Is Minnesota Football Caught in an Infinite Loop?

Aug 26, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) reacts after a game against the Arizona Cardinals at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

For the Minnesota Vikings, 2022 was the year of the comeback.

It’s been well-documented here and throughout the sporting media landscape that the season was an anomaly of stress-inducing proportions for those of us here in the great state of Minnesota.

Our Vikings somehow managed a perfect 11-0 record in one-score games, and they did not do so by simply slogging to a 10-0 lead and holding the opposition to a couple of innocent field goals the rest of the way. Not even close.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings Training Camp
Aug 3, 2023; Eagan, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell throws a pass during training camp at TCO Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Nine of those victories required second-half come-from-behind rallies, and four of those involved deficits of ten or more points. Two were overtime wins, and six were sealed with scores with less than a minute to play.

The New Orleans game involved a torrid comeback and a missed Saints field goal as time expired, denying overtime and giving the Vikings the win. The Bills game would have easily been the most insane come-from-behind stunner in team history, were it not for the NFL record 33-0 comeback the Purple mounted against Indy, winning 39-36.

The unlikely scenarios seemed to get more and more unlikely with each successive comeback, and the benefactors were Vikings fans everywhere—save for a blessed few with weak hearts, who may have been forced to change the station to something less stressful during these maniacal games. “Mayberry RFD” reruns would have brought their tickers the calm that they needed. Maybe “The Great British Baking Show”? In contrast, watching Vikings games in 2022 was like watching “Silence of the Lambs” for the first time, with somebody holding a particularly large and very sharp knife to your throat.

Comeback at Huntington Bank Stadium

Sep 24, 2022; East Lansing, Michigan, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers head coach PJ Fleck waves to fans at Spartan Stadium before playing MSU. Mandatory Credit: Dale Young-USA TODAY Sports

The pundits are saying that this year’s edition of the Vikings are due for regression. No team can go 11-0 in those one-score games two years in a row. This year, the law of averages might bring a 5-6 record in those kind of games. The pundits are not commenting on whether such regression also applies to the relative stress level of watching the games. Will there be 9 more comeback games? Will we have to endure the added agony of watching our team come out on the losing end of those games? Is that the kind of regression we need to expect in 2023?

Perhaps not. It dawned on me Thursday night, as I was watching the Vikings’ collegiate counterparts in the Twin Cities, the Minnesota Golden Gophers, take on Nebraska. The game felt innocent enough, with Minnesota owning a 3-0 lead at halftime. Then they watched it slip away as the Cornhuskers moved to what seemed like a commanding 10-3 lead, given the lack of offense that was on display from both sides.

Then, quite possibly, some sort of rip in the time-space continuum may have occurred directly beneath the field at Huntington Bank Stadium on the U of M Campus. There Minnesota Mojo clearly oozed into the friendly confines of “The Bank”, and the Gophers became possessed by the come-from-behind-and-stress-out-the-fans-with-sheer-drama demons that had previously occupied the Vikings. How else to explain the final minutes of the Big Ten Opener?

Aug 31, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers defensive lineman Luther McCoy (52) celebrates the win against the Nebraska Cornhuskers after the game at Huntington Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Walley forced a fumble. Daniel Jackson caught a toe-tap 13-yard touchdown for the ages on a last-gasp fourth-and-ten miracle. Tyler Nubin intercepted a pass. Dragan Kesich drilled a 47-yard-field goal as time expired to seal the game. The Gophers opened the season 1-0 in the same comeback fashion that the Vikings made famous just one season ago. Unbelievable.

No more believable than the time-space-continuum theory. What if that rip started to occur beneath U.S. Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis one season ago, infecting the resident Vikings with the blessing and the curse that is late-minute-mayhem during football games? Maybe it’s like an earthquake ripping a hole in the land that extends over time, or like that crack in your windshield that you’re too lazy to replace, slowly spidering out to the east? And maybe it has arrived at the University of Minnesota, just in time for the Big Ten football season?

And what if this curse is an infinite loop? Are our football teams doomed to keep repeating these gut-wrenching games over and over? With only the opponent and the details changing from week to week? A different hero, varying degrees of believe-it-or-not drama, but the same formula permeating their games, and our football watching experience, each and every weekend? Would we love it? Could we even stand it?

Could even the strongest hearts among us endure? And what of those practitioners of the “other” kind of football? The Minnesota United Football Club plays only four miles away—straight down University Avenue—at Allianz Field. The rip in the time-space continuum is heading their way.

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