There are a lot of dates that have been part of Vikings franchise history. The four Super Bowls rank among them. Several NFC title games. Some draft days when stars like Alan Page, Randall McDaniel, Randy Moss and Adrian Peterson were selected. But perhaps no day may turn out to be more important in the short-term and long-term as May 21, 2010.
Fresh off news that a pretty solid majority of Minnesotans polled oppose public funding for a Vikings stadium, there was plenty of turmoil in the air. Would Brett Favre have the surgery he needed to return for a 20th season? If he did, would the Williams Wall be in place for the first four games.
In one hectic morning, both questions were answered. Favre had the surgery, which many believe paves the way for his return for another season with the Vikings. On the same morning, Hennepin County District Court Judge Gary Larson ruled that Pat Williams and Kevin Williams can both have their league-ordered suspensions delayed if they choose to appeal his decision. That decision took all of about two seconds.
In the span of just a few hours, the Vikings went from a team that had question marks surrounding both sides of the ball to a team that appears locked and loaded to make another Super Bowl run.
While those developments help the Vikings in the short-term, last year’s run was something that needed to be built upon for the long-term. As many know, the Vikings have just two years remaining on their Metrodome lease. It has all but been decided that next spring’s Legislative session will be a make-or-break session. If a stadium deal doesn’t get done, a winning Vikings franchise would have plenty of allure to a market like Los Angeles, whether the Wilf family moved the team or sold it to an ownership group with designs on getting a franchise back to the L.A. market, something the league doesn’t oppose.
There are those who believe some government body – whether it be the state, a metro county or a city – will step up to provide a partnership for funding a stadium, there is reason for concern that the Vikings may eventually go the way of the Lakers, who left the Land of It’s 10,000 Namesakes shortly before the Vikings arrived 50 years ago.
What the prospect of having both Favre and the Williams Wall in place for the start of the 2010 season does is give continued hope to Vikings fans that the team is on the brink of doing something special. When the Twins got to the point of potentially being eliminated as if they never existed, Hennepin County stepped up. A funny thing happened when Target Field opened up: it became the place to be seen in the Twin Cities. Everybody wants to see an outdoor Major League Baseball game. It’s been too long. The economic impact in the downtown area is being felt, as families and individuals spend money downtown and help show what a first-class sports stadium can do for a city as well as a fan base. It’s cool to be a Twins fan and be at Twins games.
That has never been a problem for the Vikings. The fans have stepped up and the team has sold out every game since Red McCombs refused to allow anything less than sellouts out in the preseason of 1998. But the arrival of Favre last year brought the fans out of the woodwork, as those fence-riders suddenly found Sundays with No. 4 as destination television. By the time the season ended, it was clear that those calling themselves Vikings fans were as strong and as passionate as they have been since the 1998 season, when legislators scoffed at the thought of a new stadium because there were still 13 years left on the lease.
Now there are two.
It may just take a Super Bowl championship to convince lawmakers that the long, ugly Minnesota winters are much more tolerable when the Vikings play until February. In a strange way, the two announcements that came within hours of one another may be the spark that ignites the 2010 season and, in the process, takes a big final step to get Minnesota politicians off their hands and assuring that the Vikings remain in Minnesota for another 50 years.
Pat Kirwin of NFL.com came out with his rankings of the 32 NFL teams, which, by his own admission, is a little premature for the 2010 season. But, considering that the NFL preview magazines that start hitting the newsstands in June are already in the process of being printed or have been completed already, maybe it isn’t too early. Kirwin has the Vikings rated third (behind Indianapolis and New Orleans). He states the Vikings are this high because he believes Favre will return, Pat Williams and Kevin Williams won’t be suspended, the Vikings were 8-0 at the Metrodome last year and “they seem to have the Packers’ number.” However, of the six teams in his first tier of rankings, the Packers checked at No. 6 behind the Cowboys and Chargers. Chicago checked in at No. 21 and Detroit clocked in at No. 30 – ahead of only Buffalo and St. Louis.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.