When you think of the Charlie Brown comic strip, how many people would say Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown as he’s ready to kick it, is at the top of their list?
That’d be it for me. And I’ve experienced that feeling a few times when it comes to the professional football team which calls Minnesota home.
I’ve been a Minnesota Vikings fan for a long time now, and it’s safe to say I’ve seen more heartbreak than joy over the years.
As an 8-year-old in 1987, becoming a fan, for the first time, seeing them win on the road against New Orleans and San Francisco in the playoffs and falling just short against Washington in the NFC Championship Game. At the time, I thought, they’ll be in the Super Bowl sooner rather than later.
It took 11 years for another chance. I thought 1998 was going to be the year. Vikings fans were treated to an offensive firework display nearly every game thanks to Randy Moss. I remember thinking what was more memorable at the time, watching the offense dominate teams or the fact we were finally beating the Green Bay Packers.
1998 was also the year in which the Super Bowl was in Miami, which was the same year, “Miami,” by Will Smith hit the airwaves (the number of times I played/heard that song was in the hundreds).
Another NFC Championship game appearance resulted, and all Vikings fans (myself included) thought, we’re going to beat Atlanta easily. Everyone knows what happened next, a missed field goal, a kneel-down which shocked everyone and a defense that finally ran out of gas at the inopportune time.
Two years later, behind a first-year starting quarterback Daunte Culpepper, another offensive firework explosion resulted. Another division title, a playoff win, and another conference championship appearance against a team the Vikings were favored against.
Wrong again. 41-0 is a score that has been etched in my mind for the last 19 years. It was so bad I don’t even remember watching the second half.
So far, I experienced a rout, a loss in overtime and a pass in the end zone that went awry which would’ve forced overtime. How many more different ways could the Vikings lose a conference championship game?
Meet 2009. If you ask a Vikings fan, which conference championship loss was worse – 1998 or 2009, both were terrible, so everybody’s correct.
Even a Packer fan would probably go back and look at the highlights of the 2009 game, and go, “Yeah, the Saints got the advantage on a few of those calls.” The Vikings didn’t lose that game because of the refs. They had five turnovers and made other mistakes (12 Men on the Field), but, man, oh man, another ‘What might have been.’
Yet, what happened in 2017, might have been even worse for me on a personal level. My oldest daughter became a Viking fan that year and she had visions of a big year for the Vikings. After being burned one too many times, I kept telling her, don’t get ahead of yourself.
In the playoff game against New Orleans between when the Saints kicked what they thought was the game-winning field goal and the Minneapolis Miracle, she had the faith. I didn’t. And when the Miracle happened, she was deservedly happy and thought this was it. Nothing’s going to stop this team now. I even thought of what could be, a Super Bowl trip, finally.
Until the following week. She experienced Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown for the first time. Look, the Vikings didn’t deserve to win that game and Philadelphia did. But, seeing your children go through that and tell them “There’s always next year” was difficult.
Charlie Brown never got to kick the football and I’m realizing the Vikings may never reach or win a Super Bowl in my lifetime. I just hope she sees it.