The 2000 New York Giants were looked at as a team of such modest prowess that the 11-5 Vikings went into the NFC title game as road favorites.
It didn't quite work out that way. The score was 34-0 for the Giants at halftime and, I must admit, the reporters in the visitors end of the large press box had lost all decorum.
If Twitter had existed on Jan. 14, 2001, we could have entertained ourselves by sending out smart-aleck messages of 140 characters or less. With no Tweets, we had to settle for "blurts -- quick, sarcastic comments that could be overhead in the range of a few seats to the left or the right.
By the second quarter, the blurts were coming with the subtlety of an old-time Tommy gun.
Several members of the Vikings' brain trust were in position to hear this cacophony of ridicule. I recall Rob Brzezinski, a Vikings' vice president, expressing his unhappiness directly to me ... and for good reason, I'm sure.
The lasting memory from that game remains the bites that the Vikings' defensive backs were taking every time Giants quarterback Kerry Collins went with a pump fake. This was particularly true for Wasswa Serwanga, who had been sent into action that season after the secondary sustained a couple of injuries.
The best observation on this came from Kevin Seifert, then the Vikings' beat man for the Star Tribune: "Have you ever seen a guy throwing Frisbees to an amped-up dog on the beach, and he fakes one, and the dog takes off? Poor Wasswa looks like he's chasing an imaginary Frisbee.''
Seifert said this in a conversational tone, not in a blurt. I thought it was so danged funny that I took care of the blurting. The Wasswa-chasing-a-Frisbee comparison might have been what put Brzezinski over the edge, come to think of it.
On Sunday, I was watching the first half from home. Carolina was on the first of what would be a series of lengthy drives. It was fourth-and-1 at the 2. Cam Newton went into the spread formation, looked at the Vikings' defense and called timeout.
Coach Ron Rivera stuck with the decision to go for it. Offensive coordinator Mike Shula, in the press box, obviously had watched enough tape on the Vikings' first four games to know there was a strategy for this occasion:
Something that could get Josh Robinson, the Vikings' second-year cornerback, in a position where he had to track a receiver off the line of scrimmage.
Boom. Veteran Steve Smith reset to the right, cut back through traffic, Newton had time to wait, Smith cleared the traffic, Robinson was trailing by three steps, and the Panthers had the lift of a touchdown, rather than the disappointment of starting with a field goal.
And there was Robinson, slowing behind Smith, head hanging like a pitcher who knows he just gave up a bomb.
"Wasswa ... Josh really is the second coming of Wasswa,'' I said to myself in the TV den in Golden Valley.
Later, as the Panthers turned the Metrodome into an abattoir for the Vikings, I joined sparingly in the fun on Twitter. Such Tweets mostly get lost in the avalanche of ridicule that surfaces during a putrid Purple performance.
I don't know about the quality of blurts in the press box on Sunday. I gotta say, though -- no matter how quick-witted the home scribes might have been during this 35-10 thrashing, there's no way they topped the quip fest of 41-donut.
One reason I know this: We had the pompous Denny Green to blurt over in January 2001. Sunday's victim was nice guy Les Frazier.
|Boston - WP: M. Ott||4||FINAL|
|Minnesota - LP: M. Hoffman||3|
|UC Santa Barbara||38|
|San Diego St||73|
|Utah Valley U||83|
|Cal State Fullerton||56||FINAL|
|Long Beach State||66|
|Sam Houston St||70|
|New Mexico St||70|
|Miss Valley St||68||FINAL|
|(22) Middle Tennessee||69|
|William & Mary||65|
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