Mercifully, the Vikings are spared another Super Bowl.
On Sunday, the National Football League makes its annual presentation of what America has generally accepted as the Holy Grail of the television arts, the Super Bowl.
Millions will watch on television. Most of the viewers will survive the halftime entertainment. For followers of the Vikings, there undoubtedly will be a few spasms of regret that their favorites could not be part of the show.
Please accept some well-intended consolation.
The Vikings' history in the Super Bowl as it existed then, without today's hysteria and overkill, offers scary precedents. I can tell you this as a witness to all four of their appearances in the years when I wrote pro football for the Minneapolis newspaper. I share the memories of the players with respect — Carl Eller, Jim Marshall, Alan Page, Fran Tarkenton, Ron Yary, Jeff Siemon, Chuck Foreman, Wally Hilgenberg, Bill Brown, Mick Tingelhoff, Paul Dickson, Ahmad Rashad and so many more.
And of course the coaches, Bud Grant, Jerry Burns and more. Some of these folks eventually were voted into pro football's Hall of Fame. But in the Super Bowl, not so much.
The Vikings' pratfalls in the Super Bowl eventually took on what seemed like a cosmic inevitability. Siemon, the linebacker, and I later put together a book looking for some rationalization for all of this, but found no answers to the glum reality; the Vikings played in the Super Bowl against four different opponents in the 1970s and lost to Kansas City 23-7, to Miami 24-7, to Pittsburgh 16-6 and to Oakland 32-14.
The worst was Oakland. With the game still scoreless in the first quarter, Fred McNeill blocked a punt and the Vikings took over on the Raiders 3-yard line. Two plays later, they tried a handoff up the middle. Result: a lost fumble by Brent McClanahan and the Vikings were never in it the rest of the way.
None of which alienated the Minnesota fans back home, scores of them, still imbued with the quality later defined as Minnesota Nice. They met the Vikings on their return from the loss to Oakland in impressive numbers. Grant thanked them for their loyalty and paused to answer a few questions. Somebody asked him why the team seemed to have so much trouble in the Super Bowl.
Grant weighed this reasonable question and, being Bud the pragmatist as always, answered: "Sometimes the other guys are better."
Most fans, being fans, found this answer candid but unacceptable.
There has to be room, in any summing up of Vikings history, for the contribution of Francis Tarkenton. Despite the quality of his quarterbacking, Tarkenton was not the most popular with the crowds and the occasional critic when he played with the Vikings. He was quick with opinions and not bashful about defending them. From his first days with the Vikings, he roomed with a late arrival named Mick Tingelhoff, who spoke quietly but played hard and became the starting center.
They roomed together for years, seldom needed any excitement or shows on the road, talked a lot and developed a mutual respect. Mick handled his job, snapped the ball to his friend and sometimes threw an unscripted block for another offensive lineman who was having trouble holding his own block.
Years after Tarkenton was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1986, Tingelhoff, now ailing, was nominated for the Hall of Fame. Tarkenton made phone calls to Hall electors and visited some in person, lobbying for his old friend.
In 2015, Mick Tingelhoff was voted into the Hall of Fame.
Jim Klobuchar covered the Vikings from their inception through their four Super Bowls for the Minneapolis Tribune. He wrote a book about their first Super Bowl season, "True Hearts and Purple Heads," and also co-authored Fran Tarkenton's biography.