Minnesota’s Sports Have One Big Difference
Like many of us, I’m going to be spending Thanksgiving with family. That is no different than most years on arguably the most notable day of over-eating.
What is different though, is the Vikings are playing tomorrow, and I’m watching at least part of the game with family. As I outlined in last week’s column, watching alone is usually a requirement for me. It’s not only the best personal choice, but I’m often looking out for others as well. Hopefully this one-off is harmless, and maybe even sparks a victory for the Minnesota faithful.
Different is an interesting word, isn’t it? The definition has infinite variations. I had an outstanding chat with an Uber driver on Tuesday evening of this week who happened to be a fan of “Northland Sports Page” and a self-proclaimed “huge Vikes rube.” Naturally, a spirited conversation ensued.
“It’s like my sister said after the Buffalo win, this team is just different,” my driver boasted in reference to so many narrow triumphs in recent weeks. “Yet, then you look at the Dallas game, and it’s typical Vikes.”
My retort was meant to make my driver ponder where the conversation would travel in the limited time before I reached my destination. Instead, it has me still trying to answer my own question.
“What would different mean?”
If they fall short of winning the Super Bowl, this team is just like all the others in franchise history. If they lose the Super Bowl, they mirror four other seasons in Vikings lore. Lose the NFC title game? They join five other teams in my 43 years of life. An early playoff loss or collapsing badly enough to miss the playoffs would mimic way too many teams to count. What kind of “different” would prove satisfactory?
In the championship-starved state that is Minnesota, the obvious answer is winning it all. There are a lot of “championship or bust” mentalities out there.
I get that theory, trust me. I just don’t frequently adopt it because I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life.
Think about it. There are lots of negative “fans” out there who love to point and laugh when a Minnesota team fails and then brag about having correctly predicted a disaster. It’s not exactly going out on a limb, regardless of a team’s history.
In the NFL, a team has a 96.88% chance of failing to win the title, as only one of 32 can hoist the Lombardi Trophy each season. Same chance can be said for not skating a lap with the Stanley Cup, while the NBA and MLB have a slightly smaller failure rate at about 96.67%.
Most seasons end with a loss. Minnesota teams just have been exceptional at it throughout history.
That said, what should be a realistic expectation?
Unfortunately, this is just another area where the Vikings are on the losing end. Fair or not, they need to be held to championship standards. I’m cautiously placing one foot on this bandwagon.
This is very different than how I felt about six weeks ago, so I’ll qualify my stance: I won’t be angry if this season is another failure. I’m too desensitized with this many years invested. Yet I might not be fully satisfied until we can actually “plan the parade.”
There are too many close calls, blown calls, blowouts, blown assignments, and much more. A first-time fan might get a kick out of it. Oof. Kicks. Sorry – struck my own nerve.
Gary Anderson, Blair Walsh, Drew Pearson, Darrin Nelson, and Herschel Walker are headliners on the list of demons that goes on forever. Currently, in my humble opinion, five or six teams look better than the Vikings, but the only likely way out of this “spotlight of disappointment” is to win the whole thing (said in my best Roger Dorn impression).
There are many teams that are notoriously worse than the Vikings, but most have found lightning in a bottle at least once, and the rest are so annually terrible that they aren’t even discussed. I talked about “national respect” for the Vikings on last week’s radio show – and after the showing against the Cowboys, the late, great Aretha Franklin is belly-laughing at me from the grave.
In a time of giving thanks, I am incredibly grateful to be in a state that has so many professional franchises, but the Vikings live in their own world. The Timberwolves tried to put a spotlight on their own expectations when Rudy Gobert publicly criticized fans for booing during Monday night’s game. It was a win, but one where poor stretches of play were evident.
“You can’t just boo every time the opposing team makes a run,” quipped Gobert.
Rudy, you just got here, and I agree with you. Yet you can boo when a team can’t hang on to an uncontested rebound, or guard anybody, or pass to the right team, or make an open shot. The boos weren’t about an opposing run. It was about a team mostly known for horrid seasons, suddenly having some expectations but not performing.
Or it could be that most of us won’t make it to a game due to NBA ticket prices being parallel to Taylor Swift concerts. Imagine paying for a seat and witnessing junior varsity basketball. I’ll get off my soapbox.
With the arrival of Gobert, came the arrival of those expectations. If he figures that out, everybody wins, and the boos will end. For now, the Wolves should be thrilled anyone cared enough to boo.
Meanwhile, the Twins and Lynx have finished the job before. The Wild and Whitecaps play the state’s most beloved sport, therefore seemingly escaping true expectations. The Loons are still in the honeymoon phase of a sport more popular globally than locally, so criticism is foreign to most of us anyway.
All eyes (and all pressure) will be on the Vikes, both tomorrow and beyond. We all know how well things go when a national audience is involved. Having said that, I’m predicting a close victory, and hope to enjoy my Thanksgiving from start to finish.
For the good of myself and my family, I’ll go in with my expectations tempered, even though I’m slowly realizing that should not be the case.
43 and still learning! I guess I found one more thing to be thankful for this Thanksgiving! I’m also thankful for family, friends, all the listeners, readers, and the fantastic people at Townsquare Media. Have a fantastic Thanksgiving. SKOL!!
Brian's show, 'The Northland Sports Page', can be heard Saturdays from 10 am to noon on the FAN 106.5 FM/560 AM. You can catch previous episodes on the Northland FAN On-Demand area of our website or on our mobile app.