Even as a fan more than six months shy of his 20th birthday, an innate cynicism about the Minnesota Vikings has already been hardwired into me. I am not alone in this respect, as you can feel the collective tension of the entire Vikings fan base building after each Vikings win. We can’t help but get excited. The team is 7-2, on top of the NFC North, and the looming return of Teddy Bridgewater has many downright giddy. However, that joy is quickly tempered by the memories of seasons past.
Despite a highly respectable 476-415-10 historic team record, the Vikings remain one of the most tortured franchises in sports. 28 playoff appearances and 4 Super Bowl berths are numbers that several teams are far shy of reaching, but the lack of a championship is the defining characteristic of the franchise. It isn’t that we’ve never had a team worthy of it, either. There have been multiple instances in which the team seemed destined to win The Big Game and fate cruelly dashed our hopes. Three specific instances stand out above the rest.
In 1975, the Vikings rolled into the playoffs with an NFC-best 12-2 record (the league was still a few years away from expanding the season to 16 games), and QB Fran Tarkenton had just won the league’s MVP award. With only 24 seconds left and the Vikings holding a 14-10 lead, Cowboys QB Roger Staubach desperately threw up a 50-yard touchdown pass that ended up inspiring the term “Hail Mary.” Unfortunately, the Vikings players and fans’ prayers once again went unanswered.
23 years later, the Vikings were once again a force to be reckoned with. Led by an explosive offense, Minnesota had only lost one game the entire season going into the NFC Championship game. Kicker Gary Anderson hadn’t missed in two years and was 35-35 in the 1998 season. Well, we all know what happened next. The game goes to overtime. The Vikings drive into Falcons territory, putting the game on a platter for Anderson to send the team to the Super Bowl. Wide left. Atlanta got the ball back and Kicker Morten Andersen’s field goal put the game away soon after. Brutal.
The 2009 Vikings were the first truly great team that I can remember watching. The roster was loaded. 10 Pro Bowlers and a revitalized Brett Favre had the Minnesota fanbase riding high. A 12-4 regular season record gave the team a first-round bye, and after a dominant 34-3 victory over the Dallas Cowboys, the team only needed one more win over the New Orleans Saints for a spot in the Super Bowl. Late in the game, Minnesota recovered possession and drove into field goal range with 30 seconds left. Then, the unthinkable. A flag for too many men on the field and an ill-advised (to say the least) throw by Brett Favre that was picked off by New Orleans sent the game into overtime. The Saints won the toss, the ensuing field goal ended Minnesota’s season.
Despite the substantial scar tissue that’s been accumulated over the years, we as Vikings fans have once again built up our hopes and dare to dream that the 2017 Vikings will be the team to break the franchise’s championship curse. This season will likely end in heartbreak and misery (once again), but deep down in every Vikings fan’s heart there remains the small flickering flame of hope that on that cold night in February at US Bank Stadium, they will finally be able to exorcise the demons of Vikings past and celebrate a Super Bowl victory 66 years in the making.