by Peter Christian
Before I get all worked up into a rant that runs into a word count that Paul M. Banks will frown upon, let me get one thing straight: I know.
I know that the Vikings shot themselves in the foot. I know that a team that fumbles 5 times does not deserve to advance to the Super Bowl. I know that you shouldn’t win a football game when you turn the ball over twice inside the red zone. Most importantly, I know that a team that ends up -4 in the takeaway/giveaway battle should not be in position to win a conference championship.
I also know that the Minnesota Vikings did all of those things and still, somehow, were able to be seemingly within reach of their franchise’s fifth Super Bowl (and first in my lifetime). Unfathomably, the Vikings were able to commit all of the aforementioned deadly sins and were still only one boneheaded throw shy of a Ryan Longwell attempt at a game winning field goal from about 50 yards in a dome. We were a Brett Favre scramble away from a chip shot to go to the Super Bowl. But Favre didn’t tuck the ball and run. Of course he didn’t.
Whether I, or Packers fans, like it or not, we are kindred spirits. We are brethren in getting our hearts ripped out by a man that just inevitably tries to do too much at the apex of a game. Yet, we know that for all that moronic behavior and late game buffoonery there’s no way our team would have gotten to that point without him. As much as I know I’ll relive the interception by Brett Favre in the same way I relive the missed field goal by Gary Anderson back in January of 1999, I also know that Favre’s poor choice of throwing on the run across his body to Sidney Rice to try and seal the game wasn’t the only reason why the Vikings lost and dealt yet another crushing blow to the chest cavity of Vikings fans everywhere. That was just another moment for Vikings fans of all ages to discuss ad nausea when we talk about the times we got close. The Vikings history is littered with those moments. It doesn’t matter if you’re 55 and you’ve watched every Vikings game they’ve ever played, you’re 28 and you’ve seen the Vikings get to 4 NFC Championships and lose in the most heartbreaking manners possible or if you’re 7 and just started to care about the team. The Minnesota Vikings are unique in the manner in which they pump your hopes up just to smash them into tiny pieces with the most vicious stomach punch losses in the history of sports.
Manny Pacquiao is widely considered the greatest puncher alive right now (possibly of all time) and even though none of the loyal Vikings fans in Minnesota and scattered throughout the country have likely ever felt the wrath of Pac-Man’s body blows, we all know exactly what they feel like. The air gushes out of your lungs, your heart races, you feel dizzy and finally the pain sinks in to make you bend over so that you can try and get the oxygen back into your body. Every Vikings fan just had that same progression of feelings on Sunday night. It’s no secret that Vikings fans are tortured, but no one knew that we were so good at taking these shots round after round, fight after fight, year after year.
Whether it’s due to late game idiocy, complete malfunction (re: 2000 NFC Championship) or a little of both mixed with some outside influence, it makes no difference. We’ve felt the sting before, but never will we become immune to its effects nor will we stop putting ourselves in the position to avoid the devastation altogether . That type of loss is one that Minnesota sports fans have become prepared for, and actually, sadly, expect. That doesn’t, however make it any less painful or help us deal with the aftermath any better. It just means we are ready for it.
I told many who asked me about the game during the previous week that no matter what happened in the NFC Championship, I was going to be a mess. If the Vikings lost, I’d go through the 7 stages of grief with a long stay at the depression stage or if they won, I’d spend the next two weeks battling so much anxiety that I’d likely feel the need to vomit at least once daily. So far, I’m spot on. Though, I wasn’t aware I would be getting to the ANGER stage so quickly. Maybe it’s because of the turnovers, maybe it’s because the defense played so well (all for naught) or maybe it’s because of how much I hate Pete Morelli right now (I’m absolutely not making excuses that the refs blew the game, they were great all game with the exception of 3 calls in OT). No matter the reason, my insides are literally on fire with rage right now. I’ve taken the deep breaths, I’ve stopped my insides from telling me they hurt, now all that remains is the fact that we got dealt yet another punch by the most skilled pugilist in all of sports: the Minnesota Vikings.
(Editors note: removed from this essay was a 394 word paragraph about all the terrible things Mr. Christian would like to do to Pete Morelli and the rest of his officiating crew. We at The Sports Bank felt it necessary to remove the paragraph because a) the placement of the paragraph did not flow with the rest of the article and b) if anything were to happen to Mr. Morelli, we would like to make sure that Mr. Christian is not a suspect.)