Pessimistic in Purple

I was born and raised a Minnesota Vikings fan. It’s only natural, then, that I don’t like our chances against the Dallas Cowboys this Sunday.

Now, before all you diehards who don your new Brett Favre and Percy Harvin jerseys every Sunday get on my case, let me explain myself.

I’ve rooted for the same team for all the cognitive years of my life. I could barely read when I watched Warren Moon lead the team to early postseason exits. I was filling coloring books with purple and gold when Brad Johnson took the team to an 8-2 start only to finish 9-7 in 1997. I still remember watching Gary Anderson miss his first field goal all season in the NFC Championship, leading to a Falcons overtime upset of the greatest team I’ve ever known.

I watched the quarterback carousel from Cunningham to George to Culpepper, the unexpected death of Korey Stringer, the inexplicable retirement of Robert Smith, and Randy Moss’s circus act of a Vikings career.

I stayed a fan while the Vikes were mediocre year after year after year. I heard all the jokes. “Why do the Vikings play in a dome? So God doesn’t have to watch.” “Why are the Vikings’ uniforms purple? Because they always choke.”

I watched live as Antonio Freeman made the impossible possible, catching a pass off of a Cris Dishman deflection. I nearly threw up. I couldn’t believe it when Nathaniel Poole caught a miracle pass in Arizona to end our season after we started 6-0. “The Cardinals are only 3-12!” I exclaimed. It was painful. And still is.

I’ve endured disappointment after excruciating disappointment cheering for this team, so forgive me for being skeptical. They’re matched up with perhaps the hottest team in the NFC in the Cowboys, fresh off back-to-back drubbings of the explosive Philadelphia Eagles. So excuse me if I’m not ecstatic.

Maybe this is all really just a result of me being so jaded. Maybe Favre really is supernatural. Maybe Adrian Peterson is worth his incessant fumbling. And maybe Jared Allen’s mullet can start pressuring the quarterback again. Or maybe, just maybe, I have every right to feel this way. Maybe backing into the playoffs with losses against Carolina and Chicago and a blowout win against the Giants’ junior varsity is reason to be anxious.

Sure, the Vikings scored 30 points in a half in Chicago. But Adrian Peterson fumbled; they lost. Sure, Favre was on fire in Week 17. But the Giants weren’t there; they didn’t need to be. So I really don’t see why I should think the Vikings will win.

The Vikings will look across the field Sunday and see Tony Romo, who is having the best season of his career. They’ll see three running backs that can all play. They’ll see a former division nemesis who’s still got talent in Roy Williams, a rising star in Miles Austin, a top tight end in Jason Witten, and one heck of a nasty offensive line. It really will all be up to the Vikings, because the Cowboys aren’t going to lose this game. The Vikings will have to win.

What does that mean? Well, they’ll have to maintain possession and not allow the Cowboys defense to force turnovers. The Eagles coughed the ball up four times in the shellacking they received on Saturday. The Vikings need to avoid such a number. That means minimal risky throws by Favre, Peterson needs to keep two hands on the ball at all times, and the D will have to create some turnovers of their own. So Winfield, Allen and company will have to come ready to make plays.

That’s not to say that the Vikings don’t have numbers in their favor. They’re 8-0 at home this year. They are second in the NFL in rushing defense, meaning Dallas’s three-headed monster of Tashard Choice, Felix Jones and Marion Barber should have a tough time.

The key to the entire game will be whether the Vikings can keep Tony Romo in check. With guys like Matt Moore and a much-maligned Jay Cutler tearing up their secondary the past few weeks, that should be a challenge. Romo has thrown only nine interceptions all season, compared with 26 touchdowns, and he’s averaged about 260 yards per game. I’m just not very convinced that the Vikings can slow him down.

This year has been all-to-familiar for lifelong Vikings fans like me. The 10-1 start followed by a 2-3 finish only brings war flashbacks of when Minnesota became the first team ever to start 6-0 and miss the playoffs. So when I see a tough matchup like this one, the way the season has gone, I just can’t help but think of Morten Andersen hitting a 38-yard field goal, or that 41-0 drubbing against the Giants in the 2000 NFC Championship. I just can’t help but feel like heartbreak is lurking around the corner, waiting for me to unsuspectingly lower my guard.
When they win, I think they’re the greatest team in NFL history. And when they lose, I want Brad Childress fired. I want Adrian Peterson cut immediately. But I know these feelings will pass. It’s the neurotic back-and-forth that comes with being a big fan of a sports team with a history of falling short. And there’s no way around it. Believe me, I’ve been a Vikings fan for at least 15 years. If there was a way out of this feeling, I would have found it.

So, no, I won’t be picking the Vikings. But, jadedness and pain aside, I’ll be right there, cheering them on as hard as ever. I’m just glad we don’t have to play the Packers.


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