Following sports is supposed to be fun, but during playoff time, it is more fun to be a casual fan without much vested interest in who wins. Fun? This is intense, anxiety-inducing, gut-wrenching, obsessively worried, fearful, passionate.
Why? Because this feels like THE window for the Vikings to win a Super Bowl. They can win it this year: the pieces are in place. But of course they might not. And if they don't, when will they? Who is playing quarterback next year? How much longer do some key veterans (Pat Williams, Steve Hutchinson, Antoine Winfield) have left? For that matter, how much longer will the Vikings be in Minnesota?
This is it: the Vikings need to win one game, then the next, then the next. If they don't, they very well may never win the Super Bowl. Brett Favre has elevated the franchise, given us this chance.
This Viking team can win the Super Bowl. But they might also lose next Sunday, and if they do, that's it. The dream season is over. There won't be any Super Bowl, there won't be any championship, Brett Favre will retire, and we'll continue another dreary Minnesota winter with a football team that has never won the Super Bowl. The finality of it all is intense. Today Green Bay's 11-5 season ended when an overtime fumble got returned for a touchdown. They win the game, maybe they make a deep playoff run. Instead it's all over. For a young team like the Packers, that certainly hurts, but they're built to be back in this situation again.
For a veteran team like the Vikings, quarterbacked by a 40 year old legend playing the best football of his career, to leave the playoffs so quickly would be devastating. As a fan, I might not recover. This feels like the last chance.
So it's "fun," yes. I mean, it's better than most things. But it's also an intense, anxious, fearsome time.
The Vikings play the Cowboys next week: the winner goes to the NFC Championship game.