September 27, 2011
By Tuesday Morning Tailback
Man, you’ve got to feel it for the true blue (or should I say purple), Minnesota Vikings fan. The team which has an infamous history of getting really, really close but collapsing at the end, has lived this out in a microcosm over the first three weeks of the 2011 season. In each of these games – against San Diego, Tampa Bay, and Detroit – the Minnesota Vikings had an ever-larger halftime lead which they managed in each instance to blow at the end.
In the opener, they lead the Chargers 17-7 at the half in San Diego, only to lose 24-17. They lead the Buccaneers 17-0 at halftime, at home in week 2, but lost that one 24-20. Once again at home this past week, they had a 20-0 lead against their division rival Lions, a team which they play twice every year but had not beaten them in Minnesota since 1997. BY midway through the third quarter, although the Vikings were still leading 20-10, you can just feel the unease that another collapse was imminent. And surely as the very roof of this “Mall of America Field” collapsed before a game last winter, so would this Vikings team collapse once again. Detroit won 26-23 in overtime. This all comes on the heels of the Vikings most recent tumble from the status of NFL elite.
Just twenty months ago, the Vikings were on the threshold of the Super Bowl, driving towards the winning score in New Orleans with the game tied and only seconds left. Then legendary quarterback Brett Favre, who had brought the team to this point in his first year in Minnesota, made a legendary mistake and the Saints went on to make history by getting to and then winning their first Super Bowl. That game concluded the Vikings 50th season in the NFL (2009) with no Super Bowl championships.
The team had gotten to four Super Bowls between 1969 and 1976, but lost them all. Since then, the Vikings have gotten as far as the NFC Championship Game five times but lost them all, the last of these being in New Orleans two seasons ago. Further, the team had several instances were they had just about reached the summit, but quickly fell down.
In the late 1980s, the Vikings felt they were just one player away from winning that elusive championship and determined that one player was Herschel Walker. In perhaps the most infamous trade in history which involved 18 players total, the Vikings gave the Dallas Cowboys first and second round draft picks for years in exchange for Walker and a few late round draft picks. Walker never materialized as the great player Minnesota had envisioned and was himself traded away within two years as the Vikings fell back down to mediocrity. Meanwhile, Dallas took all those draft picks and turned them into three Super Bowl championships in the early nineties.
By 1998, the Vikings were back as an elite team with the highest scoring offense in NFL history to that point, lead by quarterback Randall Cunningham and receivers Chris Carter and Randy Moss. That team was only the third in history to win 15 regular season games. But in the NFC Championship against Atlanta, kicker Gary Anderson missed his first field goal of the entire season, which would have given the Vikings the victory and a Super Bowl berth. The team was once again denied their championship opportunity.
Back in the glory days, the Vikings played on a terrible old, minor-league quality field called Metropolitan Stadium (“the Met”) which gave them a great home field advantage, especially during the winter months. Then in 1982, the team abandoned the Met for the comfy confines of the Humbert H. Humphrey Metrodome, now called Mall of America Field (for more on how we feel about stadium names, check out this previous article). Ironically, the actual Mall of America sits on the site of the old Met. This indoor facility with an inflatable roof has constantly caused problems for both the Vikings and Twins (who now play in their own ballpark), with the climax being the collapse due to heavy snow just hours before kickoff of a game against the New York Giants last season. The Vikings had to play out their home schedule in alternate facilities and rumors immediately began of a relocation to Los Angeles (after all, it is the NFL’s wet dream to have a team again in LA).
But in the midst of all this real and symbolic collapse, there may be a ray of hope. Just this morning, a Minneapolis area television station reported that the Vikings are considering a site in the Twin Cities northern suburb of Arden Hills for a new state-of-the-art stadium. I hope this happens because the Vikings belong in Minnesota and their superstar running back Adrian Peterson deserves a chance to spend his best child-bearing years on a team with at least a shot. And most of all, those true blue (purple), loyal Vikings fans deserve a shot to see their team actually come through for them one of these years.
Tuesday Morning Tailback is a weekly article during football season which take a critical look at the NFL. We do this from the base belief that NFL football is the greatest game in the history of mankind, but some recent policies and the overall direction of the league has chipped away at this greatness. Our primary goal is to spark debate on these subjects, so please leave your own opinion on this article in the comment box below.