Depending on what side of the Minnesota-Wisconsin border you live on or grew up or perhaps married into, what took place at about 5:30 p.m. local time was either a heartbreaking few minutes or a source of amusement.
Twitter trollers were having a field day at the expense of the anguished.
Trolling wasn’t as popular (or vicious) as it was five years ago this Saturday or 16 years ago last Saturday. That’s probably a good thing. Because the shoe was on the other foot and a legendary Green Bay quarterback was far from 100 percent but still effective in a gut-wrenching loss.
The Green Bay Packers’ epic collapse in the fourth quarter of their game with the Seattle Seahawks was reminiscent of the Vikings’ crippling losses to the Atlanta Falcons in 1999 and New Orleans Saints in 2010. Packers fans got their enjoyment out of that, especially the embittered that couldn’t emotionally handle Brett Favre making to a Super Bowl with the Vikings. The vitriol was toxic.
Now, the glove slap comes from the other side – even though it comes sarcastically from a position of weakness.
Before Vikings fans start getting too cocky and doing the Ickey Woods cold cuts dance, keep in mind that your favorite team’s 2014 season actually ended in 2014 and was played at the same time as nine other required games and Green Bay’s finished three weeks later and was the only NFL game on.
But the similarities in the levels of fan despair are striking.
The 1998 Vikings loss was unprecedented in recent NFL history. Few teams had been viewed as such a formidable lock to advance to the Super Bowl since the 1985 Bears. Despite that Atlanta was 14-2 in 1998, it was seen as a given that the Vikings would advance to the Super Bowl – to the point that Bob Lurtsema, the grand poobah/captain at Viking Update laid out the plans for Super Bowl travel on the company dime.
When they lost, I felt betrayed because, for the first time in my association with VU, I was going to bask in the Florida sunshine of Super Bowl week. It didn’t happen. It wasn’t that the Vikings weren’t good enough to win, but, once they had the lead, they shot themselves in the foot with a late first-half turnover that gave Atlanta hope. We know how that one ended.
Five years ago, the Vikings were heading into hostile territory with an injured quarterback looking to prove to the other 52 guys that they could win on the road and go to the Super Bowl by taking down the No. 1 seed.
The national spotlight was on. The talking heads made a case for how the Saints would crush the Vikings or what it would take for Minnesota to win. They were one of two topics of discussion for football fans other than palate-cleansing coaching changes to fill up the time in between. The Vikings were the talk of the NFL and the prospect of two more weeks of fawning and genuflecting was in the cards.
But it didn’t happen.
Many Vikings fans will go to the grave believing the best team didn’t win that day, and so will I. The Vikings shot themselves in the foot so many times they left the game with three toes. They had several opportunities to say “We dat!” and leave the Superdome as NFC champions. Instead, I was on the last flight out heading back to Minnesota and Tim Yotter was taking a long, lonely drive to Mobile, Ala. for the Senior Bowl.
While the situation is a little different for Packers fans than it was for Vikings fans, the fact of the matter is that, for the vast majority of Sunday’s game, the Packers held their own Super Bowl destiny in their hands. They had the game in hand up until the point that their defense allowed 15 points in 44 seconds – the last two of those points being almost unforgivable. While the Packers rallied to send the game to overtime, they never touched the ball after the fifth quarter began.
For those who remembered how Packers fans relished the Vikings losing in January 2010 and being denied their opportunity at winning a Super Bowl, the instinct may be to have the same sort of mocking in their direction. But, for those who recall the pain associated with that loss, maybe they should ease up a little bit because, even five years later, the scars of that loss still remain. With Packer fans, the wound is still fresh and Vikings fans throwing salt on it won’t do any good. They’re suffering enough right now.
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