NOTE: This also appeared at RandBall, as always.
The desperate thrashings of Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder have made this year’s edition of the Vikings one of the strangest I can recall. I’ve seen great Vikings teams and awful Vikings teams, the overachieving and the underachieving, the frustrating, and that one year with Jim McMahon that still confuses me to this day, but I’ve never had quite the same reaction as a fan as I’ve had to this year’s team. For the first time that I can recall, I don’t feel bad when the Vikings lose.
By all reckonings, this is an immensely frustrating season. Minnesota’s blessed with Adrian Peterson, one of the great rushers in NFL history, and has cobbled together an average-to-decent defense. Out of the ashes of an awful 2011 have come what is potentially a pretty good playoff team, except for the team’s pre-war-esque inability to use the forward pass. Even a mediocre passing offense might have the Vikings at 8-5 or 9-4, with a chance of winning the division, but Ponder’s sketchy quarterbacking has doomed the team to the outside fringes of the playoff picture.
This came to a head two weeks ago, in Green Bay, when Minnesota might well have won the game if only Ponder had spiked the ball into the ground every time he dropped back instead of attempting to throw the ball to a receiver. Like many of you, I’m cursed with a Packer fan in my office; in my case, it’s much worse, given that my office’s resident Packer fan is a Minnetonka native who gave up on the Vikings years ago. Normally, when the Vikings lose to the Packers, I dread going into the office. I dread having to talk about the game. I dread the horrible feelings of personal responsibility that I’ve never been able to avoid after a Purple loss.
This year, though, I had a reaction I’ve never had before. My overarching thought, as the Vikings went down, was simple: I am not going to feel bad just because Christian Ponder can’t throw the ball straight. I know he’s terrible. Everyone knows he’s terrible, except for apparently the Vikings staff and front office. And for the first time ever, I’m not going to feel responsible for that; I’m not going to feel bad just because nobody wants to tell the emperor that he has no clothes and that throwing off his back foot is a terrible idea.
I’m still desperate for the Vikings to win, of course. I’ll still be shouting at the television come noon tomorrow. But for once, no taunts can hurt me. I’m not responsible for this one. This one’s all them.
On with the links:
*Parker Hageman thinks that Justin Morneau could well be Texas-bound before this off-season is over.
*As the NHL lockout stretches into its 47th year (note: approximate), Charles Pierce reminds us that, despite what the NHL wants you to think, this is not Don Fehr’s fault.
*TVFury interviews Will Leitch, who’s one of my favorite writers, and still seems like a nice guy from the Midwest even though he’s been in New York for years.
*Only The Economist can use the phrase “the peculiar economic logic of top-tier American college football” in an article about the annual offseason college coaching carousel.
*And finally: Winona and Red Wing have decided to introduce a trophy to their high school hockey matchup (which they’re calling the River City Showdown), and after much thought, apparently the trophy is, um, a rope. It does double duty: it symbolizes barge ropes on the river, and the winning team gets to use it to pull each other out of the ditch all winter!