It is easy to see by the tone of the posts on this website, the comments, and the callers to the local Vikings radio station, that this season has been a complete and total disappointment to most. Even worse, the Vikings have become a laughingstock and an embarrassment to anyone paying even the least bit of attention to the NFL this year. The easy reaction by us as fans is to lash out, to demand everyone be fired, traded, flogged, etc…We become the biker gang, and our person of choice (Musgrave, Ponder, Spielman) becomes Pee Wee Herman…
I’ve done it, you’ve done it, heck, even my 6 and 5 year old sons have done it (when I told them Christian Ponder was going to be the quarterback on Sunday night they both said in unison, "Eeewww!! He’s terrible!" Good to know they’ve been listening to dad so closely during Vikings games) But I propose that we make a different choice on Sunday night, and this is specifically for any of you who are actually going to be at Mall of America Field on Sunday night.
But first, to illustrate the power of a fanbase I want to take you back to another Minnesota sports embarrassment. This one took place with the Minnesota Twins back in 1985, and it involved an embattled closer by the name of Ron Davis.
Ron Davis had been fairly successful as a big league middle relief pitcher on the New York Yankees before joining the Twins. At that point, the Twins took Davis and his big right arm and made him their closer. To say it did not go well is an understatement. Some of my first sports memories involve watching Twins games with Ron Davis on the mound and my mother hiding in our bathroom because she couldn’t bear to watch him blow another game.
This culminated during one week in May. On Friday, May 10th and Saturday, May 11th, Ron Davis blew the 1st two games of a 3 game series against the Baltimore Orioles. After the Twins won the Sunday game, they traveled to New York to take on the Yankees. The Twins started out fast, taking an 8-0 lead after 2 innings. The Yankees chipped away at the lead, but the Twins entered the 9th inning leading 8-6. But with 2 outs and 2 men on, Don Mattingly hit the game-winning home run off of Ron Davis. Here was the scene after the game,
Davis sat at his locker later and wept: "I'm a disgrace," he said. "I can't keep screwing up like this--for my sake or the team's. It's the lowest point of my life." Then he composed himself and said: "This is a first. I've never cried over baseball before. The only time I've seen it was when Goose Gossage gave up the home run to George Brett in the 1980 playoffs. "Goose cried like a baby. No, like a person. Like a human being."
The quotes appeared in the Minneapolis and St. Paul papers, obviously creating sympathy among fans. Davis, booed during pregame introductions on opening night in Minnesota this year, got a standing ovation from a crowd of 22,513 when he entered Thursday night's game against Detroit in the ninth inning. (emphasis added is my own)
This time, Davis responded. He struck out Chet Lemon, yielded a double to John Grubb, then struck out Lance Parrish and Lou Whitaker.
Now check out the quote from Davis after the game:
"That was one of the brightest points of my career," he said later of the ovation. "I've been in playoff games and World Series games, but I've never had an ovation like that."
THAT is the power of a fanbase, and that is what I would LOVE to see on Sunday night in front of a national television audience. When beleaguered Christian Ponder takes the offense out on the field for the first time against the Packers defense, I want to see the crowd rise as one with a chant of “Let’s go Ponder! Let’s go Ponder!” echoing through the Metrodome in a show of support for the man. Imagine what that could do for him. Imagine what that could do for the team, to hear the support from a fanbase in spite of their 1-5 record, in spite of their uninspired play this year.
“But Ponder will suck anyway!” you might say. He just might. “I paid good money to boo these guys this year!” That is your choice and I can’t stop you. “So what if he plays well on Sunday night. He’s still not our long term answer.” I’m not talking about long-term answers here. I’m talking about one night. One night where we can try to do our best to raise our team up to victory over our bitter rivals. One night where we can show the nation what kind of fans the Vikings really have. One night where, 20 years from now, Christian Ponder is giving an interview to the Daily Norseman in a “where are they now” type of feature, and he will say, “October 27th, 2013, Sunday night against the Green Bay Packers, was one of the brightest points of my career. I’ve never had an ovation like that.”
What say you? Skol.