As a Minnesota Vikings fan, one moment in Super Bowl LVIII really resonated.
No, not Jake Moody’s blocked PAT (don’t be unkind).
It was actually far more dire than a missed extra point. I’m talking about the tragic twist of fate and tendon that occurred when San Francisco 49ers linebacker Dre Greenlaw suffered a non-contact injury to his Achilles on the sideline, smited by the cruelest of the football gods for the sin of being too excited to run out onto the field.
Think too deeply about it, and you’ll spiral. Injuries are always brutal, but an athlete, having worked his entire life toward this one day, being robbed of his moment of glory because of his own over-enthusiasm is prescription-strength awful. It’s Bill Gramatica, but without the reason for celebrating. It lacks the macabre hilarity of Jacksonville Jaguars punter Chris Hanson accidentally chopping into his own kicking leg with a ceremonial axe his coach left in the locker room. (If you don’t know, you gotta read about it.) Nope, this was just an epic bummer.
And when I think about the Vikings and the Super Bowl, I’m bummed.
This Super Bowl felt especially alienating for certain segments of the NFL faithful this year. The Kansas City Chiefs vs. the San Francisco 49ers, the Haves vs. the Have Mores. A pair of modern NFL powerhouses competing to see who can climb the rankings of the winningest franchises in Super Bowl history. Familiar faces on a stage only familiar to Minnesotans under the age of 50 from that one time we hosted a party that we weren’t invited to.
It was appropriate this particular game was being played in Las Vegas, a town as divided as any between high rollers and sweaty lottery-ticket scratchers praying for a lucky break. It’s the city of the $500 wagyu steak and the $20 lap dance next door, where what keeps the riffraff going is the mathematically improbable chance that a turn of fate will land you on the sweet side of the equation.
For more than a couple hours there — Usher notwithstanding — it was a pretty terrible Super Bowl, mostly decided by blunders and fumbles and endless flocks of flying yellow flags. When the broadcasters spend that much time extolling the virtues of punters and their special teams cohorts, you know you’re probably not watching a future installment of ESPN Classic. It was almost possible to convince yourself that this party wasn’t very good in the first place, that it wasn’t a big deal you weren’t invited. Again.
Then both teams finally managed to gain more total yardage than Usher, and a fiery fourth quarter gave way to a nail-biter of an overtime that nearly went into its second period. Cue the confetti. Bring out the trophy.
For Vikings fans, the Super Bowl feels farther away than it has in years. It still remains to be seen whether “competitive rebuild” is just a synonym for “perpetual mediocrity.” You’re either hoping to retain Kirk Cousins for another year or two for a likely long shot at a Lombardi, or you’re crossing your fingers that some new rookie signal-caller won’t take more than a couple of years to make the team playoff-worthy again. Either way, even the most optimistic predictions suggest rougher waters ahead before the Viking ship sails into smoother waters.
But the luster of the Super Bowl remains, and the thrill of those final 30 minutes of playing time are enough to keep a fan hopeful, even when the odds are as programmed against you as a slot machine at the Belaggio.
Cynical as I want to be, I was on my feet for the final drive of regulation and the entirety of overtime. It was hard not to think about what a thrill it would be if this was the Vikings, with Justin Jefferson making circus catches in front of a zillion people watching around the world. It’s a potential so beguiling you keep buying into it even when the odds prove contrary, time and again, when you’re all too familiar with the agony of busted Achilles tendons and too much enthusiasm. You try to be a realist, but you can’t help but speculate about that day, which must surely come sometime, when what happens in Minnesota doesn’t stay in Minnesota.