Wednesday, January 29, 2014

I Chickened Out At The Vikings' Last Super Bowl

I'm sure my mother loved me when I was growing up; all mothers are supposed to love their kids and there wasn't any evidence otherwise — until Jan. 9, 1977. That was the day the Minnesota Vikings played the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XI (That's Super Bowl 11 for all us realists who don't fall for the logo hype that the contest now demands).

It was also the day my mother, the choir director for the church we attended back then, scheduled a concert. She also scheduled me, a gawky 17-year-old kid at the time who was just developing a serious sports addiction, to be an usher for the event. I had grown up in Minnesota and suffered through three prior Super Bowl losses by the Vikings. This game, I thought, would be different. Despite having never played for the Vikings, I, like other fans, referred to the team as “we,” as in “I'll be watching when we win this one.”

Instead, while others were sitting at home enjoying the game I was showing non-sports fans where to sit in the church.

To make matters worse, my parents — nay, my mother only. I'm sure my dad had nothing to do with this — bought me a hideous yellow sweater for Christmas two weeks earlier and bade me to wear it for the concert. The thing had tufts of furry yarn on it. Alas, I looked like a chicken. And since it was 1977, I had buckles on my dress shoes. It's a wonder the churchgoers didn't beat me up.

Since the football game began in the afternoon back then, I was able to watch the first half at home before being shuttled off to the church. Oakland built a 16-0 lead by then and I realized the Vikes were well on their way to losing a fourth Super Bowl. Still, however, I wanted to see the game in its entirety.

Instead, during the second half while Fran Tarkenton handed off the ball to Chuck Foreman, I handed programs to the poor souls who shuffled into the church for the show. My parents lived in an Arkansas retirement community at the time and a majority of the denizens probably remembered when the real Vikings first traveled by creaky wooden vessels to American from Norway and Scandinavia. They also liked my yellow furry sweater. I told them I looked like a chicken. They thought I was a cute whippersnapper.

I remember a fellow Minnesotan who moved to Arkansas enter the church at the last minute. He was an elderly sports fan and I'm not making this up, but he remembered seeing Babe Ruth play minor league baseball in St. Paul once. I looked at him with pleading eyes. It was unsaid, but he knew what I was seeking. Hope? A miracle? A couple of Minnesota touchdowns? I was in a church after all. I had the front row to the football prayer line.

He shook his head sadly, almost in the manner of a doctor solemnly acknowledging that, despite all he could do, the loved one didn't make it.

The Vikings died.

They lost to Oakland, 32-14. It was the last Super Bowl Minnesota has played in.

Super Bowl XLVIII (48) will be Sunday. Thirty-seven years after the Vikes' last championship game, and I still wait and hope for the team to return there. I still hate that I missed the second half of that game. Why, oh why, couldn't my mother have scheduled her concert a week later?

And, since this blog refers to the APBA sports replay game, here's the APBA connection. I have the 1976 football season for the game. It's the first APBA set I've ever owned. In fact, one of the first games I ever replayed was Minnesota vs. Oakland. Of course, the Vikings won the game.

Now, as I near the end of replaying the 1942 baseball season with APBA, I'm looking for a new project. Baseball is front-runner for the next replay, but I'm really debating about playing some with the 1979-80 NBA season I have. And now, as the Super Bowl nears, the idea has popped into my head to roll the dice and redo the Vikings' last Super Bowl game. If I can find, and fit into, that yellow chicken sweater, I may just do that.

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