My dad had made sure we experienced the first era of outdoor games for the Minnesota Vikings at Met Stadium back in the 1970s. And I really wanted to be at the team’s last outdoor game at TCF Bank Stadium on Sunday to close the circle. So my wife, Susan, and I went. I never thought that the game would be as close as it was, and I never thought that the old curse would offer up yet another beautifully awful, tragic ending.
This time, I feel sorry for the rest of the fans, especially the newer ones who don’t have the thick skin that us old and perpetually disappointed fans have. Although I have been bleeding purple my whole life, I still have been fortunate to develop other hobbies and interests and a self-protecting skin with all things Vikings. But I can’t say that for so many truly broken people I saw after the loss. I remember what it was like to have your whole world wrecked by a bad loss in the playoffs. I remember that, when I was in fifth grade, the worst thing you could call someone was Fred Cox. (I can’t remember what game he lost in the same fashion as Vikings kicker Blair Walsh did on Sunday, but it stung me more than the current loss.)
As we were walking out of the stadium on Sunday, the state of the fans was tragic. I saw one man behind us in total shock — he would have fallen if not caught by friends and strangers. He kept saying: “It can’t end like this!” Then I heard it many times. All through the frozen stadium and out to the cold, distant parking, it was subdued: Big boots shuffling, punctuated by frequent, four-letter outbursts. Parents giving their kids simple instructions like “this way ... .” People carrying one another and leaning on one other, still trying to come to grips with what had just happened. We older types were the most quiet. We know there is something old at work here: Our old friend The Curse.
I said to Susan just before Walsh kicked: “This is beautiful, no matter what happens.” Because it really was a beautiful moment with all the potential to carry on the Vikings curse, and I didn’t want to let the curse negatively dictate my emotions ever again. I was going to steal beauty from its dark plan. The low winter sun was shining on the players and reflecting on their helmets. Our breath made a vapor screen between us and the game. We had survived several hours in the subzero temps and had been treated to a very entertaining game. As the team lined up for that last field goal, I thought about taking a final picture — the “when we were still happy” picture — but instead I took a mental snapshot. When the kick went up, no one in our section of the field could tell if it was good. There was too much low sun and steam. Then all of the Seattle players started jumping around, and their small section of fans started screaming.
It was beautiful. It was beautiful because it was the last outdoor game ever, it was 6 below, and we almost beat the unbeatable Seahawks. We have a young team and a future.
And we were there.
And Walsh was the only guy to score any points in the game, despite his unwilling participation in the curse at the very end.
And Fred Cox? He is still the highest-scoring Viking of all time, and he invented the Nerf football.
So when it comes to this curse and me, I would say we are nearing our golden anniversary together. We know each other’s ways, and our relationship is complicated. We could no sooner be separated than waste away.
Todd Miller lives in Grand Marais, Minn.