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“So who are you rooting for in the Super Bowl?” All week… the same question. “I hope they both lose,” is the response I’ve been giving. “Oh, but Peyton Manning…” Blah, blah, blah. Yes, great football player, even better SNL host. His skit about the United Way is comedy gold. Still, I hope he loses. “But the Seahawks… they’ve never won a Super Bowl. Surely you can root for them?” Nope. I hope they lose. Big. Why, do you ask, am I such a Super Bowl curmudgeon? Why this bah humbug Super Bowl spirit? Because I’m a Minnesota Vikings fan… and that’s what I’m reduced to—rooting for others to share in my misery. When I was younger I would scoff at all of the jaded Vikings fans. I’d meet people from Minnesota, wise veterans of life who wore the battle scars of cold winters and giant mosquitoes. “I’m a Vikings fan,” I’d say, to which I’d receive a sly smile and eye roll. “I gave up on them years ago.” I never understood it. “Stay faithful!” I’d say. Laughter was the only response. Now, years later, I understand.
I still watch; I still follow them in the newspaper and on the web. I talk with my football buddies on the sidewalk about coaching moves and quarterbacks. (I was hoping “Smokin” Jay Cutler would become a free agent…) I’ve even let my son get sucked in—even though my wife thought it best to steer him elsewhere. Why? I’ve come to embrace the ethos of losing. I know, I know—it’s not cool to embrace losing. We live in a culture of “winning”; all the self help, counseling, and leadership books help us all become “winners.” Good for them. I’ve found solace in losing. Not just losing, but really blowing it… missed opportunity, rip your heart out, lose in the last second, “not winning.” Gary Anderson… wide right. Favre… interception. Game over. Anyone can hold their head high when things are going well; anyone can have hope for the future in victory. Picking yourself up after a devastating loss? Having the courage to look failure straight in the eye without blinking. That, my friends, takes courage.
My family is from Minnesota which is why I bleed purple. It’s in my DNA, formed by hours of listening to my dad, grandpa, and uncle argue about the pathetic excuse for a football team. Most of the time they were longing for the good ole’ days of the Purple People Eaters and Fran Tarkenton. If you know your NFL history the difference between the Vikings of the 1970’s and the current squad is they waited until the big game to blow it. Four super bowl appearances—four Super Bowl losses. Those were the good times. When I think about my family, and their embrace of all things purple, I think about the pessimism—the glass was usually half empty. But I also think about their grace and compassion. They were never wealthy, never in positions of power, never “winners” according to current standards. But they would give you the shirt off their back if you needed it. Losing has a way of fostering compassion, humility, and grace. So here’s to the Vikings, to loveable losers, and to the Super Bowel ending in a tie.