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For young Vikings fans, hope still reigns

I can’t pick them to win. Too many times the sure thing has failed me.

Having been a Vikings fan for almost 50 years, my anger and frustration burned out a long time ago.
REUTERS/USA Today Sports/Eric Hartline

As I drove my kids to school Monday morning, we talked about the Minnesota Vikings’ disturbing loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship game Sunday night. I was commenting how Case Keenum, the serviceable Vikings quarterback, who outside of one half and one miraculous throw to end the game against New Orleans looked very much out of his league in the playoffs, was unlikely to take us to the Super Bowl in the future. He just can’t shake it off when an interception happens, even when it’s not his fault. It completely throws off his game.

Matthew McNeil

It was then my even-keeled son did something unexpected. He exploded. “Enough dad! You may be giving up, but it’s time for me to say a few things. The Vikings are good! And Case is a great quarterback. He’s our best option for next year!”

I was stunned. I demanded he apologize for his tone (which he did), and we hashed out what was really going on. Considering his fandom of the Vikings is young, he was angry and frustrated about them losing to Philly. As for me, having been a Vikings fan for almost 50 years, my anger and frustration burned out a long time ago.

Little left after ‘Miracle’ week

Let’s talk about Sunday night. The Vikings spent all their energy, emotion and discipline in a week of grandstanding and glorifying the “Minneapolis Miracle” play, a Hail Mary where Case Keenum threw to Stefon Diggs, who then scampered into the end zone at the end of regulation, winning last week’s divisional playoff game. It was a euphoric and exhausting finish, one for the ages. It’s not a surprise the Vikings had very little left when it came to the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles aren’t a great team, but they took advantage of a jumpy and jittery Vikings squad who were looking to repeat the magic of the previous week at the expense of basic fundamentals.

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Leading up to Sunday’s game, everything seemed to scream “Vikings loss.” Everyone was acting like this was going to be an “easy” Vikings win, a HUGE red flag (Philadelphia had home field advantage for a reason!). Earlier on Sunday, I told my son, “Watch us get blown out by four touchdowns and make Eagles journeyman quarterback Nick Foles look like the second coming of Joe Montana.” Mission accomplished! I turned it off at the end of the first half when the Vikings stopped playing. As the Eagles marched down the field, looking to add to their 21-7 lead, the Vikes seemed lost and disinterested. That’s when the game was over. My family made the decision to watch “The Martian” instead.

In reality, the Eagles did us a huge favor. I watched the New England Patriots/Jacksonville Jaguars AFC Championship game. The Patriots are going to win the Super Bowl again, regardless of the NFC. Watching them on Sunday, they’re just in a class all by themselves. Can you imagine how badly the psyche of Minnesota would’ve been destroyed if the Patriots routed us, AT HOME, in Super Bowl 52? The negative vibe would’ve been so bad, people and corporations would’ve moved.

Too many times …

Eventually the Vikings will win the Super Bowl, and there’s a good chance they could under Head Coach Mike Zimmer, but even if I thought they were the best team in football, I can’t pick them to win. Too many times the sure thing has failed me. Too many times I have bought into the excitement, rejecting common sense. I’ve become indifferent to the potential of a Vikings Championship, proven by my “that’s too bad. Hey, Matt Damon on Mars!”

But I’m not my 16-year-old son, or my 13- and 10-year-old daughters. They’re the ones starting off on their Minnesota sports fan journey. They need to have their hearts ripped out for a few decades before they can put it into perspective. As painful as those lessons are, that’s OK! Sports, including the Minnesota Vikings, are parsley on the plate of life. If you ignore what’s really important, focusing on such tertiary whimsy, you end up becoming a delusional, pathetic, hollow human, only happy when your team is winning, or the team you hate is losing (many Green Bay Packers fans’ gleefulness at Sunday’s Vikings loss would be Exhibit A). You’re prioritizing the plate decoration over the main course.

Yes, the Cubs did finally win it all

My son did point out the Chicago Cubs of baseball did finally win it all, and decades of frustrated Cubs fans celebrated. Maybe my kids will celebrate a Vikings Super Bowl victory in their 20s, or in their 40s with their own kids. Maybe it will be when they’re grandparents, telling their grandkids of how their great-grandfather always expected the Vikings to lose.

I’ll always watch Vikings’ playoff games, until they give me a reason to turn it off, and, without a doubt, I’ll cheer for the Vikings if they win it all. As they say, “nothing is impossible,” but just don’t expect me to believe in the impossible before it’s proven to be plausible.

Matthew McNeil — host of the Matt McNeil show, weekdays at 3 p.m. on AM950, KTNF — is a father and a long-suffering Minnesota sports fan. 


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