Friday, January 02, 2009

A Clockwork Purple... Skol Vikings!

The upshot of the Minnesota Vikings not being able to sell out a home playoff game? Their defensive star, Jared Allen, used the word cashish during a video pitch to fans to sell out the stadium for Sunday's wild-card game vs. the Philadelphia Eagles. What kind of talk is that from a player on a team in mid-sized Midwestern city? You'd expect to hear the Dallas Cowboys borrow a word from the drug culture, but that would require them making the playoffs, apparently.

It is a little ironic to hear that from a player once suspended for a substance abuse by the NFL, which once cast out Ricky Williams for a year for smoking marijuana. This gets to the heart of a new self-imposed rule: No more ironic postings on the Vikes, although that will require the team to hold up its end of the bargain, if not Sunday, then next season, or the one after that, or the one after that ...

Not to get all metabloggy, but it's become a personal rule not to write too much about the Vikings as this site has evolved, lo, there past 2 1/2 years. The Vikes are where I draw the line at being an open book.

Cheering for them has involved too much screaming at the television, plus there is the inanimate-object kicking. Picture the contents of a nearly-full box of Triscuits flying into space after being drop-kicked, and that was during the 2006 season opener, which the Vikings actually won in typical teeth-gnashing fashion (it came down to field goal, as so often happens when Brad Childress is the coach).

A sports blog has to do more than say, "Here's what happening in sports and here's what I think about it," so it did not seem like there was much to add with regard to the Beloved Purple (acknowledging nod: Daily Norseman). There are any number of great Vikings blogs out there. Grant's Tomb has already socked away the distinction of being the best one originating out of Canada. Drew Magary of Deadspin and Kissing Suzy Kolber fame is a Vikings fan. The territory is well-marked.

That's being said, it's impossible to bottle it up when it's your team, and they're in the playoffs. This is no doubt a sign of mild obsessive-compulsive disorder, but during the lead-up to Sunday's big game at the Metrodome, attention has not been focused on the breakdown between the two teams. How Childress' history with Eagles passer Donovan McNabb might bear on the proceedings, owner Zygi Wilf's push for a nearly $1-billion new stadium, Adrian Peterson's fumble problems, whether both parts of the Williams Wall will play, Tarvaris Jackson's readiness for the post-season and the concern that Childress, on game day is the worst manager this side of Michael Scott on The Office, have all been pushed out to the perimeter. Greater minds can chin-wag over those side issues.

This week has been all about plunking down in front of the computer, Clockwork Orange-style, and scouring YouTube for all the low points in Vikings history, as if that might cause the great spirit in the heavens to reach down and help influence the outcome.

You know the whole litany: Gary Anderson missing the field goal in 1999 that would have secured a Super Bowl trip. The 41-0 loss to the New York Giants in the NFC title game in early 2001, although if Football Outsiders had been more prominent back then, one would have seen that coming from 500 miles away. Being knocked out of the playoffs on the final play of the 2003 season, on a sideline catch that would not have counted under today's NFL rules.

It even includes the ones the predate yours truly cheering for the team, or even being born. Darrin Nelson dropping the pass on the goal line against Washington in 1988. Damned Drew Pearson getting away with a push-off to catch the Hail Mary in 1975.

Who knows what forces led yours truly to accept the Purple as a football saviour on NFL Sundays. To be totally fatalistic about it, it was probably an inevitability, going all the way back to the early days of nineteen seventy-seven, when I came into the world a mere five days before the Vikings to become the first team to lose four Super Bowls. For all I know, since I was so young at the time, it might have happened the day my parents brought their first-born son home from the hospital.

(Twenty-some years later, this would all be brought home, thanks to a Winnipeg TV station rerunning a 1977 Saturday Night Live hosted by the Hall of Fame quarterback, Fran Tarkenton, who once said: "I've won two hundred games, all little ones.")

It was fate. I initially supported the Philadelphia Eagles. They had Randall Cunningham. They had the same name and team colours as the high school I later attended. Their offensive line in that era included Mike Schad, who had gone to Queen's and was even from Belleville, a half-hour drive from the Sager homestead.

The early '90s Eagles were a gateway team before turning to harder drugs -- cheering for the Vikings. It probably was a contrarian move. Their archrivals have a lot to offer. The Chicago Bears won a Super Bowl in 1986, when a lot of sports fans my age were very impressionable. They boast the greatest player in NFL history, Walter Payton.

The Green Bay Packers have always been a great team to get behind -- a team owned by its community, plus there's the frozen tundra, the Lombardi legend and Brett Favre just having fun out there.

The Vikings, though, present more of intellectual challenge. They've also made the playoffs more often than either of other two team since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 (you could look it up). They will win the Super Bowl one of these seasons -- law of averages -- and the Vikings' fanbase, in the midwestern United States, on the Canadian Prairies and all points across the known world will have a blessedly Bill Simmons-free now-I-can-die-in-peace moment.

Who knows if the dream will come any closer to reality this Sunday. That's not for me to say. The belief
is if that you make yourself bulletproof as a fan, wear that tortured history like a team jersey, Fate will smile upon us for a change, maybe.

No comments: