Wednesday, December 31, 2008


The kind of crap that cascades through my brain at 9:57am on a Wednesday morning -

I may as well get the Wildcard game stuff out there first. I'll put it plainly: we have no chance, and everyone knows it.

Nothing sums up the Vikings fanbase better these days than headlines like "45% of season ticket holders have turned down playoff tickets" and "14,000 seats remain for Sunday's Wildcard game against Philadelphia". It's a huge middle finger to the current administration. I think it's nice to see the "fair-weather" nature Minnesota fans get slagged for take a back seat for a while.

We aren't stupid - setting aside all the dumb cliches about "how to win in the playoffs", what are the two most important aspects a team must have to win anywhere, regardless if it's preseason, regular season, the playoffs, or even the friggin Pro Bowl? Your quarterback, and coaching. Tarvaris Jackson and Brad Childress make up for easily the worst combination from all the playoff teams. I'd much rather have first timers Mike Smith and Matt Ryan, or John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco than the two clowns we're stuck with.


All the more infuriating, Mike Shanahan is now a free agent. The sensible Vikings fan is kinda wishing we didn't win the division and Zygi fired Childress. Some wish that even without Shanahan's availability, but whatever team gets him (Hello New York Jets!) is getting a huge upgrade.

I always shake my head at teams that fire upper echelon coaches. While Mike Lombardi says it was unavoidable, do they really think they're gonna find somebody better than Shanahan out there? So he can't find players. Then strip his GM title and get someone who can, but Jesus... keep him as a coach. You really think Marty Schottenheimer or Eric Mangini or Mike Martz or the Coordinator Flavor of the Month is going to be better? The coach wasn't the problem in Denver.


Sticking with NFL coaching moves, I applaud the Bills for sticking with Dick Jauron, if only because of the development of Trent Edwards. Too many times we've seen a huge overhaul derail the career of a young QB. Edwards has shown promise, and I think learning another 700 page playbook and all new terminology is too high of a risk to screw him up for good. It's been seen too often - Phil Rivers with San Diego in '07, Jason Campbell this year, Alex Smith's and Daunte Culpepper's entire careers, etc. With young quarterbacks, you can't underestimate the consistency of his environment.


Here's a great example of how I waste time - after thinking about it for a while, I realized there's some neat symmetry between the 1980s NFC and this decade's AFC. I thought the parallels were interesting -

San Fran = New England
The dynasty. Easy comparison.

NY Giants = Indy
Knocking on the door several years before finally busting through and beating their rival in the process (Giants in '87 against San Fran, Indy in '07 against New England), iconic coach, several superstars, known for a specific style of play.

Washington = Pittsburgh
Scary team, insane fanbase, always very competitive, always do all the little things right, makes the playoffs seemingly every year, sometimes spectacular (Washington's O, Pittsburgh's D), throw in a Super Bowl or two.

Chicago = Baltimore
Another easy one. Both historic defenses that each had one off-the-charts dominant year. Dangerous playoff team every other year.

Philadelphia = San Diego
The perennial "sexy" team (God I hate that word when its used with sports), despite having won nothing previous. Look great on paper, might make a conference championship, but more often than not they disappoint.

LA Rams = Tennessee
Often forgotten, but always involved. Very well coached, not too flashy, exactly one superstar (Dickerson, McNair), always gives the top teams a hard time, reach a conference title game or two.

Minnesota = Denver
A solid team that's often caught behind the logjam. Somehow makes the playoffs nearly every year, but it doesn't seem to matter.

Dallas = Oakland
Once proud franchise that was a tough out early in the decade but slowly dwindled into an embarrassing farce.

Wasn't that fun? I learned exactly nothing! Blogs are great.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Already? Really? How?

It was January 2001, and the Vikings had just beaten the Saints 34-16 in the Divisional playoff game to become one win away from the Super Bowl. Just weeks before, their regular season stumbled to a finish as they lost their last three to the Rams, Packers and Colts to finish 11-5. This was after starting the season 7-0 and looking like world beaters, finally finding their heir-apparent to Randall Cunningham, subsequently resurrecting Three Deep (well, Two Deep, since Jake Reed was in New Orleans). While their last three losses were against good teams, they lost in ass-ugly fashion. They looked downright terrible in their loss in Indianapolis where a win (or a Philadelphia loss) would've secured a bye and a playoff home game. Thankfully the Eagles also lost, the Saints upset the Rams, and the Vikings took care of business at home.

And then the feeling set in: "Wait, the NFC title game? This team? Already? How?" Considering how the Vikings very obviously had peaked early and backed into the playoffs, this was shocking to me. The Vikes would be heading to the Meadowlands to face the Giants, and we all know what happened there.

That "Already? Really? How?" feeling is the reason why I don't consider that embarassment to be too ghastly when compared to all the other memorable Vikings losses. It seemed like they got that far by mistake. The Rams were supposed to be there, or the Eagles, or even Tampa, but they all disappointed, which left the Vikings. They did not deserve to be in that position. It was like a manager going to his bullpen in a crucial spot, only to find out that three of his best relievers couldn't go, and he had to settle for Juan Rincon. "Hey he was good once!"

Honestly, I hate to be That Guy every single year (I really do), but this year's season is giving me flashbacks to 2000. Already? Really? How? Because as much talent as they have, I'm not sure this team deserves to be there. While they won ten games, it's not exactly an impressive resume:

Week 3, 20-10 over Carolina - Frerotte's first start, good win over a good team.

Week 5, 30-27 at New Orleans - A ridiculous game where the Saints did more than their share to hand the Vikes a win (4 turnovers, 1 blocked field goal, 1 botched field goal) while the Vikings sputtered and stammered like a Packers fan when he's told the all-you-can-eat buffet is closed. This inspired exactly zero confidence, but hey, a WIN is a WIN right?

Week 6, 12-10 over Detroit - The worst excuse of a game I can ever remember, and the very definition of playing down to your competition. This inspired exactly zero confidence, but hey, a WIN is a WIN right?

Week 9, 28-21 over Houston - Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels were torching the Vikings secondary. Then Schaub got hurt, and Sage Rosenfels proceeded to be Sage Rosenfels. Since the Vikings D did their part in ensuring the latter of that statement, I'll say this was a quality win.

Week 10, 28-27 over Green Bay - Adrian Peterson single handedly made sure this was a quality win.

Week 12, 30-12 at Jacksonville - After Jacksonville lost two fumbles in less than the first three minutes (including the opening kickoff), they never had a chance. Like the Saints game, this was more Jacksonville giving the Vikings a win than anything else. Fred Taylor probably agrees with that, and that's gotta count for something. I'm not sure this inspired much confidence, but hey, a WIN is a WIN right?

Week 13, 34-14 over Chicago - A total thrashing in a game they had to have, in prime-time. Best win of the year.

Week 14, 20-16 at Detroit - Another example of playing down to your competition. In fact, I'm racking my brain and I can't remember a single thing that happened, but I remember watching this entire game. Even after reading the recap, I don't remember any of it. I must therefore conclude that this inspired zero confidence (what win over Detroit DOES?) but hey, a WIN is a WIN right?

Week 15, 35-14 at Arizona - Tarvaris looked fantastic, but Arizona had locked up a playoff spot, and solidified their proof of not giving a shit about the rest of the season, as evidenced in this game and their 99-0 loss to the Patriots the next week. This inspired only a smidgen of confidence (thanks to Tarvaris), but hey, a WIN is a WIN right?

Week 17, 20-19 over NY Giants - Not only did the Vikes need to win on a last second field goal just to beat the Giants' third stringers, but the clock management at the end of each half was some of the WORST you will EVER see. Let me reiterate that: the WORST you will EVER see. It's as if Brad Childress pulled aside Andy Reid, Herm Edwards, Art Shell and Norv Turner and said "Here guys, let me show you it's done." It was embarrassing. This inspired zero confidence, but hey, a WIN is a WIN right?

So lets sum up: the NFC North sucks, Jacksonville quit, Arizona quit, and the Giants trotted out their third stringers in the 2nd half. In case you're the type that needs it spelled out for you, or in case your pattern recognition skills have taken leave, what I'm saying is if you need to bust out the "A WIN is a WIN!" cliche for more than half of your wins, that's not a good thing. That's a bad thing.

And with that, I have run out of transparent ways to avoid being disappointed over any negative outcome next week. But hey, a VIKINGS FAN is still a VIKINGS FAN, right?

Monday, November 10, 2008

M-V-P! M-V-P!

There's a certain sound the Metrodome often makes when the Vikings play, a cross between a long gasp and a desperate attempt on muffling a shriek of horror. The kind of sound you'd make if you're parked on a hill and the emergency brake fails, and all you can do is watch as your car hits about 29 other cars on its way down. It's the sound 57,000 people made as Will Blackmon somehow slipped through everybody wearing purple on his way to the end zone to give the Packers the lead and seemingly insurmountable momentum. The Metrodome sounded a lot like the Nasgoul, the black ghost-like hooded creatures in Lord of the Rings.

If that sound was the Nasgoul, Adrian Peterson was Aragorn, fighting them off triumphantly.

Furthermore, if Gus Frerotte were Boromir trying to take the ring, Adrian Peterson was Frodo, steadfast in his quest, doing what needs to be done. If the Vikings special teams were Golum, Chester Taylor was Sam, Frodo's companion, loyal to the end. If the Packers were the balrog, AD would be Gandalf on the Bridge of Khazadum, shouting "You shall not pass!"

Okay I think that's enough LOTR analogies.

A win like this brings out that kind of dumb giddyness in me. So many good things came to light yesterday: Jared Allen showing he's worth the money, the rest of the d-line following his example, Aaron Rodgers continuing Brett Favre's mid-90s "I suck at the Metrodome" stigma, Viscante Shiancoe managed not to fumble or drop a pass, and most importantly, Adrian Peterson staking his claim for this year's MVP and the title of Best Player in Football.

A win like this allows me to feel comfortable looking at what the Vikings did right, instead of their glaring mistakes and deficiencies, which is what I do seemingly every week. That's because this week was the Packers, who the Vikes haven't beat since the 2004 playoffs. Like Peterson said before the game, "I'm sick of losing to the Packers." Me, too.

With that, I say this: enjoy this, Vikings fans, because this is the best win we'll have all year. I still maintain that the Week 2 Indy game provided everything we need to know about this year's team. But at least we can beat the Packers. And in a season like this, that's the most important thing to me. The sight of Aaron Rodgers running for his life and getting his ass kicked will be one great memory I will take from the 2008 season.

However, the ring is still out there lurking. The Nasgoul are always waiting, ready to appear from nowhere. Let's hope Purple Jesus keeps his torch in one hand and his sword in the other.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Kyle Orton Doesn't Suck

Despite the Vikings loss at Chicago yesterday, I'd like to at least extend my thanks to Kyle Orton for proving my "theory" (read: common sense observation) right about NFL quarterbacks: all they need is a competent and consistent coaching staff, and time.

If you're like me, you were a little stunned watching the Bears offense. Orton was running the no-huddle, confidently changing the play at the line of scrimmage as he saw fit, making accurate throws, taking calculated risks and not egregiously turning the ball over. Wait a second... Kyle Orton? The same terrible Kyle Orton who was told to just stay out of the way in 2005?

People forget one thing about Orton: he didn't suck in college. Look at his senior year stats - 3000+ yards, 60% completion rate, 31 touchdowns, 5 picks. That's against a Big 10 conference schedule. (Laugh it up, but that's a heck of a better track record than say... Alabama State's schedule.) He was drafted in the 4th round by Chicago, where like many other young quarterbacks, he was rushed into a bad situation with a bad offense. He still managed to do what he was asked until Rex Grossman came back from injury, at which point Orton faded back into obscurity, presumably for good according to most fans, as Orton's early performance didn't dictate any future NFL success.

Orton has evidently made the most of his time in obscurity, as he's had the opportunity to sit back and watch for a full season, including a Super Bowl, with exactly zero pressure on him. He's had the benefit of not having to endure any coaching or system turnover, which has lent the opportunity to really get to know his stuff. When the Bears announced that they were going with Orton over Grossman to start the season, the consensus was because of Grossman's poor performance. Many did not take into account that, in addition, maybe Orton had shown substantial progress.

On paper, developing a quarterback really doesn't seem THAT difficult: draft a guy whose played for an established program and held up well in big game environments, and give him some time to learn without screwing with the system or the coaching staff. Orton is not this year's only example: Tony Romo, Aaron Rodgers and Trent Edwards have all benefited from this approach, and their teams are that much better for it.

You know whose name you will not be seeing on that list? Tarvaris Jackson. In trying to develop a young quarterback in the Childress Era, the Vikings have gotten nearly every step wrong. They traded up to the 2nd round to pick a guy with marginal stats in a Division 1-AA conference. They started him WAY too early. They put all their eggs in his basket to start the 2008 season, and he fell apart amid substantial fan rancor. The only thing they've done right is keep their mindnumbingly pedestrian offensive system in tact, which in this case probably wasn't for the best.

So while the Bears are reaping the rewards with Kyle Orton, the Vikings are wondering what went wrong with T-Jack, hopefully at least understanding that they have to start all over with somebody else. Lets hope they learn from the Bears' example.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Sorry, a Win is Not Always a Win

The Vikings evidently weren't happy with just taking a big dump in the middle of the field on Sunday. They also went out of their way to prove an ancient cliche completely wrong.

"A win is a win," Jared Allen said after yesterday's cover-your-eyes awful performance yesterday.

Calling yesterday's game against Detroit a win is like winning a tug-of-war against a guy that has muscle dystrophy. And taking 60 long, tough, unbearable minutes to do it. Let's not fool ourselves though - this isn't the first time a win was not just a win.

In Week 5 against New Orleans, the Vikings were privy to four of the luckiest turnovers you'll ever see. A blocked field goal that hops right into Antoine Winfield's hands as he's coming around the edge. A sack which led Drew Brees to practically hand the ball to Winfield. A Reggie Bush fumble that was preceded by an obvious facemask penalty that wasn't called. A ridiculous interception that somehow managed to not hit the ground and land on Ben Leber instead. On top of all that, the Vikings turned the ball over exactly zero times.

The game played out like a bad British comedy sketch.
Saints: "I really don't want this win and I suggest that you take it."
Vikings: "Me?? What am I supposed to do with it?"
Saints: "No, really, I insist."
Vikings: "Now now, lets not be hasty. Let's think this over a bit."
Saints: "No, really, there's not much to think about. I want you to have it. As a gift."
Vikings: "...."
Saints: "...."
Vikings: "....are you sure?"

The writing was on the wall for Childress after the Week 2 disaster against Indy. Despite the win yesterday against Detroit, that writing is now lit up as a neon sign. With arrows pointing at it. The past two weeks have served as blatant as examples of winning despite your head coach that anyone has ever seen since the end of the Mike Tice era.

In the middle of last season, during one of Adrian Peterson's electric performances, I and many other Vikings fans had a "Eureka!" moment - the Vikings were fun to watch again. Before last season, I wrote that I was very worried that the Vikings were so unbearably boring that my apathy would eventually conquer any and all fandom I could muster for them. But last season those fears subsided, because we had our first offensive superstar, our first home run threat since Randy Moss.

Well, Childress must've gotten that memo, because he's even rendered AD almost useless. He's demonstrated that his offensive philosophy is to practice about 8 painstakingly basic plays on offense and hope to "out-execute" the other team. So now we've got AD running the same two off-tackle plays, one after the other. Last I checked, it isn't 1986 anymore. And we're not playing against Bloomington Jefferson. If Childress can't figure that out and can't start playing to the strengths of his personnel, he is finished.

And it couldn't come soon enough, if you ask me. After all, a firing is always a firing.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

This is Why I Have a Blog

If I had to guess as to how many people actually read this blog, the number would be in single digits. Less than five. Yet I keep churning out occassional bursts of random crap, once every Tuesday. So what is the point? Why bother?

Sunday was the point. The Vikings are why I bother. I'm writing for ME. I'm writing to cope.

Why does this only happen to the Vikings? Why, no matter the coaches or the personnel, does this kind of kick-in-the-groin shit happen EVERY YEAR with this team? I don't get it. I may never get it. Will there be a payoff to all this eventually? That's so far off that I haven't even come close to developing any sort of capacity to imagine what a payoff would even be, after all these horrendous games. I can rattle off the top of my head a "Ten Worst Losses in Franchise History" list that will rival any other team in sports, and it takes me ten minutes to think of three memorable wins.

Why? WHY?

Why does the D-line get in Peyton's face the entire game, only to completely disappear in the 4th quarter? Why does Adam Vinateri miss that 30 yard chip shot just to tease everyone? Why does Peyton look like mid-90s Dan Marino for three quarters, then somehow reverts to mid-80s Dan Marino in the fourth? Why do they not run screens and swing passes to get AD the ball in the open field? Why is the defense stone cold against the run all day, but the Colts are able to run Dominic Rhodes two and a half yards out on a two point conversion?

Why is Tarvaris Jackson the starting quarterback when Brad Childress clearly doesn't have any confidence in him running a basic pass play that doesn't involve a rollout with three different checkdown receivers that are five yards out? Why doesn't Brad Childress watch tape on his own offense and realize that what he's been trying to do for the past 34 games HASN'T BEEN WORKING? Why couldn't Zygi Wilf let Childress keep on going to Green Bay where the Packers would have eventually hired him? Why did this have to happen in Week 2 and potentially kill the entire season?

Most importantly, why do I continue to sucker myself into this? Should I just get out now? Is that even possible? What are the ethics involved in something like that? Would I be a bad person for giving up on a team? Would that say something about my character? But how ashamed should I be, according to the usual standards of modern society, that a football team effects me this much, mentally and emotionally? How much would I really benefit from giving up on the Vikings?

But then, how much would I really LOSE? It sure as hell doesn't seem like much. But seriously, what's next after this? Am I really supposed to come crawling back next week to watch them play Carolina?

Yeah, I suppose I will. Fucking Vikings.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

NOW I'll Make My Predictions, Thanks

I never understood the point of making predictions before the season actually started. "Hey, look at me throw a bunch of wildly unfounded and arbitrary shit against the wall, just for the sake of throwing a bunch of wildly unfounded and arbitrary shit against the wall!" I would rather at least wait until Week 1 was over, so then you know what you're dealing with. Consequently, I'll look much less like a total genius, but I'm willing to sacrifice that. (For now.) But really, I'm not sure there's ever been an early season injury that has effected the course of an entire season for just about every team, in ANY sport no less, more than Tom Brady's destroyed knee. It's unprecedented. See? That's why it's good to wait a bit.

San Diego will be one-and-done in the playoffs.
Now, I would have made this one before the season, you'll just have to take my word on that. I cannot for the life of me understand why San Diego has been the popular pick to win the Super Bowl, even before Tom Brady got hurt. Did everyone have a collective stroke and forget that Norv Turner and Phil Rivers are the leaders of this outfit? You're counting on THOSE GUYS to win a Super Bowl? Ah, NO. I think there's a good chance they'll still get a bye, just by virtue of racking up wins against the likes of KC, Oakland and Denver, but after that... D-U-N DONE. And realistically, this Shawne Merriman thing cannot end well.

The Buffalo Bills will win the AFC East.
Blah blah blah New York Jets blah blah Brett Favre blah blah blah. Meanwhile, exactly nobody has noticed that Dick Jauron is actually a pretty good coach, Trent Edwards doesn't suck, Marshawn Lynch may be the last of a dying breed (stud RB who is capable of carrying an offense) and the rest of the team has a ton of talent on defense and along the offensive line. Throw in a schedule in which they play Oakland, St Louis, San Francisco, and Miami twice, and the Bills win the division going 9-7.

The Patriots are fucked.
Okay, maybe not, but that looks pretty cool in bold like that. They'll go 9-7 and lose the tiebreak to the Bills, make the playoffs and lose to whoever wins an AFC division and doesn't get a bye. Based on how screwy an offseason it was and how that's spilled over to the start of the regular season, something just seems right about a first round Pats/Colts matchup. With Brady, they've got home field throughout and they're coasting to the Super Bowl. Without him... yeah, they're kinda fucked.

Chicago is pretty good.

I'm still not ENTIRELY sold on the Kyle Orton, Matt Forte and Brandon Lloyd Era. They don't exactly scream "Triplets Reborn!" And there's no chance in hell their key guys on defense stay healthy, because they never do. But beating Indy IN Indy, the first game in their new digs? That's pretty damn impressive. Most of their tougher games are at home (Philly, Tennessee, Jax, New Orleans), and their only tough road games left are at Carolina and at Green Bay. 9-7 and a possible division title is definitely within reach. But I'm only saying that because I hate the Bears less than the Packers, who are the clear pick in the North. Dammit.

For the 3rd year in a row, both NFC Wild Cards come out of the East.
Not exactly going out on a limb, but Philly's too good to have two terrible seasons in a row, and I'm not buying the "Giants are complacent" BS. There's still too many young guys on that team that don't even know any better. Plus, they've FINALLY figured out how to use Plaxico Burress ("Hey wait, you mean he's 10 feet taller than any other DB in the league? Holy shit! Why didn't somebody TELL me!!") and Eli's confidence has never been higher.

Arizona wins the NFC West with a 6-10 record, while Chicago, Minnesota, Cleveland, Tennessee, Denver, New Orleans, Tampa, Baltimore and the Jets all have better records and miss the playoffs.
It's going to happen SOMEtime. Seattle is already annihilated by injuries, and every other team in the West is complete horse ass. This year is the year.

And finally...

Everybody that picked the Vikings for even a winning record this season is batshit insane.
No matter the players, no matter the coaches, they just always, ALWAYS fall prey to "Vikings things". 3rd and long against the Vikings D? That's practically a GUARANTEED first down. Less than two minutes in the half? Chalk up at least three points for the opposition. 2nd and 10 after an incomplete pass for the Vikes offense? Watch and listen as Brad Childress screams into a megaphone, "I KNOW THAT YOU ALREADY KNOW THIS, BUT I'M JUST MAKING SURE THAT YOU'RE AWARE THAT WE'RE GOING TO BE HANDING THE BALL OFF TO PETERSEN OR TAYLOR, AND YOU'LL STOP THEM FOR A ONE YARD GAIN."

Realistically, losing by five at Lambeau isn't anything to hang your head on. The Vikes defense only gave up 17 points, and the offense essentially put up 20. The only difference was special teams. AD proved there will be no sophomore slump. Tar-Jack got marginally better as the game went on, until that final throw. Is this all a deseperate and transparent attempt to talk myself into the Vikings still ending up 10-6 or so? Yes. After hitting myself in the face with my keyboard after looking at Tar-Jack's first half stats last night, 8-8 and no playoffs is what's actually "realistic". Anything more than that and you're batshit insane.

Playoff Picks
There is one thing I am certain of - the Super Bowl will feature two teams that have yet to make it there this decade. Only TWO teams have made it to the Super Bowl more than once in the 00s: New England and the New York Giants. If Brady and Osi Umenyiora aren't hurt, I'm thinking its a rematch from last year. But they're out, and after watching Dallas dismantle a pretty good Cleveland team on the road, I'm thinking the Cowboys may be the most complete team in football. In the AFC, I saw Jacksonville following the old-school progression of one win deeper into the postseason every year, until Brady went down. Now I gotta put them in the Big Dance.

Wild Card Round
NY Giants at Arizona - NY Giants
Philly at Green Bay - Green Bay
New England at Indy - Indy
Jacksonville at Buffalo - Jacksonville

Divisional Round
NY Giants at Dallas - Dallas
Green Bay at Carolina - Carolina
Indy at San Diego - Indy
Jacksonville at Pittsburgh - Jacksonville

Championship Round
Carolina at Dallas - Dallas
Jacksonville at Indy - Jacksonville

Super Bowl
Dallas v. Jacksonville - Dallas

Wait for it...

Wait for it.......


How 'bout dem Cowboys???

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Perfect Storm

A friend of mine emailed me the day before the first Vikings preseason game last Friday to tell me the company he works for, which does security for the Metrodome, was short staffed. He asked if I wanted to scan tickets at the door before the game. Sure, why not?

I took the light rail up from the Fort Snelling station, arriving about 5 hours before gametime. Before pointlessly waiting around inside the Dome with everyone else for about an hour (even more depressing when its completely empty), I was handed a supposedly $1,500 "ticket scanning thing" (described as such) at Gate F, which is arguably the busiest gate for the entire stadium, as it's by one of the bigger ticket offices and across from Hubert's on 8th and Chicago. Fantastic, I thought, even though it's a preseason game, I can still gauge the level of interest, smalltalk with people, and get a general feel for the fanbase this season.

As you could guess, it was a very easy job, especially if you love saying "Thanks, enjoy the game" until it sounds positively Russian. ("thansenjoythugame"). Of course, everyone had to be thoroughly searched before getting into the Dome, lest someone in Vikings garb carry in a metal sword or wooden hammer (both of which are prominently listed on the vast "Restricted Items" list we were given). The males searched the males, the females searched the females. Thanks to a completely unexpected and unplanned decision on which turnstile I would man, I ended up getting the female ticket line, where very soon afterwards I met Racky McBouncealot, Juggs Von Smallshirt and Melonie Vandercleavage. So that worked out well. Also, being near such a busy gate allows for some A+ people watching, or even better, jersey watching. Some of the best jerseys I saw, in order:

5. Leroy Hoard
4. Chris Walsh
3. Onterrio Smith (worn by a teenage girl, no less)
2. David Dixon (sadly, no Todd Steussie jerseys)
1. Jeff George

The most popular jersey? Randy Moss. Yes, still. In fact, I'd say it was about 35-40% Moss jerseys, no lie. He's been gone for FOUR YEARS now, folks. In fact, lets just get all our Moss and Culpepper jerseys together and burn them in a gigantic inferno on 34 Kirby Puckett Way. I think that works for everyone. Everyone that agrees to throw in their jersey gets 80% off a Purple Jesus or a Tarvaris jersey.

Yeah, you heard me. A Tarvaris jersey.

Much to many folks' chagrin (including mine), Brett Favre was still the talk of the town around gametime, about how the Packers treated him, about how he would fare in New York, and mostly, about how he could have been the starting quarterback for the Vikings this year. Regardless of how everything turned out, that much more focus was put on our current starter Tarvaris Jackson, the sentiment being that the Vikings playoff (and even Super Bowl [?!]) hopes rest on his shoulders. As a result, Maalox stock has risen 200% in the past few weeks thanks to Vikes fans alone. People are sealing their remote controls in bubblewrap, lest they destroy another TV by throwing a 96mph Joe Nathan fastball towards it after Tarvaris makes a mistake. "The Vikings will only be as good as their quarterback," many people said at the gate that day. I disagree. If you ask me, the pressure falls on the man who has championed Jackson.

* * *

1975 was Bud Grant's perfect storm. The team was made in his image, his coaching ideals realized: an efficient ball-control offense led by Fran Tarkenton and Chuck Foreman, a reliable kicker, and a stone-cold defense that inspired a badass nickname, the Purple People Eaters, all of which were made that much better by playing in a frigid Met Stadium. Everyone was in their prime. They had lost two Super Bowls and many felt this was finally their year. They started 10-0 and cruised to a division title. Season ticket holders like my dad at the time insist that this was the best Vikings team ever, and their best chance to win a Super Bowl in the Bud-era, until they were screwed via the Worst Non-Call in Team Sports History. After the loss to the Cowboys, Vikings fans had realized - if this team couldn't do it, then Bud Grant will never win a Super Bowl with the Vikings.

1984 was Les Steckel's perfect storm.

(Just kidding.)

1987 was Jerry Burns' perfect storm. The team was made in his image, his coaching ideals realized: continued emphasis of the strengths of the Bud-era philosophy, with a veteran leader quarterback, an above average receiving core led by Anthony Carter, and a stone-cold defense led by Chris Doleman, Keith Millard and Joey Browner. As good as the Vikings were under Burns, they were often overlooked in the loaded NFC, waiting for their chance to finally bust through. It finally happened in the '87 Divisional Round of the playoffs, when they upset the heavily favored 49ers in San Francisco. In the NFC title game against Washington, it was now or never - in a conference where the Niners, Skins, Bears and Giants were all favored to win the Super Bowl every year, this was as good of a chance the Vikes would ever have. Unfortunately, as you know, Darrin Nelson let those hopes slip through his fingers. After the loss to the Redskins, Vikings fans had realized - if this team couldn't do it, then Jerry Burns will never win a Super Bowl with the Vikings.

1998 was Denny Green's perfect storm. The team was made in his image, his coaching ideals realized: a prolific vertical passing game, immense talent at every skill position, an opportunistic, bend-but-don't-break defense. Then the '98 NFC title game happened, where Denny proved to everyone watching that he was too easily overmatched, overwhelmed and under-prepared to ever be taken seriously. After the loss to the Falcons, Vikings fans had realized - if this team couldn't do it, then Denny Green will never win a Super Bowl with the Vikings.

2003 was Mike Tice's perfect storm. The team was made in his image, his coaching ideals realized: umm... I'll get back to you on that. Whatever they were, rest assured everything was executed while providing blatant and misguided lipservice towards both his players and the fans. Everything the Mike Tice era stood for manifested itself into the agonizing loss to the Arizona Cardinals in the last game of the 2003 season, which cost the Vikings a division title and allowed the Green Bay Packers the title and a playoff spot. After the loss to the Cardinals, Vikings fans had realized - if this team couldn't do it, then Mike Tice will never win a Super Bowl with the Vikings. Not that anyone thought he had a snowball's chance in hell to begin with.

2008 is Brad Childress's perfect storm. The team is made in his image, his coaching ideals realized: a hand-picked quarterback developed to fit the needs of a "kick-ass offense", a decidedly unspectacular but capable receiving core, a pronounced emphasis on the offensive and defensive lines, and one of the biggest gamebreakers in football at running back. We've seen this before with Childress's tenure as offensive coordinator in Philly, with McNabb as the hand-picked QB, a no-name receiving core (until TO showed up), interchangeable and inexhaustible cogs in the offensive and defensive lines, and a gamebreaker in Brian Westbrook. That team went to four straight NFC title games and one Super Bowl. Similar pieces are all in place for Childress to succeed with the Vikings.

I'm not saying that if the Vikings don't win a Super Bowl this year that the Childress era is doomed to failure entirely. I'm saying this is, as far as we know so far, the team that best exemplifies Childress's ideals as a head coach. This team is now entirely in his vision, both from a personnel and philosophical standpoint, so how this year plays out will indicate what exactly we as fans can expect. Is he The Guy we've been waiting for since Bud Grant? Can the defense keep a team under 250 yards passing? Can the D-line evoke memories of Alan Page, Carl Eller and Jim Marshall? Can Sidney Rice make The Leap? Can Adrian Peterson possibly live up to expectations? Can the Vikings stop playing to the level of their competition and find some consistency? And most importantly: Is Tarvaris going to be an NFL quarterback that's capable of taking over games, instead of just being told "Don't screw it up"?

I say that's most important because I could look back at that last sentence at the end of this season and feel any range of emotion. I could beam and proudly say "Damn right he is!", I could bury my face in my hands and mutter obscenities to myself, I could start biting my nails like I did all of last season, I could jump out of my chair and click my heels, I could down a bottle of Drano... any of those reactions are very possible. But watching Tarvaris operate so far in the preseason, and yes I'm well aware that I just said "preseason", but... he's looked, well, normal. He's looked like an NFL starting quarterback. He's stepping up in the pocket when pressured, he's making quick decisions with a very good success rate, he's making accurate throws, he's not forcing anything but he's not afraid of taking a chance, and he's not giving me a heart attack anytime he drops back to throw.

That's the biggest difference in watching Tarvaris from last year to this year. Last year it sure seemed he inherited Daunte Culpepper's uncanny ability to make every single Vikings fan recoil in horror anytime he dropped back to pass. ANYTHING was possible when Daunte dropped back - he could fumble the snap, he could step on Matt Birk's heel and fall on his ass, he could run for 50 yards, he could inexplicably drop the ball and chase after it as if it were a live chicken, he could throw into triple coverage, he could throw into quadruple coverage, he could throw a 50 yard bomb to Moss, he could heave the ball out of bounds on a third-and-4 and walk off the field with a "Derrrr I made a good decision!" look on his face, he could disarm a nuclear bomb, he could trip over said bomb and inadvertantly re-arm it, he could rescue a baby from a burning building, he could take a huge dump on the 20 yard line. I mean it, anything was capable of happening with Daunte. It sure seemed that way last year with Tarvaris, only with much less of a success rate. But watching him so far in two preseason games, and yes I'm well aware that I just said "two preseason games", but... I'm not terrified. I can't really put my finger on it yet.

Tarvaris has been treated largely unfairly so far by Vikings fans (myself included). I've written about this before - it's not realistic to expect an NFL quarterback in his 2nd year to immediately become a huge difference-maker. Guys that make an impact right out of the gate - like Marino, Roethlisberger, and Romo to name a few - are the exception to the rule. There are three times as many Cade McNowns as there are Big Bens. Quarterbacks need time, there's no way around it. And that's where Childress comes in. He handled the Favre debacle very well - he didn't even discuss the possibility of bringing him in, denied any serious talks about having him come aboard, and stayed true to Tarvaris. That sounds pretty funny on paper, but I think it goes a long way. This is Tarvaris's third year - he's used to the speed of the game, he's used to the players, he's used to the plays, he's used to the environment. He's had time, and now this is his chance. He's got nothing to lose. It's the guy that put him in the position he's in, the guy in whom has instilled his image and coaching ideals, that has everything to lose.

That said, I'm not huddled under a desk reciting 28 straight Hail Marys.

I've cut it to about 23.

Hey, I'm still a Vikings fan.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

In Defense of Bert Blyleven (Sort of)

No, this isn't going to be another "Why isn't Bert Blyleven in the Hall of Fame for the love of God!!~!!@@#90#$90jfokaj" article. I'm defending Blyleven's skills as a color commentator. Kinda.

Most criticisms of Blyleven aren't unique to just him. Many color commentators are roasted for pointing out the obvious, refusing to rip on particular (often lauded) players for making a mistake, and strictly adhering to more conventional statstical measurements, among many other things. One of the more popular Twins blogs ( said a couple years ago, "I happen to like Blyleven ... However, I've gradually grown tired of his on-air persona as it's taken on caricature-like qualities." The Star Tribune's Judd Zulgad didn't like "Blyleven relying on statistics instead of analysis." Another blog, McFeely State of Mind, laments that the "biggest pitfall facing broadcast teams is the complete and total loss of objectivity and reasoned thinking" and specifically points out "Dick Bremer and Bert Blyleven cheerleading their way through Twins games". On and on. Those are all valid criticisms. But I'm going to take an even more cynical route.

It's unrealistic in this day and age to ask for a guy who's going to give actual analysis. Seriously. Ever since John Madden burst onto the scene with his over-the-top, all schtick and no substance approach, many broadcasts have followed suit. Comedian Frank Caliendo even has an entire routine about Madden and how as an analyst, all he does is tell you things you already know. I think to sit there and whine about not getting any "real" analysis from a color commentator is pointless. Things have changed, and the Steve Stones of the world are a rarity. Analysts now are asked to be entertaining. Blyleven is entertaining. You may not like him or you may think he's annoying, and that's fine... but don't whine about the amount of "actual analysis" you're getting. Don't whine that he didn't call out Michael Cuddyer for not getting to a fly ball he should have caught. That's not why he's there.

The demands of the suits running the show have shifted to try and draw in the casual fan, at the expense of the die-hard, with the consensus being, "If they want analysis, the internet is RIGHT THERE." The "caricature" criticism of Blyleven in particular is interesting to me, because in his entire tenure as a Twins color commentator, I've never imagined him in any other way. (This is a guy who proudly wore an "I Love to Fart" t-shirt, for chrissakes.) He's brought in to be a clown and speak to the lowest common denominator, so that's what he does.

One thing that I don't think can be understated is Blyleven's natural enthusiasm, as it's obvious that he enjoys what he does. I think that goes a long way in this day and age, especially with the Hawk Harrelsons and Billy Packers of the world still lurking about. What I'm trying to get across is... Blyleven is harmless.

Besides, half the fun of watching a TV broadcast of a sporting event is making fun of the announcers, so just enjoy it, because it's not going to change anytime soon.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Reliving a nightmare

I've been avoiding this for almost 10 years.

Last weekend, as I was scrolling through this week's NFL Network programming schedule, I noticed a peculiar listing: "NFL's Greatest Games: 1998 NFC Championship - Atlanta Falcons at Minnesota Vikings". Many, many thoughts immediately went rushing through my head, the first of which being "NFL's 'GREATEST GAMES'?!? Is this some kind of cruel joke??" My next thought: was this really 10 years ago? Has it been THAT long?

Like any sane (or maybe insane?) Vikings fan, I've gone way out of my way to avoid seeing any highlights, getting involved in or initiating any discussion, or thinking about it any way shape or form whatsoever. Repression at its finest.

As I've said in earlier writeups, I'm not ashamed to admit that the day of this game is one of the worst days of my life. Some life, huh? But you have to bear in mind three things: I was 16 at the time, the Vikings meant the world to me, and they happened to have the highest scoring offense in NFL history to date. They went 15-1 during the regular season, something only two other teams had ever done before. As Ron Burgundy would say, they were kind of a big deal. To this day, I can still name just about every player on the roster, and recite just about every final score of every game that year. Not only that, but this was during a time when the Twins were a joke, and the Timberwolves were nothing. The Vikings were the be all end all of Minnesota sports. I was a fanatic and I loved it.

So to see this listing innocuously pop up on NFL Network set me back a bit. I decided to grit my teeth and write about the experience, blatantly stealing Bill Simmons' live-blog format. Just to be safe, I've primed myself with two beers before this program started.

7:03 - They start out with a highlight reel of the Vikings '98 regular season. Even with all the nonstop hype at the time and since, it's easy to forget just how incredibly LOADED this team was on offense. I mean, they just showed about 8 different highlights with 8 different guys catching touchdowns. Moss, Carter, Hoard, Glover, Smith, Hatchette, Palmer... yeah, time to crack open beer number three.

7:07 - A much more in-depth feature on the Falcons' regular season, detailing exactly what a ridiculous fluke their 14-2 season was. For instance, in the two seasons before '98, they won a total of 10 games. In the two seasons after, they won 9. Their best player was some guy named Jamal Anderson, who made a career out of using artificial turf to his advantage until it bit him in the ass and ended his career. And the perpetually injured journeyman Chris Chandler was their quarterback. In other words, this was almost as bad as the Colorado Rockies reaching the 2007 World Series.

7:13 - The Falcons win the toss, which leads to "Dan Reeves playing Denny Green like a fiddle", exhibit A: the Vikes stack the line and run-blitz like crazy to stop Jamal Anderson, so quarterback Chris Chandler completes 4 straight passes to start the game, almost immediately getting them first and goal at the Vikings 10 yard line. Denny really turned getting overwhelmed in a big game situation into an art form, as they have him miked on the sideline spouting cliches like, "Be aggressive!" Right. After two run stops, Jamal Anderson gets in front of the now-immortalized Dwayne Rudd and catches a simple circle route over the middle for a touchdown. 7-0 Falcons.

But you know, I remember about watching this live and thinking, "No big deal." Every Vikes fan thought that all year. No matter the deficit, no matter the yardage on third down, no matter the situation, the Vikings would get it done somehow. What a great feeling. There hasn't been a Minnesota team since then that I've been that confident about (not even CLOSE), and there might not be another again.

7:23 - The Vikings go right back down the field in 7 plays, Cunningham 31 yards to Moss, touchdown, tie game. Point proven.

7:29 - Atlanta turns the ball over in each of their next two possessions, leading to 10 points for the Vikings. 5:53 left in the first half. The crowd is going nuts and everything is how the script says it should be. Honestly, I thought I'd be freaked out by watching this, but I'm surprised... I'm comforted. It was FUN watching this offense operate, having the confidence knowing they could score from anywhere on the field at any time. In fact, I think I'm ready to make that an official statement after watching this, and reassessing my feelings after 10 years: It was pretty fun watching the 1998 Vikings destroy teams in the regular season, and it was fun watching their record-setting offense work their magic, regardless of how awful things turned out in the post-season.

7:37 - Vikings up 17-7 with the ball at the Atlanta 28, a chance to put the game away. Perfect third down throw from Cunningham is dropped by Moss in the middle of the end zone. Right off his hands. Forget everything I just said earlier. GOD DAMMIT. I don't think Moss gets enough flack for dropping passes. He's ridiculously athletic with freakish size and speed, but he has average hands. I don't care how good that offense was, it had its flaws. The O-line has been rather horseass as well. Fucking shit. Vikings settle for a field goal.

7:39 - Vikings get the ball back at their own 20 with 1:08 left in the first half, setting the stage for a classic instance where Denny and offensive coordinator Brian Billick demonstrate their staggeringly large egos and insist on taking multiple shots downfield, despite being at their own 20 yard line and being up 20-7. Okay, first down and maybe second down, sure take a shot. Third down, run the damn ball and punt, get to halftime. But this of course leads to a third down play of Cunningham getting stripped by Atlanta DE Chuck Smith as he's about to heave it downfield. Smith: "I read Todd Steussie's stance. I'd basically been whooping his ass all game by running around him, so he set up soft. Instead of blowing past him, I decided to bullrush him." That should be the subtitle of this show if it comes out on DVD. "The 1998 NFC Championship: Whooping Todd Steussie's Ass All Game". Atlanta recovers the fumble at the Viking 14 yard line. The very next play, Chandler complete to Terrence Mathis, touchdown. Atlanta cuts the lead to six.

7:41 - Robert Smith's assessment of that previous sequence -- "You've got a chance to put a dagger in their heart right before halftime and you gotta take that chance. And really, if everyone just does their job, then that fumble doesn't happen." But it was third down. There's just over minute left in the half. YOU'RE AT YOUR OWN TWENTY. YOU'RE ALREADY UP 20-7!!! WHY TAKE THAT RISK??? WHHHYYYYYYYYYYYYY????!?!?

I'm opening beer number four.

7:45 - Chuck Smith again: "That was the best walk to the locker room we'd ever had." I'm still reeling from that last sequence. This sucks.

7:48 - Vikings go three and out to start the 2nd half. Atlanta comes back as we bear witness to "Dan Reeves plays Denny Green like a fiddle", exhibit B: Tim Dwight lines up at quarterback with Chris Chandler flank left. With the Vikings defense sufficiently baffled, Dwight takes the snap and charges right untouched for about 25 yards. The Vikes defense was always remarkably unprepared and woefully out of position for trick plays like this. Like clockwork. Atlanta eventually settles for a field goal and it's 20-17.

7:50 - Listening to Denny spout empty cliches on the sidelines is making me want to take a beltsander to my face. Actually, at this point, he's moved past cliches and is just repeating random things like some lost autistic child. "Second and five! Second and five! Second and five!" Christ, I used to do that in my head during 9th grade algebra tests. "Only five problems left! only five problems left!" Think Denny's nervous at all? Fucking shit.

7:51 - Cunningham rolls to his left, tries to go deep to Moss and gets LEVELED by Jesse Tuggle, which irrepairably rattles Cunningham for the rest of the game. Not surprising, as he just got CLOCKED. Even before that, he wasn't catching anyone in stride, but after that hit, he stutter stepped like nuts in the pocket and he didn't roll out or scramble much at all the rest of the game.
Regardless, they dink and dunk downfield, leading to a Matthew Hatchette touchdown catch on a quick slant over the middle to make it 27-17 Vikings. This was everyone's "whew, alright, we're good, everything's okay" moment at the time. I will never forget that. I'm starting to feel a bit queasy.

7:56 - Ensuing Atlanta possession, crowd going nuts. Chandler gets plenty of time and cooly throws deep down the left sideline to Tony Martin for 70 yards. How does a road team pull something like that off, on their first play after the other team has just scored? In the NFC title game! Seriously, how does that happen? HOW does that HAPPEN? It's Chris freaking Chandler for god's sake!!

7:57 - Vikings try to kill the clock with the following: run up the middle for 1 yard, run up the middle for 0 yards, 7 step drop pass for a sack. Classic Denny Green telegraphed sequence. "ATTN: OPPOSING DEFENSE - WE'RE TRYING TO RUN THE CLOCK, AND WE'RE GOING TO MAKE IT AS EASY ON YOU AS POSSIBLE, SO PLEASE EXPECT SOME VERY PREDICTABLE PLAYCALLS". Swept under the rug here is how TERRIBLE the offensive line was on that sequence. They just collapsed.

7:58 - Atlanta goes three and out, Vikings get the ball back and Cunningham FUMBLES THE SNAP?! I'll be honest with you - I don't remember this at all. Falcons get the ball at the Vikings 30. The crowd is in full blown panic mode.

7:59 - Atlanta stumbles again (the Vikes DID stop the run pretty well), Reeves elects to go for it on 4th down and fails as the crowd collectively sighs in relief. Denny lucks into somebody else's mistake, imagine that. I seriously don't remember any of this originally, which leads me to believe that I was way too rattled to have been paying too much attention, or way too pissed off and nervous to have retained this for longer than an hour or two. There's six minutes left in the game, Vikings with the ball up by 7.

8:00 - Robert Smith: "They can talk all they want about how physical they were. When we needed to run the ball most, we were able to do it." I'm liking Robert Smith less and less.

8:01 - Vikings make Atlanta use up all their timeouts, during which we hear Denny interacting with Carter and Moss on the sideline. Well, less "interacting" and more "being talked at". Seriously, what the HELL? You're the COACH, tell these idiots to sit down and SHUT UP. The Vikings eventually drive into Atlanta territory despite the whining.

8:05 - Here it is. 38 yard field goal from Gary Anderson to make it a 10 point game, and essentially end it. And.... it's still wide left, 10 years later.

Fucking SHIT.

8:06 - Atlanta LB Keith Brooking says, "There was not a doubt in my mind that, after that, we were going to drive downfield and score seven points. Not. A. Doubt." Nice to see the Falcons players shared the same mindset as every single Vikings fan.

8:07 - This is sickening to watch. I mean, every receiver is WIDE open, and Chandler has a ridiculous amount of time to throw. I just caught myself audibly mumbling at the TV. I'm losing it all over again.

8:08 - The slicker-than-deer-guts-on-a-door-knob Chris Chandler scrambles for 9 yards. Exhibit C in the Dan Reeves/Denny Green chess match: 3rd and 1 on the Viking 38, and Atlanta has been pass-pass-pass this entire drive, so Denny, being Denny, has six defensive backs out there on a 3rd and 1. Handoff to Jamal Anderson goes for 8 yards. Denny is so in over his head here it's sad to watch.

8:09 - I experience another "OH MY GOD I FORGOT ABOUT THAT" moment as Robert Griffith comes within inches of picking off a tipped Chandler pass in the end zone. That's ANOTHER moment I actively blocked out, and now still wish I had. That one hurt. It sounds almost as if the crowd senses that was the Vikings one chance, as Atlanta has 2nd and 10 at the Vikings 21. They're loud, but unconvincing. With good reason. Chandler to Mathis, touchdown, tie game. Beer number five is long gone. Chris freaking Chandler.

8:10 - Inexplicably, the program glazes over Denny taking a knee with 1:40 left and two timeouts opting to send the game to overtime and completely pussying out due to his own fuckup at the end of the first half (really, the most frustrating and infuriating part of the entire game). Although maybe the skip isn't so inexplicable; it's possible NFL Network is in the midst of a class-action lawsuit involving destroyed TVs as a result of reliving Denny's Knee.

The quote of the show so far, as we head to overtime: "When the game went to overtime, that was the first time in my career that I REALLY felt nervous during a game." - Cris Carter. Somehow, I find that quote to be COMPLETELY counterproductive to the entire purpose of this exercise. Thanks, Cris Carter.

(Sidenote to get my mind off of this - NFL Network keeps airing this awful weightloss commercial... I'm not the only person that thinks Jilian Barbarie is horrifying, right? Not even five beers has made her remotely attractive. I think I'd rather make out with the melting Nazi from "Raiders of the Lost Ark".)

8:13 - Vikings first OT series - Cunningham is forced out of the pocket and scrambles to his right, getting stripped of the ball. Somehow David Dixon prevents nuclear meltdown and falls on it. The Vikings punt anyway. By the way, we're past the point where I, along with several thousand others, thought there was no chance in hell the Vikings were going to pull this off in overtime. Not after Gary Anderson missed. Not after how regulation ended. Not with Denny. The other shoe was going to drop any second.

8:15 - Atlanta gets two first downs on their first OT possession but eventually punts. Vikings get the ball back, and its third and 10 quicker than you can say "Purple Pride". BUT WAIT, DEEP TO MOSS AND IT'S... woefully underthrown. Moss had more than a step on Buchannan. That was it. Fucking SHIT, I had completely forgotten about that. That was IT.

8:17 - The narrative picks this time to lament over the injuries the Vikings defense sustained over the course of the game, namely Ed McDaniel and John Randle. Two huge blows, to be sure, but still, here's the quote we get from Denny: "That really hurt us. We didn't have the same guys on the field that got us to a 15-1 record."

First of all, you were 15-1 IN SPITE OF your shitty defense. Every idiot that watched 10 seconds of any Vikings game at any point of the season knew that. Second, should that really MATTER? Talent is one thing, but haven't the New England, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and San Diego teams (and scores of others) demonstrated over the past few years that this logic is completely empty and useless? It's the NFL and injuries HAPPEN. If the backups suck, then plan for a more basic defensive scheme and put more of an emphasis on positioning, rather than sticking to the same scheme fit for the faster and more athletic starters, which leads to round pegs in square holes. Yeah yeah, retrospect is 20/20 and blah blah blah, but seriously, these guys are paid a LOT OF MONEY to figure this shit out and to coach an ENTIRE 53 man roster, as in NOT JUST THE STARTERS, to be ready for any and every situation and oeriaufe j9834hjt938htj kadf.,amf.kd mklmawfm.x,

It's time for beer number six.

8:18 - Atlanta DB Ray Buchannan - "Why does football depend so much on a kicker?"

8:19 - Atlanta's 2nd drive of OT gets them within striking distance. Morten Anderson. 31 yards. The kick is up. It drifts ever so slightly to the right for a SPLIT SECOND... then, as if being pulled by a magnet, somehow starts hooking left.

Fucking. Shit.

It's remarkable how so much time can pass, yet an event such as this can evoke almost the EXACT same feelings as when it first happened. And they are as follows: You will never, EVER see a bigger choke job in the NFL, as long as you live. As a result, this game is proof that any cynicism I have developed as a Vikings fan was not created as some wimpy defense mechanism. Rest assured this team has EARNED EVERY OUNCE of my cynicism.

You will never see a team as mentally unprepared, as inexcusably nervous and unconfident (if that's not a word, then Denny created it for me) as this Vikings team, and ALL of that falls on the coaching. For enabling babbling misguided idiots like Cris Carter and a fucking ROOKIE (Moss) to help dictate his gameplan. Listening to Denny Green on the sidelines was sad. Listening to Carter and Moss whine at him like spoiled children, and watching Denny enable and appease them was pathetic.

I remember it was this point in time that I very slowly wandered up the stairs, completely dazed by what just happened, and taking the longest shower of my life. Thus completes my worst experience as a sports fan.

8:21 - Just to rub it in, Robert Smith busts out the classic, "We were the best team on the field that day, we just didn't get it done" bullshit. You can promptly fuck right off, Robert Smith.

8:25 - Atlanta gets predictably thrashed by Denver two weeks later in Super Bowl XXXIII. My thoughts on a Vikings/Denver Super Bowl haven't changed over the years: Denver was a much more complete team and would've beat the Vikes handily.

As we gloss over "highlights" for the Vikings over the next couple seasons leading to his firing, we're left with one last Denny quote: "I think anybody would tell you that 10 years in the same job is too long." Uh, WHAT? So you're saying you should've been fired after the 1996 season? I don't understand this quote at all, which means it's classic Denny. Great way to end the show.


As much as it helps to articulate this entire experience as an adult, guess what? It still sucks to be a Vikings fan. Imagine that. After this entire 90 minute ordeal, it would seem this entire writeup is an exercise in futility, needlessly dragging out old memories and old scars. And for what?

As it turns out, it was for the 16-year-old me. To be honest, before I started watching this, there was a small part of me that was afraid that I wouldn't care anymore, that I wouldn't get nearly as riled up anymore, that I'd consider wrapping myself into it as much as I did back then as a huge waste of time, that somehow my emotional investment had gone to waste. I'm relieved to type this out right now and declare that is not the case. As perverse as it may sound, I'm still a Vikings fan, I still have hope for this year, and I'm glad I was able to re-live the worst sports experience in my lifetime and come away with something.

If this little experiment has proven anything, it's that it takes more than 10 years and Denny Green to dim one's fandom.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Most ELECTRFYING Head Coach in the NFL!!

The Pioneer Press's Sean Jensen and Rick Alonzo recently sat down with Vikings' head coach Brad Childress for an EXCLUSIVE hard-hitting life-alteringly insightful interview. As a result, I couldn't help myself in riffing on Childress's painfully generic answers. My hilariously hilarious har har snarky remarks are in bold. I cherry-picked some of the better "answers". The entire interview can be read HERE.

Q: On a personal note, not to do with football, what was a highlight of your offseason? Was there anything fun you did?

A: I caught a fish this past week, a goliath grouper. I don't ever fish. Sixty-five pounds off of Marco Island in Florida.

"So to answer your question, no."

Q: Tarvaris worked with trainer Tom Shaw the past few weeks in Florida. Shaw was saying what really jumped out about Tarvaris was his leadership. What impressed you about Tarvaris this offseason?

A: I think the thing is it's very easy to get bored by the mundane aspects of the job, punching the time card, coming in, spending the time that you need to spend in the weight room when you could be running around everywhere doing anything. It's kind of like marriage. Every day is not your wedding day. Everything is not wedded bliss. There's wet diapers, there's crying at night.

There's going to be some great moments, but there's days that are just days, and you still have to log those, too. I just think his diligence in terms of being here, leading by example, and of course, getting the guys organized and leading on the field. Our offseason stuff, some of that, we're out there to supervise; some of that other stuff, he's taken the leadership business.

I know he has Bernard Berrian down there a little bit with him throwing. I think that's a great thing. Some of the other guys have checked in and out. I can't tell you there's like a 'wow' moment, but just the fact that he's building that equity.

He shows up for work. He's on time. He brings his own lunch. He has two arms, and he also has two legs. Seriously, what the hell kind of an answer is this? He gives him credit for "building equity"? This answer is not helping me build equity with my brain.

Q: Do you get a sense that he's kind of empowered by his growth over the past year and his teammates' increased confidence in him?

A: Yeah, I see that growth in confidence because he's felt himself


and seen himself improve. That doesn't go unnoticed by a teammate or a bystander.

Yeah, I mean, he SHOWS UP and stuff! What a LEADER.

I'm already a lot more nervous than I was originally about Tarvaris as this interview goes on. He's talking like my old boss during one of my annual reviews. "He speaks clearly. People seem to like him. His desk is usually clean. Sometimes he brings popcorn and soda to our department meetings. I hear he does a pretty good Charles Nelson Reilly impression."

Q: There's a lot of increased expectations out there — some people say this is a possible Super Bowl team — are those expectations appropriate?

Correct answer: No.

Childress's answer: Well, that's not for me to say whether they're appropriate or not. I would say it beats the alternative, of saying you're the dregs of society or you're in a gutter. I like the fact that nobody has bigger expectations than our players and our coaching staff. I like the fact that we're growing the team the right way. Those guys like practicing with each other. It's a good mentality. It's a whistle-while-you-work mentality. Obviously, you have to get it out on the field, but I like the enthusiasm. I like the expectations.

Blah blah diplomacy blah blah cliches blah blah... It's getting hard to tell if someone needs to fire Childress's PR coach, or if he's really that bland. I wonder if he has one of those gigantic laminated posterboards for interviews too. These answers render interviews like this as completely useless filler.

Q: Can that be a distraction? When you were in Philadelphia, you guys were a very strong team and a potential Super Bowl team. Can that be a distraction when a lot of people are projecting you to be great, and you probably know you have something special, too?

A: Not unless you've got narcissistic personality disorder or something like that — love yourself and don't take care of your business. It's a show-me game, and our guys are aware of that. It's what have you done (lately), and every year stands on its own merits, and every game stands on its own merits.

Plus, you have to have a personality to have a personality disorder, so that rules that out.

Q: Do you have to do anything to prepare for the possibility of losing Bryant McKinnie if he ends up getting suspended following his offseason arrest in Miami?

A: Not specifically (regarding) Bryant. But we go through numbers of ... it's like having mock drafts. The what-if scenario. What if, what if, what if. And you have to. I mean, you have to do those kinds of things, like have (an emergency) quarterback.

Some guy: Coach Childress, can you point me to the nearest gas station?

Childress: I really have to consider all 80 gas stations in this area. I would say that BP gas stations are frequently placed among the city but I would have to begin to think to imagine that the possibility of the slightest chance that under any circumstances there's circumstantial evidence regarding a Shell gas station within 5 miles that one would entertain the possibility of heading in that direction. But I like the fact that Exxon Mobil has reached my expectations. And Holiday gas stations have gasoline. They get down to business. You gotta take it one gas station at a time or you lose focus. Each gas station stands on its own merits.

Q: Who do you look at as your backup at left tackle? Who will compete there?

A: Well, Artis (Hicks) certainly has the experience to do that. That would be the first guy I'd think of. But there's a bunch of people we're going to roll through there.

Some guy: So what about the NEAREST gas station, to right here, where we are standing?

Childress: Well, Philips certainly has the experience to do that. But there's a bunch of gas stations.

Q: As a football coach, you want to get your best players on the field. Two of your best players are running backs. Is there a way you can better take advantage of that this season, especially with Adrian Peterson working more on his pass catching?

A: Better take advantage of it? Not unless they play with two balls. I don't think it's going to happen.

You know, if there's an advantage, a strategic advantage, to playing with two backs, then I'd say yes.

Here's an idea, since you're the head coach and all: CREATE a strategic advantage. How about, god forbid, playing to the strengths of your personnel instead of shoving square pegs into round holes?

Q: Is there a training camp battle you're looking forward to?

A: I think there's going to be a number of competitive positions, without singling out one.

Thanks for stopping by, coach.

Many people have developed strong emotions towards Brad Childress in his three short years as Vikings' head coach and you can say what you will about this interview and about Brad Childress, but there can be no denying that this was in fact an interview, and it did in fact involve Brad Childress.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Unleash the Fist Pump

The celebratory fist pump goes back centuries, generations, even millenia. It's said that when a dying Caesar asked Brutus, "Et tu, Brute?", Brutus simply responded with a fierce fist pump, right in Caesar's face. Rumor has it the debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas ended with Abe delivering a sweeping, five-step, uppercut fist pump. To this day there's a divide among people on whether or not Winston Churchill celebrated the end of World War II by flexing his right bicep and pointing at it with his left hand, or if he just pumped his fist and went about his business. (Come on, don't insult my intelligence, there's no doubt he did the fist pump.)

But these men that I have listed below are the best of the best. The best at delivering a fist pump with conviction, vigor, certitude, overwhelming enthusiasm, and a small amount of cartoonish, exaggerated goofiness.

5. Rafael Nadal

More for the frequency in which he utilizes the fist pump, which is almost every single point. In addition, tennis on its own lends itself to the act of fist-pumping very well.

4. Chris DiMarco

As I stated in a previous post, I'm rooting for DiMarco to win a major only to see what kind of fist pump he busts out for the occasion. His face when delivering looks like a cross between Sebastian Bach and a demon from "Doom".



#3 - Wayne Gretzky

Sadly, despite my endless scouring of the internet, I can't find photographic or video evidence of the badass fist pump Gretzky pulled in the 1993 Stanley Cup playoffs. He simply crouched down and pumped his fist parallel to the ice, rather non-chalantly, as if to say, "That's right, I'm Wayne F'n Gretzky." It fit the moment flawlessly, and inspired hundreds of thousands of pee-wee and bantam hockey kids to shamelessly emulate that exact fist pump. (The closest thing I can find is a compilation video that has some of his best moments/fist pumps.)

#2 - Jimmy Connors

While he's not #1 on this list, he clearly deserves some kind of lifetime achievement award for all he's done to pioneer the fist pump. Yes the quality of this video is terrible, but I've never seen a more hilariously gratuitous fist pump in my life. It was obviously well earned (I'm not a tennis guy, but holy shit what a point), but still. The natural ease and ferocity in which he unleashes it is something to behold, maybe even moreso than the point itself. The slow motion of it at the end never fails to crack me up. I remember the first time I did fist pump of that nature, when Neve Campbell and Denise Richards started making out in "Wild Things".

#1 - Tiger Woods

Duh. Like there was any doubt. There are roughly 37 different camera angles of this memorable fist pump alone, from the 2005 Masters.

(Honorable mention: Howard Dean (disqualified for not being relevant anymore) , Blue Man Group (late to the party, guys)

And of course, I'd be a fool not to link to one of my favorite websites,

Sunday, June 1, 2008


When the Giants won the Super Bowl, I'm not sure there was a happier guy in the world than the genius marketing exec for Citizen who made the dubious decision (a massive understatement) that Eli Manning would be featured in their Citizen Echo-Drive advertisements. Even though Eli now improbably has a ring, the commercials and print ads are still humorous to many. Here's what I found in a magazine which I cut out and scanned:

If they decided on Eli, I wonder who else Citizen was considering. There were plenty of guys that had equal stature at the time...

And there's plenty of young quarterbacks that are all over the news...

Of course, I'm sure Tom Brady would've been great for Citizen, but there's a chance he wanted too much money. However, there was a cheaper option they may not have considered.

And finally, I HAVE to do this one, for all the Vikings fans out there...

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Dealing With the Agony of Once Valuable Sports Cards

A while back, I wrote something chronicling my unspeakable pain and agony that certain baseball cards gave me. Since that was so cathartic, and since my medical insurance is footing the bill, I decided to do the same thing for football, basketball and hockey cards.

We'll start with football...

Dan McGwire - 1991 Upper Deck "Rookie Force"
Value circa October 1991 - $2.75
Current worth - NOTHING
Clearly, there was no greater ROOKIE FORCE than Dan McGwire. But really, I picked this one out to represent every crappy first round QB drafted in the late '80s and early '90s whose cards were in demand despite that they hadn't played a down yet. I could have gone in a multitude of directions (David Klingler, Andre Ware, or even the almighty Jeff George), but I remember this card in particular because my warped child logic dictated that he HAD to be good, because his last name is McGwire. Whoa, you mean he's Mark McGwire's brother? He HAS to be good! Unfortunately, even if Dan got jacked up on as many roids as Mark, that probably still wouldn't have made a difference.
Career Stats - 5 starts, 74 completions in 148 attempts for 745 yards, 2 TDs and 6 INTs in five years with Seattle.
What's he doing now? - Doing shots with Stan Gelbaugh and Kelly Stouffer at a Seattle dive bar.

Don Majkowski - 1989 Topps
Value circa October 1991 - $1.10
Current worth - NOTHING

I'm sure Packers fans remember this card. Okay, so it was only worth $1.10 in late '91, but that's STILL a lot to a 9 year old kid. Based on the hype he got after a really good 1989 season (4300+ yards, 27 TDs), Majkowski was supposed to be what Favre ended up being. I'm of the belief that the value of his cards was spurned by a couple things: everyone wanted the Packers to be good again after being horrible throughout the '80s (kind of like rooting for an Original 6 team to be relevant again in hockey), and he had the best nickname ever, the "Majik Man". Unfortunately for him, defenses eventually responded to that with "Magic is spelled with a G, douchebag", and he was gone from Green Bay by 1992.
Career stats - 93 starts, 55.4% completion rate, 12,700 yards, 66 TDs, 67 INTs
What's he doing now? - Proving that the nickname does not apply to guitar playing either.

Barry Sanders - 1989 Score
Value circa October 1991 - $42.00
Current worth - NOTHI... I mean, about the same

See now, this is what every kid hoped for as they got older. My buddy at the time got this card in a pack and was justifiably elated, then got to sit back and watch as Sanders turned out to be one of the best running backs ever. Normally, that would mean that the card should go UP in value, but the overinflated sports cards market would dictate that keeping a value as high as $42 the same for almost 20 years is just as well.
Career stats - 3rd all-time with 15,268 rushing yards, 99 TDs
What's he doing now? - Making sure Emmitt Smith's cards aren't worth as much as his.

Onto hockey...

...yes, that's right, HOCK-EE, when you grow up in Minnesota, you become familiar with it...

Kevin Stevens - 1990-91 O-Pee-Chee Premier
Value circa June 1991 - $2.50
Current worth - NOTHING

I would have used his 1990-91 Upper Deck rookie, which every kid in Minnesota had, but the Internets doesn't seem to have a picture of it, which is pretty telling. Stevens was a pretty big part of the dominant early '90s Penguins teams that won two straight Stanley Cups. It's pretty ridiculous to think that team won only two, but part of the reason is because of a rather goofy yet devastating injury to Stevens, when he rammed his face into another player's visor, knocking him out and hitting the ice face first. Stevens would go on to play for a million other teams, kind like a really really low-rent Alexander Mogilny.
Career stats - 874 games, 329 goals, 726 points
What's he doing now? - Following Brian Bellows everywhere he goes. (Warning: strong language)

Pat Falloon - 1992-93 Upper Deck Young Guns
Value circa October 1992 - $2.00
Current worth - NOTHING

Fuckin' Pat Falloon. Goddammit. Those are usually the first four words that come out of my mouth anytime I come across anything even related to the San Jose Sharks, to this day. Here's a haiku to help ease my pain:

overhyped hockey prospect
I hate Pat Falloon

Career stats - 575 games, 143 goals, 322 points
What's he doing now? - Hopefully legally changing his name to Fuckin' Pat Falloon Goddammit. Either that, or learning how to do this in the hopes of reviving his career.

Eric Lindros - ANY CARD EVER
Value circa whenever - $934283748237498239.50
Current worth - NOTHING

This one I'm not so bitter about, because I always hated Eric Lindros, ever since he pulled that BS on the Nordiques, which then led to the team moving out of Quebec, robbing the NHL and sports one of the best team nicknames, one of the best logos, and some of the best uniforms ever. Also, the hype this guy got at the time made Sidney Crosby seem like Anti Laaksonen in comparison. So now, allow me to belt out a Nelson-like "HA HA!" to anybody that ever splurged on a can't-miss Lindros rookie card. Dumbasses.
Career stats - 13 seasons (only 4 of which when he played more than 70 games), 372 goals, 865 points
What's he doing now? - Visiting Quebec with his parents, I'm sure.

We'll finish with basketball...

Harold Miner - 1992-93 Fleer Ultra Rookie
Value circa October 1992 - $2.75
Current worth - NOTHING

Everyone say it with me... Baby Jordan. BWAAHAHAHAHAHA! This card is particularly hilarious because it has the ever so poignant image of Miner shooting over Jordan's outstretched hand. The beginning of a hot rivalry! The passing of the torch! The Heat have arrived!...... Ah, NO.
Career stats - A whopping 4 seasons, 9.0 ppg, 1.2 apg, 2.2 rpg
What's he doing now? - Learning how to use Adobe Premiere so he can make more ridiculously melodramatic videos like this. This is 10 minutes long? Really? "Wow, check out that routine jump shot!"

Richard Dumas - 1992-93 Upper Deck
Value circa October 1992 - $2.25
Current worth - NOTHING

This card bums me out, first and foremost being that Richard Dumas was quite the badass player for those early '90s Suns teams, until drug habits killed his career. I was a fan of his in the early going after watching him play, and I was ticked that he never had a cool looking card that said "Rookie" on it or anything, since he kind of came out of nowhere. Furthermore, I was ticked at Upper Deck for coming out with such a LAMEASS design for their 92-93 cards.
Career stats - 10.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 1.1 apg over 3 seasons
What's he doing now? - Making sure his name is pronounced correctly.

Larry Johnson - 1991-92 Upper Deck "NBA Draft"
Value circa October 1992 - $9.50
Current worth - NOTHING

This card REALLY bums me out. I got this in one of my first ever packs of basketball cards, which instantly made LJ my favorite player. I spent like a month's worth of chores and whatever on Larry Johnson cards when I was 10 or so. Sadly, he quickly became saddled with the absolute worst ad campaign in recorded history, and the worst yet prophetic nickname, "Grandmama". He ended up gaining weight, throwing a fit that he wasn't The Man and paid as such in Charlotte, and going to the Knicks to become a part of one of the most unwatchable teams in history that nearly killed the NBA. Give me a sec, I need a couple shots of scotch...
Career stats - 16.2 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 3.3 apg over 10 seasons
What's he doing now? - Hopefully not still dressing like this.

Once again, thanks as always to

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Chargers GM gets contract extension, meaning absolutely nothing

Deviating a bit from the Tuesday-only structure...

If 2007 taught us anything, it's that a signed coaching or front office contract in pro or college football is nothing but a paper airplane waiting to be made. It continues to surprise me that front office contract signings are considered headline news. As stated in John Clayton's article:

"The Chargers, who made the playoffs for the third time in four years, rewarded general manager A.J. Smith with a five-year, $11 million extension that will keep him in charge through the 2014 season."

Come on, no it won't. All it means is, he gets to stick around for the 2008 draft and ensuing season, and he'll get a boatload of money for it. Anything after that is fair game, assuming Smith would want to stick around after 2008 and leave for some other random job. Want proof? Peter King said in his November 18th Monday Morning QB column, regarding Brian Billick, after the Ravens lost to Cleveland in Week 11, their fourth loss in a row:

"3. I think, speaking of coaches not far from the Beltway, Brian Billick's not going anywhere, people. Not this year. Not in the first year of a four-year contract. Not with $15 million or so due him if he were to get whacked. Baltimore owner Steve Bisciotti's not Dan Snyder in the patience or disposable-income departments."

Uh huh. And what happens? Billick's gone as soon as the season's done. Contract shmontract.

Let's say for example the Chargers lose to Tennessee on Sunday. Let's say Smith has an average, not particularly inspiring draft in June. Let's say the Chargers miss the playoffs in 2008. What then? Who knows. All I know is, the contract doesn't matter. Billick's situation is proof of that, Bobby Petrino's past two coaching gigs in Louisville and Atlanta are proof... hell, Nick Saban's entire CAREER is proof, practically.

Bear in mind this isn't an attack directly at Smith, who's a fine GM, but rather at the entire NFL and NCAA coaching/front office culture. It's a little sad and kind of naive to continue to believe that news like this even means anything anymore.

In fact, they say if you listen real closely, you can hear a couple coaches and GMs folding up their contracts into mock F-16s...

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Goodbye, Troy Williamson

"Jackson rolls out... he's got a man wide open, it's Williamson! And... he DROPS IT!! Incomplete!" - Sam Rosen, FOX Sports, during the Minnesota/Denver game on 12/30/07

Even before Sunday's loss to Denver, I was thinking of writing an obituary for Troy Williamson's career in a Vikings uniform. But after the game, it seemed too cruel. What an agonizing way to go. And come on, you know he's gone... and for his sake, I hope he is.

I was prepared to do a comparison of Williamson to a ton of other young wide receivers to prove how most wideouts begin to come into their own in their 3rd year in the league. I was going to talk about guys taken in the same draft class as him like Braylon Edwards and Roddy White and even Matt Jones, and how they're starting to emerge. Edwards is even going to the Pro Bowl.

But I don't even have to bother doing that now. Everybody saw the game on Sunday, everybody saw the awful AWFUL drop of that wide-open deep pass down the left sideline, everybody saw the 3rd-and-5 pass bounce off his chest that would have been a sure first down. To rub it in further wouldn't be too fair. I mean, his whole Vikings career hasn't exactly been fair from the start.

Williamson was the 7th overall player taken in the 2005 NFL draft, a few months after the Vikings had traded the amazing Randy Moss. It was a dumb idea to pick Williamson in the first place, and not because many thought they should've taken Mike Williams. (Surprise! Both guys suck!) While anybody that would've been taken with this draft pick would have bore the stigma of being considered, what the Vikings believed at the time, to be adequate compensation for one of the best wide receivers in NFL history, it was dumb to actually pick a LITERAL REPLACEMENT for him. How is that fair to Williamson? He's supposed to have a chance in hell with all that pressure immediately placed on him? Why didn't they just slap the number 84 on him while they were at it? Granted, they did need a playmaking wide receiver, but chalk this one up as a victory to drafting the best player available over drafting for need. But I digress.

Unfortunately for him, all that pressure seemed to manifest itself after that first key drop last year against San Francisco. He seemed to have major confidence issues after that, leading for him to get his eyes checked (!) and everything. Uh, shouldn't management at the time have evaluated that before drafting him?

So I bid to Troy Williamson good luck, wherever he ends up. He deserves it, after the hell he's had to go through here. And I would think more people would throw him a bone, but uh... well... you know...