I had been living in Minnesota for just about a year when the Vikings played the Falcons in the playoffs that one time.
I was living, as it happens, in the city of Falcon Heights. You know about Falcon Heights, very likely, even if you don’t know you do. Ever heard of the Great Minnesota Get Together, a.k.a., the Minnesota State Fair? It is held in Falcon Heights. Ever hear of the University of Minnesota? The smaller of the two Twin Cities campuses, the one with the ecology and organismic biology, and agriculture and forestry and stuff, is in Falcon Heights. Ever hear of the police killing of Philandro Castile, the one where the cop was ascared of the scary black man so he pumped him full of bullets in front of his girlfriend and a small child? That was in Falcon Heights too.
But Falcon Heights is obscured and obscure.
Even though the Saint Paul Campus and the Minnesota State Fair held in Saint Paul are actually physically within the boundaries of the independent city of Falcon Heights, nobody seems to notice. When Castile was killed, he was killed by the Saint Anthony-Lauderdale-Falcon Heights Police Department. A.k.a., the Saint Anthony Police Department for short. At every turn, Falcon Heights is obscured by something.
That year that the Vikings and the Falcons met, in Minneapolis, during the playoffs, Falcon Heights was obscured again when hubris-filled Vikings fans, knowing they would win the game, went to Falcon Heights (nowhere near the stadium, by the way) and changed the signs at the entrances to the city from “Falcon Heights” to “Vikings Heights.”
The next day the game was played. I understand that at the time the Vikings were considered a pretty good team. People still remmebered the famous Purple People Eaters. Even though the Vikings had not been anywhere near a Super Bowl in a while, they did get into the playoffs now and then, and people took them pretty seriously. Now, this particular year, the team was ready to go all the way. They should have had no problem beating the Falcons and moving ahead. There was really no way they could lose that game.
The Vikings had the coach they need to win, the players they needed to win, and importantly, they were psyched. They had the psychology of victory going in their favor.
Then this happened:
Ever since then here his how every Vikings game I’ve ever seen has gone, until recently.
1) The vikings play very well and score early.
2) Something bad happens to the Vikings. They get a bad call on pass interference. A turnover. A minor injury that takes a key player out for part of the game. A baby goat bleats in the distance. Something. The kind of thing that normally happens, that every team faces a few times a game and then just moves on.
3) No matter how far ahead the Vikings are, and no matter how well they’ve been playing, they take a step backwards on nearly every play until the end of the game.
4) Vikings lose.
That is the psychology of defeat. No matter how good a team is, if this is the way the mind turns at those small and insignificant moments, the team can never get into the playoffs.
This year, the defeat thing started to happen before the season started, when a baby goat bleated somewhere in Bloomington, Minnesota, and the star quarter back, Teddy Bridgewater, took a sudden turn on his knee while standing there during practice, and almost lost his leg. Seriously, the surgeons almost had to cut off his freakin’ leg. But they had a backup, a quarterback who could hold the fort while Bridgewater was out. Then, soon after he started to play, he got an injury, right at the start of the season, and was out. A similar thing happened to the Vikings’ star catcher-guy, so both the thrower-guy and the catcher-guy were out. The season was over, the Vikings were done, so early in the season that it wasn’t even disappointing. It was just, like, we don’t really even have a football team in this town. Just a really nice and new stadium. No team, though, really.
So the team was stuck with a thrower-guy and a catcher-guy who had not even been picked up in the draft. I don’t know what that means, but apparently these two guys just showed up, like for a pickup game or something, and now they are the main players on the team.
And ever since then, the Vikings have been mopping up the floor of with each of the teams they’ve played, one after the other, and are now something like tied for the second best in terms of winning vs. losing, in the whole world of Football.
This weekend, the Vikings play the Falcons. The Falcons are not doing too well, and the Vikings are. The Vikings are expected to beat the Falcons. They can’t lose, really.
I’ll just leave you with this, from a Vikings-Bears game in 2013: