Sawatzke: This Vikings season can only end one way
Sometimes, you just have to hand it to the Sports Gods.
They’ve always treated Minnesota with a pretty wonderful sense of humor, but never more so than in the fall of each year.
See, when it comes to dealing with expectations, Minnesota teams have perfected the ability to raise them, near them, and then ultimately fall short. Again, this has been especially true in the fall – whether that’s when a season is starting or ending. Over the last decade, the Twins have patched together rosters to overachieve and reach the playoffs. Other years, things have fallen into place and created a rather formidable rotation and lineup for the Twins. Those are the years that we as fans start expecting things in the postseason. Of course, by now we’ve learned that all we should expect is for the New York Yankees to treat us like a cleaning lady would, sweeping us out with the day’s trash.
Meanwhile, the Minnesota Gophers football team has gotten in on the act as well. In the mid-2000s, the Gophers brought out a couple of the best running backs the state has ever seen (Marion Barber and Lawrence Maroney) and raised expectations near conference championship and BCS bowl level. At least for the first six to eight weeks. Then, somehow we’d find a way to come up short – 2003, specifically the home loss to Michigan – or, inevitably, things would collapse – 2009 anyone? Tim Brewster era anyone?
But of course no team has proved to be a bigger tease on a grander scale than our very own Minnesota Vikings. Last year, the men in purple were just bad. But truthfully, it was a lot less painful to watch than so many of the other years where they’ve raised our expectations, just to watch the bottom fall out at the worst possible time, as the season comes crashing down on our collective sports souls. I (thankfully) wasn’t around to suffer through the Super Bowl losses. But the combination of the “Gary Anderson game” and the “ Brett Favre throwing across his body while trying to avoid Saints who were apparently trying to kill him for money game” has been more than enough to show me the painful ways of the Vikings. When you expect them to be good, they’re normally good (With 2010 being one ugly exception). When you expect them to be great, they’re normally great (15-1, Favre’s first year, etc.). At least until it really matters. Then, all falls down.
But one thing the Vikings never do, not since I’ve been following them, or at least not since I’ve been old enough to realize, is beat expectations.
That’s what makes this such a wonderful trick by the Sports Gods.
No one expected the Vikings to be 4-1. Sure, you could have looked at their schedule and said four of the first five games are winnable. But it’s the Vikings!! The same team that went 3-13 last year and got younger and more prepared for rebuilding this year. Or so we thought. Instead, they look like a legitimate football team. The defense is stopping the run again. Jared Allen and friends are getting sacks at big times. The secondary is even making some plays. You read that right. I promise. Fine, still don’t believe it? I’ll write it again. The secondary is even making some plays.
Offensively, the Vikings have looked like exactly what they are. A mediocre all-around unit that features two of the best players in football. Those two players have just happened to be fantastic enough to carry the team thus far. The other-worldly Adrian Peterson looks just like pre-surgery AP, an incredible feat of strength, athleticism and perseverance. And Percy “have mercy” Harvin. That guy is something like the world’s fastest pinball. He bounces off most tacklers, breaks away from the ones that actually start to wrap him up, and then outruns everyone in open space. Incredible.
So, in a year where mediocrity would have been considered a success, the Vikings have almost guaranteed the reaching of that goal, just a third of the way into the season.
It all sounds great, right? Well, remember, we live in Minnesota. The land of sports doom. And for their grand finale, the Sports Gods have almost certainly brought in a helping hand.
How do you make the Vikings end a season in disappointment after starting it with no expectations? Well, it’s really quite simple. You make it happen in 2012. The year of the Mayans. Because if there is one thing certain in this life, it’s that the Vikings’ season will end in an untimely and devastating way. And hey, if you’re looking for a bright spot … wouldn’t you rather have that ending delivered by the Mayans than those pesky cheeseheads?