You know it’s the middle of the winter season in sports, when the biggest stories are Harrison Smith getting snubbed from the Pro Bowl…. and then snubbed from the Pro Bowl snubs list, and Bruce Boudreau being hit in the head with a puck (he is fine and was fine immediately, or this might be a bigger deal).
Lol Harrison Smith didn’t make the Pro Bowl pic.twitter.com/QWdTRGUOD6
— Drew Mahowald (@DrewMahowald) December 24, 2017
Harrison Smith is the NFL’s top safety this season pic.twitter.com/CzpcI0sHNM
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) December 27, 2017
A, B, C, D, E, or F? ? pic.twitter.com/mBQYn2bJJF
— NFL (@NFL) December 29, 2017
— Jesse Horne (@Jesse_Horne) December 30, 2017
But, I think there is an underlying issue, for Minnesota Fans. Things have gotten slightly frustrating around Minnesota sports lately. That tends to happen during the winter sports season. The seasons are just so long that you will find ups and downs along the way. Many waited a long time for the improved Timberwolves to hit the floor, with Jimmy Butler and the rest of the new squad. Some may have had hopes that were too high and their start has been frustrating… although I did warn everyone about that before the season started.
The frustration heightens with the Wild. Some of my hockey friends are calling for a fire-sale. Time to sell, sell, sell and move on, according to some of them. The thought of being mediocre for the foreseeable future is haunting them. I can’t blame them, either. Being mediocre for a long time in the NHL, like the NBA, can ruin a franchise. All of the great draft picks go to the bad teams, who eventually pass you up to become the good teams, with those players, while you are in the middle, unable to restock great talent. Be good or be bad. Don’t be in-between.
As for the Gophers? The Football team finally has the coach in PJ Fleck, that it’s been waiting for, and its best recruiting class in recorded history to go with it. They are also set for basketball with Pitino at the helm, though they seem to be struggling with the expectations after a big season, last year. We’ll see how they do now that the bulk of the Big Ten season is about to start
But there is one thing most Minnesota Sports Fans will agree with you on, about the teams I’ve already mentioned. They aren’t winning shit this year. That’s right. You heard it here first. The Gopher Football team isn’t going to the NCAA Playoffs next year and Pitino isn’t taking the basketball team to the Final Four this year (give him a couple more seasons). The Wolves aren’t going to the Finals (hopefully they win one playoff round). And finally, the Wild may not even make the playoffs…
However, we have one team in this town that could make this the greatest season in Minnesota Sports history, no matter what happens with the other teams. Seriously, if the Vikings win it all, you might as well send all of the other teams out-of-town for a few months.
The Minnesota Vikings are REALLY good. Really, they’ve run through their entire schedule, with just 3 minor missteps along the way. They’ve been hit in the mouth with injuries to their best players (Bradford, Cook) while shuffling the offensive line unit around because of injuries there, all season. But, they’ve held on. The offensive line has been very impressive, after being the thorn in the Vikings’ side all last season. Case Keenum’s ability to avoid the rush by feeling pressure and moving gracefully through the pocket is on par with any quarterback you can find in the NFL. That has certainly helped.
No matter how much the other sports around town have stressed us out, the Vikings have been there to save our week in 2017. As we scream at Thibs through our TV and pray for Koivu to do something other than win face-offs and play good defense, the Vikings have been dominating their competition. They don’t really make us nervous, even. If they do, it’s more in our own minds than it is on the team, itself.
We are still hurt from past experiences so we wait for that game where we lose to a team that isn’t as good as we are, the refs screw us out of a win, or for our roof to cave-in. You know, normal Minnesota stuff. But, it hasn’t come. The defense seems to bring it EVERY GAME, in a league where playing defense can be frustrating, with all the advantages given to the offense. Zimmer doesn’t care. If you can’t play well, you won’t play. Ask Trae Waynes, Mackensie Alexander, or Laquon Treadwell. The Vikings have become one of the best-run franchises in the NFL.
And now, they seem to be on the brink of another season that Vikings fans will talk about forever. You know, the seasons that they write a whole episode of “How I Met Your Mother” about? One of those iconic years that will forever live in Minnesota Sports Infamy. Right now, you have 1998 and 2009, for all the new-er generation fans. The old-timers that are still around have the Purple People Eaters that saw 4 Super Bowls between 1969-1976, but never brought one home.
Now, we have the 2017 team. A team that doesn’t have quite the high-flying offense that the 98 or 09 teams had. But, the current Vikings do have a defense that even the Purple People Eaters themselves, have compared to those elite defenses of the late 60’s, and well into the 70’s. But wait, this offense isn’t the 2000 Ravens. No, this offense is good, and can be great when clicking.
There’s something different about this team, in general. I’m not sure I can put my finger on it. Maybe it’s the coaching… Maybe it’s the defense… I’m not sure. They seem to be calm when they need to be but ALWAYS driven. Zimmer has them believing in the team concept. That getting the team where it wants to go, will also get you where you want to be, as a player.
It’s funny, though. 1998 and 2009 are both mentioned around these parts ALL THE TIME. They are easily the most memorable seasons recently, for all SKOL fans. But, isn’t it funny? They’re RARELY mentioned in a good light. These are seasons where we had the best times of our lives, as Vikings’ fans. Yet, when they are mentioned, we cringe. When seasons end the way those seasons did, especially when they had the promise they had, you can’t help but feel bitter, no matter how good of times you had during the run.
So, that’s the challenge. This season can be the best team or the best season we’ve ever watched. No matter how dominant this team is, if you lose in the playoffs, you will be slid aside next to all of those other teams that we haven’t even mentioned. All of the years where the Vikings lost out, but nothing really memorable happened… Or, they could lose on a last-second field goal or interception. How about a new one? A terrible call by a ref, that ruins the season for us? Anything like that would make you memorable forever… But, that’s not what you want either, just ask Ben Leber, Blair Walsh, or Gary Anderson… ( CAUTION: make sure you take a Zoloft before watching those three videos in a row)
But…… BUT……. This could be that team that helps us forget about all of those terrible memories, seared into our brains. This could be the team that we remember, not for missed field goals or tears running down our cheeks….. No.
Instead, this team could be IMMORTALIZED. Case Keenum could have streets named after him. Mike Zimmer could have a shrine built and grow roots inside of the Minnesota coaching room. Nobody is EVER kicking him out if he wins it all. Might as well sign a life-long contract. How much money do you want to make, Mike? You think Minnesota loves ice fishing and summer days on Lake Minnetonka? Win a Super Bowl and you will see what real love is.
Do you remember what I opened this article with? The other sports in Minnesota? Didn’t think so. None of it would matter.