Two words: Gary Anderson. The first NFL kicker to have a perfect regular season, successfully making every field goal and PAT during the regular season of 1998: a year that Vikings fans will never forget. The Vikings had a 15-1 season that year and were Super Bowl favorites going into the NFC Championship game against the Falcons. With the game on the line, Anderson lined up for a field goal try that he hadn’t missed all year. The kick went wide left and the Falcons went on to beat the Vikings in overtime. I, as a young child, hyperventilated into a sack and took a traumatic and tearful walk down my parents’ country road in order to try and calm myself down. This was a story that I relayed to John Randle (DE of the Vikings that year) at a football camp a few years later. He said he also hyperventilated, but I’m still skeptical.
That’s when I should have walked away from being a Vikings fan, but I didn’t. Chances are if you’re reading this, you didn’t walk away either. Smash cut to the 2009 NFL season and another NFC Championship game with a once-hated quarterback in Brett Favre leading the Vikings in an outstanding season. With the game tied and about 14 seconds left in the fourth quarter, the Vikings were in field goal range. In classic Vikings fashion, Favre rolled out and threw across his body, throwing an interception that would cost the Vikings the game and another chance at a Super Bowl.
So, yet again, the Vikings have lost in an unbelievable and unfortunate fashion in the final seconds of a playoff game due to a missed chip shot field goal. Admittedly, the stakes were not as high as it was only a wildcard game and not an NFC Championship. However, the oh-so-familiar gut-wrenching feeling of losing a major game at the last second was a painful reminder to all long-time Vikings fans. This time from the leg of Blair Walsh and holder Jeff Locke who controversially had the laces facing the kicker in the failed attempt. Consequently, this has led to a seemingly never-ending supply of lazy Ace Ventura “Laces out Dan” jokes on the internet, and I may never be able to fully enjoy Jim Carrey’s performance as a pet detective again.
While anyone who isn’t a Vikings fan saw the game as a Vikings win when Walsh lined up for the kick, long-standing Viking fans could only think, “Oh my God he’s going to miss this kick. Please don’t miss this kick. We’ve been tortured enough.” Now unlike Anderson, Walsh had struggled a bit this year missing a few field goals throughout the season, but he had been strong towards the end of the year and had gone a perfect 3 for 3 earlier in this very game, with two of them good from over 40 yards.
Walsh missed the kick in painfully classic Vikings fashion, and the Vikings lost the game, breaking the hearts of their physically and emotionally weathered fans yet again. After a day of grieving and a morning of hearing so many people say they couldn’t believe the Vikings lost that game, I had an epiphany. That epiphany was that being a Vikings fan has actually taught me a lot about the hardships of life. Here are a few quality traits you pick up from being a Vikings fan.
1. Loyalty: What’s a more important trait in a human being than being loyal? Loyalty comes into play in almost every aspect in life. If you can prove your loyalty by remaining a Vikings fan after several heartbreaking losses, you should have no problem being loyal to the people you really care about in your life.
2. Delayed Gratification: We live in a world of instant gratification. If we want to know who that guy was in that thing, we can just pull out our phones and google it. This is slowly ruining our ill-equipped brains. If you have everything instantly, there’s no motivation to work hard at achieving something greater. This is a very important lesson to keep in mind when beginning college, starting a career, or remaining a Vikings fan. Now, as a Vikings fan, we are still in the delayed stage, but when they do win the big one, it will be the biggest wave of gratification you can wash over a sports fan.
3. Overcoming Heartbreak: In life you’ll more than likely have your heart broken at some point. It may be from that girl you used to hate in high school simply because she hung out with the wrong crew, but once you got to know her (Brett Favre) she wasn’t so bad. In fact you actually started to develop feelings for her. That was until she broke your heart and left you for a better life palling around with her old high school buddies, her dog, and her real, comfortable, jeans. For a while you may have feelings for the one that got away (the 1998 season), but eventually you’ll come to realize that there’s always more fish in the sea, and in football, there’s always next year.
4. Resilience: Remaining a Minnesota Vikings fan is probably one of the hardest things to do on this planet. If you’re looking to hire someone who can persevere through tough challenges, hire a Vikings fan. They are more resilient to unforeseen obstacles than any other group of people. When a job interviewer asks a Vikings fan, “What obstacles have you overcome in your life?” An acceptable answer should be, “I didn’t kill myself or my loved ones when Gary Anderson missed that field goal in 1998.”
As fans we are blessed with the luxury of being able to sit comfortably on our couches and shout things at our TV like, “I could have made that kick,” and “How could you do that?” The fact is that you weren’t there, you’re not a coach, and you’re certainly not a pro-athlete. You didn’t attempt that game-winning field goal, you didn’t make the three previous kicks, and you have no idea what it’s like to be in that position. To Blair Walsh I say, welcome to the Minnesota Vikings. You truly know what it’s like to be one of us now and hey, there’s always next year.