Viking fans: enjoy the moment
I remember my first Moment like it was yesterday.
We were all sitting in the family room, watching the only color television in the house (yes kids, only one … the horror of it all!)
It was a pivotal game five in the National League Championship Series. The Cardinals and Dodgers had each won a pair of games, with Game 6 and 7 heading back to LA.
Coincidentally, the score was also tied 2-2 heading into the bottom of the ninth when Ozzie Smith came to the plate with one out, facing one of the game’s top closers, Tom Neidenfeur.
Smith, a small-framed shortstop known for his fielding, did the unthinkable. He homered over the right field wall, prompting legendary announcer Jack Buck to make his most legendary call.
“Go crazy folks,” he screamed into his microphone. “Go crazy.”
As a 13-year-old boy whose first love was baseball, I didn’t need prompting.
I vividly remember running around the room and screaming in pure joy. I had never experienced elation like that. Ever.
I even hugged my younger sister for the first time in nine years.
It was an incredible moment in my life I got to share with my family and a memory we will all remember.
As a sports fan goes, I’ve been very lucky to have several of those … Moments. In fact, there was another one in the very next game when St. Louis moved on to the World Series with a ninth inning home run. Since then, the Cardinals have had a lot of playoff success including a couple titles.
In that same time, I experienced similar joy watching the Green Bay Packers, my adopted football team after the St. Louis Cardinals moved to Arizona in the 1980s.
Green Bay has had its share of amazing moments as well between Favre and Rodgers, although each has subjected Packer fans to a fair share of agonizing defeats as well.
Agonizing defeats though are primarily all Vikings’ fans have had for far too long.
I hadn’t been living in Minnesota very long when I was listening to a sports radio show hosted by Paul Allen, longtime announcer of Vikings’ football games. He teased an upcoming segment regarding the top moments in Vikings’ history.
As a newcomer to Vikings’ territory, my curiosity was piqued. I wondered during the commercial break what the “voice of the Vikings” would dub as the franchise’s greatest moment. Would it be something from the 1970s when the Vikings were an NFC powerhouse? Maybe a Randall Cunningham to Randy Moss highlight? Possibly something involving Adrian Peterson.
I was not prepared for what I heard next.
Instead of a single highlight … it was a compilation of plays from the previous day … a Green Bay Packer loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
The Packers were destroyed by the Falcons in that 2017 NFC championship game, falling behind 24-0 in the first half and Mr. Allen was reveling in their demise. He explained the only other moment in “Vikings’ history” that could contend for the top spot was Green Bay’s 2015 NFC Championship loss that included a recovered onside kick that bounced off a Packer player’s face mask.
My initial reaction was disgust. How pathetic to cite another team’s failure as your greatest moment. Can’t you hang your hat on anything your team actually achieved?
But the more I listened to Allen, the more I realized there wasn’t really a great moment of success to be proud of for the Vikings, which was really his point all along. He owned the Vikings’ failures as many fans do. He wasn’t going to pump up some meaningless Wild Card win as something it wasn’t.
The team he loved was largely a disappointment, so epic collapses by their most hated rival was something to be enjoyed.
At that moment, I pitied Allen and other Vikings fans. What a shame to not have that Moment; a point in history where all fans were united in sheer joy, exuberance and pandemonium.
That Moment finally came Sunday.
I spent most of the first half shoveling snow, listening to Allen’s broadcast. He was so excited as the Vikings dominated the Saints en route to a 17-0 lead. I came inside though for the second half and started watching what appeared to be the makings of another crushing defeat.
I saw the all-too-familiar look of panic and fear in the fans’ eyes.
After the Saints scored again in the final minute, I actually turned down the TV’s volume to listen to Allen. I was morbidly curious how upset he would be.
And he sounded beaten. Downtrodden. Filled with despair.
Then came the Moment with 10 seconds left and everything changed for him and all of Vikings’ kingdom.
No matter what happens Sunday or two weeks later, nothing can ever take that Moment away.