by Troy M. Olson
…you pull me back in (from the Godfather, Part III).
I am of course referring, to the Minnesota Vikings. Jered Weber will be happy to hear this, I am a believer. I am a believer in the Mike Zimmer-coached version of the Minnesota Vikings. He has a lot of Bud Grant in him. And those four Super Bowl teams never had a player as dominant as Adrian Peterson is within his own era.
Does this mean the Vikings keep up the pace, beat the Packers this weekend, and make a run at the Super Bowl? Not necessarily. However, at some point during the Zimmer/Bridgewater/Peterson-era, I think they finally deliver the long suffering fan base a Super Bowl title. Which means I lose my bet… unless the Twins can win one soon (also very possible, both teams are entering a contending-window period).
I have many reasons not to like the Minnesota Vikings, and most of them are actually off-the-field reasons. I still think the stadium deal was awful. I still think certain Minnesota Democratic politicians are sell-outs over that deal. I think the Vikings owner Zygi Wilf is an extortionist, both over the politics of the stadium deal, but also literally, an extortionist. Having a bad owner is one thing, but having several embarrassing off the field stories over the years just compounds the failures on the field (which are well remembered by the long suffering fanbase).
That being said, at the end of the day, I am still a Viking fan. I was born into it. I have gone through too many years of disappointment not to reap the rewards when they go on a run. I am a Vikings fan because if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t care much about football at all these days. It’s a brutal and violent sport, that for years was tax-exempt, and the league does a terrible job of taking care of those that helped build the popularity of the league.
Simply put, the popularity of American football reminds me too much of “gladiator games for the mass audience” with the Roman Empire at its height. I often like to pinpoint baseball (my favorite sport) being replaced by football, along with “Life” magazine going away, to be replaced by “People”, as two metaphorical moments when American culture started the long decline. And I don’t say this in a cranky, get-off-my-lawn, irrational appeal to traditionalism sort of way… precisely the opposite. I mean it in the way that I cannot contemplate our country coming together and winning a World War II-type situation today or even coming together to solve very solvable and obvious problems like bad health spending outcomes, Gilded Age-level income and wealth inequality, or massive defense/war spending on conflicts that do not move the dial toward peace in the Middle East one iota. But I digress…
It is unfair to pin all of this on a sport. It absolutely is. But everyone has their coping mechanisms in life, and this is mine. For many, the sport of football itself or even a long-suffering NFL franchise like the Minnesota Vikings, is exactly that coping mechanism. So on that level: for Jered Weber, and especially for Viking fans like my father, who has watched four Super Bowl losses, four NFC championship game losses, and other playoff and last second disappointments, I want the Vikings to win it all this year. If not this year, then the next.
And for the first time since 2009, I’m a believer. There is just something special about this team. They have all of the “special ingredients” that it takes to win in the NFL in this day and age. I believe they have found that one head coach you need, who finds his QB to implement that system that works. Teddy Bridgewater may not be Tom Brady, but you know who else wasn’t Tom Brady? Tom Brady back in 2001. His first year as a starter he took the Patriots all the way to the Super Bowl, helping them upset the heavily favored “greatest show on turf”, the St. Louis Rams. That team was built on defense, special teams, an offense that minimized mistakes and played better in the 4th quarter than the first three, and a ton of intangibles. Tom Brady had a lot of those intangibles then, but he wasn’t nearly the player he has been the majority of his career. Not yet. I don’t think Teddy reaches the heights of Tom Brady 2003 to present day. However, he is good enough to be our Tom Brady of 2001.
Through nine games this year, with a record of 7-2, I believe the Vikings have a lot of those “special ingredients” and intangibles. Of course, only time will tell how far they go this year… but I’m cautiously optimistic.