At the end, they came up just short of making history. They could have been the first team to play in the Super Bowl in their home stadium, but they didn’t win the final game to get them there.
As a fan, I was a little disappointed but not much. For me, given the circumstances, just competing at the level they did made me excited and provided for a wonderful season. In the process, I found out that there is a club in the Valley of other fans like me. I am talking about the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and their loss in the conference championship game to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Many times in the past few years, I told myself that I wouldn’t watch the NFL. Along with the bad calls by the officials and the arrogant behavior and comments by a few players, was the bad luck of my team.
I remember watching two missed field goals that prevented us from going further in the playoffs when we finally got there in the years past. Then, when we finally were supposed to make it far, injuries plagued us.
This year was different.
By the way, don’t ask me why I am a Vikings fan. When I started watching football, I decided that they were my team. This was awkward considering that I grew up in a house with all Dallas Cowboy fans. Somehow, I am the oddball and nowhere is this more obvious than baseball. My dad, brother and sister are Los Angeles Dodgers fans. I am a San Francisco Giants fan. The two teams are enemies.
Back to the Vikings.
Despite the many times I got upset at the NFL and my team’s luck, I truly am glad that I continued watching and supporting my team. There was something special about the Vikings this year that should be a story for underdogs to use as motivation.
After two starting quarterbacks were injured in two years, the Viking relied on Case Keenum. He was not drafted into the NFL after college. In 2012, there were 253 players selected in the NFL draft, but he was not one of them. Critics questioned his size and his ability to play different offensive schemes.
After all the picks were selected, Keenum was signed as an “undrafted free agent” by the Houston Texans and spent all of that year on the practice squad. After playing for the Texans and then the Rams, he was signed in 2017 by the Vikings. No one expected him to keep starting and winning for the Vikings, but he did and covered for the starters well. He even took the team to the conference championship game.
During the fourth game of the season, the Vikings lost their ace rookie running back, Dalvin Cook to an injury that took him out the whole season. With this void, the Vikings needed a big play maker. They had to go with a two running back alternating scheme to fill the gap. It worked, as the Vikings began to pound the ball right through their opponents.
Two additional players stepped up who no one expected and began to score points. The first was Stefon Diggs, who was the receiver who caught the pass that is known as the “Minnesota Miracle” a couple of weeks ago to put the Vikings past the New Orleans Saints.
Diggs was drafted in the fifth round of the 2015 draft with the 146th overall pick. That means that 145 players were selected before him. His impressive catches and remarkable footwork helped the Vikings beat up defenses. We don’t hear about all the successes of players selected before him because some haven’t been able to find their rhythm in the NFL.
The other player who made headway for the Vikings’ offense was Adam Thielen. He finished this season with the fifth-highest receptions in the NFL. But many don’t know that Thielen also went undrafted and was signed in 2013 as an “undrafted free agent” by the Vikings.
He was so overlooked as a player that he wasn’t even invited to the 2013 NFL Combine, where players go to showcase their talent in front of coaches, general managers, scouts and other high level team executives.
The Vikings’ success this year, all the way to the conference championship, reassured me of something that can make all of us stronger.
We may not always be the first or second selected, but we can come back to show our talent and make a mark in leading whatever it is we are involved in.
To me, the Vikings are winners for going as far as they did with all the setbacks they faced. Sure, it would be nice to watch them play in the Super Bowl, but it was nice to watch their run through the playoffs with a great team, a few players who were expected to go nowhere.
Sevag Tateosian is host and producer of The Central Valley Ledger on 90.7 FM KFSR Fresno and CMAC Comcast 93 and Att99. Email him at s.tateosian@comcast.