Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton watched the Vikings 10-9 Wild Card loss Sunday with company from his German shepherds.
Tarkenton wrote for the *Pioneer Press *that the imagery of bundled but enthusiastic fans enduring the coldest Vikings game ever brought back memories from multiple days with teammates at Metropolitan Stadium. The ending, however, was akin to just one day at the Met: Dec. 28, 1975, when Dallas won a Divisional game on a desperation pass by Hall of Famer Roger Staubach that also launched the term, "Hail Mary."
I lived and died with every play*. When the Vikings led 9-0 in the fourth quarter and had dominated the whole game, I felt good. But I knew that crazy things have a way of happening in the playoffs. Still, as the ball flew past Russell Wilson's head on the bad snap, I thought the Vikings were about to seal the win. *
But Wilson scrambled, made a miraculous play and set up the touchdown that kept Seattle alive -- the only touchdown of the game. It had to be divine intervention.
Tarkenton wrote that he didn't quite understand how fans' "agony of watching your team lose" could seem to trump that of the players on the losing end.
Now that I'm watching the games like everyone else, unable to do anything to affect the outcome, I get it. The pain of defeat that I felt sitting by myself in the comfort of my theater room in Atlanta was every bit as strong as the pain of defeat I felt after the Hail Mary pass in 1975.
Tarkenton wrote that he envisions better days ahead for the Vikings.
*But while I'll be wrestling with this defeat for some time still, I see the silver lining: We have a rock-solid team with good, young, talented players. They played their hearts out in miserable conditions and made exceptional plays. They deserved to win. *
I'm not ready to look ahead to tomorrow yet, to the 2016 Vikings. But I do know this: The present and future for our football team is great.
A teachable moment
A first grade class taught by Judie Offerdahl at Northpoint Elementary in Blaine has written letters of encouragement to Vikings kicker Blair Walsh after his attempt at a go-ahead field goal flew wide left. Multiple media outlets mentioned the letters, but here's more from Vineeta Sawkar of the Star Tribune.
Offerdahl told Sawkar she thought it provided an opportunity to teach empathy.
"I knew that Mr. Walsh probably felt horrible about it," said Offerdahl, a (shhhh) Seahawks fan. "I also knew it would be a good teachable moment for the kids."
*So students are writing heartfelt messages to an athlete they don't know. *
"Dear Blair Walsh," wrote one. "I know that it can be hard to get through things that are sad. but you have to try and try again. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes. One time I made a mistake when I was doing a cartwheel. I felt embarrassed. You can still help the Vikings win the Super Bowl next year. Your fan, Sophia Doffin."
Zimmer turning toward offense
Andrew Krammer of 1500ESPN.com noted that the Vikings made gains in their second season under Head Coach Mike Zimmer, particularly on defense. Now, the offense has a couple of areas of improvement for 2016.
*The past season was a success by many measures. Eleven wins and a division title in the second season under coach Mike Zimmer resurrected winning ways they'd only found once since Brett Favre wore purple. A top-five scoring defense with young cornerstones at every position should ensure the Vikings' recent success won't be as fleeting as the playoff years of 2009 or 2012. *
*As the Vikings turn the page to next season, much of their attention will be spent on blending the pieces to resuscitate an offense that fell from 27th to 29th this season: "We didn't do enough there," Zimmer said Tuesday during his season-ending press conference. *
"I'm just trying to figure out how we manipulate this a little bit better," Zimmer said in his end-of-season press conference. "To get to where we want to get to."