Top Sports Stories of the Year: #10 – The Minnesota Vikings

First, I’d like to comment on how unbelievably hard it is to make these lists. They all have a personal flavor to them. The cuts I had to make were very difficult. It’s hard to remember how a story affected you at the moment it happened when it happened ten months ago. Here are my honorable mentions that just missed the Top 10:

– The Giants win the World Series
– New Orleans wins the Super Bowl
– Lakers win two straight
– Boise State and the mid-major debate
– Kevin Durant’s big year
– Canada wins gold
– UNI over Kansas
– Tiger Woods falls hard
– Butler’s magnificent run
– The Big Dance gets bigger (but barely)

Now onto the Top 10:

#10 – The Minnesota Vikings

You want to talk about an up-and-down roller coaster? Talk to any fan of this team. 2010 started with so much promise, and it’s ended with their stadium literally falling apart.

After finishing the 2009 season 12-4, the Vikes hosted Dallas at the Dome in what was the most highly anticipated matchup of the Divisional Round. It ended up being a resounding butt-whipping, as Minnesota destroyed the Cowboys 34-3. Viking fans found themselves in an unusual position – hopes were sky-high and a Super Bowl was within grasps. But in front of them was the supposed team of destiny, New Orleans. Viking fans should have remembered that every time things looked this good, the sky fell down on them (Gary Anderson, Darrin Nelson, Staubach to Pearson, Giant domination). But still, this seemed different. The fanbase let their guard down. And boy, were they about to receive a nasty right hook.

It was a fantastic battle in the Superdome. There were four ties and four lead changes, and no team led by more than a touchdown throughout. The Vikes tied the game with just under five minutes to play. After forcing a quick 3-and-out, Brett Favre and Co. took the ball and moved down the field, putting Ryan Longwell in field goal range with 19 seconds left. They had the ball with 3rd and three on New Orleans 33 yard line.

Minnesota, with one timeout left, looked to run one more play to set Longwell up a little closer for a chance to send them to their first Super Bowl in over 30 years.

What happened next was unbelievable:

Just like that, every shred of momentum is gone. It was unbelievable. Viking fans were beside themselves, practically in tears. At that moment, everyone knew the Saints were going to win. And after winning the coin toss, the Saints went down the field, kicked a field goal on their first possession, and went on to win the Super Bowl.

That itself could have been the story. It was such a fantastic game and could have been the end of Brett Favre’s career. But still, more happened.

In August 2010, with training camp near its end, the Vikings still had Tavaris Jackson as their starting quarterback. Though the rest of the team seemed loaded, Minnesota questioned its chances with Jackson under center. Childress wasn’t able to coax Favre out from Mississippi by himself – so he instead sent three of Favre’s best buds on the team to get him. All of this occured just two weeks after ESPN reported he was retiring.

The end result was Favre packing his bags and flying up to Minnesota. High expectations returned to the the Viking fanbase. And a media circus began.

A few weeks into the season, the Vikings were struggling, sitting at 1-2 during the bye week… so they traded a 3rd round pick to the Patriots to bring Randy Moss back to the Twin Cities. Moss was still beloved by many Viking fans from his original tenure there, and lots of people dusted off their old #84 jerseys. They won a big Week 6 matchup with the Cowboys in a game dubbed the “Desperation Bowl.” They moved up to 2-3, and the playoffs were still within reach. But after two more losses, the Vikings inexplicably cut Moss.

Many players were angry with the decision, which seemed to come straight from head coach Brad Childress and with no input from the front office. The next game against Arizona, many fans showed their displeasure, booing Childress and bringing lots of signs that expressed their disdain.

There were signs a lot worse than this.

The Vikings were able to save Childress’ job for one week with a heart-pounding comeback against Arizona. But they followed that up with two straight divisional losses, including a 31-3 embarrassment at home to the rival Green Bay. That was enough for owner Zygi Wilf, who booted Childress and promoted defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier to the head spot.

Favre had been having a horrible season, and it seemed to finally be over after he got knocked out during a game against the Bills. All of this would have been crazy enough. From the NFC Championship Game to the Favre media circus to the Randy Moss/Brad Childress rivalry to Favre’s streak of consecutive starts ending at 297, this season couldn’t have gotten any weirder or worse.

Whoops.

Yep. The Metrodome collapsed. The Vikings had to move their game against the Giants to Ford Field in Detroit, where free tickets were given out. Free tickets to an NFL game. And the Dome wasn’t ready for this past week’s game against the Bears, so the Minnesota Vikings hosted their first outdoors football game in almost thirty years.

That would be enough theatrics for any Hollywood script, right? Nope. Always looking for the flair for the dramatic, Lord Favre decided to make one more go of it. Though the Vikings took an early 7-0 lead, the game finally ended in disaster for Favre, as he was knocked out of the game once again. The Vikings lost 40-14. But the fans had fun.

Two more games remain in the Vikings season. You have to think that the weirdness has peaked out, right? I’m not sure. I don’t know if I would count out the wizard that has controlled the Minnesota Vikings season.

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About aarongernes

Well, I like TV and movies and I love sports. So expect a lot about that.
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