Editor's note: This is the first installment in a 10-part series asking "what if?" certain major events in Twin Cities sports history had turned out differently. This is purely an exercise in amusement. Nobody at the Star Tribune -- least of all the author -- has a DeLorean that goes 88 mph and has the ability to go back to change the past. Send any feedback or suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
GO TO THE SUPER BOWL
The Vikings would have had a 10-point lead with two minutes remaining and almost certainly would have made it to the Super Bowl. This is important because the franchise hadn't, at that point, even made it to the big game in more than two decades -- a streak that has stretched to nearly 3 1/2 decades now. Would just getting to the Super Bowl have changed this generation of Vikings fans' perception of the franchise? Maybe.
DO THEY BEAT DENVER?
The team was really banged up after that NFC title game. And let's not forget the Broncos, the team that made it from the AFC, were 14-2 that year, as well. While the Vikings were explosive, it's a toss-up as to whether they would have won that Super Bowl. Would a loss in the Super Bowl have been just as damaging as that NFC title game loss? We say no, but it still would have stung -- and Packers fans would have had a field day, until they were reminded that they lost to the same team the previous year in the Super Bowl.
WIN CHANGES EVERYTHING
What about a Super Bowl victory? Well, quite simply it would have changed the course of the franchise forever. Fans no longer would bear the scar of never having won the big one. The collective consciousness of the state becomes more relaxed. Look no further than the 2004 Red Sox for your proof. Instead, we are sitting here in the Twin Cities in 2011 with a 20-year drought for any major professional team winning a championship.
DRAFT KEARSE INSTEAD?
Maybe the Vikings, as defending Super Bowl champs feeling emboldened by a chance to repeat and seeking immediate help for 1999, don't draft Daunte Culpepper and instead go for Jevon Kearse? Maybe they don't take Dimitrius Underwood with their other first-round pick, instead opting for a safer pick?
AND MAYBE NO LOVE BOAT
Denny Green, with a Super Bowl victory under his belt, probably gets some slack later during the turbulent 2001 season. Maybe the coaching dominoes fall differently and Mike Tice never takes over. Suddenly the ticket scalping story doesn't happen. Maybe there is no Love Boat. And maybe, just maybe, Onterrio Smith's cousin transports his own devices through the airport.