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Can’t let possibility of disappointment ruin fandom

Ryan Stieg

Two years ago, I wrote a column about how I missed out on watching one of the greatest moments in Minnesota sports history.

Last Sunday, I almost did it again.

Back in 2018, the Minnesota Vikings were in the NFC divisional round of the playoffs and were hosting the New Orleans Saints. Not surprisingly, the stadium was packed as the Vikings looked to continue their season and attempt to make the Super Bowl for the first time since the late 1970s.

That year, the Super Bowl would be held in Minneapolis and the idea of being the first NFL team to compete for a championship on its own field created even more hoopla that day.

My family members, my Minnesota friends and just about every sports reporter I knew were glued to their TV, and for most of the game so was I. Well, until halftime. At the half, the Vikings held a 17-0 lead and for the first time in a long time, I felt confident in them.

Normally, I just assume that all Minnesota sports teams will break my heart, but at the time, I felt secure. The Super Bowl was in reach and it was played in my home city. Everything was setting up perfectly.

So I left to go to a movie. Yep, my wife and I attended “The Post,” the Tom Hanks-Meryl Streep film about the government attempting to censor newspapers and the media. So while we were enjoying a movie about my profession, Minnesota’s fortunes changed.

The Vikings blew their lead and the Saints held a one-point lead in the closing seconds, but then arguably the most exciting play in Vikings history happened as quarterback Case Keenum found wide receiver Stefon Diggs for a 61-yard touchdown to win the game.

I left my phone on vibrate, so while I’m watching the Washington Post and New York Times win a Supreme Court case against the Nixon administration, my dad back in Minnesota is sending me text messages and my Twitter feed is blowing up.

After leaving the theater, I realized I missed something huge and I raced home to watch the TV show the replay of Diggs’ catch repeatedly. I finally got to see the “Minneapolis Miracle,” just after everybody I knew had seen it.

It may seem weird to you, but I was glad I missed that moment. Like I said in the previous column, if I had watched Minnesota collapse in the second half, I would’ve been miserable and frankly, my wife would’ve been too watching me.

My wife has a strict policy that if one of her favorite teams like Ohio State (yeah, I know), the Tampa Bay Rays (there’s a back story to that one) or North Dakota (her alma mater) is playing and doing well, we watch something else and we just check in periodically.

However, the moment things start to go bad, we have to find something else to watch. She’ll only watch it to the end if the lead is secure in the final minute and I think she’s passed that rule over to me.

By not watching the ending to the Vikings’ game, good things happened for me and other Minnesota sports fans, so maybe I should have the same mindset in the future.

And I had that mindset last week. The Vikings were playing the Saints again, but this time in the wild card round and on the road in New Orleans. Heading into the game, I didn’t think Minnesota had much of a chance to win the game as they’d played badly against Green Bay and Chicago in their previous two games and they were going in on a slide.

However, the Vikings proved me wrong as they held a slim halftime lead and led 20-10 going into the fourth quarter. It was at that point I decided to stop watching and do something else. Again, I thought the lead was secure, so my wife and I left the house.

We didn’t go to a movie, though. In fact, it wasn’t anywhere special. We ran errands around town as we hadn’t really had a chance to grocery shop since returning from our adventure getting back from Minnesota during the recent holidays.

As we needed to buy several things, I missed the fourth quarter and the texts from my dad along with my Twitter feed. The Vikings blew that “secure” 10-point lead and the game went to overtime.

At that point, I had a decision to make about watching the game. Do I go home and watch, risking bad things happening and having to watch a depressing Minnesota loss? Or do I play it safe and watch something else, hoping for another “Minneapolis Miracle” to take place in Louisiana. My instincts were naturally leaning toward the latter, but I decided to take my chances.

We got back to the apartment, put away our purchases and sat down to watch overtime. By doing so, I got to experience something mind-boggling. Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins had defied his image as a choker and put together a game-winning drive. He hit Adam Thielen with a 43-yard pass to get the ball on the Saints doorstep, and three plays later I watched Cousins find Kyle Rudolph in the corner of the end zone for the winning touchdown.

I sat back in a mix of disbelief and joy. Of course, that happy feeling turned to fear as I watched the Saints plead for an offensive pass interference call on Rudolph and seeing as the most memorable play of last season’s playoffs was New Orleans getting robbed of a Super Bowl trip on the lack of a pass interference call, I assumed the NFL would review the touchdown. However, the league decided not to and the Vikings moved on to the divisional round where they’ll face San Francisco today.

You’re probably wondering if I’ll watch this game, and yeah I’ll watch the beginning. However, I’m also covering the Northern Michigan University hockey game tonight and opening puck drop will probably occur at halftime of the football game. Will I completely switch my attention to football as I’m attempting to do my job and cover an event? Probably not.

However, I will periodically keep an eye on it. After watching last week’s thrilling ending, I realized that even though it’s tempting to look away, you could miss out on seeing something really great.

So if the Vikings are still in the game late in the fourth quarter, I’ll bring up the game on my laptop and tune in, and if the Vikes lose I’ll be able to shrug it off. As I’ve written before, when you’re a Minnesota fan, you’re mentally prepared for failure, and when the state’s teams succeed like they’ve done twice against the Saints now, you’re surprised and you appreciate success more.

So from now on, I’ll try not to look away, even if I think a lead is secure or if the odds may not be in my team’s favor. Life’s too short not to pay attention and like I learned last week, I could miss out on something truly great.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.

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