It's always inevitable.
Whenever the words "NFC championship" and "Minnesota Vikings" are grouped together, the outcome always seems pre-determined.
Like eerie music in a horror movie, the Vikings playing for the Super Bowl always falls into a script-like ending: sheer and utter terror and heartbreak.
The problem is it never gets any easier.
I'm too young to know the heartbreak of Roger Staubach's "Hail Mary."
I was a 1-year-old when Darrin Nelson failed to get into the endzone in 1988 against Washington.
I didn't appreciate football until I saw a Vikings triumph.
My fandom began after watching Randall Cunningham, Jake Reed and the Vikings score 10 points in 90 seconds to beat the New York Giants in the 1997-98 playoffs.
It only took the next season to show how much Vikings pandemonium can draw you in. And how bad it can spit you out.
Everyone knows how the game with the Atlanta Falcons ended, with Gary Anderson's shank on a chip-shot and Denny Green, sporting the league's highest scoring offense at that point, electing to take a knee.
The game still feels surreal because I still have never watched Morten Andersen's game-winning field goal.
Against the Giants, I shut the game off midway through the first quarter in frustration. I was 14 years old and knew there was no chance.
But Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints felt different.
Adrian Peterson, arguably the most awe-inspiring Viking in my brief fandom, became the second-coming of Troy Williamson with his inability to hold onto the football.
Percy Harvin and Bernard Berrian each made costly errors.
Brett Favre returned to his patented gunslinger ways, making ill-advised passes at the worst time. And yet, somehow, the Vikings were still in the game.
If any general manager or owner in the NFL has any doubts about Leslie Frasier's ability to coach, watch how his defensive unit kept the Vikings afloat against the league's top offense.
But it seems to be fate with Minnesota. The gruesome ending was going to happen.
The Vikings move out of field goal range after 12 men enter the huddle.
Favre makes another ill-advised throw, sends the game to overtime.
New Orleans wins the coin toss.
Garrett Hartley's kick is up ... and good.
And just like that, the same feelings of gloom and doom came back to Vikings fans. Like 1998, the Vikings missed another chance to play in the big game in Miami.
But as painful as Sunday's loss was, the future of the team is just as frightening.
Will Favre retire? Will Peterson ever fix his fumbling problem like former Giants back Tiki Barber did? Can the Vikings afford to keep their veteran core? Will there be a Minnesota Vikings after 2011?
It's just another inevitable disappointment in the life of a Vikings fan.