This past Monday night the Minnesota Vikings commemorated their 50th season of doing business in the land of 10,000 lakes. A moving tribute at halftime of their game against the Chicago Bears featured the return of many former Viking greats from the glorious past.
Among those on hand was the first and most storied quarterback of the franchise, Hall of Famer, Fran Tarkenton (Brett Favre is - and will always truly be - a Packer), the most memorable running back in franchise history, Chuck Foreman, and Hall of Fame members of the original "Purple Gang", Alan Page and Carl Eller. Present along with those long-time Viking favorites was the winningest Viking coach, Hall of Famer, Bud Grant.
Even though this game took place unexpectedly at University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium due to emergency circumstances, could there have been a more fitting game for them to be recognized? A freezing game played outdoors? Those former greats just named, were all a part of the Vikings outdoor days of the old Metropolitan Stadium. Their games played in the freezing cold and snow were legendary.
In stark contrast to the rich Viking history on display - what with 26 playoff appearances in these 50 seasons - was the current Viking team getting manhandled by the Bears 40-14. The 5-9 current Vikings hardly resemble what most Viking fans have come to expect from their team down through the years.
This season was expected to yield another serious run at claiming the franchise's first Super Bowl Championship, the one crowning jewel missing from an otherwise proud franchise rich in playoff lore and Hall of Fame memberships. What has transpired, has been one of the worst Viking seasons ever. Since the NFL expanded to a 16-game schedule in 1978, the Vikings have only won fewer than five games in a season once, in 1984 when they went 3-13.
This lackluster performance against the Bears continued an ugly trend for night games played this season. At night the Vikings are 0-4, having been outscored by a decisive margin, 118 - 55. This upcoming Sunday night, the Vikings travel to Philadelphia to go up against arguably the best team in the NFC. With all due respect to the largely overlooked Atlanta Falcons, the owners of the league's best record at 12-2, with a healthy Michael Vick playing the best football of his life, the Eagles appear to be equally as dangerous.
The prospects of a Viking win - appearing under the night lights but yet again - do not appear likely at all. However, of possible intrigue will be watching perhaps the two most athletically gifted quarterbacks in football going toe-to-toe. Provided Favre does not make another sudden recovery on game day, rookie Joe Webb should make his first career start.
In the slick and freezing conditions against the Bears, Webb did see extensive playing time for the first time in his career. The raw quarterback did struggle somewhat in throwing a pair of interceptions, but he also rushed for 38 yards on six carries, capped off by a 13-yard touchdown run. With hopefully better playing conditions, although snow is in the forecast for this game as well, maybe we can see an exciting matchup between two similarly-styled quarterbacks. Vick of course is having an MVP-type season, and Webb is just starting for the first time, so obviously there is a huge advantage for the Eagles.
Nonetheless, the fun part of sports is never knowing what will happen for sure, until the game is actually played. Maybe for one night, the Vikings will put all of the disappointment from a season gone-down-the-drain aside, and in their last performance of the season on the big stage, put on a game indicative of why there was so much optimism going into the 50th anniversary season in the first place.
If the Vikings do just mail in another effort however, it will simply add to a miserable season that cannot wait to come to a close.