The Minnesota Twins World Series wins in 1987 and 1991 freed the state of Minnesota from the chains of modern losing. Previous to those two championships, most reticent Minnesota fans would have to point to either the Minneapolis Lakers of the 1950s (basketball) or national championships acquired by the University of Minnesota football program somewhere around the invention of television in order to defend being called losers.
Yet still the pain lingers.
The Minnesota Vikings enter their 55th season with second year coach Mike Zimmer, second year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, and the hopeful second coming of Adrian Peterson. The team improved from 2013's five win season to seven wins in 2014. The defense has improved. Minnesota is trending up.
Minnesota has missed the playoffs four of the last five years, as well as ten of the last fourteen seasons. If one is a recent Vikings' fan and/or is under the age of 25, only the 2009 Brett Favre led season stands between happiness and a fourteen year abyss. And that season ended violently in New Orleans.
The next generation is probably even more bitter. Fans in their thirties or late twenties suffered through the 1990s and specifically, 1998. Denny Green, or the Sheriff, took Minnesota to eight playoffs in a ten year span. His playoff record: 4-8. The 1998 Conference Championship loss in the Metrodome to the Atlanta Falcons may rate as the biggest single disappointment in team history.
If you were from that generation you probably cringe every time you see a kicker miss a chip shot. Or a coach sit on a late tie with a high-powered offense. Or watching playoff overtime.
The next older generation, those that grew up watching in the 1980s, are probably best described as schizophrenic fans. These fans witnessed two player strikes (1982 and 1987), an 0-3 replacement team that counted toward a playoff team's record, dropped playoff passes by running backs chosen before Marcus Allen who like discos, and the advent of the Metrodome. While the Metrodome brought the Twins success, all it did was take away the advantages Minnesota winters gave a hard-nosed team.
And Les Steckel. The tears that were shed for the retiring of the well-loved Bud Grant in 1984 quickly turned to pleas for him to return. He did. And then he left again. Jerry Burns would take over and have moderate success.
Fans older than that are proud fans. If one grew up watching in the 1970s or even cheering for the expansion team of the 1960s, you are most likely to have confidence in the team. The domination that spanned from the 1968 season until 1978 that saw: four Super Bowl visits; the Purple People Eaters including an MVP season from Alan Page; hapless opponents in the division; Frank Tarkenton and Chuck Foreman; with Jim Finks and Bud Grant in charge.
Even the Super Bowl losses hurt less than recent conference championship losses, because the loyal fan would just realize that Minnesota was probably going to have another shot the following year.
And so summer camp begins in this, the 55th season of the Minnesota Vikings. We fans of various backgrounds and beliefs will rekindle whatever hopes we can muster that soon one of these purple teams will put to rest the fact that we have never won the Super Bowl. We will relish with the improving team each win.
But our sights, no matter what age fan, are fixed firmly on the Lombardi Trophy.