It Was 25 Years ago Today.......
.....When I sat down to watch the UK's weekly NFL TV show. Now I had been a fan of the sport for about a year but I still didn't support any individual team. Anyway the featured game in this particular week was the Vikings at the Redskins, which had actually taken place the week before but we only got a highlights package of the games a week after. The game certainly didn't lack offence, over 1000 yards between the two teams and as the game went into overtime tied 38 - 38 I found myself cheering for the team in purple. I still can't put my finger on exactly why I picked the Vikes, maybe the back and forth nature of the game coupled with a few exciting big plays drew me towards them, maybe it was the cool helmets, I don't honestly know why but I wanted them to win... And then they lost, which is something I've gotten used to now but more about that later. Despite the loss I thought I might as well stick with them, and so I now had "a team".
Living in the UK and supporting the Vikings in the 80's was tough in a lot of ways. Like I said earlier the TV coverage was one hour a week of last weeks games, the only game that was live was the Superbowl itself so the chances of seeing your favorite team play was pretty limited. US forces radio was an option but the reception was ropey and you were stuck with whatever game they decided to broadcast. I normally got the scores from teletext on the TV on a Monday morning before I want to school. The other thing that was impossible to get was Vikes jerseys or memorabilia, there was some stuff available but it was limited to teams like Cowboys, 49ers, Giants, Raiders and maybe a few others. In fact I remember buying a (whispers it) Bengals jersey at one point, well it was better than nothing! Moving forward to the present day, UK television shows up to 5 live games a week, and any games not on TV can be picked up on the internet meaning I can watch the Vikings every week. It's just a pity the early kick-off games coincide with my kids dinner/bath/bed time routine, ah well you cant have everything. Online is also the place to pick up all the Vikes gear imaginable, so no more Bengals jerseys for me.
Looking back the four lost NFC championship games stick out as being defining moments of being a fan to me. US forces radio broadcast the first one in 87, despite the loss and coming pretty close to forcing OT having only been a fan for a year I thought we'll be back and we will prevail. Which moves us on to 1998, I still get a faraway look in my eyes when i try to comprehend what happened that night. I'm still devasted when I think of Cris Carter walking off at the end, if one player deserved to play in the big one it was him. However I don't think it was a definite that we would have won against the Broncos who weren't exactly a bad team. The 41-0 debacle to me was easier to take than the other three, yes it's horrific not to turn up in such a big game but when you lose like that there's no thinking "if only..." which leads us onto that fateful day in New Orleans. This for me was the worst of the lot to take, for so many reasons. I still think Williams sent his defense out to hit Favre at any cost, OK you want to pressure the QB but some of the hits were so late, they were almost in the locker room. Yet the worse part was we threw it away with our inability to hold onto the football, the Saint's were there for the taking and we just couldn't follow through. The dumb penalty, taking us out of FG range, THAT interception, even the game winning drive by them had so many things that could have went the other way, it was just a horror show.
So what happens now? The main thing for me right now is the Vikings stay in Minnesota which may sound funny for someone who has never set foot in the state. It's just in my European mindset that it's wrong to move sports teams around, so hopefully the new stadium gets sorted out soon. Back to onfield matters, I think we're in a tough place right now. I hate to say it but Green Bay could dominate the division for a long time, any successful team needs a good QB, they may have the best in the league and he's still young. When you see where the Bears and the Lions are at too the NFC North is one of the toughest divisions in the NFL. Looking on a more positive note Ponder could be the franchise guy this team has needed for so long, obviously it's too early to say but first signs are definitely promising. One things for sure by the end of the year he'll be in better placed for next year than he would have been sitting watching McNabb.
So any regrets for choosing the team in purple and gold? Well i also support the Scottish soccer team so I'm used to not winning things. The difference is with the way the NFL is set up, I always used to believe that one day I would see the Vikings win a Superbowl, now I no longer believe it's sure to happen. Don't get me wrong I still hope it will and I'll never give up on supporting the team but I just don't see it as a given anymore. I think the last of those four NFCC games knocked the belief right out of me.
But I'm going to finish where it all began for me, i searched for Vikings Redskins 1986 and look what I found................
.........and there's another 12 to follow!