Somebody first told me this story during my formative years, and I've heard it a few times since then. . .I believe that it pretty accurately describes the Vikings' quest towards the 2008 NFC North Division Championship. I've adapted it to have a more relevant, football-type theme.
There were two friends that were big-game hunters. One of them was a Bear fan, and the other was a Viking fan. One day, out on safari, they found themselves staring into the eyes of a very angry lion. They had surprised the feline in a clearing, and since neither of them was armed, they knew that they would have to run for it if they wanted to get out alive. The two hunters immediately turned around and began running as fast as they could. The lion took up chase and began to rapidly close in on his next meal.
The Bear fan says to the Viking fan, "What the hell are we going to do? We'll never be able to outrun this lion!"
The Viking fan says in response, "I don't have to outrun the lion. I just have to outrun you!"
Such is the story of the Vikings' quest for the 2008 NFC North Division championship. It wasn't always pretty by any stretch, but in the end, the lion never caught up with our Beloved Purple, and as a result they find themselves as a division champion for the first time since 2000 and in the playoffs for the first time since 2004.
I'm not sure why this seems so damn satisfying to me. I didn't take a single snap, or record a single carry, or catch a single pass or make a single tackle. But as a fan, for some reason, I can't remember the last time I had this level of satisfaction and downright peacefulness as a Viking fan. Maybe because I spent a good five minutes or so laughing at this guy from the Chicago Tribune that was highlighted in the FanPosts last night.
You just know the Vikings are going to lose. I can't stress that enough. It is what the Vikings do. Question is, can the Bears get and hold a lead -- emphasis on the "and hold" part -- before it gets dire?
Yeah. . .good call, sparky.
Or maybe it was the ton of e-mail I received from Bear fans this past week thanking me for their 2008 NFC North division title. Amazingly, I haven't gotten any e-mail from any of those same people since about 3 PM Central. I replied to all their e-mails, too. Ingrates.
Or maybe it was watching what might be the final pimp-slapping of Bob Babich on the Bears' sideline that I caught glimpses of as I was flipping between games. Many people remember Babich as the guy that practically spit on the concept of being the Vikings' defensive coordinator the year the Bears went to the Super Bowl and the Steelers hired Mike Tomlin. Well, as any North Dakota resident can tell you, Babich was also the head coach of North Dakota State University from 1997 to 2002. Babich took over a proud Bison program, and decided to completely run it into the ground. He was 2-9 in his final season in Fargo, at which point he promptly bailed on the school.
It's nice to see that Babich has finally succeeded in taking the once-proud Bears' defense to the same depths that he took Bison football to. I mean, really, my little sister knows that gameplanning against the Houston Texans' offense means that you should probably cover Andre Johnson every once in a while, something the Bears apparently thought was optional this afternoon.
But most importantly, I think my sense of satisfaction comes from the fact that when the Vikings HAD to win a game, they did so. . .for the first time in a long time. And you know something? I don't care who the Giants had on the field at the end of the game. Tom Coughlin had the right to play whoever he wanted at that point, certainly. . .and the Vikings had also earned the right to play what was a meaningful game for them against an opponent that had nothing to play for. Heck, lots of Bear fans were ecstatic that we were playing the defending Super Bowl champions in Week 17 while they "only" had to worry about the Houston Texans.
The bottom line is that, despite what anybody will want to say to the contrary, the Vikings did not "back in" to the post-season. Nobody said that Green Bay "backed in" back in 2003 when the Broncos played their JV team at Lambeau Field, even though that's a far better example of "backing in" to the post-season than what Minnesota did this season. The Vikings controlled their own destiny. . .they earned the right to control their own destiny based on what happened over the first fifteen games of 2008. And they fulfilled that destiny this afternoon.
And you know something? I don't give a damn about what Bear fans think about how we got into the post-season. I don't give a damn about what Giant fans think about how we got into the post-season. I don't give a damn about what fans of any other team think about how we got into the post-season.
The important thing is that next Sunday afternoon at 4:30 PM Eastern time, all of us are going to gather right here, just like we have on 16 other occasions this season, and we're going to watch Vikings' football.
Bear fans can't say that.
Packer fans can't say that.
Cowboy fans can't say that.
Buccaneer fans can't say that.
But we can. Not necessarily because we outran the lions. . .but because we outran everybody else.
Tomorrow's update is probably going to come a bit later in the day. I've got a funeral detail up in Lafayette, Louisiana that we're performing Honor Guard duties at, so I won't have computer access until late afternoon. But, I hope that doesn't stop you all from discussing the 2008 NFC North Division champions right here!