Football season is here and I’m a Vikings fan.
Hard times are coming.
It’s not easy being a Vikings fan. It’s easy to be Yankees or Lakers fans, where winning is the expectation. When your team wins, you can bask in the glory, and when it doesn’t, you can be bitter and angry while waiting for their inevitable return to greatness. On the other hand, some sports franchises are cursed to never win. If you’re a Cubs fan (last World Series victory, 1908), you can just relish loving a loser. Minnesota used to be like that until the Twins ruined everything by winning the World Series - twice. That taste of glory was just . . . mean.
Because the problem with Vikings is that they aren’t loveable losers.
They’re good. Sometimes really good.
Just never quite good enough.
I fondly remember during my formative years in the late '60s and early '70s when the Vikings were dominant. Fran Tarkenton, the Purple People Eaters . . . they hardly ever lost a game.
Except the last one. Every season.
Do you have any idea of the pain? Remember Charlie Brown, the way Lucy would convince him to kick the football, but always pull it away at the last moment?
THAT’S MY LIFE!!!
Oh sure, we’ve had a few bad seasons now and then, but by and large, for the last 50 years, the Vikings have hovered on verge of greatness. Of course, the Verge of Greatness is apparently right next to the Chasm of Despair, and I fall into it every year.
I was pretty hopeful that year when Bret Favre played for the Vikings and was, you know, good. Since he wasn’t really a Viking but a Green Bay Packer in disguise, I thought he might be the one to break the curse of not-quite-good-enough. I was wrong. Bret played like a true Viking – really, really good, right up until he was awful.
You kind of have to admire the way Bret adapted to the culture of the Vikings. He was part of a great tradition.
Like most people with an addiction, I fight it as best I can. I take some comfort in knowing I’m not alone. My father-in-law had a purple foam brick with the Vikings logo on the side. He’d throw it at the TV on a regular basis. Just knowing that a throwable foam Vikings brick was mass-marketed should tell you something about what it’s like to be a fan.
Speaking of in-laws, a few years ago my brothers-in-law invited my son and me to go ice fishing on Lake of the Woods. Turns out the day they selected conflicted with a playoff game. They had a plan, though. They got up very early, drove the six hours to the resort, and settled down in the bar in time for the pregame show. My son and I started a few hours later, planning to listen to the game on the radio.
That was the year the Vikings were favored to beat the New York Giants and instead lost 41-0.
We arrived at the bar shortly after the end of the game and ran head-on into a herd of sullen in-laws who were four hours short of sleep and had been stuck in a grimy bar watching their team get hammered on national TV.
I’ve read lots of books about good men who’ve fallen in love with feckless women who break their hearts. I’ve avoided feckless women since I was 12, but I’ve still had the experience of having my heart broken on a regular basis.
I’m a Vikings fan.