It was January 17, 1999 when the Minnesota Vikings last played in the NFC Championship game. The Vikings were coming off an almost perfect, record-setting 1998 season and played host to the upstart NFC West champion Atlanta Falcons.
Ed. note: Actually, Jeremy is right. I had totally forgotten about the 41-0 massacre at the hands of the New York Giants in 2001. First, I remember that day because I had been partying all night. When this particular game came on I was leaving St. Thomas in Oshkosh and going to some bar across the street, the name of which I now forget. Shortly thereafter I would finish off my 24-hour festival of debauchery by slumping into my bed and passing out cold. Second, it wasn’t even a game, so it’s not really a surprise that I forgot about it. Anyway, it’s more fun to remember the 1999 game.
The Falcons came into the game as 11-point underdogs to a 15-1 Vikings team led by Randall Cunningham and Randy Moss. The Vikings had set an NFL record for points scored during the 1998 season, with 556, and had won their previous nine home games by an average of 23 points.
On paper, it was a complete mismatch, but as they say – that’s why they play the games.
Almost everything went according to plan for the Vikings in the first half. They took a 20-14 lead into halftime, but they couldn’t quite shake the Falcons, who were led by a gimpy Chris Chandler, in the second half.
The Vikings maintained control of the game and held a 27-20 lead late in the fourth quarter when kicker Gary Anderson set up for a 38-yard field goal that would have iced the game. Anderson hadn’t missed a kick all season.
And then something like this happened…
Anderson – Mr. Automatic – was wide left, giving the Falcons the ball back with 2:07 on the clock.
Well, you know what happened from there. Chandler hit Terence Mathis for the tying score and the Falcons would go on to win in overtime on a Morten Anderson field goal.
After the Green Bay Packers were pummeled twice by the Vikings twice that season by a combined 27 points, Vikings fans were probably at their all-time douchiest, which would put them high in the running for the douchiest worldwide… ever.
So, when it all fell apart for the Vikings, those of us in Wisconsin did a little something like this.
That’s right, a celebration. Not a celebration of our triumph, but of your failure, Minnesota. A great, great season – right down the crapper! A record-setting tour de force – that went absolutely nowhere!
And it’s funny, because I didn’t hear any of your ignorant, mouth-breathing blather about how your 1998 Vikings were the best team ever after you lost to the Falcons. Nope, complete silence.
No talk of how Randy Moss was better than Jerry Rice, of how Randall Cunningham was better as a Viking than an Eagle, of how Denny Green was the best coach in the NFC. Nope. In fact, I think here is where I say Denny Green is who we thought he was.
Really though, I have no ill will. The Vikings haven’t won jack shit when it counts – ever – and I know that pains you right in your cold, black hearts.
So, let us all raise a glass to the 1998 Minnesota Vikings, who were oh-so-close to reaching the Super Bowl, but at the same time, let us remember lesson number one about sports: a choker always chokes and for 49 years, you’ve been doing it better than anyone, Minnesota.