There are several different kinds of Vikings fans. There's the Raving Idiot, who goes to every game, gets hammered, never shuts up and makes Wisconsin jokes for 3 hours regardless of who the opponent is. There's the Kool Aid Drinker, most of whom you'll find at fan forums, who support absolutely anything the team does at the expense of logic and insight, because they wouldn't be "real fans" if they didn't. There's the Why Bother fans, like my dad, who follow the team but understand that there's very little reward in getting their hopes up about anything remotely positive. There's the Masochists, who have a similar disposition to the Why Bother fans, but can't help themselves but let their hopes irrationally skyrocket when something goes right, only to be disappointed time after time (or tyyyme and tyyyme ah-GEEEEEHN as Phil Simms would say). And there's the Sanity Seekers, who are a balanced combination of all of the above.
I'm a Sanity Seeker, although I've run the gamut the past couple seasons, especially this year. After the Jared Allen trade, I was a Kool Aid Drinker. After the opening week loss to Green Bay, I was a Masochist. After the Week 2 groin kick from Indy, I was a Why Bother. After the Week 10 win over Green Bay, I was a Raving Idiot (albeit with the caveat that I knew it was only going to be for a week). After beating the Bears in a must win game, I was back to the Masochist. And after the Wild Card loss to Philly, I'm a Sanity Seeker again. That kind of a bi-polar run isn't unusual.
Now, being a Sanity Seeker means that you understand the writing's been on the wall for a while now - this team has exactly zero long term potential with Brad Childress as head coach. That being the case, many fans of my ilk wanted the Vikings to tank this year so that Childress would be shown the door ASAP. Instead, they won the division, drawing in the Masochists and even sparking a hint of interest from some Why Bothers, appeasing the Raving Idiots and Kool Aid Drinkers. After the loss to Philly, it seems nearly every group is right where they're supposed to be - the Masochists got what was coming to them, the Why Bothers had been right to say "Why bother?", the Kool Aid Drinkers can harp on the "year to year improvement", and the Raving Idiots are still Raving Idiots (that'll rarely change). Unfortunately, that leaves Sanity Seekers like myself out in the cold. Childress is gonna stick around. But then I got to thinking...
Reports came out shortly after the end of the regular season stating that Bill Cowher is going to sit out another year and wait until 2010 to come back. Then Mike Shannahan got fired, stating shortly afterwards that he's leaning towards sitting out a year before returning. Strong rumors indicate Mike Holmgren is also leaning in that direction. And who knows, if Tony Dungy retires, he may want back in for 2010 after a year off.
Here's the thing - Childress is heading into Year 4 of a five year contract. Considering that Zygi Wilf had to immediately come forward and say "He's coming back" after the Wild Card loss, he's not going to be offered an extension this offseason. Considering how rare it is for a coach to play out his entire contract, lest he be left with a lame duck season for that final year, that would mean this coming season would prove whether or not Childress is worth an extension. And considering the Vikings just won the NFC North and expectations will be raised even higher for next season, that would make 2009 the Official Make-or-Break Year for the Childress Era.
That's a good thing. There's still hope for us Sanity Seekers. If the Vikings finish below .500 and still don't have a QB (both of which are not far-fetched to say the least), not only would Childress be outta here, that would open the door for the likes of Cowher, Shannahan, Holmgren or even Dungy. Isn't that situation 100 times better than if Childress were to get canned now? Wouldn't you rather have a chance at those guys rather than pick the Coordinator Flavor of the Month who's had zero head coaching experience?
Maybe a better question - is this entire column proof that I've miscategorized myself? Am I really a Masochist? I think I'm gonna go watch "Blue Velvet".