This is an essay on my life and view as a Viking fan.
To write of my experiences as a Viking fan, I could start with Herschel Walker, with Anthony Carter, with Gary Anderson, with 41-0, with Nate Poole. All of these things have real life resonance for my life as a Viking fan.
But that’s not quite right; for a Viking fan too young to have seen the team play in the 70s, it is the generation that comes before mine that defines being a Viking fan. Why? Because they’re weird.
It’s a generation that has an amazing level of reverence for Bud Grant and his Viking teams. I heard stories about how Chuck Foreman carried the ball, about how quick off the snap Alan Page was, how adept at blocking kicks Matt Blair was, at what a hard hitter Karl Kassulke was. I heard stories about Carl Eller’s safety in the playoffs. I heard stories about the bravado of Joe Kapp and the crazy scrambling of Fran Tarkenton. I know that Bud Grant did not allow heaters on the sidelines of the old Met stadium because he thought they were a distraction. And I know that in any way disparaging any of these Minnesota legends would get you looks of contempt, shock, and horror.
But this generation with such deep reverence for the Vikings of old is also the generation that watched the Vikings lose--in convincing fashion--four Super Bowls. Along with the glories of those Viking teams, I know that Drew Pearson pushed off Nate Wright to give the Dallas Cowboys an undeserved victory over the Vikings in a 1975 playoff game, that a fan threw a whiskey bottle at the referee’s head, and that everybody in Minnesota nods approvingly when telling or hearing the story because clearly the referee had it coming. I know the raw disappointment that can be heard in the voices of that generation of Viking fans when they talk about those teams.
And that’s why they’re weird--there’s an indescribable combination of deep revering devotion and bitter, empty, heart-breaking disappointment. Viking fans of my generation are raised to love and cherish the Purple. But we’re also raised to expect to be disappointed by the Purple.
And at that level, younger Viking fans share a bond with those older fans: the Vikings always succeed in fulfilling our expectation of being disappointed. Fans who were too young to see the Whiskey Bottle Incident or any of the four Super Bowl losses might be old enough to have seen the ball bounce feebly off Darren Nelson’s hands in ‘87. If we were too young for that, we believed Herschel Walker would transcend the very game of football for the Vikings, only to see all our draft picks help the Cowboys win three Super Bowls. If we’re too young for that, we watched Gary Anderson make every single kick during the regular season, only to see him miss the field goal in the NFC Championship game that would have clinched the Super Bowl. Still a little young? Then we might have seen the Vikings lose to the Giants 41-0 in another NFC Championship game. A really young Viking fan? Then you still might have seen the ‘03 Vikings blow a 17-6 week 17 lead over the awful Arizona Cardinals, and you remember where you were when you saw Josh McCown complete a TD pass to Nate Poole with no time left (the ‘03 Vikings were 9-7, but they were 0-4 against the four teams tied with the worst record in the league that year--they will ALWAYS find new and exciting ways to disappoint us).
But lest you think Viking fans are despairing nihilists, think again: we are bitter, but we are always optimistic. When Gary Anderson missed that clinching kick, I thought, “Well, we can still stop Atlanta from scoring.” When Atlanta tied the score, I thought, “Well, there are 30 some seconds left to try score.” When Dennis Green ordered Randall Cunningham to kneel down, I thought, “Well, we can score in overtime.” When the Vikes went three-and-out in overtime, I thought, “Well, we can still stop Atlanta and get the ball back.” And when Atlanta scored and the Vikings missed the Super Bowl, I thought, “Well, there’s always next year.”
And that’s what I’ve said every year since.