On Tuesday afternoon, many of us at NRHEG came up from preparing our classrooms to congregate and discuss the terrible news that had just arrived – Teddy Bridgewater, quarterback of the Minnesota Vikings, had just been injured in practice and looked to be out for at least this season.
Regular readers know I’m a Purple Zealot, and I was just sick to my stomach when I found out Teddy had dislocated his knee and torn his ACL. Dreams of a Super Bowl run were immediately put on the back burner while concerns for Teddy’s future took center stage.
If you’re a Minnesota sports fan, especially one of our professional football team, you know heartbreak like nobody outside Chicago Cubs fans. Why do sports outcomes affect us so deeply? Why do we become so invested in a team that anything other than victory stays with us like an anchor around our necks?
I do tend to dwell on close losses and probably will until the day I die. I’ve compiled, for your reading pleasure, my top ten disappointing Minnesota sports losses. Remember, I’m 43, so while I was alive during two of the Vikings’ Super Bowl appearances, I have no memory of them, which is why they’re not on this list.
10. 2016 Vikings loss against Seattle – While the Vikings were surprise division winners, hopes were high as the defense played solid against the defending Super Bowl champions. However, on a frigid day in Minneapolis, the offense could only produce field goals. With the home team trailing 10-9, Blair Walsh lined up to hit a chip shot field goal to propel the Vikings on in the playoffs. And then he missed.
9. 1991 Essig Bluejays Bi-County baseball – Who? This was my summer baseball team growing up. I was the first baseman and our team clung to a one-run lead against our rivals from New Ulm. They had the bases loaded and one out when a sharp grounder was hit right to me near the base. Instead of going home and awaiting a return throw to turn two, I for some reason touched first and fired to second. However, the runner on first retreated to that bag since the force out was gone and the tying run scored. We went on to lose, and I’ve yet to forgive myself for that goof.
8. 1988 NFC Championship – The Vikings had made an improbable run through the playoffs and were down by seven in Washington. On fourth down, Wade Wilson threw to Darrin Nelson on the goal line and the pass bounced off Nelson’s shoulder pads. This was my first real taste of Minnesota pro sports disappointment.
7. 2002 American League Championship Series – A year after being threatened with contraction, the Minnesota Twins were on the verge of a trip to the World Series but couldn’t get by the Anaheim Angels. While the Angels went on to win the championship, the Twins haven’t won a playoff series since.
6. 2004 NBA Western Conference Finals – The Timberwolves had finally won a playoff series! And then another! This was the team with Kevin Garnett, Sam Cassell, and Latrell Sprewell, and they had roared to a confrontation with the Los Angeles Lakers. However, Cassell played hurt and our squad lost 4-2. The team hasn’t even made it back to the playoffs since.
5. 2003-2004 baseball playoffs – I grouped two Twins’ appearances in one spot since both years were eerily similar. The Twins played the New York Yankees both years. The Twins won the first game both years. The Twins gave up leads in games both years to lose 3-1, the most painful being when Joe Nathan labored into his third inning of relief and gave up the lead in Game 2 in 2004.
4. 5th grade girls’ basketball in Alden – Another personal heartbreak. My daughter’s team was playing Blue Earth Area in a tournament championship. We had been down seven with two minutes left and scurried back to take a one-point lead. BEA had the ball on their sideline with less than a second left and somehow managed a cross-court pass and quick shot to beat us. I actually wake up in the middle of the night about this one yet.
3. Gopher football program – There are too many games to pick from if you’re a Gopher fan. From the Insight Bowl loss that got Glen Mason fired after blowing a lead that was a record-setting comeback to numerous chokes against Wisconsin, Northwestern, and many others while in the Metrodome, there’s always hope, but rarely reward for Gopher football.
2. NFC Championship vs. Atlanta – This Vikings’ loss in 1999 was unfathomable. After finishing 15-1, Minnesota should have rolled over the Falcons. But Gary Anderson’s first missed field goal of the year and Denny Green’s decision to play for overtime are still difficult to think about all these years later.
1. NFC Championship vs. New Orleans – The Brett Favre-led Vikings had everyone believing the former rival had one last great run to lead the Purple to the promised land. I don’t blame Favre for the late interception that eliminated a winning field goal attempt, but rather Brad Childress for being confused on who was in the game and drawing a 12 men in the huddle penalty that put some pressure on Favre to do something. I didn’t want to read a sports section or listen to talk radio for weeks after this one.
So maybe the disappointment started early this season with Bridgewater’s injury. Or maybe not. Remember, Trent Dilfer won a Super Bowl with Baltimore, not because he was a great QB but because they had a great defense. Perhaps Sam Bradford will be the answer. Hope springs eternal; let’s just hope I don’t have to redo this list any time soon.
Word of the Week: This week’s word is foozle, which means a botched attempt at something, as in, “The latest foozle in Vikings’ playoff history was especially tough to take.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!