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Have guarded hope for Vikes

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There have been at least two generations who have not experienced the four Super Bowl losses the Minnesota Vikings have incurred through the 1970s.

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Instead, starting with my generation, we've witnessed three excruciating NFC Championship defeats.

Come Sunday, my generation and the one's who have followed, are hoping to avoid that Fearsome Foursome of losses, when the Vikings face the New Orleans Saints in the NFC's biggest game of the season and the right to move onto the Super Bowl in Miami.

Technically, I was just over 2.5 years old when Minnesota lost to Oakland in the Super Bowl XI, so I guess I was alive in physical being.

But the first big game I witnessed by the Purple came in 1987-88 when the Vikes stunned then Dynasty-ridden San Francisco and propelled themselves into the NFC Championship game against the Washington Redskins.

I was a seventh grader then and was basically a virgin to the slap-in-the-face loss, which inflicted physical pain

With the Vikes on the Redskin six-yard line and trailing 17-10, Darrin Nelson dropped a Wade Wilson goal-line pass, thus really my first memory of what my dad, Bob, felt many a time before.

My memory of that Jan. 17, 1988, Sunday day was confidence that the Vikes would make the Super Bowl.

The sun was out and all was good -- until the blunder by Nelson.

All of a sudden, that innocent world of always cheering for a winner came tumbling in.

Those were the first tears shed over a Viking loss -- in which my dog Laddie tried to cure as I wept on the side of the garage, licking them away.

After that loss, the callous started to be formed.

Having to go through the early 1990s of mediocre play and scattered playoff losses, thickened the callous of defeat -- one which many 50 and 60 year olds had cultivated by then.

My Viking wounds were peeled back a bit and poked at after the Green Bay Packers became a powerhouse led by a player who was quickly becoming my personal nemesis -- Brett Favre.

By then I was in college and at St. Cloud State University, there were a bevy of Packer fans.

Of course, me being a passionate Viking fan, it showed through pretty easy.

So they knew the salt of a Super Bowl championship would chafe at me...and they rode it as long as they could.

After changing another chapter in my life in the form of graduating from college and entering the real world -- that tick still bit me from September through December.

Finally, in 1998, it was that season I've been waiting for over two decades.

A 15-1 record bolstered a spirit which was pandering to just a few playoff wins.

But not this time. The Vikes' time was now.

I was finally going to get to feel the unknown and cross into uncharted territory with a Vikings' trip to the Super Bowl.

The Knights of the Templar had their Friday the 13th -- the day they met their reckoning -- I had Black Sunday.

That of course was the 1998 NFC Championship game, which was lost to Atlanta in overtime and created a new term of De-Knee and the missed field goal (but I digress and will not go into those).

It was not a pleasurable day in the Wierima household that day around 3:45 p.m.

A little bit of my Viking passion died that day -- as did basically every season after that, leading up to today (Sunday, Jan. 24).

It was bludgeoned once again with a 41-0 (or a 41-doughnut like Randy Moss said) NFC Championship game loss in New York.

But now, it seemed the Football Gods have been saving all their goodwill for the Vikings for this season, while dishing out their cruel intentions before.

First, they gave the Vikings their biggest enemies' God -- Brett Favre.

Second, they gave not one, but two, wins over the Packers -- led by their once God Favre.

In the month of December, though, it seemed the Football Gods were going to pull the rug out from underneath our feet, once again, followed by a snicker sound like Nelson's off The Simpsons.

But then came a 34-3 rout of the Cowboys in the Divisional Playoff round and hope was once again renewed.

Now comes my fourth delve into the hope well when the Vikes face the Saints for the right to go to the Super Bowl.

I've been here, done that.

Personally, after the Vikes made that NFC title game in 1988, as a seventh grader, I thought I'd see many more of them.

Little did I know I was destined to be watching my Vikings with my 7-year-old son Brody and still without feeling the experience of seeing my favorite team get to the Super Bowl.

I quit slurping up the water in that hope well, instead have been more guarded and just enjoy what each week brings.

The belief this set of Vikings can win Sunday is there.

But that callous which started forming on that sunny Sunday afternoon in 1988, which still shows the scar of Black Sunday, will make it an easier transition if there isn't Viking football come Feb. 7 -- or otherwise known as Super Bowl XLIV.

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Brian Wierima
Detroit Lakes Newspapers Sports Editor for the last 15 years. St. Cloud State University graduate, who hails from Deer Creek, MN. 
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