Sunday, November 06, 2005

Yikes! It's The Vikes

(the following column can also be viewed at, where a new column from yours truly appears each Sunday or Monday. They will also appear here for your reading pleasure. For archives of my columns there, go to and click on "Columnists")

I’m not, as a rule, a hateful person. I like to see the best in most everyone. I give people the benefit of the doubt, sometimes to the point of being naive. Drives my wife crazy sometimes. So there isn’t a whole lot of hate coursing through my veins.

But man, I hate the Minnesota Vikings.

I have to get this off my chest, because the Lions play them this weekend and I have been secretly and privately gritting my teeth during "Vikings week" for too many years now. It’s been a personal hatefest, and I now share it with you. Aren’t you lucky?

There are well over 100 professional sports franchises among the four majors, and I gotta tell ya, none of them do I hold in as much contempt as I do the Vikings. I’d like to do it all to them, including poking pins into a voodoo doll. They are 2-5 now and having a miserable season, on and off the field, so maybe someone has done the voodoo doll thing. But it’s not me, I swear -- though I’d love to take credit for it, believe me.

You can save the couch, doctor -- I know exactly how this vitriol toward the Vikings began. It is borne from the 1970’s, when the Lions would routinely finish second in the NFC Central, the Vikings first. Between 1968-1974, every football season meant a Vikings sweep over the Lions. That’s right -- 13 straight games, 13 straight losses to the Purple People Eaters (another reason I hate them: that stupid nickname). The images of that string of losses floats through my mind even as I write this: blocked punts into endzones for Vikings touchdowns, blocked Lions field goals to save a Vikings victory, late Lions losses, always in crucial games, it seemed. Rarely did they blow the Lions out, actually; their victories were often by the narrowest of margins. The Lions were the Coyote, and the Vikings were the Roadrunner. Beep beep!

But even after the Lions finally broke that streak with a win in Minnesota in 1974 -- ending with Lem Barney clutching an interception in the Lions endzone as the Vikings appeared to be driving to another game-winning score -- the Vikings’ dominance continued, and my hatred for them grew.

There was a game in 1976, for example. As I listened at home on the radio, the Lions, in the Silverdome, marched toward a late game-tying touchdown. They trailed 10-3, and when they finally punched it in, I celebrated. But these were the Vikings, and these were the Lions, and my 13 year-old psyche was foolish. The Lions lined up for the extra point and.....the Vikings blocked it. Moments later they ran out the clock to finish off their typically brutal 10-9 win.

There was a game in 1980. The Lions had begun the season 4-0 (including a rare win over the Vikings), but faded toward the end. They finished 9-7, but needed some help to win the division outright. For the Vikings owned the tiebreaker (natch), so the Lions needed to finish with a better record. And it looked like the Lions would get that help, as the Vikings trailed the Cleveland Browns late in Minnesota on the last weekend of the season. Perhaps you’ve seen what happened. Vikings quarterback Tommy Kramer lofted a Hail Mary, about 45 yards away, and the ball gets tipped, swatted and deflected, until it reaches the hands of Ahmad Rashad , who gives it one more dramatic bobble before backing into the endzone. Game over. Lions playoffs hopes dashed.

I am taking great joy in the Vikings’ 2-5 start.
It hasn’t mattered where they’ve played, either -- the Vikings. I hated them when they played in old Metropolitan Stadium, because it always seemed like the Lions visited when it was cold and blustery, kind of like with the Packers in Green Bay. And I hate them now, in that awful Metrodome, a stadium that was somehow built for both baseball and football yet is horrible for both baseball and football. I hate that, too.

Beyond just their supremacy over the Lions, I think I hate the Vikings because they have won some wacky games in some wacky ways -- and not just against our guys. Maybe I’m just more cognizant of it, but I swear the Vikings have more weird wins than any other franchise in the NFL. It seems like they’re always blocking a kick or picking up a fumble or returning a kickoff or catching a Hail Mary. I wonder if the NFL keeps track of such things.

The Lions had another of those moments against the Vikes last year at Ford Field. Joey Harrington, devoid of timeouts, led the Lions downfield in the waning moments. Just like in ‘76, the Lions needed a touchdown and extra point to tie the game. Well, you know what happened: the Lions got their touchdown, but long snapper Don Muhlbach, certainly having been sprinkled with some Purple Dust on the sidelines during the Lions’ thrilling drive, dribbled the ball toward holder Nick Harris, who was promptly swamped by Vikings. The game, quite frankly, was meaningless as far as the standings were concerned, but against who else but the Vikings could the Lions have pulled such a boneheaded move? Maybe the ghosts of Karl Kassulke or Gary Cuozzo or Tommy Hannon or Matt Blair were floating around Ford Field’s rafters.

I am taking great joy in the Vikings’ 2-5 start, which has been made all the more uncomfortable because of the off-field shenanigans -- the alleged "sex party" on a boat. Daunte Culpepper is out for the season with a serious knee injury. NOOO....I don’t find joy in THAT. Honestly. But I can tell you there are 31 other teams in the NFL, and for each of the 31 I would shed more tears for a similar loss than I would for the Vikes. It’s like a big brother/little brother scenario: I can beat up on the Lions all I want, but nobody else had better do it. And when the Vikings kicked sand in the Lions’ faces those 13 straight games, they officially lost me. I’m now in my 31st year of holding a grudge.

I may as well also announce that my wife and I might be splitting up. You see, her favorite color is purple. What can I say -- it’s a mixed marriage.

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