The past few weeks have been a great summation of how Minnesota sports fans perceive their teams. One one hand, we have the Twins - a mediocre team that has no business being over .500, struggling to stay within striking distance of the AL Central division title and the right to get annihilated by the Yankees next month. On the other, we have the Vikings - loaded with talent, including the best player in the game and a future Hall of Fame quarterback, inarguably one of the three best teams in the NFC.
Those views are as objective as I can get being as close as I am to each team. Yet the rooting interest for both are completely reversed. Nobody ever gives up on the Twins, and the Vikings can't please anyone.
The Twins have earned everyone's trust, going all the way back to 1987. It's really kind of amazing how there's indisputable evidence that they're just not a good team, but people rush to defend them. "But we have Joe Mauer!" "Baker and Blackburn are gonna get it turned around." "Maybe Liriano's a one inning reliever, you never know." "Hey, we only won 85 games in '87, and look what happened!"
The Vikings, meanwhile, have systematically destroyed their fans over the years. They beat two terrible teams on the road by two TDs each, like a good team is supposed to, and all anyone can talk about is what they're doing wrong. They have an insane amount of talent this year - they could have as many as ten Pro-Bowl players (Peterson, Hutchinson, McKinnie, Harvin, Allen, the Williams Wall, Greenway, Henderson, and Winfield, and that's not including Favre and Berrian) - and people only harp on their flaws.
That's what makes events like yesterday's Vikings game so fascinating for armchair sports fan psychologists like me. After they turned it over on downs with less than 2 minutes left, people seemingly relished the opportunity to roast the Vikes. It was Childress's fault, the Favre signing was an exercise in futility, the defense is a shell of itself, on and on and on. But then something totally unexpected happened.
I'm not sure outsiders really understand what that meant to Vikings fans. We've never had a quarterback who could pull off something so definitive like that. 80 yards in less than two minutes and no timeouts. Cunningham maybe, if he were throwing to Moss or Carter, and it was '97 or '98. Maybe a past-his-prime Warren Moon in 1995 (and that's a big maybe). But not Daunte. Not Tipsy Tommy Kramer. Not Wade Wilson, not Rich Gannon, not Brad Johnson, not Jeff George, not Kelly Holcomb, not Tarsagis Rosenjack.
Impossibly, Favre has injected some Twins-esque optimism into Vikings fans. Now we feel like we're in every game. We've got a guy who's done it before and has proven he can do it again. I mean, did you SEE that throw?
If you had told me 10 years ago that Brett Favre would be the person to help Vikings fans chip away at their hard-earned cynicism over the years, I think my eyeballs would pop out of my head like Arnold in Total Recall.
Believe me when I say that nobody is more tired than I am of the Favre media machine, but it's different when he's on your team. It really is. There's a well-founded bias towards Favre that makes most people react negatively, and it usually goes something like, "We get it, enough already." But in the midst of dealing with the hyperbole, you forget that he's actually pretty damn good. Yesterday was a great reminder.
Bring on the Pack.