The Minnesota Vikings find themselves in rarified air–of the 32 teams in the NFL, there are only four still standing. It’s AFC and NFC Championship week and there are countless stories being written about the four remaining teams: the Indianapolis Colts, the New Orleans Saints, the New York Jets and the Vikings. From the Saints’ unique relationship with their city, to the rookie quarterback and coach in New York to the two teams with multiple-MVP’s quarterbacks, there are plenty of ways to look at these teams and some are even designed to tug at your hearts strings. So what is a poor fan to do?
The New Orleans Saints certainly are a sentimental favorite. At one time known as the “Aints,” whose fans once wore bags over their heads, the team now is seen as the shining example of recovery for a city that was devastated by hurricane Katrina several years back. When the Superdome got back online, the Saints became their rallying cry and have been ever since. It is tough to cheer against them.
Certainly the Saints have picked up a few more boosters along the way. But for someone who went through the bag-wearing days and said online recently that “I have been waiting 30 years for a Super Bowl title,” he has nothing on Vikings fans. Some purple bleeders some have been waiting since 1961, which means they are heading toward the half-century mark.
The New York Jets are the brash, upstart team. Surprising most by being in the final four with a rookie head coach and quarterback, they are rustling up memories of the Joe Namath Super Bowl champion Jets team of 1968. Namath famously guaranteed a victory over the then Baltimore Colts, and this season the Jets’ head coach, Rex Ryan, said his team should be favored to win the Super Bowl before the playoffs started. He has a great defense, ranked No. 1 in the league, and a good running game (ranked No. 1, as well), which are two proven components of playoff success, therefore he is hard to argue with. So if you tend to enjoy following the haughty, new-kid-on-the-block story, then the J-E-T-S are for you. Just don’t let the phrase “pride goeth before a fall” bother you.
Ironically enough, the Jets play the same franchise that they defeated in SBIII, the Colts, but that team no longer resides in Baltimore–they moved to Indianapolis in 1984. The Indianapolis Colts have corralled a Super Bowl title (SB XLI in 2006) since then and now have a perennial playoff team led by this season’s NFL MVP, Peyton Manning. They are hardly sentimental favorites because we see them in the playoffs every year, but they too have a rookie head coach in Jim Caldwell, who replaced Tony Dungy.
The Colts also lost some of the veterans (such as Marvin Harrison) who have helped propel them to postseason success, but they just retooled with a rookie wide receiver, Austin Collie, and kept on rolling. In fact, they jumped out to a 14-0 record before going into sleep mode and dropping the final two games. If it is machine-like consistency with a computer for a quarterback you prefer, than the Colts are your team. You can probably get some paper work done while the game is going on–oh, I don’t know, some figuring of actuary tables or something.
Then there is the Purple–which is the perfect color for the wounded fans of this long suffering franchise. Now I won’t go so far as to say we have suffered as much as the Saints fans since the Minnesota Vikings are the 6th winningest franchise in NFL history (.550, the Saints are .412). But if the Vikings were to win on Sunday and lose in the Super Bowl, they would have the dubious distinction of being the only 5-time loser of the Super Bowl–a record they currently share with the Buffalo Bills and Denver Broncos (who have erased themselves from this group with two SB wins). Now, that many second place finishes may indicate you are doing something right, but only if like Jack Nicklaus (who has won 18 majors and came in runner-up 19 times), you win a few of them along the way. One would be nice.
Throw into the Vikings conversation the whole Brett Favre situation–in which he retired from the Jets, wrangled his way back into the league onto the team he wanted to play for last year, kept them waiting until training camp and then went on to prove training camp is meaningless to a 19-year-vet and had one of the best seasons of his Hall of Fame career–and it is hard not to come down, very definitively, on one side or the other with the Vikings.
The media, who probably are still stinging a little bit from the Favre waffling of this past summer (even though he has filled the coffers of websites and TV stations with the attention he has received), have been picking against the Vikings throughout the playoffs. Even this week, after the Vikings’ epic beat down of the Cowboys, Sports Illustrated magazine put Favre on the cover, ostensively for two reasons: 1) to sell a lot of magazines, and 2) to saddle the Vikings (and the Jets, regionally) with the SI Cover jinx. Well, it is my theory (and it may not be a new one) that SI always puts the team on the cover that they believe will lose so they don’t have to repeat the cover the following week. Makes sense from a magazine standpoint (and many of SI’s experts picked against the Vikings inside the magazine), but it doesn’t always work out that way. The Minnesota Twins appeared on three consecutive covers (Kirby Puckett, Dan Gladden and the whole team) when won the World Series in 1991. Perhaps it is time for this bit of history to repeat itself in Minnesota.
Regardless, Favre and the Vikings make a good story. With everything from oldest quarterback to win a playoff game to the Green Bay rivalry to the team 0-4 in the big game, it is probably the best story. The Jets and Saints will be back and the Colts have been there before. This Vikings story may never be this incredible again. The Vikings as Super Bowl champs has simply been unheard of–in fact, there are a number of Hades denizens right now fitting themselves with thermal underwear just in case.