I know what you're thinking: The Vikings, historically the biggest tease in town, are at it again.

Just when you were ready to start using your face paint to touch up your purple AMC Gremlin, The Future Los Angeles Vikings go on a four-game winning streak, leaving you in a quandary.

Do you invest emotionally in a team that wasted the first two months of the season and might be done by mid-January? Do you invest financially, in the form of tickets, car flags or party kegs, in a franchise that has made you scream more often than the IRS?

What you need, Mr. & Mrs. Helga Horns, is a plan, and here it is -- 10 ways to properly view and enjoy the Vikings' surprising success:

1. Erase the word "bandwagon" from your vocabulary: Anyone who speaks the word loses 10 points off their IQ, which is a problem, because anyone who speaks the word can't afford a 50 percent reduction.

A letter writer on the Star Tribune editorial pages chided fans who want to get back on the "bandwagon." First of all, does anyone even know what a bandwagon is? Isn't this a little anachronistic, like saying, "You ruffians stay off our horseless carriage or we'll call the constable?"

More to the point, anyone using the word assumes the NFL is like high school football, where you feel obligated to cheer for little Johnny who grew up next door.

Wrong. This isn't Buffalo. Minnesota offers four major sporting teams and a Big Ten university, not to mention plays, movies, high school sports and museums. It's not the average fan's job to offer emotional support to our millionaire athletes and billionaire owners; it's their job to win us over.

Anyway, if you limited the fan base to only drinkers of Purple Kook-Ade, all the games would be blacked out and the franchise would move.

2. Give the coaches credit: Yes, until a few weeks ago, when your spouse said good morning, you responded, "Fire Childress!" Time to qualify that.

While we still don't know whether this group can win big games or enjoy long-term success, you have to admit that coaching has been a big part of the winning streak.

3. Don't blame Zygi: The NFL has begun to make threats about moving the team if we don't provide a new stadium. Get as angry as you like, but this is the way the stadium game is played.

4. Read the schedule: The Vikings' four-game winning streak includes exactly one impressive victory -- against the Giants. The Vikes have beaten the lousy Raiders, the above-average Giants, the collapsing Lions and the putrid 49ers, but you can go pretty far -- say, into the second round of the playoffs -- before being required to beat a good team.

5. Don't allow your hopes to get as high as Ricky Williams: This NFL season is all about quarterback play. The four best teams -- New England, Indianapolis, Dallas and Green Bay -- have the four best quarterbacks. While Tarvaris Jackson has played much better, can you envision him beating Tony Romo or Brett Favre in the playoffs? If so, you can now return to listening to the Grateful Dead by your Lava Lamp.

6. Watch AD while you can: Even after a 3-yard output at San Francisco, Adrian "AD" Peterson still looks like one of the best backs in history. Considering the violence of the hits in today's NFL and Peterson's past injuries, you can't be assured he'll be around for 10 years. Don't take him for granted.

7. Be thankful for empty police blotters: It's been a while since a Viking has embarrassed himself in public. Maybe instead of publicly renting Love Boats, they're privately renting love canoes. Whatever. Their avoidance of the news section is noted.

8. Appreciate the underdog role: Vikings history is marked by big playoff losses -- four Super Bowls, the Drew Pearson push-off, The Ache of '98 and 41-doughnut.

This team probably will enter the playoffs as a sixth seed. Any victory will be an upset; any loss will be understandable.

9. Be thankful: The Vikings' competition for the last playoff spot has collapsed. They'll get to face Kyle Orton on Monday night. The Saints lost Reggie Bush, the Redskins lost quarterback Jason Campbell and, tragically, safety Sean Taylor. The 49ers were without quarterback Alex Smith. Some luck is the residue of design; some luck is just luck.

10. Quit your nitpicking: A month ago, we thought the competitive segment of the local NFL season was over. Today we have a team worth watching. Enjoy.

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon on AM-1500 KSTP. jsouhan@startribune.com