Friday, January 9, 2009

There's Still Hope After All

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".

Monday, January 5, 2009

That Wasn't So Bad

My stomach feels fine. I don't feel like throwing up. My testicles are unharmed. I didn't even think about the game until well after my morning routine. And even then, I thought about it for about 10 seconds before thinking about what psycho was going to sit next to me on the train this morning.

I suppose if Vikings fans weren't so conditioned for bad losses, this would be much more upsetting. Contrary to popular opinion, I'm of the belief that the reason it took until the 11th hour to finally sell out a playoff game at the Dome was because everybody was expecting a repeat of the Week 2 game against Indy or worse, like the ticket offices had banners over their windows advertising "Punch in the Stomach - $59" and "Kick in the Nuts - $174." There were logical and legitimate reasons to believe the Vikings had no shot against Philly, two of which rhyme with Shmarvaris Crackson and Chad Billdress. If I were to make a list of NFC teams that could come into the Metrodome in January and walk out with a win, Philly would be on there.

That said, I really gotta hand it to the fans that eventually showed up - that was the drunkest crowd I've ever heard. The irrational and incessant booing towards even the most obvious calls really made Vikings fans look like geniuses. Running the clock with 1:10 left in the first half with one timeout on your own 13 yard line? BOOOOO!! A Viking receiver that didn't catch a pass that had a defender within 5 yards of him? WHERE'S THE CALL?! BOOOOOOO!! And so it goes.

While Childress is about 99% assured of coming back, lets hope he actually swallows his pride and admits his mistake with Tarvaris. He might be a good backup here or somewhere else. But as Mike Florio said today, the front office might not want the pressure of picking the wrong guy out of the possible 10 or so that should be available. Even if it's obvious to somebody with brain damage that they should throw millions at Kurt Warner.

See? I'm already optimistic about next year. Like a good and proper Vikings fan.