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Memories. . .Light the Corners of My Mind. . .

Well, a couple of days ago, I said that I would be more positive about the Vikings this year.  But, I didn't say anything about the past.

So, if me channeling Streisand in the title of this post isn't enough to make you slit your wrists, here's a nice column from a blog that I haven't pimped enough, The National Anthem Before A Cubs Game that details the 25 worst losses in Minnesota sports history.  Not surprisingly, the Vikings make numerous appearances on said list.

Now, anyone that has read this blog for any length of time knows that the last time the Vikings were in the Super Bowl, I had just reached four months of age, so the four Super Bowl losses were all before my time.  So, I won't touch on my memories from those losses, since. . .you know. . .I don't have any.  But here are all the appearances by the Vikings on TNABCG's list:

23. January 13, 1974 - Miami 24, Vikings 7 (Super Bowl VIII)
Miami won the coin toss (as Bud Grant later said, perhaps the turning point of the game), then scored on its first two possessions, running the Vikings out of Houston. Once again, the Vikings had made it all the way to football's grandest stage, and failed.
20. January 9, 1977 - Oakland 32, Vikings 14 (Super Bowl XI)
Completing the quadfecta, Fran Tarkenton threw two interceptions in the red zone, and Brent McClanahan fumbled on his way into the end zone, robbing Minnesota of points it desperately needed. It was the Vikings' fourth Super loss in a seven-year span, a shocking total that has yet to be softened with a win.
18. January 12, 1975 - Pittsburgh 16, Vikings 6 (Super Bowl IX)
The Vikings missed a field goal, took a safety after a fumble in their own end zone, fumbled on the Steelers' 5-yard line, lost an interception in the Steelers' end zone... is there a pattern emerging here? Minnesota's only points came on a blocked punt, and even then, they missed the extra point. The offense ended the day with a zero on the board and a grand total of 117 yards in the book, their third Super Bowl failure and their second in two years.
14. January 11, 1970 - Kansas City 23, Vikings 7 (Super Bowl IV)
Minnesota was a 13-point favorite in this one, with most expecting the team to easily defeat the Chiefs. Instead, the Vikings threw three interceptions and fumbled three times, and lost in its first Super Bowl appearance and first - and maybe best - chance at a title.

Okay. . .so the four biggest games in Vikings history are already listed, and we haven't even gotten to the top half of the list yet.  Does it get worse?

Oh, yes. . .yes, it does.

6. January 17, 1988 - Washington 17, Vikings 10 (1987 NFC Championship Game)
:56 left in the game, the Vikings had the ball on the Redskins' 6, with fourth down and four yards to go. Wade Wilson found Darrin Nelson open in the flat - he was open, he could have waltzed in! - but Nelson dropped the pass. Washington ran out the clock, and that was the end of Minnesota's run.

Hey, one I was actually alive for!

So yeah, the '87 NFC Championship game.  The Vikings managed to "sneak" into the playoffs that year. . .and I only use the word "sneak" because the Vikings had an 8-7 record, but their "scab" replacement players went 0-3, so in reality they were 8-4.  They got the last NFC playoff spot, went to New Orleans and completely destroyed a heavily favored Saints team, went to San Francisco and stomped an even more heavily favored 49ers team, and went into Washington on an absolute roll.

I can't believe how open Darrin Nelson was on that play.  Like the clip says, he couldn't have BEEN more wide open.  It's a shame I can't find that on YouTube anywhere. . .I'd probably throw something at my monitor even today, 20+ years after the fact.

5. January 14, 2001 - New York Giants 41, Vikings 0 (2000 NFC Championship Game)
The Giants took the ball and scored. The Vikings fumbled the ensuing kickoff. The Giants scored again. It was 14-0 before the offense even got on the field. It was 34-0 at halftime. Daunte Culpepper threw three interceptions, Randy Moss yelled at everybody, and it eventually ended 41-0, an absolute butt-kicking when Vikings fans were hoping against hope to avenge the pain from just two years earlier.

The single worst Vikings game I've ever sat through.  Not "worst" because of the result, but the single worst game I've ever seen a Minnesota Vikings team play.  They were pretty much down by two touchdowns before they got off the bus.  Nobody in a white jersey cared even a little bit, with the exception of Daunte Culpepper.  Moss quit, Carter quit, the line quit, and the defense. . .as was standard for the late 90s/early 00s Vikings. . .didn't bother showing up.  I still have terrible flashbacks of Wasswa Serwanga and Robert Tate starting at corner.

You know, Robert Tate pretty much epitomized the Denny Green era.  The guy was easily our best CB for a couple of years, and he a) wouldn't have started for any other team in the league, and b) he was a CONVERTED WIDE RECEIVER.

Oh, the top 3 spots on this list (and 5 out of the top 6)?  All occupied by the Vikings.  Here we go.

3. December 28, 2003 - Arizona 18, Vikings 17
Minnesota began the year 6-0, then slumped, but had a chance to make the playoffs with a victory over the Cardinals. The Vikings led 17-6, then gave up a touchdown, failed to recover the ensuing onside kick, then took a bogus pass interference call with the game almost over. With the Vikings now up 17-12, it came down to the final play of the game, with Arizona quarterback Josh McCown heaving the ball into the end zone. Cardinals receiver Nate Poole caught the pass, but was going to land out of bounds; however, he made contact with a Vikings defender, and the referees, inconceivably, ruled that Poole had been pushed out and the catch would stand. Replays showed Poole would not have come down in bounds, but the play was un-reviewable; thirty-eight years to the day from the Drew Pearson game, the Vikings were again out of the playoffs thanks to inept officiating.

Bill Simmons called the game the worst regular-season loss in NFL history, and prompted Vikings radio guy Paul Allen's famous call (SCREAMING the whole time): "Here it is, the season's on the line, two receivers left and right. McCown, takes the snap, he steps up, he's all by himself, fires into the end zone... CAUGHT! (anguished scream) TOUCHDOWN! NOOOOO! NOOOOOOOOOO!"

Back to Simmons, for the final commentary: " More importantly, that was the fourth Stomach Punch game for the Vikes in less than 30 years. Even the Sox didn't have that many over that same span. And yet you would never see a documentary about Vikings fans, a passionate group who have to rank among the most tortured fans in sports."

There was only one time I felt worse after a Vikings loss than I felt after this game.  (Yes, you know exactly what game it is. . .and yes, we're getting to it.)

I had just started a 3-month TDY to Rhein Main AB in Frankfurt, Germany.  In the briefing room where the flight planners and myself were situated, we had a projector that was hooked up to the American Forces Network.  AFN has 4 different stations (they might have more now, but they had 4 at this time), and they all tended to show different NFL games live as they happened.  With Germany being about 6 hours ahead of the States, the late games kicked off at about 9 PM local time.  So, it was getting close to midnight. . .one of the flight planners, a Bears fan, and I were keeping track of the Packers/Broncos game online while the Vikings/Cardinals game was on the big screen.

I was confident when the score was 17-6.

I was still confident when the score was 17-12.

When the Cardinals recovered the onside kick, I started getting concerned.

When the Cardinals started moving downfield, I was concerned again.

When Chris Hovan sacked Josh McCown on third down, I started to get my confidence back.

And then. . .it happened.  We know what "it" is.  We're not going to detail it here.  But had a bus been coming past our building at that time, I probably would have contemplated throwing myself in front of it.

And that's all I've got to say about that.

2. December 28, 1975 - Dallas 17, Vikings 14 (NFC Divisional Playoff)
Perhaps the greatest of all of the Bud Grant Vikings teams, and it was defeated by blatant pass interference. Trailing 14-10, Dallas drove to midfield, then Roger Staubach launched a pass downfield for Drew Pearson, who pushed Vikings cornerback Nate Wright to the ground, then caught the ball on his hip - his hip! - and waltzed into the end zone. This play coined the term "Hail Mary," and - I don't think I'm being hyperbolic here - was the worst call by an official in the history of organized team sports. The '75 Vikings were the NFL's best team, and could have been the team to end the team's Super curse. Instead, we got a new football term, and more heartache.

I wasn't alive for this one, but I've seen the highlights. . .and that cheating S.O.B. totally pushed off.

1. January 17, 1999 - Atlanta 30, Vikings 27, OT (1998 NFC Championship Game)
The Vikings were 16-1 going into this game. They were the best offensive football team in the history of the NFL. After four Super Bowl losses, this was the team to end Minnesota's football woes. And with 2:10 remaining, Vikings kicker Gary Anderson - who had not missed a kick, extra point nor field goal, ALL SEASON - trotted on to seal it, with the Vikings up 27-20. It was a 38-yard try. And the kick sailed and...

No good.

If you wrote it in a movie, it'd be too unbelievable, and you would be berated for crushing people. But there were final twists of the knife to go; Dwayne Rudd had an interception in his hands on the ensuing Falcons drive and dropped it, the Vikings got the ball first in overtime, and none of it was enough.

The only time a sporting event has ever moved me to tears.

I was overseas for this one, too. . .had just gotten to RAF Lakenheath, United Kingdom.  My first assignment out of Basic Training and tech school, so the game kicked off at about 9 PM local time again.  So many terrible mistakes to remember about this game.

-Trying to put up points at the end of the first half, only to have Randall Cunningham fumble for an Atlanta touchdown
-Robert Smith CONSTANTLY RUNNING OUT OF BOUNDS when the Vikings should have been trying to run out the clock
-NOT trying to put up points with 2 time outs left, 1 minute to go, and the greatest offense of all-time at our disposal
-Gary Anderson's miss
-Robert Griffith dropping not one, but TWO game-clinching interceptions
-The Vikings' terrible performance in overtime

Good lord. . .we didn't deserve that.  Yes, with the injuries we sustained in this one, there's a good chance we would have gotten a mudhole stomped in us by the Broncos, but we didn't even get the opportunity to try.

The best part about all of this?

When our time DOES come. . .and believe me, it will come. . .all of this bitterness is going to make our taste of ultimate victory just seem that much sweeter.

Be sure to check out TNABCG for more high-quality stuff.  Great site.

Have a good one, folks!