We have suffered. In started in the 1970s, so any Vikings' fans you see who is forty-year old or better wears it on their collective face like cold wind exposure on an Alaskan. Those who are thirty-something cannot hear the name Darren Nelson without thinking of Marcus Allen, discos, and drops. Those in their twenties or late teens can only cringe when the name Gary Anderson is mentioned. And last night was created a whole new generation of sufferers. Adrian Peterson or Brett Favre may have to carry that cross based on early rants from fans.
The reason for the true suffering is the specific event of losing Championship games that could be won. It is one thing to get blown out 41-0 and find out for three hours that you are not ready for the Super Bowl, like in the 2000 season. It is another to lose a close game in the waning moments and/or overtime. NFL Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (NPTSD) occurs when you lose a close game late, that you should have won easily. Vikings Championship losses in seasons 1977, 1987, 1998, and now 2009 qualify as this disturbing of loss in varying degrees.
The numbers of this Championship hurt the most. Seven times the vaunted NFL's number one offense was three and out. The Vikings were shut down twice. Only three times did the Saints gain ten or more yards on a drive. The Vikings had eight drives of thirty or more yards. Four were seventy-plus yards.The total yardage was nearly double. First downs were more than double. Third down conversions. Drew Brees held to under 200 yards. Most numbers clearly show the Vikings should have won this game. All but turnovers and the final score.
So now those of us with NPTSD will be haunted by fumbles and interceptions. Last night my sleep was limited to four troubled hours full of nightmares in football. The work day was spent in numbing fashion, with thoughts of fright, in hyperarousal, and a heart that feels like it is beating 20-40 times more per minute than it should. I know the physical symptoms will go away. But true NPTSD can re-occur, like a flashback, with all of the same intensity. The 1998 veterans had to relive emotions of an overtime. The older veterans had to think of Brent McLanahan as AP coughed up the ball near the goal line. Like Groundhog Day, we awake to "I Got You Babe".
So what can we NPTSD carriers do? Awareness is half the battle. When I replay in my sleep Robert Meachem being awarded a catch for an obvious trapped ball and wake up in a sweat... relax, breathe. When pictures of the Saints players plastering Brett Favre echo in my mind during the day, I will seek counsel from a friend. Exposure therapy is effective. Go see a fourth grade sporting event, where no one keeps score, and everyone gets a trophy. Work your way through middle school games, clubs, and then beyond. We will get better.
Yes, a new generation of suffering is born. I cannot personally point a finger at any one player. They're my team, win or lose. Brett Favre played the most courageous game I have ever witnessed from quarterback, greater than Archie Manning against the Bears. Adrian Peterson is truly a great back, who is struggling with holding on to the ball. Percy Harvin. Bernard Berrian. How can you fault guys trying too hard? No, in order to recover from NPTSD you have to let go of the blame.
Except for 12 men in a huddle after a time-out.