Hello again everybody...
Allow me to begin by apologizing for the lack of a Monday column. Here's a little inside baseball for you... Generally, I write the columns the night before they're published. That's not always the case since sometimes there are games or other things that push my writing to the day of publication, but I'd say at least 85% of the time, I'm writing the night before.
Well, Sunday night, there was a little game that most of you are aware of. Vikings/Saints ended shortly after 9pm. When the game ended I was such a jumble of emotions, thoughts and feelings, that there was just no way I was going to write anything coherent, much less entertaining that night. Writing Monday wasn't going to work either, since the nerves were still raw. Plus there was a guest host to babysit.
So I made the executive decision to give myself a pass on Monday, in order to bring you a more well thought-out column today. Hopefully you'll understand.
That being said, today's going to be a Purple epitaph. Let's see if waiting an extra couple of days helped, shall we?
Off we go!
”It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers.”
- James Thurber (1894 - 1961), American author and cartoonist
And after that NFC Championship, Vikings fans are left with a ton of questions...
What's that you say? I've said all year long that I'm not a huge NFL fan? I've said my interest in the Vikings hinges on the uniqueness of the Favre story? I've said I'm not emotionally invested?
Yes, I've said all that. And it's genuinely how I felt at the time I said it.
But it's a fine line between being “interested” and “invested”. And when the last time a professional team from your state played for a championship was nearly 20 years ago, it's a line one can find themselves easily tripping across.
I'll admit it. Sunday I got invested. I'm not sure I was at the beginning of the game. I'm not sure I was at halftime. But at some point in the second half I started to notice that I was getting nervous and excited. I started shouting at the TV when the Vikings fumbled, or when there was a lousy call by the officials, and cheering when the Vikings made a big play.
In short, I started doing the things I'd promised myself I wouldn't do over an NFL team again.
If the Twins are trying to get to the World Series? I'm all in. If the Wild are making a Stanley Cup run? I'm growing the playoff beard. (Don't ask for pictures, it would only scare the children.)
But with the NFL, I thought I'd lost the capacity to care that much.
Apparently not so much. So as the Vikings were driving late in the fourth quarter for what looked to be the game-winning, NFC Championship-clinching, Super Bowl-qualifying score, I was in. My brain was abuzz with the possibility of a Minnesota team playing for a title. The last time the Vikings played in the Super Bowl, I was two. Needless to say, I don't remember that game vividly.
I even went so far as to send a text to my brother, who's far more of a Viking fan than I am, which read...
"Oh... my... God..."
Knowing that he'd understand the implied “I can't believe this is going to happen.”
And to his credit he did, and sent back...
"I know... I know..."
Neither one of us was willing to finish the thought, because we understood the history. We understood how many times Vikings fans had been Charlie Brown, believing that this was the time that Lucy wouldn't pull the ball away. Only to find out, as they stared at the sky, how dreadfully wrong they were.
We didn't want to tempt fate. We didn't want to goad the gods. We didn't want to mess with the magambo.
But in the end it didn't matter. Favre threw the pick. New Orleans won the toss. And the kid drilled the winning field goal.
So for whatever emotional investment I had, it came to naught. And now all I'm left with are questions.
What if Peterson didn't fumble before halftime after Reggie Bush gacked up the punt return?
What if Peterson hadn't fumbled three more times?
What if the Vikings could count to 11 instead of ending up with 12 guys in the huddle?
What if Favre had run the ball instead of trying to force it to Rice?
What if the Vikings defense had punished Brees the way the New Orleans defense punished Favre?
How much did Motorola pay to have that logo attached to Brad Childress' “Madonna” headset?
Okay, so maybe that last one wasn't quite as vexing as the others, but still... it hadn't been there all year. Did Motorola just notice? Did they pay a little extra to get it on there? How did all that come about? Come on Pam Oliver! You should've been all over that! Michele Tafoya would've had that information in the pre-game for chrissakes!
So here's where I'm at...
I'm not going to blame the fullback. The coaching staff is responsible for making sure the guys understand their assignments and get on and off the field in the correct numbers. It was noisy as all get-out in the Superdome. So if the player heard wrong, it was on the coaches to double-check and make sure he heard right.
I'm not going to blame Favre. Should he have run the ball and slid after 5 yards instead of forcing it to Rice? Of course he should have. He'd be the first to say that. But after the ass-kicking he'd been taking all day, in that moment, he was a 40-year-old guy who just didn't want to get hit anymore. So I understand what motivated him to try and gun it in there one more time.
I'm not going to blame Adrian Peterson. Yes, his technique is awful. Yes, it should've been fixed long before a critical NFC Championship game. No, there are no excuses for putting the ball on the ground that many times. But he also made some huge plays and showed an anger and intensity that we hadn't really seen since the Cleveland game to open the year. Could Chester Taylor have accomplished the same thing? I'm not sure we can say.
In the end, I'm not going to blame anybody, because it wouldn't matter.
After a game with periods of dominance and periods of mind-boggling ineptitude, the Vikings had a chance to win the game in the closing seconds and failed to execute.
And that's just sports. There isn't any getting around it. Only one team/fan-base gets to be happy at the end of the year. Like so many years in the past, this isn't going to be the Vikings year.
If this was the movies, we'd have had a Minnesota/Indianapolis Super Bowl. The “Quarterback of the '90s” versus the “Quarterback of the '00s”.
But it's not the movies. This is life. And in life, sometimes your quarterback throws an inexplicable pick to ruin your chances of a championship.
The good news? It's not the end.
Sure we have no idea whether Favre will return. And no matter what ESPN wants to report, nobody does. Could we be in for a dose of the same drama Green Bay experience? Of course we could. Would I welcome Brett back after yet another off-season of flip-flopping? You'd better believe I would!
But right now, all of that doesn't really matter, because we've got a hockey season to finish, and a baseball season to start.
I'm moving on. The Wild are four points out of a playoff spot. The Twins have a Central Division Title to defend.
I guess what I'm saying is that there's always another season coming. And when that season involves the greatest sport known to mankind (baseball), it's all the sweeter.
Sure, I'll watch the Superbowl. But I'll likely care more about the commercials and The Who's halftime show than I will about the game itself.
I get to see Spring training games in 44 days. Opening Day for the Twins is April 5th. And the home opener at brand-spanking-new Target Field is April 12th.
See? It's just that easy.
That's all for today ladies and gents. Hope it was worth the wait. Don't miss Friday's column. The DFTU will be back. The Wild are still in it. The Badgers are rolling. I have a fantastic “Golden Gopher Cheap Shot” to lay on you. And the Twins made an interesting signing yesterday.
If I can't lure you back with that menu, I've got no shot anyway.
Until Friday, thanks for reading!