Minnesota Sports: A History of Disappointment

Jake Loberg, Sports Editor

It’s Sept. 16, 2018 and the Minnesota Vikings are playing their second game of the season against the Green Bay Packers. After falling behind 23-7 at the end of the third quarter, the Vikings need a miracle comeback to either win the game or force overtime. A 22-point fourth quarter does just that, and they force overtime with the score 29-29 at the end of regulation. They trade three-and-outs for most of the period, but the Vikings put together a drive at the very end to get themselves in field goal range for a potential game-winning kick.

Their kicker is Daniel Carlson, a rookie who the Vikings selected in the fifth round of the 2018 draft. He was solid in the season opener against the San Francisco 49ers, going one-for-one on field goal attempts and making all of his extra points. Despite his promising start, the game against the Packers was a different story. He missed two field goals in regulation, those six points left out on the field being the ultimate difference in the game. However, the Vikings offense gave him one last chance to win the game in the form of a 35-yard field goal, little more than a chip shot for Carlson’s powerful leg. And as you might expect, Carlson missed it wide right, and the game ended in a tie.

For any other area who’s as loyal to their sports teams as we are up here, the outcome would be devastating and irritate fans for the rest of the year. But as Minnesota sports fanatics, we’ve just come to expect it. All of Minnesota’s four major sports teams (the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Timberwolves, Minnesota Twins, and Minnesota Wild) have their fair share of incidents on the list of dispiriting events that we citizens of North Dakota and Minnesota have had to endure.

To fully understand the full scope of what we’ve gone through over the years, it’s necessary to go back the beginning. 1947 to be exact. That was the year Minnesota’s first and arguably most successful sports franchise, the Minneapolis Lakers, came to town. Led by star player George Mikan, they won multiple championships in the leagues that would eventually become what we now know as the NBA. After the Lakers’ stellar run in the late 40s and early 50s, they saw declining success as the decade went on, the nail in the coffin being Mikan’s retirement. Ownership could not keep the team profitable in the Minneapolis market, and the team moved to Los Angeles to become the Los Angeles Lakers. In what would become Minnesota’s first sports heartbreak, the Lakers would go on to win 11 championships after the move, and the Twin Cities wouldn’t get another NBA franchise until 1989.

Minneapolis was left without a major sports franchise until 1961, when the Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings were established as expansion franchises in the MLB and NFL respectively. Both teams saw relatively immediate success in their leagues, establishing themselves as formidable powers by the middle of the decade. The Twins even made it to the World Series in 1965, but after jumping out to a 2-0 series lead against the Los Angeles Dodgers, they couldn’t hold on and eventually lost the series in seven games.

The Vikings parlayed their success in the late 60s into Super Bowl appearances in 1973, 1974 and 1976, but ultimately lost all three against the Kansas City Chiefs, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Oakland Raiders respectively. The 70s were arguably the best years in Vikings history and their best shot to win a Super Bowl, but in typical Vikings fashion, they came up empty-handed.

The year 1987 saw one of the best years for Minnesota sports, and the first major sports championship in our history. Led by baseball legend Kirby Puckett and World Series MVP Frank Viola, the 1987 Twins won the world series against Atlanta Braves four games to three. The Vikings saw success too, riding a unexpected late win streak all the way to the NFC Championship game against the Washington Redskins. With a shot to win it at the end, it looked like the upstart Vikings would make their way to the fourth Super Bowl in team history, but a dropped pass on fourth down by Darrin Nelson at the goal line nerfed their chance for a victory.

In 1991, our second glance at what the top of the sports world looks like was again given to us by the Minnesota Twins. They beat the Atlanta Braves in seven games for their second championship, and it seemed like our fortune as Minnesota sports fans had finally turned. But it was not to be, and we haven’t seen a championship in any of the major sports leagues since.

The years following the Twins’ second championship have been rough for everyone, made worse by off the field decisions that could have been prevented. For example, the 1998 Vikings season has been considered one of the biggest choke jobs in sports history. They rolled through the regular season en route to a 15-1 record and stomped through the playoffs until they met the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship game. It was a hard-fought game, and the Vikes had a chance to put the game away late in the fourth quarter on a Gary Anderson field goal. Despite being the first kicker in NFL history to not miss a kick during the regular season, Anderson missed the kick, and the Vikings went on to lose the game in overtime. It is widely regarded that had the Vikings won that game, they would’ve had a great chance to win that year’s Super Bowl.

By this time, the Minnesota Timberwolves of the NBA had been making waves as a hot new team, making the playoffs for eight straight seasons from 1997 to 2004, culminating in a 2004 appearance in the Western Conference Finals. However, the Wolves would go on to experience the longest playoff drought in the NBA for the next fourteen years until finally making the playoffs again in 2018.

By 2009, we were looking for any glimmer of hope, and found it in the Minnesota Vikings led by unlikely hero and former Green Bay Packer Brett Favre. He led them all the way to the NFC Championship game, where they faced off against the New Orleans Saints. In one of the best games in recent memory, the Vikings were driving late in the fourth quarter and looked like they were going to go in for the game winning score. However, in now infamous fashion, Favre threw across his body and was intercepted – forcing the game to overtime where the Vikings would lose 31-28. Again, had the Vikings won, it is assumed that they would have been heavily favored in the Super Bowl against the Indianapolis Colts.

By now the list of embarrassing fates our beloved sports teams have been dealt is getting too long to keep track of, and I haven’t even mentioned Blair Walsh’s missed field goal in 2015, the Twins’ playoff history against the New York Yankees, or the Minnesota Wild’s history of coming up short in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. All of this means one thing; our expectations as fans of Minnesota sports should always be tempered, no matter how high of promise the Vikings, Timberwolves, Twins, or Wild seem to have.