If you read this blog on a regular basis, I hope you’ve generally come away feeling like I’m an optimistic, cheerful, goodhearted person who does none harm, says none harm, thinks none harm.
But if you’ve occasionally perceived cracks in that facade, as hints of cynicism, bitterness, and misanthropy seep into my writing… Well, I should explain:
I’m a Minnesota Vikings fan.
My birthdate spared me having to live through or remember clearly the Purple’s four Super Bowl losses (and the Drew Pearson/Hail Mary
botched callplay), but I entered adolescence just in time to see the 1987-88 team make a miraculous run to the NFC Conference Championship — only for Darrell Green to break up a pass to Darrin Nelson at the goal line. Then during my ten years being educated out East, having my heart broken by the Vikings maintained my emotional connection to the mother tundra. From a distance, I watched the 1998-99 Vikes become the first 15-1 team to fail to reach the Super Bowl, then the 2000-01 iteration lose “41-Donut” to the New York Giants. Back I came to Minnesota, in time to see the Daunte Culpepper-Randy Moss partnership break up, one overmatched coach be replaced by another, and then the greatest team in Vikings history — helmed by the greatest player in Packers history, no less! — fall short of yet another Super Bowl.
Not for nothing did Viking fandom crack the NFL.com top five “Pain Rankings” earlier this year. (Though the #6 team is certainly keeping pace after the events of last night. And there’s no catching #1.)
So as kicker Blair Walsh lined up this afternoon to attempt a 27-yard field goal with just 22 seconds left in the game, a chip shot that would send the two-time defending NFC champion Seattle Seahawks back to their rainy nest in shame, I knew full well…
We’re going to lose.
Unfortunately, my six-year old son Isaiah, whose faith in our beloved NFC North champions had survived an emotional rollercoaster of a game, hadn’t been in this situation before. He was already breaking down the Vikings’ next game in Arizona as Walsh stepped into his kick… and shanked it wide left.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen another human being so disconsolate.
After about ten minutes of sobbing, I gathered Isaiah into my biggest, most fatherly bear hug. After his chest stopped heaving quite so violently, I held him by the shoulders, looked him level in the eyes, and said, “Son, now you’re a Vikings fan.”
This first time, he just needs to experience the emotions. But next time — and there will be a next time: this team is good enough to lose in the playoffs for years to come — I’ll share with him my hard-earned strategy for surviving this particular loyalty:
Never watch a Vikings playoff game without having something better to look forward to.
A few options I’ll roll out as the years go on:
1. Make sure you’ve already picked another team that you loathe so intensely that their own failure will bring joy almost as sweet as the elusive joy that may — but never will — come from a Vikings triumph.
Note: this post is not entitled, “How to be a good person.”
And as if God is smiling on my depravity, the next game on the schedule features the most underachieving, discombobulated Packers team in memory. As I write this, Aaron Rodgers and the gang are already losing to the mediocre team that represents our nation’s capital.
2. Prepare a monologue in which you pledge to stop watching such a dehumanizing sport.
Or, once it’s on Netflix or Amazon Prime, watch Will Smith’s Concussion movie two or three times in a row.
3. Plan a good supper.
If nothing else, I knew that the sun would set on us eating homemade Carbonnade à la Flammande, a onion-beef stew made with good Belgian beer.
Precisely the right flavor to offset the taste of bile.
4. Make sure something good is on TV later that night.
Now, this piece of advice is actually a few years past its expiration date. Isaiah’s coping mechanism this afternoon was to pick up an iPad and watch thirty minutes’ worth of Wild Kratts.
But I entered this afternoon’s game knowing that, whichever way the Vikings ultimately failed us all this time, I would have hours to indulge my Anglophilia, as my wife and I enjoyed the next episode in Downton Abbey‘s last season and the reprise of the Sherlock Christmas special.
5. Take a deep breath and remember that, deep down, you’re really a Twins fan, not a Vikings fan.
And pitchers and catchers report to sunny Fort Myers in just six short weeks.