It’s another Sunday at the Regal Seagull in Leucadia, Calif. A marine layer of mist is beginning its yield to the morning sun. Sandy flip-flops signal the end of dawn patrol surf sessions, while pregame analysis crescendos its way toward center stage. Belches of breakfast burritos and IPAs fill the air.
Kevin is positioned at the bar as the rest of us shuffle in. He is wearing a snazzy black performance jacket emblazoned with a Vikings logo. His hair is combed back in meticulous fashion. “Grown men don’t wear jerseys.” Kevin is a designer at Titleist.
We’ll all be 40 this year, which means it will be the 41st consecutive year in our lives that a Vikings season ends in a loss, either of a game or morale or both. We went to college together at Gustavus Adolphus, where our shared Minnesota identity concealed our different upbringings.
Steve is talking. He has been absorbing himself all week in Vikings lore. He’s also been listening to Dan Barreiro podcasts on his commute to Phoenix. It’s his escape from the grind, back in time to a familiar place. This week he’s wearing his Jerry Burns-era Starter jacket from eBay. His topic is Foge Fazio.
Ross is a no-show. He comes for the beer when business is good at his marketing firm. Ross is a “pragmatist” — different from fair-weather, he’ll tell you. He might stay past halftime if the traffic is favorable.
A faded Adrian Peterson jersey tips us off that the group next to us is legit. They’re from Waseca and Belle Plaine. We exchange pleasantries and express our concerns about the offensive line.
I crack open my fourth Coors Light as the game drifts into the early third-quarter doldrums. The conversation shifts from the present game to our fantasy league, and eventually to sunfish and lutefisk. To frigid walks across campus in February and waterskiing in July. I wish for a moment it was a can of Premium in my hand.
Eventually we divert back to football and the Vikings. To our most vivid shared memories. Surprisingly few recollections are focused on the best moments — AC torching the 49ers, Moss mooning Lambeau, AP eclipsing 2,000 yards, running up the score against the Cowboys in the divisional, the Minneapolis Miracle. We tend to focus — like good stoic Minnesotans — on pain and suffering. Four Super Bowls. Drew Pearson. Darrin Nelson. Gary Anderson. Blair Walsh. Laying an egg in the Meadowlands. A turd in Philadelphia.
“I was at that game,” I remind everyone for the hundredth time. We take turns sharing where we were, like it was the Interstate 35W bridge collapse. We patiently listen and empathize as the next person dramatizes their side of the story. As if we hadn’t heard it before. We shake our heads and take another sip.
Matt Stafford snaps our attention back to the game with an interception. Kevin orders a round. There are smirks of “cautious optimism” all around. Could this be the year?
On my ride home, ocean beaches blend together in shades of a contemplative blur. Maybe we should be cautious if this actually is the year. After all, isn’t it our shared history of suffering that brings Vikings fans together?
Peter H. Nerothin lives in Encinitas, Calif. You can follow Peter, Kevin, Steve and Ross on Twitter and Instagram: @kookynorsemen.