Today's Premature Evaluation of the Minnesota Vikings comes courtesy of Cian over at Fuhbaw. And he used capital letters this time. Clearly, he's still dealing with losing Brett Favre. Enjoy.
The desire to wind the sundry threads of events past, present, and future into well worn storylines addles sportswriting. It's not surprising. Pillaging familiar narratives is an impulse common to our lives.
There's an ease and a comfort in treading tried and true paths... there's also a desire to make things make sense. Or make sense with as little strain on our already burdened brains.
But we miss something vital if we gloss over important departures from the stories we know by heart.
Take the 2008 Minnesota Vikings.
Minnesota is a team riddled with talent at unlikely positions along the roster. And all anyone wants to talk about is the most standard of football clichés. But more on that later.
First, here's a well worn storyline of the past: I hate the Minnesota Vikings. The Chicago Bears are the traditional rivals of my Green Bay Packers, a rivalry upon which starry-eyed outsiders heap lofty words twice a year.
But ask any Packers fan which loss—to the Bears or the Vikings—sinks the stone deeper in the stomach and the answer, perhaps long winded and invoking pity, invariably reverts to the Vikings.
Robert Lalasz of the now defunct Nietzsche or Nitschke? blog riffing on the rancorous rivalry between the Packers and Vikings likened the relationship to that of estranged brothers. Minnesota, its cosmopolitan and beautiful Twin Cities. Wisconsin, its industrial and ugly Milwaukee. Both started in the same place some 40 or 50 years ago. But their divergent paths cut a deep and bitter jealousy between the two states.
Never mind substituting "Stupid Kraut" for "Sven and Ole" results in the same joke, it just depends from which side of state lines you hurl it.
For whatever reason—and I suspect Lalasz is onto something—Minnesota and Green Bay have often played the passionately hated other over the course of each team's history. Whether Lombardi or Favre, the Vikings often bloodied the Packers championship teams. And those dominant Vikings teams, whether Bud Grant or Denny Green, never claimed the title 'champion' much less 'dynasty' and always stewed in the shadow of the Packers' long line of title trophies.
But these Vikings, the ones of the present, could be something different. They are a patient creation despite the lightning quick acquisition of defensive end Jared Allen and the accompanying quickening of expectations.
Gone are the tantrums of Randy Moss, the trash of John Randle, the double dong dildos of Fred Smoot.
In place of those moral equivocations are simply great football players at the least regarded positions on the field: defensive tackles, offensive guards, running backs, safeties, etc. The construction of this team either gleefully eschewed or foolishly ignored traditional logic. Perhaps a little of both.
Whatever the reason, it's purifying football. In-between the tackles and cracked fibulas, the artistry of its brutality transcending the cloud of dust kicked up. The Brothas Williams and E.J. Henderson on the defensive interior setting offensive football back 50 years. Adrian Peterson behind then suddenly light years ahead of Bryant McKinnie, Steve Hutchinson, and Matt Birk, the gaping running lanes smashed open only a gate to Purple Jesus's ascension from second level to goal line.
But sift through every 2008 season preview for the Vikings and one dominate, tired storyline emerges.
Namely, everything turns on quarterback Tarvaris Jackson and his development into a consistent game manager. And perhaps that's true—
But I look at these Vikings, given their past and their present, and see a team apart from the standard narrative, the well worn cliché.
Though I wish them absolutely no success, if they do find it maybe they can prove to the world again that football like so much of life unfolds without regard for the stories we've already created.
I'm not talking about some Frankenstein version of Gus Frerotte, back issues of Field & Stream, and rare World War II mortar shells scotch taped together leading the Vikings deep in the playoffs. I'm not talking about the 2000 Ravens winning it all specifically to spite Trent Dilfer.
Rather, Purple Jesus, the Brothas Williams, and Jared "Legal Limit" Allen brutalize opponents (save Green Bay) and create enough space for Tarvaris to be, well, Tarvaris. A gifted athlete with a cannon, capable of plays great and moronic, sometimes simultaneously.
Where these Vikings are, there is no road map, no script… maybe a signpost or two. They'll have to make it up as they go along. And while I won't relinquish old hatreds, I also won't be able to turn away no matter the story Minnesota pieces together.