Cunningham is pried out of retirement to sign with the team, Brett Favre pretends he needed to be convinced to come out of retirement.
In 1998, the Vikings 1st round pick was an exciting WR named Randy Moss that is causing headaches for opposing DB’s. In 2009, Percy Harvin is taken in the 1st round and is contributing to the high powered offense immediately.
In 1998, a speedy running back with long strides led the Vikings balanced running attack behind an offensive line of All-Pros. In 2009, a fast and strong running back led the Vikings feared running attack behind a behemoth offensive line of All-Pros.
In 1998, an opportunistic defense created turnovers and caused chaos for the opposing offense. In 2009, a tremendous defensive line caused chaos in the opponent’s backfield, sacking the quarterback and creating turnovers.
In 1998-99, the Super Bowl was in Miami. In 2009-10 the Super Bowl is in Miami.
I could keep going, but I won’t. The point is that it is just a little eerie for the Vikings fans who never really let those wounds heal from our hearts being torn out of our chests on that awful January afternoon in 1999. The point is that I’m just not sure how to proceed with this team. I’ve already fallen in love with this team just like I did in 1998. I’ve already secretly plotted out the paths to the Super Bowl and figured out which road is easiest for the Purple. I’m trying really hard not to follow in the same footsteps as I did 11 years ago, but who can blame me? Since 1998, the Vikings have been a series of follies. One after another. Late season collapses, off the field scandals, coaching mistakes, personnel mistakes, the list goes on but I finally see a Vikings team that I can support. A team that has the winning instinct. A team that really looks focused and driven.
So I tell myself that I won’t be as attached as I was when I was 17. I tell myself that I can be a fan without crossing over into the “Crazy Super Fan” level. I avoid watching the games with other people so I can keep my reactions and emotions to myself and share them once I’ve had a chance to catch my breath.
But all the while, I know. Deep down I know that with each win the Vikings move a little bit closer to a play-off berth, a home play-off game, a first round bye, home field advantage, the Super Bowl. In my belly (which is much larger than it was in 1998) I know that with each win, I’m a little more invested, more intense, more crazed, more ready to admit that I’m more in love with the game of football than I was in 1998.
I might be on another path to a let down. We all know the Vikings organization is no stranger to letting down its fan base. I might just be walking face first into a brick wall with my eyes closed… but you know what?
I’ll take it. I’ll take the risk that this team lets me down just like every Vikings team has since I was old enough to know that Purple is a manly color on Sundays. I’ll gladly relive the pain of being doused with napalm if only for a chance that the reason there are so many similarities to 1998 is because this is the year they redeem that team and every other Vikings team that has come up short in its 49 year history.
Because, really, that’s why we continue to cheer.