It’s been nearly 41 years since the Minnesota Vikings last played in a Super Bowl. We’ve had seven presidents in that time. The price of gas has risen about two bucks a gallon since the Purple fell to John Madden’s Oakland Raiders back on Jan. 9, 1977.
While the Vikings played in relative splendor that day in Pasadena, Calif., Twin Cities’ residents awoke to a temperature of 31 below. By late afternoon, it felt even colder as we watched the Raiders stomp the Vikes 32-14 to hand the franchise its fourth straight Super Bowl defeat.
I remember hosting a party for my college buddies on that shivering Sunday, loading up on steaks and champagne in anticipation of a championship. By halftime, the steaks were cold, the champagne lukewarm and my wallet much lighter than I could afford.
Since then, I’ve finished college, gotten married, raised two kids and am semi-retired after 40 years as a broadcaster and teacher. Sadly, my favorite football team has not returned to the Big Game.
Oh, there have been close calls through the years. Darrin Nelson dropping that pass at the goal line in ’87, in a loss at Washington. Or that 15-1 team in ’98 that seemed like a sure bet to be Super Bowl-bound. Until Gary Anderson missed his only field goal of the season and the Vikings lost in overtime to Atlanta. At home.
Even millennials have had their nightmares. The script for success appeared to be perfect in ’09. Brett Favre poised to stick it to the Packers, as he joined the enemy out of retirement and engineered a playoff run for the Purple that took us all the way to the NFC Championship Game in New Orleans. Driving for the winning score, only the Vikings could find a way to screw things up. Twelve men in the huddle, a rushed pass and another painful loss in overtime to the Saints.
So here we go again in 2018. Just when you thought the level for potential heartbreak couldn’t possibly exceed previous campaigns, the stage may be set for what might be the granddaddy of them all. As another new year dawns, bright and cold, the temptation to be lured in for one more kick in the teeth may never be greater. Take a moment to consider these nuggets, presented not simply as speculation by some purple Kool-aid drinking Viking fan, but facts that even the most skeptical of Minnesota supporters cannot deny:
- As of this morning, the Minnesota Vikings are the 4-1 favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. According to Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, top-seeded Philadelphia is merely a 12-1 choice, after losing star quarterback Carson Wentz to a knee injury. Only New England has better odds to win the whole thing and the Vikings wouldn’t have to face Tom Brady and company until Super Sunday anyway.
- They say that offense sells tickets but defense wins championships. Minnesota finished the regular season as the NFL’s top-rated team in Total Defense, with a stingy 276 yards per game average.
- They were also best in Scoring Defense, allowing less than 16 points a game. Nobody else was close.
- In addition, the 2018 Vikings set an all-time league record for Third Down Efficiency, at 25.2 percent. What this means is that opponents are only able to convert first downs about one-quarter of the time. In fairness, the NFL has only been keeping this stat since 1991. But that percentage is beyond amazing.
- The Vikings’ 13-3 record marks only the second time in team history, the club has won this many games in a single season. Only that 15-1 team in 1998 was better. The Vikings have won 12 games five times and 11 games five times, but never 13. Again to be fair, not all Minnesota teams played a 16-game schedule, but the number is still impressive.
- Of the six teams still alive in the NFC, the Vikings have beaten three of them: New Orleans, Los Angeles and Atlanta. Their only loss was to fifth seeded Carolina, a team that would have to face the Vikings on the road, if they got that far.
- Want more? If you believe in home field advantage, this year’s Viking team may have the greatest edge ever. For starters, their No. 2 seed gives them a week off during the Wild Card Round. Round 2 is a guaranteed home game Jan. 14, where the Vikes went 7-1. Keep winning and Minnesota has the potential to become the only team in NFL history to play three home games, since Super Bowl LII just happens to be scheduled for U.S. Bank Stadium on Feb. 4.
- Whether you want to accept it or not, most of the so-called “experts” are tabbing your Vikings as the team to beat in the NFC.
None of this, of course, guarantees anything. There’s a reason this franchise has failed to win an NFL championship since its inception in 1961. Yes, even the Browns, Lions and Eagles own titles prior to the Super Bowl era, which began in 1967. And the woeful Bills somehow won a couple of AFL titles in the 1960s before dropping four straight Super Bowls. This is MINNESOTA. A wonderful place to live, but where close only counts in horseshoes, dancing and local sports teams.
So lest you start getting all worked up again, only to be fractured by another frigid February failure-this time maybe even on our own home turf before a national audience, let me sober you up before it’s too late.
Let’s say the Vikings DO get to the Big Dance. Let me offer some sage advice to keep you from making big mistakes:
1. Skip the steaks and champagne on Super Bowl Sunday. If you absolutely have to assemble a Purple Party, go with hot dogs and beer. It will be much cheaper and the beers can always be saved for later this spring, when the Timberwolves lose a playoff series.
2. If you must watch the game, at least refrain from viewing any of the six hours of pregame coverage. It will only make the predictable bad break or missed field goal around 9:30 p.m., that much more difficult to handle.
3. Don’t get angry when Al Michaels relives his “Do you believe in miracles?” call on NBC, only to be describing an impossible comeback by the AFC team. Just remember he’s only doing his job and doesn’t really hate Minnesota teams.
4. Avoid listening to all weather reports on the days leading up to the big game. We’ve got enough to be worried about with our football team, let alone warm weather big shots ranting about our subzero readings and traffic tie-ups in a blizzard.
5. Finally, here’s the big one. Under absolutely no circumstances, should you consider the possibility of buying tickets to Super Bowl LII. The last time the Vikings played in a Super Bowl, the average ticket price was 20 bucks. If you looked online today, StubHub lists the phrase “starting from $3,200” as its most affordable option.
Yeah, I know. You’ve waited over 40 years for this. It could be the only time in your life, your horned warriors make it to this contest again. And it’s a mere 30 minute drive from home.
Over three grand? Are you kidding?!! Forget about it.
OK, maybe I don’t really need this old Mazda. Wonder if anybody would be interested in renting out a comfortable Apple Valley basement … with a warm fireplace … for a few days in early February? Nah.