Patrick Reusse‘s column today talks about a Vikings fan named Albert Belle and how he’s skeptical about the Vikings ability to win the big game. And why shouldn’t he be? What evidence is there that the Purple have what it takes to win in the clutch?
Well, you’ve got to go back a ways. Like, to the seventies. And that’s just what Reusse does, though Belle, whom he doesn’t reveal is the baseall player Albert Belle until the nineth paragaph. Apparently, the former Indian, White Sox and Orioles slugger became a Vikings fan as a kid in Louisiana because he was fascinated by the fact that the team played many of their games in the snow. (And, let’s face it, if your hometown team is the Saints, you’re more likely than not to start casting about looking for another team for which to root.)
Belle’s childhood football hero was Fran Tarkenton. So Belle and I have two things in common: Our childhood football hero was Tarkenton and we both recall a time when it was expected that the Vikings would win big games, their Super Bowl losses notwithstanding.
I don’t know what it is or why, but the Vikings have not been able to win crucial games decisively since Jerry Burns‘ 1987 team blew away the Saints and the 49ers and came within a Darrin Nelson dropped pass of overtime with and momentum against the Redskins in the NFC Championship game. I suspect that coaching is usually the culprit.
But with the Vikings circa 2004, it’d be fair to point the finger of blame at the defense.
Even so, one of the main problems with this team is the absence of a collective knowledge of winning big games. The Vikings of the seventies expected to win because a lot of them had experienced it many times before.
That lack of experience is also what sets apart fans like myself and Belle and younger fans who grew up watching the team in the Denny Green era. Belle and I have more hope–however ridiculous it may be–because we recall a time…
Remember, the ’87 squad that came so close to a Super Bowl berth was a wildcard team.