Monday, October 6, 2008

Common (Sports)man: The Essence of Vikings Fandom

Watching the Vikings game, The Common Man can't shake the feeling that the Vikings will find a way to squander their 10 point lead. And as Gus Frerotte throws way behind Chester Taylor and Bernard Berrian forgets that he has to make an effort to catch a pass, even if it's underthrown.

For those of you who are not Vikings fans, The Common Man feels like he needs to lay it out.

The Vikings were an NFL expansion franchise in 1961, born at the same time that the Washington Senators moved in and became the Minnesota Twins. Indeed, the arrival of two major sports franchises announced to the rest of the country that the Twin Cities were no longer the hinterlands of the midwest, ten steps south of Canada. Minneapolis and St. Paul were big league, and the Metro Area's identity became indelibly glued to their teams, as fans have glommed onto the success of their teams, particularly in the dead of winter.

After the initial growing pains that a expansion team experiences, the Vikings blossomed under new coach Bud Grant in 1968, beginning an 11 year run in which they never finished lower than .500 (they also were at .500 or better in 12 of 13 and 14 of 16). During that run, the Vikings made four Super Bowls, losing them all, simply choking away every opportunity to bring a championship to Minnesota.

After rebuilding under Jerry Burns and Denny Green, the Vikes had another 16 year stretch where they were at or above .500 14 times, a run that peaked with the team's 15-1 finish in 1998. But again, the team couldn't get over the hump, suffering heartbreaking losses in big playoff games (famously on Nick Anderson's first missed field goal of the season in the '98 NFC Championship Game), and underachieving in spite of their impressive talent.

Being a Vikings fan has always been about dealing with disappointment, dashed dreams, and squandered potential. It's like being a Cubs fan without the quirky and annoying mystical element. It's not that the Vikings have had bad luck, it's just that they've failed. Again and again and again. And they have taught their fans to both deal with and expect that failure. Vikings fans simply wait to see how their team will squander their latest opportunity.

And while The Common Man watches Reggie Bush return his second punt for a touchdown (why are you kicking to him a third time Brad Childress), he gets ready to endure yet another disappointment. He supposes that dealing with disappointment constructively is a valuable skill for a man to learn, but The Common Man just wants to throw his remote through the drywall of the mancave.

Addendum: Well, now that the game's over and Ryan Longwell's 30 yard field goal won it for the Vikes, dare The Common Man to dream? Or is he inviting further sadness/anger?


BillP said...

I vote sadness/anger. Brad Childress is a lucky, lucky man. That was one of the most poorly coached games I've ever seen (by Childress--I was really impressed with Payton).

The Founding Father said...

Still calling it a Man Cave? Come on, sharpen up.

Be A Man.

- The Founding Father