Monday, January 25, 2010

Heart Ripped Out

As an 18 year old Vikings fan, I have probably experienced more heartbreak than many will experience in their entire lives as fans. Now let me first say that I know how lucky I am that in only really 11 years of following a team, I have seen them play in three NFC Championship games. That being said, Vikings fans have no question felt the most heartbreak in my years of being a fan. Also remember that this does not include heartbreaking events that occurred before my time as a fan (four lost Super Bowls and the original Hail Mary)

1998-The Vikings cruised through the regular season with ease. Led by MVP QB Randall Cunningham, future Hall of Famer Chris Carter, and rookie sensation Randy Moss, the Vikings put up more points in a season than any team had before them. They finish the year with a 15-1 record, their only loss coming at the hands of the then division foe Bucs in week 9. In the divisional round of the playoffs, the Vikings annihilated Jake Plummer's Cardinals and found themselves in a conference championship match up with the Atlanta Falcons. Although the Falcons had finished the season with a 14-2 record, the Vikings were still 7.5 points favorites. The Vikings were in front the entire game even though they fumbled away points (sound familiar?). The Vikes lead 27-20 with just over two minutes left, when they called upon their reliable place kicker Gary Anderson out to attempt a 38 yd field goal which would seal a trip to Miami (also familiar). Anderson had made 122 consecutive kicks and hadn't missed in two years. As Anderson took his calculated steps back to attempt the kick, John Madden said, "now this guy hasn't missed in two years, if you were gonna bet on whether he will make this kick, you would have to say yes." Wide right. The Falcons march down score a touchdown and then win in overtime when their kicker Morton Anderson hits a, you guessed it, 38 yd field goal to end the Vikings dream season. For many Vikings fans, this is the most painful game of all time simply because of the potential this team had. I may have been lucky to only be seven at the time of this one, although I remember crying at the end I was too young to appreciate just how bad that loss was.

2000-Although Jeff George had played admirably the season before, there was no question it was time to hand the reigns over to 1999 first round draft pick Daunte Culpepper. The Vikings played their way to a number two seed despite losing their last three games of the regular season. In the first round they took care of the Saints 34-16. The Vikings were back to the NFC Championship for their second time in three years. This time they would take on the number 1 seed Giants. Even though the game was at the Meadowlands, the Vikings were favored, and most so called "experts" picked Minnesota to reach the big game. The game was once again a disappointment, yet this time in an embarrassing fashion. 6 minutes into the game the Giants already lead 14-0 thanks to a touchdown drive and a Moe Williams fumble on the ensuing kickoff. The Giants would go on to destroy the Vikings 41-0. The loss was followed up by a 5-11 season in which Dennis Green was fired.

2003-The Vikings did not make the NFC Championship in 2003, but the way the Vikings ended this regular season could not have been worse. Coming off of an injury plagued 6-10 2002 season, The Vikes were healthy and ready to shoot out of the gate in '03. They started 6-0 and the offense was clicking on all cylinders. After that the season took a turn for the worse, the Vikes reeled off 4 straight losses and were 3-6 since that 6-0 start going into week 17. As bad as the second half of the season had gone, the Vikings still controlled their own fate after giving the Chiefs an old fashion butt whooping at the Dome. All they had to do was beat the 3-12 Cardinals and the Vikings would be NFC North champions once again. I was on vacation with my non Vikings fans family on a cruise during this game. The boat had a sports bar but I was devastated to find out that it did not have DirecTV's Sunday ticket package. Thankfully though (or maybe not) fox switched to the Vikings game with just over two minutes to play. I had been frantically checking the score but it was still calming to see that the Vikes were up 17-6. A few plays later though and they were up 17-12 after a Cardinals touchdown and failed two point conversion attempt. Still I wasn't too worried, what are the odds the lowly Cardinals recover an onside kick and take it down the field and score a touchdown in less than two minutes? Uh oh. Recovery Cardinals. They then drove the ball with ease down the field to the Vikings 14 yard line. The Vikings D then came up big with 3 consecutive sacks of Quarterback Josh McCown. This brought up 4th and 24 from the 28 yard line with only 4 ticks left on the clock. "McCown drops back, looking for a receiver, rolls out to his right, fires to the endzone, CAUGHT CAUGHT, TOUCHDOWN TOUCHDOWN NATE POOLE, AND THE CARDINALS HAVE KNOCKED THE VIKINGS OUT OF THE PLAYOFFS." I proceeded to go to my room on the cruise and lock myself in for hours. It should be noted that Nate Poole was ruled to be forced out because he did not have both feet in bounds. This would not have been a catch in today's rule book. To add insult to injury, the Vikings loss allowed the hated Packers to win the division and get into the playoffs. The mayor of Green Bay then gave Nate Poole a key to the city.

2009-I'm not going to go into detail about the season other than that all Vikings fans knew that with Favre likely only playing here for one year, it was all in. After embarrassing the Cowboys in the divisional round, the purple and gold headed to the Big Easy for a championship game with the Saints. The Vikings outplayed the Saints on nearly every level of the game. They out gained them 475-257. Sadly though, the Vikings were dominated in the most important part of the game, turnovers. The Vikings laid the ball on the turf six times, three of which were lost (2 inside the 10 yd line) and the ageless wonder had thrown an interception. Despite all the turnovers, The Vikings were still in great position to win the game at the end. The score was tied 28-28 and the Vikings had marched the ball down to the Saints 34 yard line. It was as if at this moment, the Vikings remembered that they were the Vikings and were destined to lose this game. Coach Brad Childress called two runs up the middle, seemingly settling for the 51 yard attempt from one of the best in the game, Ryan Longwell. I may not have agreed with the conservative play calling yet I was still confident Longwell would kick that ball long enough and well enough to propel the Vikes to Miami. That was when, coming of a timeout, 12 men were in the huddle. That’s right, 12 men were in the huddle. With a chance to go to the Super Bowl, 12 men were in the huddle. Incredible. The penalty backed the Vikings up pretty much out of field goal range when Favre tossed what may be the last pass he will ever throw in the NFL, an interception that sent the game into overtime. I'm not going to address all the bad calls made in overtime, because quite frankly, when you turn the ball over five times, you don't deserve to win. But when that ball off of Saints kicker Garrett Hartley flew through the uprights it was like every Vikings fan in the country and overseas got punched in the gut and their heart ripped out. Maybe what was sadder is how familiar the feeling felt. This season may have been the worse because of the uncertainty for next year. The 98 team may have had more of a shot at the Super Bowl, but at least fans knew that next year they would have virtually the same team. Now, Vikings fans are left wondering what will happen next year? Odds are that Brett won't return which means what, back to Tarvaris? So I would say this is so painful because we were all in and we lost, and now we don't know when we will get those chips back.



In the end, is it worth it? Is it really worth being a Vikings fan for all of this heartbreak. The answer is yes, because being a Viking fan is about more than football. It's about an escape from our everyday lives. And more than that, it's about being part of a huge family. I always feel I am connected to any Viking fan I meet. The Viking fan club which I attend is a small close part of that family. During football season, my favorite part of the week is going to watch the game with all of my Viking brothers. But really, it is all about keeping the faith that one day our year will come, and the Purple and Gold will hoist the Lombardi Trophy high in the air for the whole world to see.

2 comments:

  1. my heart still hurts ;(

    "unfinished business" for Favre in the 2010 season

    ReplyDelete