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Vikings' 'Super Bowl Express' should leave whiners home

Only four teams remain in the running for the Super Bowl, and the Vikings are one of them, which means faithful Vikings fans are already wondering just exactly how their favorites are going to break their hearts this time.

Only four teams remain in the running for the Super Bowl, and the Vikings are one of them, which means faithful Vikings fans are already wondering just exactly how their favorites are going to break their hearts this time.
The Vikings have made it to four Super Bowls in their history, and, of course, they lost all four times. It is a sad commentary on our society that winning has become so important to us that anything short of winning means failure. In the NFL, it doesn't matter how exciting a season you've had, or how many times you've won, the only thing that matters is winning the final game -- the Super Bowl. That means that every team except one will be a failure when the Super Bowl ends. And that is patently absurd.
As a sports zealot, the competition should mean the utmost, and the chance to be among the NFL's "final four" should be enough to signify a great season. If the Vikings happen to lose next weekend, or if they win and end up losing to either Oakland or Baltimore in the Super Bowl, maybe -- just maybe -- it will be because the other team played better on that day.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not wavering. I wrote a column back on Nov. 20 in which I predicted flatly that the Vikings would win the Super Bowl, and that I wasn't sure whom they'd play, but I was hoping for Oakland. That was before the Vikings lost their final three games of the regular season, which caused a lot of bandwagon-riders to jump off, but even that will turn out to be a positive.
Possibly nowhere else in the NFL does the media and fan following ebb and sway as much as in the Twin Cities. Every time the Vikings win, talk shows and reporters fairly glow with how invincible the Vikings are; every time they lose, the same folks write about how catastrophic the Vikings shortcomings are and how they're doomed to ultimate failure. So it seems that all the hype of success tends to fatten up the Vikings and lead them to a fall. Because of those final three losses, nobody dared be arrogant, whether the fans, media or the players themselves.
Epic stories have been written about superstar John Randle's dropoff in tackles, and almost overlooked is the fact that every opponent double-teams or triple-teams Randle on every play. If two or three guys Randle's size all block him on every play, he shouldn't ever make a tackle, but a few other guys are running around unblocked. If Randle so consumes the focus of every opponent's blocking scheme, maybe he should be the MVP, instead of vilified.
The Vikings have come through all season when they've had to, and they've faltered at various times when they didn't have to be at their best. The Vikings have defensive shortcomings, but so do almost all NFL teams. None of the teams that had the best defenses had offenses comparable to the Vikings. The only one of those defensive juggernauts still playing is Baltimore, and they beat Tennessee in a battle where one defensive power had to win.
Unless Baltimore wins it all, the axiom that defense wins championships will become history. This Super Bowl could prove that the best defense is an offense that represents a threat on every down. Nobody does that better than the Vikings.
New Orleans conquered the St. Louis Rams great offense, but the Saints were no match for the Vikings. At the end, the Saints scored a ridiculously easy long touchdown. Perfect. Just what was needed for everybody to again remember the Vikings defensive shortcomings, and prevent the fans, the media and the players from being cocky going to New York.
Failing to secure the home field advantage all the way through the playoffs was also supposed to be disastrous for the Vikings. The Super Bowl, however, is not at the Metrodome, and if the Vikings were to win their playoff games at home, they would be ripe to go away for the Super Bowl and lose. Instead, they have to go to New York and face a very good Giants team.
If they're going to win the Super Bowl, nothing could prepare the Vikings better than to go on the road for a huge game, and go into it lean and hungry instead of fat and satisfied. The Vikings will beat the Giants, behind that explosive offense and a defense that will make a few large plays, and then they'll beat Oakland in a great Super Bowl.
But, you know what? If they don't, let's be big enough to avoid whining about how they choked, or because their well-documented shortcomings haunted them. Let's for once acknowledge that all four remaining teams are outstanding and give credit to the winners graciously. We'll expect no less of folks in New York, Oakland and Baltimore.
John Gilbert is a sports writer for the
Up North Newspaper Network. He can be reached by e-mail at john.gilbert@mx3.com .

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