Deep breaths, Vikings fans. Deep breaths. Sunday’s display in Lambeau was nothing short of pathetic. The Vikings seem like they might be running out of steam, however, they have far outplayed the expectations of all fans and media since the beginning of the season. This team has proved itself as a legitimate contender for the future, something it has not been able to accomplish in years past. The future looks bright, though this season may end up crashing and burning.
We live in a society that wants everything right now and anything short of that is a failure. 31 teams do not win the Super Bowl every year, that is a lot of failure and disappointment to go around. I am not advocating for the team or fans to be satisfied with an ugly end of the season, but instead to recognize that this team went through a massive turnaround and has taken a major step in the right direction this year. There have only been two first-year coaches to ever win Super Bowls in NFL history. It takes time for a coach to build a Super Bowl-winning team. In his first year, O’Connell has done a fantastic job of changing the culture and righting the ship in Minnesota. Of course, expectations will start to rise for next year and they absolutely should, but until those expectations are not met, patience should be stressed with this team. No matter what happens from this point on, this season must be considered a success.
Going into the season oddsmakers viewed the Vikings as a team to threaten a wildcard spot while the Packers were favored to win the division. The Vikings have blown away their over-under of nine wins on the season. It has not gone according to plan most of the time but the win column just kept stacking up. The post-Zimmer era in Minnesota was supposed to get off to a mediocre start but it has suddenly turned into one where we are extremely disappointed in a loss in Lambeau. Before the season, if you told a Vikings fan that the team would lose 41-17 at the Packers, they would not bat an eye. Expectations have risen throughout the season to a level that may be a bit unreasonable for a team that underwent major changes over the off-season. This team deserves huge amounts of recognition for what they have accomplished throughout the season and that recognition should not get lost when the postseason rolls around.
Measuring Success Differently
As we learned from Monday night’s events surrounding Damar Hamlin, football is much more important than wins and losses or what takes place on the field. The outpouring of support for Damar Hamlin and his family has demonstrated that this sport that we all love so dearly is about the power of togetherness. Vikings fandom has always brought people together, however, this year more than ever it seems as though people are more excited to even talk about the Vikings. That does have a lot to do with the improved product on the field each Sunday, however, even after a bad game fans are content to commiserate together. Even where I live in Eugene, Oregon, I can throw on my Vikings jersey and go to the grocery store, class, or work and strangers will see it as an invitation for a fun conversation. The NFL stimulates a sense of belonging that extends to fans and this season the Vikings have increased that feeling among their fans. That alone makes this season a success.
When watching sports, nobody wants to watch a blowout, unless yours is the team running up the score. Even then, blowouts can be some of the most boring games to sit through. It may be good for the team’s morale and to prove that the team can administer a blowout (something the Vikings have not proven), however, solely in viewing value, blowouts are not much fun. The Vikings have provided a slew of games with an abundance of viewing value. Being able to watch games like the one against the Bills or the one against the Colts has been an absolute privilege. I will never forget pacing around my apartment and shouting at my TV screen when the Vikings went blow for blow with the Bills. Memories like that are what make this season unforgettable and an unequivocal success. The Vikings have provided a dose of adrenaline for its watchers every week. Watching the Vikings has never been so much fun and exhausting at the same time.
It is easy to evaluate a team by its performance in the postseason. And honestly, if we do that with this team we will likely be extremely disappointed. However, Vikings fans should not forget that this team would have been happy just to make the playoffs before the season started. This season has been one of the most entertaining in the Vikings’ history and has contributed to largely expanding its community. Of course, I would love to see the Vikings make a deep playoff run to cap off a great season, but no matter what happens in the postseason, the 2022-23 edition of the Minnesota Vikings deserves a ton of recognition. And look out because the Vikings might just surprise some people in the playoffs, either way, you know something crazy is going to happen.