If ever there was a good time for a team to play a "home" game in a different country, this is definitely it. After sprinting to a commanding 0-3 record, the Minnesota Vikings have gone to London where American football is enough of a novelty that the team's disappointing record is, albeit briefly, less of a story than the fact that there will be an NFL game at Wembley Stadium on Sunday. Huzzah.
This break between the Vikings
and their fans in Minnesota is a timely time out, a chance for everyone to take a deep breath and cool off. Considering the vitriolic animosity brewing in the Metrodome during Sunday's loss to the Browns
, the local fans may be using the break as an opportunity to rest their strained vocal chords so they're ready for more vigorous, booze-fueled booing when the Vikings
return to the Metrodome on October 13 to face the Carolina Panthers
It's interesting to me how many fans are convinced that the Vikings
' 2013 season is absolutely lost. Lost cause, don't bother with the intervention, do not resuscitate, do not pass go or collect $200. Yep, utterly lost. And all because of three games.
Don't get me wrong, the Vikings managing to lose the first three games of their season, three games that were eminently winnable, sucks. But, and this seems an important point that is continually overlooked, they are only three games. So far, the Vikings are 0-3, not 0-16--I refuse to record losses until they actually happen.
Once again, people are talking a lot about probability. Teams that start the season 0-3 rarely, if ever, go on to have a winning record, let alone go to the playoffs or the Super Bowl
. That is true and I won't dispute that history. I will, however, dispute how many are redefining probability.
All that probability means is likelihood, not certainty. Nothing is sure and anyone who says otherwise is guilty of insufflation*. While history shows that a team starting 0-3 is unlikely to make it to a winning record, the playoffs, or the Super Bowl, as far as I know there's no law forbidding a team that starts in a hole at 0-3 from pulling itself up by it's jockstraps to find a winning spirit and coordinating record. Nothing about the next 13 games is carved in stone and the Vikings' destiny is still theirs to make.
If only for a little while. Not unlike 2012.
Last season the Vikings surprised their fans and analysts alike when they started the season with a 4-1 record. That great start made the Vikings' mid-season slump that much worse for fans because it had raised hopes that 2012 would be better than the rebuilding season fans were expecting. Fans rode the wave from hope and elation back down to despair as the Vikings appeared to implode and lose all the momentum they'd had at the start of the season. Christian Ponder's most dangerous receiving target, Percy Harvin
, suffered an ankle sprain that kept him off the field, forcing even more of the offensive burden onto Adrian Peterson's back and reconstructed knee. The defensive secondary had improved, but wasn't a deterrent to pass-happy opposing quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers. And the defensive line struggled as veterans Brian Robison
and Jared Allen
had only two healthy shoulders between them. Backs against the wall, the Vikings would have to win all four of their final games of the regular season simply to have a shot at making it to the playoffs. Better yet, there was no reason to believe that they would win any of those games--two of them were road games and the other two were against NFC North rivals. Yet somehow the Vikings won all four final games last season and claimed a playoff berth.
It's overstating it to call the team's late-season success in 2012 a miracle so I won't, but winning those final four games was a long way off from being a likely.
As disheartening as these three losses have been to the team and its fans, the Vikings have lost by 10, 1, and 4 points respectively in each of those games. Although the fact that they haven't won is the bottom line, they haven't exactly gotten skunked in those losses. In the last two games, if the Vikings had defended better on the final drives, or if the opposing receivers hadn't caught the winning receptions, the Vikings would have the same team, facing a lot of the same challenges, but with a better record and a less cranky fan base. Even though wins and losses are the only stats that truly matter, the fact that the Vikings have stayed competitive late in the game should give fans more hope for the remaining 13 games than if the previous games had been completely out of reach.
Part of what helped a young 2012 Vikings team to rally during the final stretch of the season was veteran leadership. Although Antoine Winfield, whose early-season pep talk before the Vikings played the San Francisco 49ers
helped the team regroup and refocus, is gone, the Vikings still have strong veteran leaders who are willing to call their teammates out and challenge them to play better football.
And, the Vikings want to play better football. Along the sidelines during the games and when talking with the press after the games, you hear players who are pissed off rather than dejected and defeated. They're talking about what they need to improve rather than sniping at each other. They're looking forward, trying to get better. Even though that kind of attitude by no means guarantees a win, it's hard to get a win without it.
Vikings fans have a reputation, justified or not, for being pessimistic, fickle, cynical, and easily discouraged. I'm not sure that's a fair description, but there seem to be a lot of fans here and on the Daily Norseman's Facebook page who have resigned themselves to a losing season because it seems somehow smarter, even trendy, to expect bad things to happen than good things. I don't know, maybe it is smarter to imagine you can see the future and it is all doom and gloom, but that attitude makes for a lousy fan base and, well, lame company.
Vikings fans, buck up, there's a lot of football left in the 2013 season. A lot can happen in 13 games so relax and may unicorns fart rainbows all over your day.
Let's get the London party started and continue the British Invasion musical theme with one of my favorite groups, The Clash. London Calling might be the obvious song choice, but, in honor of the discord in the Vikings' fan base, we're going with English Civil War. And if The Clash doesn't make you want to go smash something, you're not a rock 'n' roller.
*Insufflation's old English definition means, literally, to blow smoke up someone's ass. Really. Look it up. In present times insufflation means to blow air or a medicated powder into the lungs or another body cavity.