The 1998 Season
Note: 1998 was the second season that I wrote down thoughts the entire year. Therefore, the 1998 season summary will come in multiple additions to my blog. Today's 1998 entry will be Preseason, Chiefs at Vikings thoughts.
Preseason at the Metrodome: Vikings 34, Chiefs 0
It used to be the Minnesota Vikings who lacked respect from other NFL teams. Now itís the Vikings who are thumbing their noses. As the Kansas City Chiefs were being introduced at the start of the game last Saturday night, the logo of the Washington Redskins, not the Chiefs, appeared on the MetroDomeís Jumbotron. The sparsely attending Chiefs fans were livid. The mind game had begun.
Going back a few seasons, the mind set at Vikings games had not been us against whomever we were playing but rather us against the team and the ownership. As fans we are human. Our empathy for the Purple means we can never hide from what we feel and thatís good. But we must always walk the balance between hope and despair. For keeping the balance we pay a price. The danger of being human and allowing yourself to feel.
For this, we as Vikings fans must walk a narrow path high above rocky ground. On one side we have the descent into animalistic pessimism, on the other a godhead delusion. Both pull at us; both tempt. Without these forces tugging at our psyche, stirring it into conflict, you could never understand a true fan. They awaken us, you see, these warring sides. They arouse our passion. The past several years we have bottomed out at the end of each season, our emotions unsated.
But for the fans who always hang tough and have never lost hope, the reward of this coming season will be that much more special. We true fans are the ones who feel the deepest and suffer the most. Now it appears that our grief from previous playoff losses is about to be replaced with the awe-inspiring supremacy of my childhood, when the Vikings teams of the Ď70s so thoroughly dominated the NFC that sports writers only debated who was to finish behind the Vikings that year.
Some fans will still have a shiver of trepidation on opening day when the Vikings take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but I can guarantee that after only one quarter, the Dome will become the loudest spot on the planet as a release of pent-up tension escapes from what will be a sell-out crowd.
The older generations who sit on their hands will recall the familiar miscreant thrill of standing up and yelling at the top of their lungs like so many people did against the Chiefs. If a 70-year-old man about to write a check this Wednesday for $206 million can sit in the upper deck and not look the fool for "screaming Ďtill he canít screams no more," can you think of any reason why you canít?
During the Tampa Bay game, I will see it in the faces of Vikings fans around me the moment they realize just how good this team is. They will laugh with delight and take on the opposing team with vengeful fury. On Sunday, September 6, the energy brought forth from screaming Vikings fans will bring the MetroDome roof fabric to its breaking point.
The typical Vikings fan is not the corporate suit, but the people who arrive four hours early to tailgate, maybe even buy a stylish Cadillac and then paint it all purpleÖincluding the engine. We Minnesotans work hard and fight hard, and, until the Twins won two World Championships, were despairingly resigned to losing out in life. We look down on individuals who canít drive in snow and who move south for six months after Halloween because itís "too cold up here." It wasnít that way when Bud Grant coached this team, and itís about to return to that way again.
During tailgating discussions the last several years, invariably someone would have an opinion on the ownership. I distinctly remember a Vikings fan from Duluth who heatedly said, "I think the present organization are all [buttheads]. I look at them the same way I look at corporate subsidy and potholes. I have just about given up and figure that the team we get every year will be the 8-8, 9-6 variety, with no commitment to excellence. They will never amount to anything."
After the second preseason shutout, it appears the Vikings are about to become something. The fans are blowing off steam in more positive ways than by fighting each other in the stands in order to get close enough to throw verbal taunts at the Vikings players as they come on and off the field. Against Kansas City, the Purple Fandom showed it will continue to become a forceful presence, holding up the game to rage at officials, for instance, or reveling in proud moments.
The past several seasons when the playersí intensity appeared not to be as great as the fansí, the fans booed. Their enthusiasm would fade when the offense faded. They would hold back, waiting for the Vikings to show them a reason to cheer their best. They were ready to hate the Vikings if it ever became clear that hating them would be more satisfying than loving them.
But not this year. We only need to know itís game day and the purple blood begins to boil. We only need to see Cris Carter being introduced and we are already hoarse. We only need to hear Red McCombsí voice on the PA announcing, "Welcome to the noisiest stadium in the NFL" and we complyÖ.fanatically.
At the start of the fourth quarter, the Vikings had the Chiefs pinned at their one-yard line on a third down. A horned character appeared on the Jumbotron, yelling so hard one could hardly believe he hadnít passed out yet. The camera was focused on his shield, zooming in and out, in and out, and the crowd went wild. The noise reached its loudest peak of the game. The Vikings held and the Jumbotron revealed the same person with thumbs up while nearby a crazed Vikings fan danced ala Elaine Bennes from the famed Seinfeld episode.
The season canít come fast enough. The fans are happy and excited. Seats will be hard to come by. And somewhere a purple and yellow shield that simply says "Cheer Or Die" holds extra meaning this week.