Today, Vikings fans, you should take a break from marinating in your hopeful angst to say thank you. That’s right: Thank the team that torments your soul.
Today, the Vikings play another big game at the end of another fascinating season. If they lose, their record of futility in big moments will remain utterly the same.
They will have won one playoff game since 2009, with that win having been deemed a miracle. They will be without a road playoff victory since 2004, and their stated ambition of winning a Super Bowl with this coach, this roster, this defense, will seem more far-fetched than it did even a year ago.
There will be public discussions of the fitness of the general manager, coach and quarterback, and while changes will not be expected, the owners will have to start wondering, even if they won’t admit it.
There is another way to look at this franchise. Call it the road less traveled.
Here it is: Super Bowl or not, this franchise has been relentlessly interesting for about a half-century now, ever since their first real game, and there is more value in that than in merely winning one Super Bowl.
In the first game in Vikings history, they upset the great Chicago Bears 37-13 at Met Stadium, setting up decades of unrealistically high and unfulfilled expectations.
Today, they’ll face a Chicago Bears team George Halas could not have imagined, one with an Arena League offense, at U.S. Bank Stadium with a chance to make the playoffs. That this year’s Vikings team is simultaneously interesting, promising, disappointing, talented and flawed is not surprising. That’s how the Minnesota Vikings roll, even if the roll often ends up in a ditch.
Like previous generations of Red Sox, Cubs and Eagles fans, Vikings fans identify as sufferers. But like all devoted fans, they know that complaining about losing is like complaining about Minnesota winters. It’s more a conversation starter than a deal-breaker.
The question Vikings fans should ask themselves, win or lose on Sunday, is this:
Are you not entertained?
From Fran Tarkenton through Kirk Cousins, the Vikings have brought you countless quarterbacks. What other franchise could boast employing Tark, Kapp, Kramer, McMahon, Moon, Culpepper, Cunningham, Johnson and Favre? Not the Packers. They believe in committed relationships.
The Vikings are known for losing big games. What is often forgotten is that you have to win a lot of games to earn the right to lose the big ones. Thus, Vikings history was neatly summarized last year, when the team won 13 games and pulled off a miracle play to win a playoff game before getting crushed in the NFC Championship Game. Would you erase that season to avoid its ending? If so, you are a football snowflake.
For those without a virtual ring on your greedy digits, this can seem illogical, even blasphemous. Winning a championship has to be the ultimate goal of a professional sports organization.
But there has to be more to fandom than one shining, confetti-flecked moment.
Take the Eagles. Philadelphia fans love their team almost as much as they love throwing full beer cans at people. They won it all last winter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Then they spent this season complaining about the state of their team. What a bunch of whiners.
Take the Red Sox. There was a certain nobility about the heartbroken Red Sox fan. Then they started winning World Series. Now they’re almost as obnoxious as Patriots fans. Almost.
Cubs fans were adorable before they starting winning rings. Now they’re entitled snobs.
Heck, take the Bears. Thanks to the limited coaching ability of Mike Ditka, they have won just one Super Bowl. If Bill Belichick or Bill Parcells had been given the roster of the 1985 Bears, they would have won half a dozen.
Does that one Super Bowl victory really alter your perception of Beardom? Even without that Super Bowl, they’d be the franchise of Papa Bear Halas, Walter Payton and a grass-free stadium by the lake.
If the Vikings win today, and they should, enjoy another chapter in this long-running suspense novel. And if they lose, remember, we’re Minnesotans. Passive-aggressive suffering isn’t just what we do. It’s who we are.