The purpose of this article is not to go over the long and storied history of failures of the Minnesota Vikings. The purpose of this article is to explain to outsiders why the Divisional Playoff game this Sunday is soo hyped among the Vikings faithful. I also think there are three different points of view depending on which era of Viking’s football you’ve experienced.
The first generation of Vikings fans are those that were there at the start of the franchise in the 60’s. The primary driver of the franchise during this time is Bud Grant so we’ll refer to these fans as the “Generation Grant”. If you are over 50 and been a fan your whole life, you fit in here.
Generation Grant has the longest and most depressing fanhood of all of the generations of Vikings fans. They lived through four Super Bowl losses and a team that was very dominant throughout the 1970’s but could never win the big one. Generation Grant saw their great Vikings teams fall to some all-time great teams including the Raiders lead by John Madden and Knoll/Bradshaw lead Steelers and their “Steel Curtain”.
Those of us too young to have seen those Super Bowl losses think we have it bad having seen a few playoff meltdowns. The best I can do to relate is remember the Buffalo Bills of the early 90’s that lost four Super Bowls in a row.
If you are 30- 40+ you most likely fit into this generation of fans. This generation grew up watching games at the Metrodome when it was still a relatively new stadium. Jerry Burns and Denny Green are the two head coaches that you grew up with. You remember Jerry Burns’ epic and comical, curse ladened post-game meltdowns.
If you grew up in the Metrodome Era, you heard about the Super Bowl losses and how great The Purple People-Eaters were but you never saw it live. You did, however, see the record-breaking offense of the 1998 Vikings with Randall Cunningham, Randy Moss, Cris Carter, Jake Reed and Robert Smith. The 1998 Vikings were easily one of the most exciting and explosive teams of all time. Of course, you had to watch them lose on a field goal miss by Gary Anderson who hadn’t missed a single field goal all season. You also suffered through 41-0 donut in the 2000 NFC Championship Game against the Giants.
This era featured over a decade of horrible coaching. If you grew up in this era, you had Mike Tice, Leslie Frazier, and Brad Childress as your coaches. While older generations may have had to suffer more heartbreak they did get to experience good coaching for a large portion of the era. There was a decade of complete and utter mediocrity to start this era, then Brett Favre came along. We had our “white bronco” moment as he came to town to be our savior and naturally in 2009 tossed a game-ending interception after the hated, dirty, Bountygate Saints nearly broke his ankle.
Finally, Mike Zimmer was hired and the era was able to experience competent coaching. Soon after the next franchise QB, Teddy Bridgewater is drafted. Sure enough, just when it seemed he was poised for a big leap, he goes down with one the most horrific injuries one can have, while at practice….with no contact.
Tying it all together
Each generation has experienced so major heartbreaks. Older generations have experienced more of them but newer generations have dealt with more random bad luck in their formative years and it’s fresher in their minds than say a 1970’s Super Bowl loss might be for earlier generations.
The 2009 loss to the Saints, in particular, struck a nerve with Vikings fans of all generations. Vikings fans had gotten used to losing big games, so that wasn’t enough on its own to garner this level of agitation. No, it was the way other team played and the perception that they were cheated out of a Super Bowl.
You’ve probably heard the expression, “Minnesota Nice”. While it may be exaggerated, I do think that Minnesotan’s and other Upper Midwestern brethren value fair play. Add to that, that the Messiah at QB was brought in and went from one of Minnesota’s most hated NFL players to one of the most loved overnight. Seeing the end of the Super Bowl drought on the horizon, then having their ankles taken out on low-high hits, was crushing to many fans.
It wasn’t that the Vikings lost, the Vikings had a well-documented history of losing big games. The loss to the Falcons in the 1998 NFC Championship Game was hard to take but a fair and square loss. 41 donut was terrible to watch but a fair ass-kicking. The Super Bowl losses, while hard fought and hard to stomach were fairly lost.
It was the high-low hits on Favre, late hits on other players. It was the Saints rolling and twisting, very purposely, at the knees and ankles of the Vikings. The resulting injury to Farve at a crucial time in the game the put Vikings fans over the edge.
Agree or not, the above is the way many Vikings fans feel about 2009 and the Saints. Saints may be the most hated team in Minnesota outside of the Green Bay Packers. All due to the 2009 NFC Championship game. Fans had a time hard watching the Saints hoist the trophy and listen to how great a story it was that they won. This is why the Divisional playoff game this week may be the most meaningful and hyped Divisional game, from a fan perspective, that there has been. For the fans, this is all about redemption.