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The Vikings: Just when you give up hope, they manage to restore faith

The days are growing shorter, the nights cooler, and there's a palatable anxiety to be felt in the air -- it must be Vikings season.

I know the season very well, for I have, for the past 15 years, experienced firsthand the ordeal of sharing a house with not one, but two dedicated Minnesota Vikings fans.

Every year, the beginning of professional football season brings 16 weeks of seeing my dad and brother go through the ceaseless agony and disappointment that being a Vikings fan entails. I am an insider who has witnessed firsthand the dark side of Vikings fandom.

I've seen the five stages of grief repeated six times in seven hours, and have attended football parties that ended in televisions being thrown from balconies and players from rival teams being ceremoniously burned in effigy.

Even worse is the sense of emptiness that my family feels when, after a particularly difficult Vikings loss, my brother and dad lock themselves up in their respective bedrooms to mourn for the rest of the day. Then the next week the Vikings will change quarterbacks, win a game or two, and my family is convinced that they are bound for the Super Bowl.

"This is the year," I've heard so many times in my life that I tend to drown it out now, and then the Vikings will go and blow another one and its back to the isolation chambers.

Obviously, this infinite cycle of grief, raised hopes, and more grief has put considerable stress on my family life, so it should come as no surprise to you that I was delighted when, after coming home from a Sunday afternoon in town, I found my father wearing a Dallas Cowboys sweatshirt. I asked him, in my normally inquisitive manner, why he happened to be donning Cowboys merchandise when doing so was obviously a high form of treason.

My dad explained to me that, after coming home from church that day and discovering that the Vikings had lost, he had finally given up on the team that he had followed, and been continually let down by, since he was a boy.

During the spiel, my brother stood nearby, and nodded his head when my dad made a point. He finished by saying "I'm a Cowboys fan now, son", and ecstasy immediately overcame me. The Cowboys win games, I thought to myself. In fact, they've had seasons in which they've won more games than they lost! Heck, I've heard rumors that they've even won a Super Bowl! Imagine that!

Now our family can actually follow a team we can genuinely believe in, not just one that we watch and pray can at least lose with some dignity. The Cowboys sounded great. Well, next Sunday, the Vikings won and my dad was suddenly a fan again, simple as that.

This scenario basically exemplifies the Vikings experience. They are not an ordinary football team, and thus, their fans are not ordinary football fans. Unlike the vast majority of other teams in the National Football League, the Vikings are not a team that you can cheer on and support and reasonably expect that they'll emerge victorious, nor are they a team that consistently loses and thus have nothing expected of them.

No, the Vikings are much more complicated than that. They toy with you, seeming to lose until you finally lose all faith in them, and then will they will turn around and win a game and being a fan is suddenly "cool" again. It's enough to drive anyone mad, yet very few people completely jump off the boat and permanently find another team to follow. And the ones who do, though they may have technically made the logical choice and will probably live longer, happier lives because of it, are forever shunned by their fellow Minnesotans and might as well just find another state to live in.

It seems to me that the only solution to this troubling dilemma is to completely detach oneself from professional football altogether, and find another Minnesota sports team to follow. The Twins, for example -- I can believe in them.

Nathan Kitzmann is a sophomore at Detroit Lakes High School.