This is not what happens for the Minnesota Vikings; this is what happens to the Minnesota Vikings. Roger Staubach to Drew Pearson in 1975, the very first "Hail Mary." Losing their fourth Superbowl to John Madden's best Oakland Raiders team ever. 1998—wide left, take a knee, lose in OT. Brett Favre throwing a pick after repeated late hits (uncalled, of course) from the Saints in 2009. Blair Walsh wide left after outplaying a superior Seahawks team in a throwback outdoor winter game in Minnesota.
Yes, all of those things and so many more have happened over the years, and I've been a Minnesota Vikings fan since the winter of 1975, when my dad and grandpa taught me how to understand football. The Vikings were 10-0 at the time, and I watched Fran Tarkenton play quarterback for the first time. I was hooked for life, like I had just mainlined a bad drug.
Over the years, I've become accustomed, as have so many other Vikings fans, to the kind of Nordic stoic fatalism that comes with having your sports fan hearts broken over and over again. While I'm never going to root for the Cubs (I have Cardinals DNA; I'm genetically incapable), I did feel joy for their fan base when they finally won the World Series. I felt the same way for Cleveland when the Cavs won the NBA title. Every fan base deserves at least one championship in a generation. Just one is enough.
Unless you cheer for the Vikings, because until last night, all evidence pointed to one incontrovertible fact: God hates the Vikings. That's why, even up 17-0 at halftime, all I could think about was the missed 49-yard field goal at the end of the first half. Sure enough, by early in the fourth quarter, it was 17-14, then with three minutes left, 21-20. I did what my heart and mind do automatically in these situations: I prepared for the inevitable loss.
Even when the Vikings kicked a long field goal to take a 23-21 lead, there was 1:29 left to go. That was more than enough time for a QB like Drew Brees, a future first-ballot HOFer, to drive them down for the go-ahead field goal. They even faced a fourth-and-ten, but Brees converted easily. By the time the Vikings got the ball back, there were only 25 second left in the game and the season, and not only were they on their own 25-yard line, they started the drive with a false start penalty.
I began to think about how to process the loss. All credit to Drew Brees and Sean Payton, hope the Saints beat the Eagles and then crush the Patriots in the Superbowl. Vikings QB Case Keenum completes a pass to the Vikings 40; they call time out with 19 seconds to go. Did anyone really think we were going to go to the Superbowl with Case Keenum as our QB? Incomplete, second down. This was going to be the biggest playoff deficit—17 points—ever given up, the biggest deficit ever overcome by the Saints. Incomplete, third down, ten seconds left. Get ready for the loss, prepare for the letdown, it's just a game, it's not the end of the world, process the disappointment and let it go...
Did this just happen? Was it not a dream?
I can only describe my reaction as 15 minutes of primal scream therapy. My kids came down the hall to my room to see if I was being murdered. I shouted in joy and celebration until my throat was hoarse. My family called and friends started sending texts of congratulations. I watched replay after replay, sharing the same dumbfounded amazement as the players, coaches, press, and fans who witnessed what will certainly go down as one of the most amazing, improbable, miraculous finishes to any football game in the history of the NFL.
This isn't the end. This was a marvelous, wondrous, miraculous victory, no doubt. But it's just the first step. Unless the Vikings beat the Eagles on the road next week in the NFC Championship, then somehow manage to topple the Patriots (nice job, Jags, but you're not forking winning at Foxboro. Not. Gonna. Happen.), the catch becomes a nice footnote in the endless flow of playoff futility. Nothing short of a Superbowl win in their home stadium can truly end the misery and longing of every true fan of the Purple and Gold.
But this will forever be known as the Minneapolis Miracle. TE Kyle Rudolph said this morning on "Golic and Wingo" on ESPN Radio that the name of the play call was "Heaven." Rudolph said, "You just gotta give it up."
Maybe, just maybe...God has decided to stop hating the Vikings.