The year is 2050. Former Vikings teammates Brian Robison and Ryan Longwell are living in different parts of the country. One day, their grandkids plop down on the sofa and ask them to tell a story.
Grandkids: Tell us about the 2010 Vikings.
“The year the roof caved in,” begins Longwell, now 75. “Figuratively and literally.”
“How long you got?” 67-year-old Robison asks.
• • •
We will always remember the 2010 Vikings season and how it just got stranger and stranger as it went on.
August and September: Brett Favre reluctantly agrees to play one more season after a visit from three teammates who flew to Mississippi on Zygi Wilf’s private plane. ... Pro Bowl receiver Sidney Rice comes to camp with hip injury, has surgery that limits him to six games. ... Percy Harvin collapses on the field during training camp and taken to a hospital via ambulance after suffering reaction to medication for migraines. ... Deadspin reports Favre sent inappropriate text messages to a Jets employee during his one season with New York, prompting an NFL investigation.
October and November: Randy Moss returns via trade, becomes disgruntled, lashes out at a caterer in the locker room, receives a $25,000 fine by NFL for being uncooperative with media. Holds bizarre news conference after the Patriots game in which he salutes Bill Belichick and his organization. Cut a day later by Brad Childress, who puts his own job in jeopardy by making the move without consulting his bosses. ... Harvin and Childress have a confrontation in practice, which continues into the weight room with Harvin reportedly throwing a weight. ... On Nov. 21, Vikings lose to Green Bay at home in a 31-3 embarrassment that moves owner Zygi Wilf to fire Childress the next day.
December: A massive snowfall caused the Metrodome roof to collapse hours before the Vikings were scheduled to play the New York Giants. The game was moved to Ford Field in Detroit the following evening. … The Vikings play their next home game at TCF Bank Stadium, which required snow removal all week and raised objections from players because the field lacks heating coils underneath, leaving the field icy and hard. Favre initially was declared out for the game because of a hand injury but changed course and played until suffering a concussion in the second quarter when he landed hard on the turf. ... Vikings play at Philadelphia following week. Weather reports calling for a blizzard prompt the NFL to move the game to Tuesday night citing “fan safety,” thus not interfering with “Monday Night Football” for a second time in three weeks. Snow totals were less than predicted and major roadways were mostly clear.
The grandkids in 2050 want to hear more.
Grandkids: That all sounds like a horror story.
Robison: “The most miserable season I’ve ever been a part of.”
Grandkids: Grandpa Ryan, tell us about you, Jared Allen and Steve Hutchinson flying to Mississippi to convince Favre to play.
Longwell: “You could do a paperback book just on that story alone. After practice, we go in and it’s Hutch and Jared and myself with Childress. He goes, ‘Here’s the deal. You’re going to go down and talk Brett into coming back. The media is not going to know. We’re going to send you in the Wilfs’ plane that’s unmarked so no one will know.’
“We go to Flying Cloud airport in Eden Prairie and the three of us are sitting there. All the guys working at the airport are looking at us like, What’s going on?
“So we’re waiting for this quote-unquote unmarked plane to come in. Lo and behold, this thing flies in and it’s got a purple and gold stripe all over the side of the airplane. We’re like, ‘What’s unmarked about that?’
“We get down there. We were there for 16 hours and for 15½ of the hours he was absolutely ‘No. I’m not doing it.’ At the last minute, we got in his Jeep and went out to the corner of his property and said, ‘We don’t care if you throw 100 interceptions or 100 touchdowns. We don’t care if we win every game or lose every game. It’s purely just not the same without you around. We want you around so we can all have a fun year.’ He said, ‘All right, let’s go.’ We were kind of looking at each other in the back of the Jeep like, ‘Oh, my gosh.’
“We get back on the plane and there’s five of us with Brett and [wife] Deanna. We’re taxiing and we look at the news and it’s just starting to break that ‘We think three players are going down to try and talk Brett into coming back.’ We’re like, ‘We’re ahead of the story. We did it.’ As we break through the clouds coming down into Flying Cloud, it is like O.J. Simpson, satellite trucks everywhere.”
Grandkids: We heard a giant snowstorm caused the Metrodome roof to collapse the night before a game, forcing you to play in Detroit the next day. Is that really true?
Longwell: “We are at the Hilton downtown, the team hotel. I’m in my 13th, 14th year. I’ve heard every Saturday night speech in the books. We sit down for this meeting. Leslie Frazier is our coach because Childress has been fired. The first words out of Coach Frazier’s mouth were, ‘Guys, I don’t want to alarm you, but the Dome roof may be caving in. We’ll let you know how it looks.’ We were like, is this for real?’ ”
Grandkids: What was it like playing a home game in Detroit?
Robison: “It was a weird vibe. We were ready to play, but it was one of those deals where, I’m just ready to play this game, get it over with and go back home. Everybody was just kind of fed up with what was going on.”
Grandkids: This sounds like a fiction story.
Longwell: “It would totally be 100% fiction.”
Alas, it was all true.