It's so incredibly tempting sometimes. It really is. It was in 1987 before I knew any better. It was in 1998 before I dove into a swimming pool full of thumbtacks. It was in 2000 before they backed into the playoffs in embarrassing fashion. It was in 2003 before Nate friggin Poole (and Mike friggin Tice). It was in 2009 before Favre Favre'd us.
I really want to buy into the "This Could Be The Year!" mentality. It sounds like fun, fans of other teams get to do it all the time. But I've been burned way too often. Wayyyyy too often. I save that mindset like a bottle of especially pricey scotch. You don't just bust it out recklessly. You study the landscape and you pick your spots.
Notice I didn't put 2008 on that list in the first paragraph? We all knew better. I take pride that most Vikings fans realized that was a lame duck team that barely beat anyone all year. The combined record of the teams they beat were something like 69-91. Their best win was on a last second field goal to beat the 12-4 Giants who were resting their starters. There was zero reason to put any faith in Tarvaris Jackson or Brad Childress.
This led to the outcry against Vikings fans for failing to sell out a playoff game against the Eagles at the Metrodome. The tickets might as well have said, "Come get kicked in the balls as the Vikings get predictably embarrassed on national TV! AGAIN!" Sure enough, that's what happened, and I can't say I blame anyone for not showing up.
Vikings fans are smart like that. We're like my dog Clyde, who loves being outside on a walk more than anything in the world. But if it's too cold, you can open the door right in front of him, and he'll look at you like, "How dumb do you think I am? I'm not going out in that."
The door is being opened again for Vikings fans, and it's pretty damn cold, again. But...
They can rush the passer. They can tackle. They have legit players in the secondary. They have a guy named Harrison Smith at safety who beats the shit out of people, who's the best they've had since Robert friggin Griffith in the 90s.
Special teams are as good as they've been in decades. They have a guy who makes 50+ yard field goals like he's playing Pop-a-Shot with his feet. They even have a competent, reliable punt returner.
They have a steady head coach who knows exactly what to do in any given situation. They don't friviously waste time outs or challenges. They don't have a lot of stupid penalties. In fact, the stupid penalties they have are of the unnecessary roughness ilk that send a message.
They have a fantastic run-blocking offensive line. They have the best left tackle in the NFC and he's a rookie.
And they have Adrian Peterson.
That's a lot of positives, right? Do I dive right in? Do I emotionally invest? Do I eat all that up with a spoon like purple and gold Haagen Daas? Of course not!!!
There's also a guy named Christian Ponder who plays the quarterback position in the National Football League for this Minnesota Vikings football team. (Just try reading that sentence without hearing it in Mark Schlereth's voice.) He makes decisions with the football that remind me of the scene in Naked Gun 2 1/2 where OJ is about to spike a baby like a football. "Wait, wait, WAIT... NOOOOO!!!" He is often painful to watch.
But there was a period of 4 weeks earlier this year when he looked perfectly okay. Not great, not even above average, just okay. That's not unreasonable, right? For him to play okay? To not make catastrophically bad throws? To not suddenly drop the ball on a scramble?
And there's some athletic talent in the receiving core. Jerome Simpson could maybe flip over someone. Kyle Rudolph has good hands. Devin Aromashodu is kinda fast sometimes. Jarius Wright is good for like one swing pass. Michael Jenkins is tall. John Carlson is um... there. Is it unreasonable to imagine just ONE of those guys making some kind of difference on Sunday?
The real answer to that is yes. It is unreasonable to ask for that, it's unreasonable to ask for Ponder to play an average game, and it's unreasonable to ask for optimism. We are Vikings fans and this is how it works.
Now it you'll excuse me, I have go to drag my dog out into the sub-zero temperatures...