Monday, January 25, 2010

Farewell (sort of, for now)

six updates below

1.
During the Vikings-Saints game, I felt more physical anxiety than I've ever felt during a game. I couldn't eat: my stomach was too fluttery (after the game I was famished). In the fourth quarter my lower arms started tingling. Late in the fourth quarter when it looked like they had a shot, water would fill up my eyes. The anxiety while the game was in doubt was intense.

So why, the day after, am I just going about life? I'm distraught, but why don't I feel an awful sense of spiritual emptiness? But I know why. It's simple.

I've been here before.

The feeling today is just so familiar. Once again, the Vikings are not going to win the Super Bowl this year. Once again, a potentially great Viking season ends in the most heart-rending way possible. I can deal with these feelings because I know them. If they had won last night, I'd be grinning like a psychotic all day, and I wouldn't even know what to do with the emotions I would be feeling. But this? I know this. I've been here.

2.
Things could go two ways. You know, 10+ years from now my kids might be getting their hopes up for the Viking season (assuming, of course, the Vikes don't relocate, the dread of which has been the undertone of this season's desperation), and they'll see signs that this could be the year. And I'll have to decide: do I let them feel their mad hope, or do I try to remind them that this is the Vikings, that they'll never actually win the Super Bowl, and believing they can will just leave them with disappointment? Even if it's not my kids, there will be a whole new generation of Viking fans that have merely heard of the '09 NFC Championship, for whom the '98 NFC Championship predates their birth (they'll learn about those things, perhaps, the same way I learned about the '75 Hail Mary game, from my dad and uncle and whole hosts of Viking fans who have never gotten over it). Will I be the old Viking crank? Or will I smile at their youthful exuberance? I fear it will be the former: a few weeks ago my nephew brazenly told me the Vikings were going to win the Super Bowl. You're young, I told him--you'll learn not to be quite so hopeful. But then, I was smiling as I told him that. I won't be the one to tear down the splendid dreams and passionate hopes of the young. Let them dream, let them hope.

But I fear they will relocate, and then who knows what will become of us.

I should be so lucky as to spend the next 50+ years being disappointed by the Vikings. But if they move to L.A., leaving us alone, even winning championships there (like the Lakers), then what? Then what?

That 12 men in the huddle penalty might have cost the Vikings a championship. And not winning a championship this year might cost Minnesota the Vikings.

3.
After this season, what can only be remembered as the Favre season, how do we recover the passion? I can't stomach the thought of the free agency period. I'll want to know who the Vikings draft, but I don't want to watch the draft. I don't want to blog through a training camp, reading articles about who is playing well and such. I don't want to blog for a week one regular season game. Not after this NFC Championship game. Not after being in position for a field goal attempt to take the Vikings to the Super Bowl. Not after all those turnovers ruined it all. Not after a freaking overtime loss in the NFC Championship Game. I can't get that passion aroused again--at least, not yet. Or maybe I just don't want to. It's not that I'm going to try will myself into becoming a "casual fan." It's just that I don't want to write about it anymore. I don't want all the periods of waiting. I don't want to devote all that time and energy (mental and emotional) again, just to have this happen again. In fact, I'll be preparing for fantasy football by purchasing a magazine a week or two before the draft (Hazelweirders know that, though practiced by more than half the league, this is a much laughed at strategy). I want to follow it all--I just don't want to develop ideas about it all. I don't want to write and organize, look at statistics or read speculation. And those sorts of things are rather a necessity for a football blogger, aren't they? I just don't have another offseason in me. And I think when the season starts, I just want to watch the games and try enjoy them, not try write about them afterward.

I still might want to write about the inane, the absurd, and the tragic of what it is to be a Viking fan. But that's something other than writing about the team regularly, and not anything anybody should want to stick around to read.

4.
If you want, you can think of me like Tom Joad or like Abed dressed as Batman on Halloween. Wherever a Viking fan is pacing the room nervously, I'll be there. Wherever fans try to convince themselves the Vikes can overcome an obvious weakness, I'll be there. Wherever two people are discussing the merits of the Vikings' nickel backs, I'll be there. Wherever a Viking fan tries to talk him/herself into a mediocre quarterback, I'll be there. Wherever a person panics during conventional special teams plays, I'll be there. Wherever people are planning their weeks around when the Vikings play, I'll be there. Whenever a Viking fan despairs that the Green Bay Packers will win a 13th championship before the Vikings win their first, I'll be there. Wherever somebody reads a work of literature then forces an explanation of what it means to Viking fans, I'll be there. Whenever somebody gets entangled in an absurd or tragic conversation about the Vikings, I'll be there.

5.
I feel a great desire to spend my time watching my favorite sitcoms. They never disappoint me.

If I watch Seinfeld, or Arrested Development, or Curb Your Enthusiasm, I know what I'm going to get. I'm going to laugh. I'm going to enjoy myself immensely. I'm not going to feel like the fates reached into my chest to grab my heart. I'm not going to feel like Poseidon kicked me in the nuts. I'm not going to struggle to fall asleep that night.

How I Met Your Mother may put it off and stretch it out for as long as they can, but eventually, Ted is going to meet his kids' mother (I told this to my wife and she said the show could get canceled unexpectedly before they get a chance for him to meet her. I found that implausible, so she pointed out that one of the actors could die. "Ted could die, Joe," she said. She said this. So watch out, Josh Radnor: a Viking fan is rooting for you to live).

6.
Or I could say it this way: the 2009 NFC Championship Game drove me from blogging.

7.
This needs to be said before I go. If as a fan you've witnessed your favorite team win a championship, and you're mocking fans of a team that has never won championships, and you're reveling in their misery and rubbing it in during the moment of their heartbreak, you're being a bully. There's no other way to say it. It's the haves making fun of the have-nots, and wanting them to stay have-nots.

You all know I hate the Packers, but remember: I hate them as a fan of a team with zero championships loathing a team that has won 12 championships. You better believe I dislike the Saints right now, but if their fans get to celebrate a title, then good for them, and if they suffer heartbreak, I won't be there to make fun of them for it. And if I ever have been in that role, I apologize.

To all those other long-suffering fans out there, I feel a deep kinship with some of you, though we've never met. May you be given what you are looking for. May you experience the great joy you long for. I may not root for your team, but I root for you.

8.
They were really setting up for the game-winning field goal, weren't they?

9.
So this is likely my last blog post here (though I'm a flake, and this retirement could be a Favre retirement). Thanks for reading.

The dream is dead. Long live the dream. Endure it. And someday, maybe, just maybe...skol.

UPDATES
My emotions are pretty raw, and thoughts are still coming to me. I'll update here throughout the week, and then it is my intent to at least take the offseason of blogging off (at least).

Addendum 1
I realized another reason I went from sickly anxious to relatively calm. While the game was still going on, it was the dread and hope of what could be. When the game was over, it immediately went into our canon of suffering.

Addendum 2
Packer fans have endured some very tough playoff defeats in the '00s, notably against the Eagles in '03 (4th and 26), the Giants in '07 (home NFC title game loss in overtime), and the Cardinals in '09 (you remember). But I would like Packer fans to try a mental game.

Imagine that, in your past, the '96 Packers had lost in the NFC Championship Game, and that Lombardi's Packers had lost those first two Super Bowls.

Imagine that is your team's history. Now imagine 4th and 26. Now imagine the '07 NFC title game. Now imagine that Cardinals game.

That is what it means to be a Viking fan.

Addendum 3
As the week has gone on, I've just gotten more and more sad. We were so close. Despite all the turnovers (without which we might have won handily), the game was tied, we had the ball, and we were driving, we were even setting up for the game-winning field goal (I trust Longwell indoors from 50-51 yards for a game-winner). And it was lost. We had the game tied and were setting up for a game-winning score, and now the Saints are in the Super Bowl and we've got another heart-breaker on the list.

When I step outside into a Minnesota January, I feel we are forsaken. If it didn't happen in the Bud Grant era, and it didn't happen in '98 (oh so close), and it didn't happen in '09 (oh so close), why shouldn't we give up hope? Why shouldn't we despair?

Addendum 4
I felt the most distraught during the game; as the week has gone on, my distress has decreased exponentially. Why? Because the game has moved into the realm of history. For me, history takes on the aura of inevitability, if not, of course, the reality of inevitability. It is now recorded and written--what happened is what happened.

That I think of the Vikings in somewhat literary terms contributes; it is as if the team is a combination of Greek Tragedy and Absurdist Drama (come see "The Minnesota Vikings," a collaboration of Sophocles and Beckett). Think about reading Romeo and Juliet. You might read it thinking Romeo and Juliet were so close to being together, that things were so close to being alright, that merely some bad luck and bad timing came between a happy ending. But the play is a tragedy written almost 400 years ago--Romeo and Juliet have never had their happy ending, and they've been playing out that so close drama for centuries. King Lear is tragic and depressing, but I'm more moved by the nihilistic despair of the play than by feeling for the fate of the characters: it is literature, it is intended as tragedy, and the sad demise of Lear and Cordelia cannot but be as it is. Quite obviously the '09 Vikings' season was not destined to its ending as a 400 year old work of literature is destined to its ending, but after a few days, that's now how it feels to me.

So while the Vikings could have, should have, and nearly did, win the 2009 NFC Championship Game, as time goes on it becomes a fixed Drama that can only end the way it did.

Addendum 5
Bill Simmons contributes to the conversation, with a great deal relevant to the comments thread discussions here and a great many parallels to what I've written about here.

Addendum 6
And I'm off on hiatus. Thank you for the many intelligent comments in this thread, both the complimentary and the critical. You have convinced me not to permanently abandon this blog; I now intend to return around August. Between now and then, if there is giant team news, or if I have any dreams about the team, or if any thoughts come to me that are insightful or amusing, I might post (but don't check regularly, as it won't be very regular at all). I was ready to turn away, but a few days going by and a lot of good thoughts in the discussion make me think it won't be permanent. Thanks for pulling me back.

62 comments:

  1. Well written as always, PV. I've been here before. Ironically, yesterday wasn't one of those days.

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  2. Anonymous9:11 PM

    i still sick from last nite. getting so damn close this year hurts, but what if they actually made the Super bowl and lost like they did last nite? what would hurt more? so i hope you continue writing here, ive been reading your blogs for years now. we should all be miserable together!

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  3. Bismuth9:13 PM

    If you're really going, we'll miss you. Sure, there are plenty of other Vikings blogs with news, rumors, and analysis, but there's always been a special chord struck by your posts, especially as they relate to that peculiar beast known as Viking fandom.

    It seems like it's after a tough loss that you write your best, and this post is no exception.

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  4. Anonymous9:18 PM

    just like the rest of us sucker vikings fans, you'll be back. You won't be able to stand the thought of abandoning blogging while "next year" could be "THE year."

    In addition to suffering the travails, and triumphs, of being a vikings fan, I'm also stupid enough to be a cubs fan. I know of what I speak. You'll be back. And we'll be glad to keep reading.

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  5. Anonymous10:01 PM

    I'm still here and I watched '75. Hate Drew Pearson but devoted to the purple. Don't go away! You love these guys and you know it. Like Favre, take some time to heal up and move on to next year.
    We need the PV to keep us involved in a special way.

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  6. Take a break man. You're the best blogger out there, don't forget that. Favre will come back next year and Peterson will carry this team all the way to atone for his sins!
    I will root for the Vikings till the day I die, & most importantly expect nothing out of it. Being a Vikings fan is about the journey, the horrible, wonderful ride... one day we'll make it to the other side, one day, some distant Sunday!

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  7. Anonymous10:49 PM

    Dude I just re-bookmarked you after you came back from your last retirement.

    I hope you'll be back like we all will. Scorned lovers who just can't say "no" to the Purple & Gold...

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  8. You can't make a decision like this now. Give it a month or two and please reconsider. You bring something to sports blogging no one else does.

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  9. Good points, folks. There's a good chance that I'll take the offseason off, and find the will to blog purple again in August or September.

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  10. Aw! Look at all your fans! You are going to have to carry on, Joe. The public needs you. And I'm sorry I told you Ted might die. He'll be fine. I just know he'll meet their mother in the end.

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  11. As a Favre fan first (which has always overriden following the Packers/Jets/Vikings) I have always enjoyed reading your blog, even if I didn't alway agree with you. I hope you do reconsider, otherwise best of luck and let's just hope that Favre comes back next year to lead the Vikings to a title!

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  12. Anonymous8:11 AM

    Hey, it could have been a helmet catch. Eli Manning ending your perfect season with a helmet catch by a guy who would never make another pro reception. How's that for a punch in the gut? Sure, we won 3 Super Bowls before, but I'd give them all away for Tyree not to make that catch. This Vikings game was a tough loss for Vikes fans, just like the Chargers had a tough loss against the Jets, etc. But you'll feel better sooner than you think and you'll have to pull a Favre. If I made it back from the helmet catch, what excuse does anyone else have?

    I mean, seriously, Eli Manning? Someone named David Tyree who no one would have ever heard of, ever, without the luckiest play in sports history? And ending a perfect season? I'm sorry, but all other tough losses pale in comparison.

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  13. No, when you saw your favorite team win three Super Bowls this decade, you don't get to complain about a close Super Bowl loss and expect anybody here to take you seriously.

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  14. Anonymous9:04 AM

    So you're saying that a fluke helmet catch from one of the worst QBs in the league to one of the worst WRs to end an unprecedented perfect season is somehow overridden by the fact we won 3 Super Bowls earlier in the decade, and that somehow a routine Favre playoff loss is harder to take because the Vikings haven't won a SB? How does that make sense? What were those 3 Super Bowls doing for me when the Giants were hoisting that trophy? They weren't doing jack. Eli Manning was a SB champion because of a helmet catch to someone named David Tyree. Favre throwing some predictable INT just doesn't compare.

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  15. I must say your blog is the 1st Vikes blog that I found out there on the net. It inspired me to start my own Vikes blog. If you do hang up your blogging shoes you will be truly missed. Your blog is always spoken from a die hard purple fan and that it what I like about you posts.

    SKOL VIKINGS!!!!

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  16. Anon, yes, that's what I'm saying. I mean, do you really expect me to offer you sympathy? This decade you got to watch your team win as an underdog Super Bowl champion, then got to see two straight 17-2 Super Bowl seasons. And yes, those three Super Bowls override that one loss. You can always remember those championships. If you feel bad about David Tyree, you can always put in one of three Super Bowl season DVDs. When you look back, your favorite team will still be the team of the '00s. If I might be crude, it's rather like a person that has sex three out of four nights complaining to a virgin about that fourth night.

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  17. And for crying out loud, a "routine" loss? When is the last time a team lost a playoff game because of a 12 men in the huddle penalty? Just like whenever a tuck rule is called, people remember Pats-Raiders, whenever there is a 12 men in the huddle penalty in any game, every Viking fan is going to remember.

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  18. Let me add one more point: I don't think of the Patriots as losing to the Giants because of the Tyree catch (though obviously that was critical). I think of them losing because the Giant front four dominated the game from beginning to end. It was the Giant pass rush that was so effective at rushing Brady, and led the Giants to holding the highest scoring offense in league history to 14 points. Without that dominant performance by the defensive line and the entire defense, there isn't a David Tyree catch to complain about. I actually think the Giants outplayed the Patriots that day. But I don't even know why I'm talking about that game right now.

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  19. Anonymous9:19 AM

    I never asked for your sympathy, not do I expect it. I don't care what you think. I'm basically saying to the Vikes fans out there, yes it was a tough loss by the standard of every year some teams lose close playoff games. Favre threw an INT we could all see coming a mile away. Get over it. It was not even close to the most soul-crushing defeat ever. It was arguably the same amount of soul-crushingness as the Chargers loss to the Jets. When speaking of soul-crushing loss situations, what happened in previous years is irrelevant, what happens in subsequent years is irrelevant, the only thing that matters is how close you were to a perfect season and the circumstances that prevented you from getting it. Being less than 2 minutes away from 19-0 and having it snatched away by two scrubs is the standard next to which all other tough losses must be compared. Having a nice 13-3 season and it ending in the NFC title game after Brett Favre threw another backbreaking playoff pick is tough, but in the grand scheme of football a loss you ought to be able to shake off pretty quickly. Certainly no excuse for retiring.

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  20. Anonymous9:20 AM

    Excuse me, 12-4 season.

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  21. Peter9:25 AM

    Seriously, anon?

    Imagine LOSING those three SBs earlier this decade and THEN suffering the helmet catch game.

    Then imagine launching the Cowboys to several SBs by sending a gazillion picks and players to them for Herschel, who lives up to none of the expectations.

    Hmmm, tell you what. Have NE send MN Brady and their 1st, 2nd and 3rd round picks for the next three years for Adrian Peterson, and watch the Vikings win several SBs while your team goes on a 30 year drought. Then, maybe, I might consider the possibility of feeling a teeny, tiny bit bad for you.

    Actually, no. Not really. I would not.

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  22. It's absurd to say what happened in previous situations is irrelevant. If the Vikes win a Super Bowl, they can go 0-16 the next year for all I care.

    Do you know how ecstatic I'd be if the Vikes won three out of four Super Bowls, then a few years later were 18-0 before losing a close Super Bowl? You don't think I'd trade that with you? Do you think after that, I would take even a moment to go to, say, a Buffalo Bills fan's blog to say "You know, your suffering is rather routine. It really sucks to lose a Super Bowl after winning three."

    History matters. Red Sox fans and Cubs fans in '03 felt crushed not just because of what happened during those playoffs, but because of everything that had happened before that to make those playoffs so important. I simply do not agree that the past is irrelevant in how we feel about what happens during a particular season or game.

    So that does matter. You may be devastated by a playoff loss (I'm not saying you shouldn't be), but to compare it to a loss by a team that has never won a title is just unfair. If you want to know why, see this:

    http://pacifistviking.blogspot.com/2010/01/what-this-could-mean.html

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  23. Anonymous9:28 AM

    Again, why does everyone think I want them to feel bad for me? I'm just trying to use the helmet catch as an example of how this Favre loss is not really as big a deal as some of you are making it out to be.

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  24. Anonymous9:36 AM

    I am a Red Sox fan. I watched in horror as Aaron Boone hit that HR. That was not as soul-crushing as being almost 19-0 and it being snatched away by a helmet catch, either. I guess you had to have been that close to immortality to understand. Every year, some team wins the Super Bowl, it's happened 43 times - soon to be 44. But to go 19-0? If you understood, you wouldn't say you'd trade it for the 3 SB wins. 19-0 would have transcended sports, transcended any accomplishment in sports history. They could have canceled the NFL after that, it wouldn't have mattered. That's why the Colts fans were so upset earlier. If they win in 2 weeks, they'll still always have the question of whether they could have been 19-0 if they'd tried. The possibility of 19-0 opened everyone's eyes to the fact that there are bigger things than winning a Super Bowl. Why is going 14-2 and winning a Super Bowl even a big deal anymore when you could have been 19-0? It was/is the Holy grail, now no other accomplishment compares.

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  25. "Again, why does everyone think I want them to feel bad for me?"

    If that wasn't your point, then perhaps I used it as a straw man to tear down your premise. If that's the case, then I apologize. I'm not at my logical best when my nerves are frayed and I sense any threat (real or imagined) to my grief.

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  26. We don't understand each other. And we never will.

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  27. Anonymous9:51 AM

    I'm just trying to offer the fact that, in the grand scheme of football, there are losses deeper in the playoffs that snatched defeat from the jaws of victory worse than Sunday's game for the Vikes. Eventually they will win a Super Bowl, it's an inevitability unless this labor crisis kills the NFL. If you play long enough, it will happen. Heck, the past few years any old random team has backed into the playoffs and rattled off a handful of lucky wins (the 2001 Pats admittedly very much included). The point is, the playoffs are a crapshoot even though the #1 seeds made it this year. You can't let a loss that wasn't all that unexpected (or did you really think Favre wasn't going to toss a crucial pick?) sour you on supporting your team. My Pats are living proof that an awful franchise can turn it around eventually. Before 2001, the Pats were less successful than the Vikings. This one loss, even after other disappointing playoff losses, is not enough to justify giving up. The playoffs are so random now that any team will win eventually.

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  28. I'm never comforted when people tell me the Vikes will win it eventually. I mean, tell that to Cub fans. If it were possible, tell that to Cub fans who have already died waiting to see their favorite team win it all.

    Truly, this is not a reasonable discussion. It's a subjective discussion, based on perceptions of what hurts more, an entirely subjective experience. I recognize that some losses matter more than others. But if you think that winning three Super Bowls then coming up just short of going 19-0 is a worse experience than rooting for a 49 year old team with zero championships that continually gives us hope before crushing us with another oh-so-close experience, then we can't understand each other's subjective perceptions.

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  29. By the way, at no point have I suggested I'm giving up on the Vikings (even if I wanted to, it's beyond that point). I just don't know if I want to blog through another offseason of speculation and hope. Not after that.

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  30. "19-0 would have transcended sports, transcended any accomplishment in sports history. They could have canceled the NFL after that, it wouldn't have mattered."

    That's fully preposterous, by anyone's standards. Even yours:

    "what happened in previous years is irrelevant"

    also,

    "did you really think Favre wasn't going to toss a crucial pick?"

    Given his 37-7 TD-INT ratio going into the game, that's not ridiculous. It's not even unreasonable.

    "Before 2001, the Pats were less successful than the Vikings"

    That's one of PV's point, though: MN is a .555 team all-time. By several measurements, they're historically the best team to have never won a Superbowl, which is the particular proverbial thorn Vikings fans' sides. How sweet did it feel for your mediocre Pats to build a dynasty? How sour is it for a mostly good/great team to continue to fail at the end?

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  31. That's exactly right, Peter: in terms of winning percentage, playoff appearances, Conference Championship Game appearances, and Super Bowl appearances, I think there is no other team WITHOUT a Super Bowl win that has been more successful than the Vikings in the Super Bowl era (we're probably even better historically than some teams with a championship--even the Tampa Bay Buccaneers gave their fans a Super Bowl win). But that is a dubious distinction, and it's what makes me feel that the Vikings are unique in sports for tormenting their fans.

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  32. Notice I added "in the Super Bowl era;" the Browns, Lions, and Eagles won multiple NFL championships before the Super Bowl era.

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  33. Anonymous11:07 AM

    The Vikings are the Red Sox pre 2004. On top of that Minnesota has the longest championship drought of any region with the 4 major sports. 6 major championships which includes 3 Super Bowl titles and a near miss at perfection is'nt suffering in anyone's book but yours. While your at it, why don't you run your idea of suffering past Cleveland fans. Of any sport. I'd love to see their responses.

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  34. Anonymous12:07 PM

    Even though we lost 4 Super Bowls and 5 NFC championship games, we are so much better off than many teams.
    Lions?
    Browns?
    Bengals? Did I not hear they made the play-offs TWICE in 19 years?

    Yes, we want to win the big one, but at least we are in the game. Think what life would be like as a fan of some of the other teams? How would you like a typical Sunday when you knew you were not going to win a game?
    The Vikes will be back with a vengance!

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  35. Anonymous12:17 PM

    Different anon here

    Well, this discussion has turned into something I had not expected. I'm a big fan of you PV, your my launch page for all other vikings sites. And I too am crushed. But I hope you come back next year. You will be missed.

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  36. Anonymous12:29 PM

    Growing up just across the St. Croix River, half of my friends were Vikings fans and half were Packers fans. We frequently debated the positives and negatives of each team but it never kept us from being friends (though there were some heated arguments). As an adult living in the South, I still follow the rivalry very closely and watch the games with great attention. My "hate" for the Vikings is only because they are my teams biggest rival. When it comes down to it, I don't really dislike most of the players. Some of my best friends are still Vikings fans and will continue to be fans. With all of that said, please continue with your blog! I enjoy the insight of a true fan and can understand what it's like for my quarterback to throw an interception to lose the game.

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  37. Anonymous2:33 PM

    A Saints fan here, you guys keep your heads up, it will happen eventually.

    - Fellow Loser Franchise

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  38. Anonymous5:09 PM

    Why did that Pats dink stick his nose in a discussion that had no relevance to him?

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  39. Alright - first of all as a lifelong Packer fan I will admit to feelings of warm fuzziness when Favre through that interception. Not because the Vikings lost, but because Favre failed. The depth of betrayal many Packer fans feel cannot be exaggerated. Add to that the schism (and yes - a REAL schism this time) that has developed between between "Packer fan Favre apologists" and "Packer fan Favre haters" only adds to the frustration.

    All that being said the Patriots fan needs to STFU. I would have much rather "endured" the 3-1 Superbowl record than the Vikings excruciatingly close disasters. I speak from some experience here. As a Packer fan I say without hesitation that having a 1-1 record in Superbowls in the 90's is infinitely better than 0-0.

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  40. Jesus, I really just want to punch this Anonymous Patriot Idiot Fan in the frickin' mouth. Dick, you have NO IDEA what this loss feels like. Your comparisons are beyond laughable. That's from a Viking fan going on 40 years and having endured it all, from the Super Bowl losses and the days after on the schoolyard, to Sunday's nightmare. Just STFU and leave this post. Unbelievable.

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  41. Anonymous2:57 AM

    I think, joe km fischer, that you locate yourself too strongly in Vikings history. The Super Bowl losses and other general championship futility was before many Vikings' fans times, and these aren't the same Vikings that have thrilled and disappointed us personally for all these years. The worst heartbreak is reserved for our fathers, who watched first hand those painful defeats. But their pain isn't (or shouldn't be) our pain. Dragging that psychic heartbreak along might break anyone, but much of it is an imagined pain for the lucky younger fans. I plan on celebrating the good times and mourning the bad times that I have personally witnessed in my 15 years of fandom (didn't start following till college). In those years, on balance, I feel the Vikings have treated me well enough, and better than many franchises.

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  42. Anonymous3:18 AM

    Hello there. As a West Coast-based Packers fan, I have to admit to a touch of schadenfreude for Brett Favre--I'm only human--but none at all for the Vikings or their fans. I don't know, maybe it's growing up thousands of miles away from the rivalry, but I've always felt that if the Packers can't win a championship, then the next best thing is for a team from the Black and Blue Division to do so (unless they beat the 49ers to do it, of more anon). For example, like most of thinking America, I was delighted to see the Vikings beat up on the Cowboys recently.

    I'd like to offer, in a roundabout way, Vikings fans a bit of a silver lining to help with your current despair. If you'll indulge me....

    Now, I've been a Packers fan since I was a kid (born in Wisconsin, grew up in California), and that's a long time--I can remember the Packers winning the '67 "Ice Bowl," not to mention Fran Tarkenton making fools of NFL defenses. But, being so distant from the Midwest, I was also, naturally enough, a 49ers fan. During the Niners dynasty of the '80s and '90s, I was much more actively a 49ers fan than a Packers fan--in part because the Niners were so good, in part because the Packers were so bad (yeah, we thought Lynn Dickey was going to be our savior), and in part because, in those pre-Internet days, it was difficult to follow non-local teams.

    And for years--decades--I suffered as the San Francisco 49ers meandered through a series of mediocre and heartbreaking seasons. It seemed that year after year that John Brodie and the other Niners would play also-ran to the hated Los Angeles Rams, until finally in the early 1970s they made it to three consecutive NFC championship games, each against the Cowboys. They lost all three games (the final one on a heartbreaking failed onside kick recovery) and sunk into an eventual 2-14 nadir in 1978.

    Obviously, you know where I'm going here. Eventually, the 49ers recovered under Bill Walsh, and faced those same loathed Cowboys in the '81 NFC title game, the one decided by the famous Joe Montana-to-Dwight Clark play known as "The Catch." And went on to win five Super Bowls.

    But what I want to say here is not just that the Vikings will eventually win a Super Bowl (something I'm sure you have a hard time believing right now), but rather that you can't imagine the indescribable joy that will overcome you when they do. I remember it, I remember a whole room of Niner fans almost exploding with decades of pent-up exhilaration when Dwight Clark brought the ball down in the end zone in '81. And while I've enjoyed every other Niner championship (and the Packers' '96 title), none has quite the exquisite tang of "The Catch." And I know that's not uncommon. My friend who's a stone-cold Steelers fanatic says that none of the Steelers' last five SB victories matches the first, because the Steelers had been such NFL doormats for 40 years. Hell, I was thrilled when both the Patriots and the Red Sox finally won their first championships, and I'm not from Boston and I don't care about baseball. (And, yes, I've since come to dislike both teams. I'm not irrational, you know.)

    So, yes, it's true, the heartbreak that Packers fans feel at coming so close and losing isn't the same as yours. We do have 12 championships to warm ourselves by. But, on the other hand, we can never know that exquisite, nearly orgasmic thrill of finally coming in out of the wilderness and hoisting a trophy. That awaits you, Vikings fans, and you are going to love it when it happens.

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  43. Pats Fan6:05 AM

    No one has suffahed like the great fans of Red Sox Nation! If you can't understand ow-ah pain, you're nawt a true fan.

    Tawmee from Quinzee

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  44. Birdman6:12 AM

    Mr. Fischer,

    I don't know you and you don't know me, but I can tell you that if you give up blogging, I will lose a small part of my enjoyment of being a Vikings fan. This is my favorite blog, not because you keep your readers up-to-date on what is happening with the team (we can get that anywhere), but because you put the wins and losses into perspective with humor and poignancy.

    I completely understand wanting to take a break. Taking the offseason off is probably a good idea; I plan to do the same but will likely get sucked back into it around draft time. If you choose to never return to blogging, you will be missed.

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  45. Anon 2:57: You are absolutely right about locating myself too much in Viking history. Much of it has been passed on by the older generation of Viking fans, but I've also spent time learning about the old Viking teams. It is psychic baggage that, unfortunately, I took on and now seem unable to let go of. I try once again to teach myself the virtues of patience and perseverance.

    Packer/49er fan: thanks for the comments. That's also why this stings--if things had gone a little bit differently, I'd be feeling that experience in 12 days (or, given that they've never even made the Super Bowl in my lifetime, something like it the past few).

    To everybody else: I appreciate that you've appreciated my writing. I really didn't expect many people to care if there was one fewer Viking blogger, but I'm glad I've been able to offer something worth reading. I think I will return in August. In fact, if between now and then some desperate or funny thought on Viking fandom compels me to write, I'll come back and post it (if I have another dream about the Vikings winning the Super Bowl, I'm going to be very, very unhappy the next day).

    During this season I developed an unfortunate defense mechanism: after a bad Viking loss, I deliberately distracted myself from the team, trying to avoid thinking about it. That makes me, in most ways, an ineffective team blogger. I thought after Sunday's game that I'd be developing a massive version of this defense mechanism, but I haven't been quite able to. Oh, I'm avoiding thinking about team news or speculation about next year, certainly (I can't stomach it), but thinking about that loss and what it means, it keeps coming back to me while driving, while grocery shopping, while washing dishes. So I'll probably have more to write. But it will be very irregular if at all until August, I think.

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  46. Bismuth11:43 AM

    Speaking as one who's "only" had to endure 3 Viking NFC Championship losses (each of them notably soul-crushing), I can say that you do inherit the torments of the past, particularly if you watch games with family or friends who have been through those heartbreakers. Oh, and not to mention the media love to bring up the four SB losses and the origins of the phrase Hail Mary Pass as often as possible.

    But, like our anonymous PackerNiner fan says, championships heal everything, and I do have my own story as proof:

    For college, I chose to attend the University of Kansas, and though I had no previous ties to their sports teams, once there you can not help but to become a Jayhawk basketball fan. I soon found out that I picked a rather Vikings-esque team to be cheering for -- though they won a championship in '88, they replaced their coach the next year amid NCAA allegations. After a sanction-imposed year off, they proceeded to make every NCAA tournament since, without winning a single one, and famously losing to some much lower seeds in the process. Coach Roy Williams was often called the best coach without a championship, and fielded, I believe, the best winning percentage of any coach in the nation during his tenure.

    My first two years at KU saw a Final Four appearance, followed by a heartbreaking, last-second, upset loss in the championship to some punk freshman named Carmelo Anthony. After that, Roy left for North Carolina, where he ditched the curse in his second year, winning a championship while the highly-talented senior class of 2005 (also my senior year) he left at KU fizzled in the first round, losing to 13th-seeded Bucknell.

    Then, in the 2008 tournament, KU made the Final Four again, and absolutely demolished Roy's UNC team, and followed that performance with a last-minute-comeback-to-force-overtime win against Memphis in the Championship, the first championship for a team I cared about since the 1991 Twins (when I wasn't really old enough to be emotionally hooked).

    I did not sleep that night.

    It must have been a week before I came down from my giddy high, and it still brings a smile to my face whenever I think about where I was.

    So the moral of the story is either:
    -Chin up, it'll all be worth it when that Super Bowl victory finally happens.
    or
    -Find a team outside of MN to root for.

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  47. Anonymous12:14 PM

    Very interesting post - I'm an Eagles fan and got linked here from someone complaining about a dumb Patriots fan, and sure enough it was worse than expected. All I would like to say is:

    1) My condolences - that was such a tough loss to endure, especially given your team's history of oh-so-close followed by soul crushing defeat. As a fan of a team with a similar history, all I can say is this: if that was the Eagles and McNabb threw that pick, I don't know if could watch football again (at least not in 2010). All the expectations, all the time invested in following the team for the season, all the hope, all the "oh my god we are going to do this" feelings, and then to have it end like that? I don't blame you for stepping away from the blog for a little.
    2) That all being said, I would rather be in a position every year to go to the playoffs like the Eagles / Vikings have been than be a fan of a team like the Bengals, Lions, Browns, and Bills...at least we can enjoy the feeling (however fleeting) of hope

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  48. Hey, my condolences to all you Viking fans. Especially having to hear all the "pain" speeches from a Patriots fan. I'm so glad they could finally sell out their stadium. Only took a Super Bowl win until they could do that. Before then, no one in Boston followed the Patriots.

    I'm a Packer fan, and while I think Favre is a great QB, I honestly was glad that Packer management let him go after 2007. I truly believe he can't play in cold weather anymore, and it was obvious to me in the Dec 07 game in Chicago where he said it was the coldest he remembered it ever being, and then that weak throw that lost the NFC Championship game. I was asked when GB cut ties if I thought it was a bad decision, and I did not.

    Having said that, I just feel sorry for you guys having Brad Childress as your coach and how he kowtowed to Favre. This sounds ridiculous, but I watched Sunday's game thinking, "Okay, this is the game where Favre blows it". I was totally elated that the Cowboys got trounced by the Vikings, but was sure that Favre would blow it the next week. As they closed in to make the final field goal, I thought maybe I was wrong, and that soon, the Vikings would win. Then Childress screwed up with the 12 men on the field penalty. I thought, "So what, run the ball." Then Favre threw the pick. I knew it was over after that.

    Sorry for your grief. But when I think about it, it's just a game. So you should pick yourself up and not worry about it. Remember, the Lions are the only NFC team who have yet to make it to the Super Bowl. But then, they've won as many Super Bowls as Minnesota, so...nevermind.

    Love,
    Jez

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  49. Anonymous7:12 PM

    Hope you can post even once a week to keep us all entertained. Not just Viking news, but the total point of view.

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  50. Anonymous1:59 AM

    You go girl!

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  51. Anonymous12:52 PM

    A psychologist friend of mine claims that all suffering is relative. By that she means that "suffering triggers" are different for different people, both in terms of what causes suffering and the extent of suffering caused. If another's suffering strikes me as an exercise in hypersensitivity or self-indulgent or flat out ludicrous given the circumstances, she'd have me remember that others may hold similar opinions regarding things that make me suffer. She wants to conclude from this that none of us are in a position to judge the merits of another's suffering.

    I take this as nonsense. Suppose I pen a 6000 word essay concerning the "profound and lasting" suffering I experienced after biting into a sour apple. Contrast that with a six thousand word essay written by a Haitian woman who lost four children to an earthquake. Do we really want to say that because all suffering is contextual,my suffering deserves the same consideration and ought to evoke the same response as the Haitian woman's suffering?

    This suffering of yours is a "sour apple" suffering. Football is just a game. That alone should be reason enough not to invest in it so much emotionally that it gives you tingling arms and the hint of an impending heart attack(!) But more than that: When you root a sports team on and pay taxes that facilitate their place in the community, yours is just one voice, and one coin, in a cacophony of voices and an ocean of coins. Whether or not "your" team wins or loses, you, and I mean you personally, not the community at large but you as an individual, have played so insignificant a role in the performance relative to the community at large and especially the members of the team as to make your "contribution" for that outcome absolutely meaningless. And yet you wear their laurels when they win, and share their disappointment when they lose, as if you have a right to them. Why?

    The fact is that the "real world" principle that the amount of pride one takes in a performance ought to be commensurate with the responsibility one has in that performance -- this perfectly reasonable principle is completely ignored in the world of fandom. Nothing I write here is going to change that. Especially here, in this dimly lit echo chamber.

    Still, the ridiculous existential angst you exhibit in the essay, and the moronic "my team makes me suffer more than yours" inferno triggered by your post, cries out for this response: You have no one to blame for your suffering but yourself. You are not a victim of it. It's not been thrust upon you. You pocketed your critical thinking skills and embraced the adolescent, rah-rah mentality that some of us wearing big boy pants left behind in the high school bleachers of our youth. This decision was irrational at best, and morally irresponsible at worse, given the more constructive ways you might invest your energy.

    And when the outcome of a football game inspires you to write "When I step outside into a Minnesota January, I feel we are so forsaken" -- when you shamelessly make this claim when so many in this world have so much more legitimate reason to feel truly forsaken -- I can't help but believe that whatever fandom-induced suffering comes your way, it's probably deserved.

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  52. Anon 12:52--most of what you write is correct. Where you might be mistaken is if you think I lack self-awareness about what you're speaking of. I am aware (and was even as I chose the word "forsaken") that there is deep, horrible suffering in the world, and that the suffering of a football fan is relative at best (my other blog is devoted to ethics of pacifism and vegetarianism--I assure you I have greater intellectual concerns than the Minnesota Vikings). I have also written at length about the irrational nature of fandom, and about how we attach ourselves to something we have no control over (see my "Endure" post below, which features some of the same themes as your comment, I think)--but then, in an existential sense, there are all sorts of things out of our control that still affect us emotionally. And people often attach themselves to things out of their control (much patriotic pride is based on things the individual patriot had little or nothing to do with). And people regularly devote emotional energy to things that, in the big picture, are meaningless. Are we wrong to do that? I don't know. But if we are going to do such things, spilling words on a little-read blog about it seems hardly to be evil.

    I've tried over the years to write about what fandom is: the out of control nature of it, the irrationality of it, about how silly it is as an adult to be so emotionally moved by these things (see my superstition post below). Typically my language is deliberately (often ridiculously) exhaulted (as in my "revolutionary" hymns against head-to-head fantasy football scoring). It's deliberate, self-aware, and I think most long-time readers have recognized that.

    So while not all suffering is relative, I think all uses of the word "suffering" are, in fact, relative. The meaning of language is largely based on its context. Anybody who comes to a blog devoted to a sports team and sees the blogger use the word "suffer" must know that blogger is using the word differently than, say, a New York Times columnist writing about Haiti. That, I think, is what you're missing. As a writer I am of course aware of that fact, and I would be very surprised if the readers here are unaware of that fact.

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  53. I'd like to add one more point about how I use language on my blog. I've very, very rarely made any explicit discussion of it here, but religion has played a large role in my life. The language and concepts of religion have carried with me into other areas of life, including sports fandom. It's why I use words and ideas like "redemption" (that winning a Super Bowl would redeem the Vikings for all the near-misses of the past) and "transcendence" (for what I imagine seeing one's favorite team win a championship would feel like) so frequently, even though those words and ideas are clearly too exalted for freaking professional sports. I consciously borrow the concepts from religion while knowing the significance is at a different level. The word you take some offense at, "forsaken," is largely a religious word to me ("My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"), and was deliberately chosen. So I'm aware I'm using language that has great significance in one context in a much less significant context.

    (and this doesn't even get into how literature affects how I write about sports--the language of suffering from Shakespeare or Dostoevsky has probably had a large, sometimes unconscious effect. And again, I'm aware it is debasing to use the language of these "saints," in my view, to explain a freaking game).

    The emotions I express about the Vikings here are sincere. But I am conscious of the fact that I choose the same words for something that is (to me) very important as I use for something that is, really, unimportant (football). And I can see how a reader would find my word choices ridiculous, offensive, insulting, or debasing.

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  54. Anonymous4:12 PM

    And those last two posts are why we love this blog!

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  55. Anonymous9:12 PM

    Anon 12:52. You are a dick head! Go away. PV is a person who explains how he feels and long time readers understand his "suffering". PV probably cares for people more than any other person I know. For you to pass judgement shows your ignorance to what he is about.

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  56. PV, I enjoyed your Addendum 3 as well as your last comment in response to the lengthy psychiatric anon comment. I've noticed the subtle religious flavor in your writing, but I don't think I would have if you didn't occasionally quote Dostoevsky.

    I believe it's possible to understand something to be insignificant in a larger sense while investing deeply in it. A Vikings loss like the one last Sunday is both crushing and meaningless.

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  57. OWUH PAIN IS, AH, BIGGUH THAN YOW-AH PAIN!

    No one turns "lovable loser" into "world's most irritating over-dog" like the Masshole.

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  58. Anonymous3:34 PM

    I just stumbled across this blog. The manner in which the writer wraps himself in his misery like his favorite blankie is beyond disturbing.

    Get professional help. Soon.

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  59. Anonymous9:12 PM

    I am a Vikings fan!
    When I see what N.O and the NFL did two weeks ago, it pisses me off.
    1. 1st down even if the running back fumbles?
    2. Pass hits the ground, and it is a catch?
    3. Pass interference, and it is not even close?
    4. Illegal hits on the QB and it is not called?

    We need a natural disaster. Does the NFL not realize we are getting snow? It is terrible to live under these conditions. We need something to feel good about.

    They win OUR Super Bowl. Roger Goddell can kiss my lily white a--.

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  60. i love how these existential psychiatric morons who have probably never watched a sports event in their life (shuffleboard at your Sunday country club is not a sport in my book) would have the utmost audacity to tell anyone that they cannot suffer over a sports team. If your friend is a psychologist, then he/she would tell you that humans are naturally competitive. And that when "our" team loses it pisses us off! No we are not individually invested in any sports team, baseball, football, whatever. But isn't this the case with all things that involve a large majority of people? Yes, one individual has no say, but just like in politics, a large cluster of people all for the same cause do have a voice. Ask any starting Quarterback who lost his job due to every fan in the city blasting him until management decided to pull him off the field.

    Go ahead and tell us that this is not real world perspective. Let me put it in a term you would be able to understand. The NFL is a billion dollar industry, an industry that has been a constant in a nation in economic uncertainty. Now tell me our football games mean nothing.

    When you devote as much time into one particular thing as all of us have (this is relevant to all things, not just sports), to see that fail right in front of your eyes is pure torture, and if we didn't have any kind of emotion towards that i would think something would be drastically and problematically wrong. It obviously shows that you don't have a grasp on how the human mind works.

    to be a little off cuff, maybe your life sucks and is no fun, but you dont have to take the rest of us down with you! you can take your sour apples and shove them up your ass!

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