So the Vikings finally bring the playoffs back to the Metrodome, and their fans react like they just landed a berth in the Motor City Bowl.
The most popular team in Minnesota faces a television blackout of one of the signature events of the most popular sports league in history.
Does this make any sense?
Yes, it does. What Vikings kicker Ryan Longwell called a "perfect storm'' of thriftiness has combined with an imperfect squad and bad timing to leave ticket sales more depressed than a Bernie Madoff's accountant.
Here are the seven deadly sins and circumstances that may force fans to drive to Des Moines to catch the game on TV:
• It's the economy, stupid.
Playoff tickets, parking and refreshments add up to an intimidating tab for a family that spent big money on Christmas, or is facing job loss or insecurity. Unlike season tickets, this is not an expense that was easy to plan. It's a big bill for a Minnesotan harboring a ...
• Lack of faith.
Other than those who paint their faces and drink turpentine shots with gasoline chasers, the Vikings' fan base is not constituted of true believers.
Those with limited discretionary income remember the two losses at the end of last season, or the seven-fumble Falcons loss this season, or ... ah, you know the history. Setting aside big money during Christmas week to save for a potential playoff game is a lot to ask of someone doubting this team's ability to win a big game, especially considering that even while beating the Super Bowl champion Giants on Sunday the Vikings suffered through ...
• The 20-second delay.
Longwell kicked a 50-yard field goal to beat the Giants, but only after the Vikings' chain-of-command froze in the final minute.
On first-and-10 from the Giants 30, Adrian Peterson hit the line, ran backward looking for space, and took a 2-yard loss with about 29 seconds remaining.
That bad and unexpected decision -- had Peterson plunged for 2 yards, Longwell would have faced no worse than a 45-yard field goal -- led to two Vikings assistants arguing on the sideline while coach Brad Childress stared at quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, who awaited the next play.
Had the Vikings called a timeout immediately, they could run any play, knowing they would have lots of time to spike the ball if they needed to stop the clock. Had they run a play immediately, they would have had their last timeout in reserve.
Instead, Childress and Jackson stared at each other until Childress finally called time with nine seconds remaining. Childress ordered Longwell onto the field, then off, then Jackson missed on a short pass, then Longwell kicked the face-saving game-winner.
The sequence did not inspire confidence. Nor did ...
• Peterson's fumbles.
He is a great player, but a fan's optimism is bound to be tempered when your best player almost costs you a playoff berth. Or when your team continues to deal with ...
• Quarterback uncertainty.
Childress might have extracted maximum value out of his quarterbacks this season. Jackson and Gus Frerotte have combined for 3,213 yards, 21 touchdowns and 17 interceptions, but would you bet $10 that Jackson will still be the starter by the second half on Sunday?
Jackson's uncertainty in the pocket and Frerotte's lack of mobility could make either an easy target for the Eagles' exotic blitzes.
For all of the connections between these teams, though, Vikings fans know this isn't a ...
• Rivalry game.
Yes, this is the playoffs, but the Vikings generated more excitement when they were struggling to get over .500 and facing the Packers or Bears. The Eagles are hard to hate, and they just whipped the Cowboys, further reducing a Vikings realist's optimism. If all that wasn't bad enough, as Jackson pointed out ...
• "Man, it's cold outside.''
Come Sunday, Vikings fans might not have to worry about the weather. They could be inside, huddled around the fireplace, and the radio.
Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon on AM-1500 KSTP. firstname.lastname@example.org