The day I became a Vikings fan
I remember it as if it were yesterday.
Aug. 16, 1968.
The day I became a Vikings fan.
Maybe you remember when you became a fan, too, or perhaps you have always been a fan your whole life.
But I remember exactly when I said yes to becoming a Viking fan.
I had moved from Denver, Colorado, to Minnesota that summer of 1968, and I had enrolled at Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato.
That fateful August day I showed up on campus and found my dorm room. One side of the room was full of Green Bay Packer banners and posters, while the other side had Minnesota Vikings memorabilia.
Turns out I had two roommates, one from Minnesota, the other from near Green Bay, Wisconsin.
They wanted to know if I was a Vikings fan or a Packer fan.
I said, actually, I am a Denver Broncos fan. But that wouldn’t do. They demanded I either side with the green and gold or the purple.
I figured I was now living in Minnesota, and not Wisconsin, so I chose the Vikings.
I have never been sure that was a wise move. Until now.
At Bethany, about half the students seemed to be from Minnesota and half from Wisconsin. We did not have TVs in our rooms (I know, shocking, isn’t it) but instead had a TV lounge at the end of the hall.
When the Vikings and Packers played each other, the lounge was full of guys all yelling and cheering and booing and jeering. All at the same time.
I might have started out slowly as far as being a fan goes, but I rapidly picked up speed.
It was easy. There was Fran Tarkenton and the Purple People Eaters. And Coach Bud Grant. How could you not like the Vikings?
But then I learned that being a Vikings fan is actually not easy. It is extremely difficult, in fact.
Anyone can be a Dallas Cowboy fan, or a New England Patriot fan, or even a Green Bay Packer cheesehead.
But, it takes guts and stamina to cheer for and watch the Minnesota Vikings. Because they are usually going to break your heart.
I know. I have watched them faithfully for 50 years now. Through four Super Bowl losses. And numerous promising seasons that end in playoff heartbreaks, several times because of missed field goal tries.
Then, of course, there was the Les Steckel years. I mean year. It was 1984 and Steckel became the coach after Bud Grant retired. It was awful. Steckel was fired and Bud Grant was brought back out of retirement and rehired.
But, I digress.
I stuck with the Vikings through all the heartache and angst and frustration and sometimes the occasional glorious wins over those dreaded Green Bay Packers.
I even became a season ticket holder for about 12 seasons, starting back when they were still at Met Stadium and into the Metrodome years.
There has never been a year since 1968 that I didn’t make it to at least one Vikings game in person. I was at the last game at Met Stadium, the first game at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome and the last one at the Dome. As well as the first one now at the Bank, that billion dollar home of this coming Super Bowl.
I?have seen it all. Well, I thought I?had seen it all.
Then on Sunday night I really saw it all, and it came all in one game.
If you are a fan I don’t have to tell you about it. But I will anyway. The cheering and euphoria in the first half, the drama and nail biting in the second half.
Then the realization that once again, the Vikings were going to break my heart, and lose this game at the end.
I had seen it before, so many times. There still was a chance, of course. Actually two chances slim and none. But like so many other fans I did think there might be a slight chance they could get the ball far enough down the field to try for a winning field goal.
But, I also knew that because it was the Vikings, the kick would end up being wide left, no matter how close they got to the end zone.
But, what is this? The Vikings pull off the miracle finish as time runs out? They score a touchdown?
Unbelievable! This can’t be true. Where is the flag for holding or whatever, that brings it all back? What, no flag?
This can’t be the Vikings I have watched for 50 years. The Vikings are the ones who would have scored like the Saints did, then New Orleans would win on the last play of the game.
That would not have been shocking. That would be the normal outcome for these purple heartbreakers.
But no, it is a whole new Vikings team. Back up quarterback and running back. Undrafted wide receiver from Mankato State. You know the whole story, I don’t have to tell you about it.
It is, indeed a Minnesota Miracle. Coach Zimmer says “Curse, what curse?” But, yes, we fans believed there was a curse.
Now, whatever happens in Philly, and whether the Vikings become the first NFL team ever to play in a Super Bowl in their home stadium, and whether or not the Vikings dare I say it out loud? would win the Super Bowl, we fans will always have that moment, that miraculous final 10 seconds of the game last Sunday.
When the Vikings broke the curse. When they did not break our hearts.
When they finally helped me realize I had made the right decision back on Aug. 16, 1968.