Monday, September 8, 2014

Closet Vikings fan


I began watching birds for a Junior High School science project in November 1972. It was also in November 1972 that I remember watching a Minnesota Vikings football game versus the Los Angeles Rams.

As I was born in Minnesota, the Vikings were a natural choice to follow. I remember the "One eyed, one horned, flying, Purple People Eater" song from grade school about 1967. The Vikings strong defensive unit of the late 1960's and early 1970's with Page, Marshall, Larsen, and Eller was named the Purple People Eaters.

In that 1972 game the Rams led 20 to 10 at half time. I think that is about the time I started watching the game. It was in the TV department of some store. That's all I really remember about where I was. It must have been in Albany, Oregon. As that is where I lived.

In the 3rd Quarter, Paul Cruse returned a Rams fumble for a touchdown for the Vikings. Then, Fran Tarkenton threw a touchdown pass that went for 76 yards to Bill Brown to put the Vikings in the lead for the first time. The Rams answered back with a touchdown of their own to take back the lead. It was now 27 to 24 in favor of the Rams and things got a bit crazy.

In the 4th Quarter, Tarkenton threw another long touchdown of 70 yards to put the Vikings up again. Both the Rams and Vikings scored twice more. When it was all over, the Vikings won, 45 to 41.

The Minnesota Vikings have been to four Super Bowls, losing in all of them, much to the delight of heckling fans of division rivals the Packers, Bears, and Lions.But those weren't the only heartbreaks for fans of the Vikings.

There were many years when I didn't watch football. But I remember the losses at the NFC Championship Games that prevented the Vikings from playing in additional Super Bowls. Former Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre played for Minnesota in 2009. After beating the Giants 44-7 and the Cowboys 34-3, they faced the New Orleans Saints in the Championship game. The Vikings were still playing tough until their 5th turn-over of the game: Favre's ill-advised throw near the end of the game was intercepted, when he could have ran a few feet for the first down and a win! Overtime ensued and the Saints won, 31-28. In 2000 the favored Vikings met the New York Giants and were embarrassed 41-0. And who could forget the 1998 game (following a 15-1 season) with the Atlanta Falcons. Kicker Gary Anderson hadn't missed a kick all year. With less than 2 minutes left he missed a game winning 38 yard field goal! There were 30 seconds left and the Vikings were driving for the winning score! With dynamic receivers Randy Moss and Chris Carter a win was almost assured! What's this? Vikings coach Denny Green had quarterback Randall Cunningham take a knee to end the game in a tie and force overtime! Of course, the Falcons naturally won.

The Vikings have been losing a lot in recent years. At the end of last year it was so bad the coaches were fired (again).

So, yesterday, in the first game of the 2014 season, under new coach Mike Zimmer, the Vikings played the favored Saint Louis Rams (moved from Los Angeles in 1995). Minnesota dominated throughout the game, not losing in the final minute as they did 4 or 5 times last year. The final score was 34-6. Will they keep winning? If this was the last 2 or 3 years the answer would be definitely not. But this year? There is hope. The schedule is tough. Several pundits said the Vikings were likely to be zero wins and 8 losses to start the season. Not. But then, again, dashed hopes are the modus operandi of the Minnesota Vikings. Next week the Vikings face the heavily favored New England Patriots and Tom Brady. We'll see....