There was an attempt to find a comparable for this football season in Minnesota, when our two major entities, the Vikings and the Gophers, started with varied degrees of optimism and turned into embarrassing failures.
I wound up going back to the start of the previous decade, to 2010, for the comparison:
The Vikings were coming off a near-miss in the NFC Championship Game in New Orleans, and there still was hope for Tim Brewster as he entered his fourth season as Gophers coach.
Once Brett Favre was lured back for another season, the Vikings' optimism for 2010 was so strong that even a grumpy Strib columnist offered a prediction this would be the season that finally led to a Purple victory in a Super Bowl.
The season started with an ineffectual offense and two losses, Randy Moss was reacquired and quickly reverted to moronic behavior, Brad Childress was 3-7 and fired on Nov. 22, the Metrodome roof collapsed, Favre was injured and went home to stay, and the Vikings wound up 6-10.
The Gophers had moved into TCF Bank Stadium in 2009 and announced seven sellouts of 50,805. The new place actually was that full on Halloween Night, when Adam Weber passed for 416 yards and won a 42-34 shootout over Michigan State and Kirk Cousins.
The schedule was tough — back-to-back road losses at Ohio State and Penn State – and the Gophers finished 6-6. They then offered a feeble effort and lost to Iowa State, 14-13, in the Insight Bowl.
Still, Weber was back for 2010, so was running back Duane Bennett, and there was this first-year quarterback, MarQueis Gray. The buildup was such that I went to the spring game — played at St. Thomas' O'Shaughnessy Field — and Gray was outstanding.
The Gophers started 1-6 and, on Oct. 17, Brewster became the school's first football coach to be fired in midseason. By then, legions of our Marooned who had devoured Coach Brew's bull slinging for three previous seasons were now claiming to have known from the beginning he wasn't going to cut it.
A decade later, we have had a bit of a reversal in the optimism category:
The Gophers were the recipients of the largest share this summer, while the Vikings were looked at as the only feasible challenger to favored Green Bay in the NFC North.
The Gophers were coming off an 11-2 season and the upset of Auburn in the Outback Bowl. They were No. 19 in the Associated Press' preseason ratings in late August.
The Big Ten had first announced a postponement into 2021, then reversed itself and revealed eight-game schedules on Sept. 19. Five days later, no less of an authority than Sid Hartman — gone a month later but never to be forgotten — offered this optimism in the Star Tribune:
"And now the Gophers get to open the 2020 season against Michigan at home Oct. 24 and follow that up by opening against Ohio State at TCF Bank Stadium for the 2021 season …
"And the fact is that there is not a better time for the Gophers to get these kind of marquee season-opening games, with coach P.J. Fleck and quarterback Tanner Morgan leading a real collection of talent that has built up a lot of excitement about the football program.''
The Gophers lost that Michigan opener 49-24. They allowed 256 yards rushing to the Wolverines. The alibi was, "Well, it was Michigan." And then it turned out to be the worst Michigan team since Bo Schembechler arrived in Ann Arbor in 1969.
The other alibi was: "They have a lot of new guys on defense."
Yeah, and a lot of slow guys.
Who takes the fault for that, Fleck-o-lytes, after his three full recruiting years and a late arrival for a fourth?
A week later, that defense performed the feat of allowing 675 yards to Maryland. At season's end, the Gophers beat three bad teams (Illinois, Purdue, Nebraska), and lost to two bad teams (Maryland, Michigan), one subpar team (Wisconsin) and one good team (Iowa).
The game at West champion Northwestern was canceled, and the Gophers also declined to participate in the bowl game free-for-all, hopefully out of embarrassment.
As for Mike Zimmer's Vikings, they made a statement in the season opener at home against the Packers. Green Bay 43, Vikings 34 (with Cousins' usual garbage-time flurry), and the statement was, "We stink on defense."
And months later, on Christmas night, Zimmer's defense signed off from its remote chance to be exposed in the playoffs with a historic level of that stink-age in New Orleans:
Fifty-two points, 583 yards and 36 first downs allowed and, of course, those six touchdowns by Alvin Kamara to tie an NFL record set in 1929 by Ernie Nevers.
Ernie Nevers, you clowns. Six hundred-and-75 yards to the Terps, you other clowns.
Thanks for nothin', Vikes and Gophs, except for Mohamed Ibrahim, Dalvin Cook and Justin Jefferson.