Welcome aboard the second edition of Model 284’s Freelance Friday! This week, I’ll be reliving some of the greatest Minnesota sports moments our generation has witnessed (spoiler: there aren’t many) to see how they stack up with the Minneapolis Miracle that graced us this past Sunday. If you missed out on Fred’s inaugural piece on the trials and tribulations of being a Minnesota sports fan last week, I’d suggest that you grab a few tissues and check it out here. Fred’s article could not have come at a more appropriate time, just days before the Vikings’ first playoff game since the Blair-Walsh-Blunder in 2015 that added yet another heartbreak to the lengthy list of Minnesota sports disappointments.
If playing in the Divisional round at home wasn’t enough, the prospect of playing in a home Super Bowl for the first time in NFL history was looking at us square in the eyes, and our unwarranted optimism had again crept in and over-shadowed the anguish of our past. This feeling was only strengthened by the Vikings’ first half showing as they took a 17-0 lead into the locker room and were set to receive the opening kick in the second half. We all know what happened next, and as things began to crumble at the hands of Drew Brees and Michael Thomas, our emotions began sinking into territories that were all too familiar. But then, for reasons unknown to man, we were blessed with the Minneapolis Miracle, and if only for a moment, we were liberated from the shackles of our cursed Minnesota fanhood and given an unfamiliar glimmer of legitimate ‘THAT JUST HAPPENED TO US’ hope.
We’ve now had five days to digest that magical moment, one that not only shocked and confused Minnesotans, but football fans across the world. Trying to comprehend that A) a Minnesota sports team B) won an important game C) in the most improbable fashion has been a legitimate brain exercise for everyone across the state. With that said, it was only a Divisional round game, and with the ultimate goal of any fan being a Championship, something no major sports team in Minnesota (Vikings, Wild, Timberwolves, Twins) has even flirted with since the ‘09 Vikes, it’s entirely fair to ask whether or not this was the greatest Minnesota Sports moment of this generation.
Now, let me be clear on what exactly I mean by that – I was born in 1993, two years after the Twins won their second World Series, which was the last time a major sports team won a championship in Minnesota (all due respect to the Lynx and their four WNBA Championships). Even for those of us that were born in say, the late 80’s and were alive when the Twins hung their ’87 and ’91 banners, I don’t think it’s really fair to consider them as a part of your “fanhood” when you were probably rolling on the floor making a mess of your diaper when Jack Buck made the famous “We’ll see you tomorrow night” call. If you want to contest that, I give you every right, but if I were in your shoes – or perhaps I should say diaper – I certainly wouldn’t take stock in those rings. Now that I’ve made that clear, here are the few moments and opportunities that we’ve witnessed in our time as Minnesota sports fans that may compete with the events that transpired last Sunday:
Garnett leads the ’04 Wolves to the Western Conference Finals
It’s Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Sacramento Kings, and the Big Ticket goes for 32-21-4 (not to mention four steals and five blocks) to lead the Timberwolves to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history. And after seven straight playoff appearances that ended in a first round knockout, it seemed like nothing could stop the Wolves from bringing home the hardware that year behind the league’s MVP. I will never forget the image of KG jumping on the scorer’s table after closing things out that night, pumping up the crowd after what was likely the most electric game ever played at the Target Center. Of course, Shaq and Kobe stood in the way of that Championship dream, putting an end to our incredible playoff run and sending us into a postseason drought that hasn’t seen its end to this day. Fortunately, Jimmy Buckets came to town, and it doesn’t seem like he’s going to let that drag on all too much longer.
Twins win Game 163 in 2009 to take the AL Central
This day will forever be burned in my memory. It was a gloomy fall afternoon, I’d just gotten home from school and my dad put in a call to Papa Johns. It was the final season at the Metrodome, and I was beside myself that I wasn’t somewhere inside of that magic teflon bubble for what could have been the final time. In a 12-inning thriller, Alexi Casilla hit a walkoff single to right field off of Fernando Rodney (the newest Twins closer) to score Go-Go Gomez, booking the Twins a ticket to the ALDS against, you guessed it… the New York Yankees. I don’t need to remind you how that series played out, or any other series against the Yankees for that matter, but never had I been more excited about a Twins team and the “magic” that the final year in the Metrodome might have brought them.
Vikings advance to 2009 NFC Championship
More so than any other, this one cut deep. The ‘09 Vikings were the most complete team in the NFL that season and by all means, seemed destined for the Lombardi Trophy. After obliterating the Cowboys in the Divisional round 34-3, only the Saints stood in our way, and it genuinely felt like the franchise was ready to break through the curse that had possessed it since joining the NFL. Had the Saints and scumbag Sean Payton (I can’t stand that guy’s grin) not put bounties on Brett Favre’s head, the sports world would have forever changed in Minneapolis that year, and perhaps the Chilly Dog might still be running ship down at U.S. Bank Stadium.
As sad as it may be, these are all penultimate moments, and after the dust settled on each of them, we were only left with hope. Hope that we’ll advance to the next round, hope that we’ll make a playoff run, or hope that our city might get a taste of what being a champion really feels like. Never have we been given anything more – even after what took place at U.S. Bank Stadium last Sunday. With the Minneapolis Miracle fresh in our minds and hearts, and an ensuing let down yet to put a damper on it, it’s easy for us to gloss over it as the pinnacle moment of our time as sports fans in Minnesota. But given the shock factor of the moment, the improbability of victory, and the magnitude of what is now at stake, that was the greatest sports moment of our generation, and in truth, it isn’t even close. With the potential to play in a home Super Bowl, something that has never once occurred in NFL history, and the fact that we finally shot back and provided an answer to the all too familiar collapse that has buried our hearts one too many times, it finally feels possible that the 2017 Minnesota Vikings are a team of destiny, ready to break through and relieve us of the weight that hangs on every sports argument we ever get tangled in. While we anxiously await Sunday’s NFC Championship, completely prepared for the possibility of heartbreak – a coping mechanism we’ve developed as second nature – there’s a small sliver of belief in all of us that finally, after everything that we’ve been through, this will be the year our misery gets put to rest.