Hello and welcome to the very first installment of Freelance Friday here at Model 284. In an effort to try to encourage the production of more creative content for our readers to enjoy, some of us will be embarrassing ourselves via the written word once a week through this platform. The powers that be at Model 284 have given us the green light to write about pretty much anything we want in these Friday installations and I could think of no better way to kick this off than to try my best to explain what it’s like to be a Minnesota sports fan. With the Vikings entering the playoffs after an unforgettable 13-3 regular season as the Vegas favorite to represent the NFC in what would be a home Super Bowl, I felt there was no time like the present to discuss some of the things that make being a Minnesota sports fan so unique, terrible, confusing, infuriating, soul crushing, etc.
Let’s start off by saying this: in my 25+ years on this earth, I have never once experienced a championship (talking the big four sports of NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL – sorry Lynx). Essentially what that means is that I have not once in my life experienced full happiness as a result of the professional sports teams that I support. Think about that for a second. Not one time in 25 years has cheering for a professional sports team, an activity that I’m told is supposed to be done for recreational enjoyment, given me full happiness. Sure there have been some good times (the 2009 VIkings regular season was one of the most vindicating 4 months of my Packer-hating life), but ultimately, each season has ended in heartbreak at the best, and complete irrelevance at the worst. Minneapolis/St. Paul is one of 13 metro areas in the U.S. that has a team in all four major sports, and it is, of course, the only one of those 13 cities that has not seen a championship in my lifetime.
Being a Minnesota sports fan is the strangest juxtaposition between having unwavering optimism that this might be the year, and a deep seeded fear that you’ll never see a championship in your lifetime. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started a season talking with friends about how good I think the Wild or the Twins or the Vikings will be, only to catch myself getting too excited and say “Well it doesn’t really matter, I know it’s going to end in heartbreak.” Even right now, as I prepare myself to watch the best Vikings team since 2009 (maybe even since 1998), I can’t get my brain to stop going over scenarios in which we get knocked out in our first game against the Saints. Or lose another gut wrenching NFC Championship game to the Falcons. Or heaven forbid get blown out at home, in the Super Bowl, to the Patriots. My own brain is in some sort of manic back and forth shouting match that at any point puts me somewhere between excited to anxious to terrified to excited again. I got random butterflies in my stomach last week Wednesday at work, a full 11 days from the first playoff game. I got sweaty just yesterday sitting in the lab thinking about the Vikes down 3 in the last minute of the 4th quarter and driving. I basically could picture the Bank going BANANAS after an Everson sack that sealed a win on Sunday. I’m almost 10000% certain that putting me in a medically induced coma until like 3 o’clock on Sunday afternoon would be the best thing for both my mental and physical health at this point.
Being a Minnesota sports fan also means having a serious Napoleon complex when it comes to other people respecting just how good our teams are. It means getting into drunken shouting matches with your brother’s friends at his bachelor party at 2 AM about whether the Vikings have better wide receivers than the Packers (they do by the way). It means never thinking that the national sports media is giving our guys as much credit as they’re due. I believe that this confrontational, little brother complex, is a result of never having actually won anything. Every time we’ve thought we’ve had a good team, we’ve eventually been proven wrong, or at least wrong enough to the point where we didn’t win the big one. We are constantly looking for affirmation that our team is as good as we think they are because, so far in most of our lifetimes, they haven’t been. It’s a frustrating thing to think you have a team that could win a title, be told every year that you don’t, and then never get the chance to throw it back in the faces of people who told you that you were wrong. I’ve argued for years about how the Wild are actually a good hockey team and people need to start to recognize them as such but not one time have they proved me right. It sucks. It sucks and it’s one of my biggest fears going into Sunday. A loss Sunday proves what everyone has said about the Vikings and Case Keenum all year. That would crush me.
All of that being said, and maybe most importantly, being a Minnesota sports fan means that no matter what, when push comes to shove, you’ll be all in come game day. No matter what I say about getting my heartbroken, or not getting too invested, I’m going to convince myself come gametime that the Vikes or Wild or Twins are going to win, regardless of how likely that actually is. I mean 4 years ago I convinced myself that JOE WEBB could go to Lambeau Field, as the starting quarterback of the Minnesota Vikings, and beat the Green Bay Packers in a playoff game. Joe. Webb. Spoiler alert: he went 11-30 for 180 yards and a passer rating of 54.9 as the Vikings got stomped 24-10. Obviously hindsight being 20-20, it was absurd to think that Joe Webb could win a playoff game at Lambeau Field but I’m confident if given the same circumstances tomorrow I’d do the exact same thing.
When I was home for Christmas I was watching the Vikings shutout the Packers with my family. I was talking about how good the Vikings defense was and the different playoff matchups that they could see and getting myself pretty excited. My dad cut me off and dead faced looked at me and said, “You’re going to get your heart broken, you know that right?” I looked back in the dead, broken eyes of the man who raised me and said, “Yeah probably, but you can imagine what it’d be like.” Minnesota sports have broken my father. They haven’t quite broken me. SKOL.