It was a long winter in Lake Wobegon. Just when Elmer figured it was finally just about over and he could drive over to Hardware Hanks and get a new spark plug for the ol' Johnson 20, and maybe some wax for the Lund, along comes a blizzard in April howlin' outta the Arctic like banshees and whatnot right about the time the Walleyes shouda been spawnin' ..
And, the Vikings.
Elmer and Mary go way back with the Vikings. They were driving back from visiting Fred and Geena in Bird Island and listening on the AM radio when the great Jim Marshall picked up a fumble and ran it 66 yards the wrong way, and spiked it for a danged safety for the Giants, to the eternal amazement of everyone who was there and everyone who was watching on tv or listening on the radio, or heard about it later. It was just about as dumb a move as when Leon Lett celebrated too soon scoring a TD in the Super Bowl, and got it knocked out from behind by Beebe. Marshall, though, later forced a fumble that Eller returned for a TD and Vikings won on that play. Pretty exciting.
Honorable mention goes to Jose Conseco for the bounce off his head for a home run, and our own Kent Hrbek for lifting a guy off first base and then tagging him out,
Those were the really excellent Vikings. The ones who weren't just "above average", but absolutely superior. They went to the Super Bowl 4 times in 8 years, including 3 of 4 from 73 - 76. Those were excellent, outstanding teams.
When they didn't win the NFC, throughout the 1970s the Vikings were challengers for the conference title. Lyin' cheatin' Cowboys, America's team, blow me. Elmer doesn't swear much. "Blow me" is as strong as it gets. He's not even sure if he knows exactly what it means, but he knows when he says it about the Cowboys, he really means it.
Since the 70s, though, the Vikings have been pretty much above average. Six times since 1975 they've gotten to the NFC championship, and lost all six, some of them rather badly. That is just six times our team has been truly "deep" in the playoffs in 47 years ... an average of once every 8 years we get a sniff ... .
Elmer has tried drinking. He has tried not drinking. He wears his Eller jersey, then Robert Smith, then Krause ... . None of it works. Even with the Eller jersey on, the team is still "above average". In November and December, when the Vikings lose, Elmer is depressed from Sunday until Thursday, when he can turn his skeptical but hopeful attention to the next game.
Mary attends a oneness group in Battle Lake once a month. She's thinking of studying to be a life coach. She believes that trees are just as alive and as important as anything else, including people. She is pretty sure that Elmer's obsession with the Vikings is probably dangerous to his mental and physical health. She got to say hello to Adrian Peterson once in a hotel elevator in St. Louis the night before the Vikings/Rams games ... . "He was so nice, so charismatic ... He gave me that hand shake, but you know, Marge, we're country folk so I just gave it to him right back. At first he grinned, then he kinda winced a little."
Mary's fave was always Bobby Bryant, because he talked southern and had a nice, you know, umm -- wiggle. Mary sometimes avoids listening to the games because once when she was really into it the Vikings lost at the end and, doncha know, maybe if she would have just let Spirit take over the way she always does, and not been yelling and jumpin' up an' down and yumpin' yimineein' so much maybe Darren Nelson wouldn't have dropped that pass in the end zone that he laid out so nice for ... .. you know, maybe it created some kind of energetic noise or something that distracted Darren from his focus and concentration that Mary was creating so much psychic chaos ... . Of course, she closed her eyes when Gary Anderson hit the cross bar, but looking back she thinks she may have peeked unintentionally and thereby impeded the kick just that tiny little eentsy bit ... for want of a nail, horseshoe, horse, rider, blah blah blah. So, she really struggles with it. She wants to watch the game, but she feels guilty if things go badly because she might have caused it.
"But hey, Mary", her friend Ruby would say, "you know it's not all about you. Just watch the game. You'll enjoy it. And after all, the team is above average again, just like always!"
Above average useta be good enough in Lake Wobegone. It's a quiet place and we don't like a lot of drama. Minnesota nice, was the way we think about it. You may not really KNOW anybody, but you're really NICE to everybody ... because, you know, honesty is kinda hurtful sometimes.
Over at Monty's Barber Shop (they say Monty keeps a stash of Delta 9 in the back for "special customers", but that's a different story), the long winter is turning a mite caustic. Besides the cold, and dirty icy blowing miserable dreary sucky storm of an April (oh wait! it gets better! There's another one comin' next week! And then a FLOOD!!) and inflation and the price of lutefisk ... the folks are gettin' just a mite tired of being above average ... . Right now, above average looks kinda bleak.
"Because, sez Elmer, you look at it now over the years we've had teams good enough to have hope, but not good enough to really win. Look at last year. Criminey! ... Dang team blew a field goal to lose ... threw a pick to lose ... gave up 2 minute drives in 15 seconds one after the other ... . but then they took the Bengals to the mat, beat the Chargers and Pack. They were nine and eight. The only reason they were above average, is they had an extra game or they would have been 8 and 8. Which is ........... average.
"And, sez Elmer, average is boring and is not excellent. Also, above average is boring and is not excellent. It is time for this team to start being excellent again, to contend for and win Super Bowls ... to be top of the crop, not slightly above the middle of the field.
"Damn, I wish spring would get here ...
Meantime, Mary is intently focusing on the lacewood elm over in the front of their yard on Blessing Street, urging it to keep its little leaves tucked safe inside until it gets warmer, and giving magic raki to Kevin O'Connell and Kirk Cousins ..
"Because, peace and beauty, and positive healing and energy, and BEAT THE HOLY LIVIN' CRAP OUTTA THAT DUDE THAT STIFFED MY BUDDY DANICA PATRICK ...
Mary realizes she shouldn't really think like that, but she's usually pretty good so this will give her something to confess next time she goes to Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow.
to be continued, as the season impresses itself upon our gentle townspeople and their mythical subculture.