Its been 20+ years but I still think about this team.
Cunningham, Moss, Carter, Reed, Smith, Christey, McDaniel, Dixon, Stuessie, Stringer, Glover, Hatchette, Hoard.
Randle, Ball, Collinet, Smith, Rudd, McDaniel, Edwards, Fuller, Hitchcock, Griffith, Thomas, Mcdonald.
Palmer, Anderson, Berger.
And I didn’t have to google any of those names.
As a Vikings fan, that was the one year where I never woke up stressed on Sunday mornings, or worried about who the opponent was during the week. All I wondered was how much we’d win by.
The team was ahead of its time. You plug the ’98 Vikings into the game today and they’d do it better than anyone, and that includes the Chiefs. An underrated, stacked, and absolutely bruising offensive line. A quarterback perfectly suited for the vertical passing game that was two decades ahead of the curve. A two running back backfield with a pure speed guy that could break a big run or pick up yards in the passing game, complemented by a powerful short-yardage hound. Three of the best three receivers in the league. And a bend but don’t break defense. Not to mention a punter so dynamic that he earned a snickers endorsement deal, a kicker who didn’t miss a field goal or extra point all year, and one of the most exciting punt returners in the game.
The offense went on to shatter several scoring records that year. Records that have only been broken by some Tom Brady Patriots teams, and a single year of the greatest show on turf.
The ’98 Vikings should have hoisted the Lombardi trophy and been remembered as one of the greatest teams of all time.
Unfortunately, history doesn’t see it that way.
I won’t recap the game. Partly because in the era of youtube, google, and easy research, a recap can be done better by someone else. And partly because I don’t want to rehash those feelings any more than I already am at this moment. Just trust that there were several heartbreaking scenarios.
I will say I can still remember walking around the block several times, in only my pajamas and sandals. Late January. Sub-zero temperatures. Balling. The tears flowing from my eyes, then freezing to my face, after they lost in the NFC championship game. I don’t remember feeling cold. I just remember feeling gutted. It was my junior year of high school. At 16 years old I thought it was the end of the world.
I remember almost every detail of that game. And I hate that. You wouldn’t believe, as a sports fan, how often the ’98 Vikings come up organically. And every time I realize I’m still not over it.
Shortly after meeting my wife it became obvious that her son (now our son) Travis was obsessed with Marvel. Everything Marvel. I didn’t know much about it, and frankly I just always thought that stuff was stupid. Last year the whole family went to one of these movies in the theatre. It turned out that one of the main guys, one of the big studs of the series, I’m guessing Captain America or Iron Man died. It was a slow death where he was sort of allowed to pass the torch or give wisdom to the next man up with a speech, etc before he died. I remember looking over at Travis and seeing him cry. And all of a sudden I understood. That’s his passion. The Avengers are his ’98 Vikings. And I will never look down on Marvel or anything else he is passionate about again.