Sunday, January 16, 2011

Zygi's Believe It or Not: Oddities of the 50th Season

Come one, come all! Step right up! Bear witness to the bizarre! Behold, the grotesque and the freaky! The deranged circus that was the 2010 Vikings' season left in its wake more carnage than a Rob Zombie film. Each twisted side show distracted more and more from the main event: the complete self destruction of a Super Bowl favorite.

Brett Favre's media lackey, Ed Werder, reports that the new grandpa will remain retired. Never trust a man with a mustache.

Deadspin releases a story alleging that, as a member of the New York Jets in 2008, Brett Favre texted pictures of his pride and joy to Jenn Sterger, a silicon-stuffed attention monger masquerading as a Jets' "sideline reporter." The "Wrangler Dangler" would eventually admit to leaving sleazy voicemails on Sterger's phone, but he continues to deny that he's ever worn Crocs.

Ryan Longwell, Jared Allen, and Steve Hutchinson make the voyage to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, to recruit Brett Favre out of retirement. After a bromantic evening of reminiscing and rye whiskey, they successfully coax Favre off his his lawn mower for one more run at the title.

An unnamed source tells Yahoo! Sports that "Brett thinks Childress has no clue about offense." In the coming days, backup quarterback and fan favorite Sage Rosenfels (along with return man Darius Reynaud) is jettisoned to the Giants for future draft picks, fueling speculation that he was the locker room leak. Upon his arrival in New York, Rosenfels tells reporters that Eli Manning thinks Dora has no clue about exploring.

Pro Bowl receiver Sidney Rice, a Drew Rosenhaus client, decides to have hip surgery six months after original doctor recommendations. He'd go on to miss nine games. Speculation abounds that the delayed surgery is a contractual ploy orchestrated by the real-life Jerry Maguire. The development leaves a gaping hole on the outside, and sets into motion a desperate chain of events.

Now lacking wide receiver depth, the Vikings sign NFL washout Javon Walker (he's cut two weeks later), and then deal cornerback Benny Sapp to Miami for receiver Greg Camarillo. The move means Vikings fans will be subjected to heavy doses of Asher Allen, who couldn't cover a sneeze.

Still haunted by their five-turnover NFC Championship Game debacle just nine months prior, the Vikings return to New Orleans to kick off the season in eerie fashion. The pregame Super Bowl banner ceremony is a throat punch, and a demoralized effort results in a second straight loss under the Superdome lights.

Vincent Jackson trade rumors fall through. Still starving for a playmaker, Minnesota acquires an exciting young talent to attract double teams. They pick up her husband, Hank Baskett, too.

A deal is swung with New England to bring Randy Moss back to Minnesota. The news sends Vikings' country into a frenzy, as grown men gleefully squeeze into dusty No. 84 jerseys like tweens in tube tops at a Bieber concert.

Randy Moss makes his much-anticipated second Vikings' debut in a Monday Night showdown with the Jets at the Meadowlands. On his very first play, he takes a reverse handoff and completes an illegal pass to Brett Favre. In hindsight, the entertaining blunder would serve as a perfect metaphor for the entire Moss experiment. Trailing 12-0 in the third quarter, Favre finally connects with Moss on a gorgeous 37-yard tear drop. The clouds part, and a chorus of angels rain down from the heavens. The touchdown, Favre's 500th, would unknowingly become the season's climax. A late interception drops Minnesota to 1-3.

After a tightly-contested loss in Green Bay, the NFL apologizes to the Vikings for bungled officiating. The apology is painfully reminiscent of the "Sorry, you should have been in the Super Bowl but the city of New Orleans needed it more than you" letter the team received after the NFC Championship Game.

Randy Moss returns to New England to face his former team on Halloween night. Moss catches just one pass for eight yards in the Vikings' loss, and draws criticism for quitting on a catchable deep ball. In a bizarre post-game press conference, Moss gushes uncontrollably over the Patriots' organization. It's like Brad Pitt telling Angelina Jolie that Jennifer Aniston was better in the sack.

Brad Childress waives Randy Moss. The bombshell ignites a controversy in the "triangle of authority," as Childress had failed to discuss his intentions with Zygi Wilf. In the coming days, a story emerges that the classless Moss had berated a local caterer's donated post-practice spread in a profanity-laced tirade. Despite Moss' despicable behavior, the rabid fan base goes after Childress with pitchforks and torches.

Brad Childress and Percy Harvin have to be physically separated afer Childress reportedly questioned the injured Harvin's effort in a Friday practice. Later, the team suggests that the feud was over Harvin's unwillingness to get an MRI. Fans and media connect the dots back to the waiving of Harvin's friend and mentor, Randy Moss.

In his first game without Randy Moss, Brett Favre throws for a career-best 446 yards in an improbable 27-24 overtime victory over Arizona. After trailing by 14 with under five minutes to play, Favre hits Visanthe Shiancoe for a 25-yard score with just 27 seconds remaining to send the game into overtime. Ryan Longwell kicks Minnesota to a 3-5 record, but "Fire Chilly" chants grow louder than ever.

Following an embarrassing 31-3 home loss to the Packers, Brad Childress is fired. Leslie Frazier is elevated to Interim Head Coach of the 3-7 Vikings, and Tarvaris Jackson, despite his backup status, is elevated to Interim Head Scapegoat.

The Metrodome roof collapses under the weight the Super Bowl Championship banners hanging from the rafters. Or something like that.

Pushed to Monday night, the Vikings "host" the New York Giants at Detroit's Ford Field. It's the first time in 10 years that a Monday Night Football game is played in Detroit, and free tickets are issued to the public. The Vikings manage just 164 yards of offense in the 21-3 drubbing. Even Lions' fans are embarrassed. Brett Favre's consecutive game streak (297) also comes to an end, ironically, in the same slum as Lou Gehrig's.

Still homeless, the Vikings bum TCF Bank Stadium from the University of Minnesota for a Monday Night showdown with the Bears. It's a logistical nightmare. The stadium has been winterized, and was not built with December games in mind. The field is compared to concrete, and the bowl is full of snow. Moreover, the new venue holds 13,000 fewer fans than the Metrodome, and despite the team's horrifying play, the intrigue of the first outdoor home game in 29 years has put tickets in high demand. For four days leading up to the game, 1,500 workers and volunteers clear 40,000 cubic yards of snow from the stadium. Another winter storm hits Monday, adding to the mystique, and Brett Favre makes a short-lived surprise start. Ultimately, the 40-14 defeat becomes a mere side note to the snowy spectacle.

An impending east coast blizzard causes the Vikings-Eagles Sunday night tilt to be pushed back to Tuesday. A blitz-heavy defensive scheme, coupled with the solid play of Joe Webb in his first career start, results in a stunning 24-14 upset of the heavily favored (-14) Eagles. The win bodes well for Leslie Frazier's coaching future. However, it costs the Eagles a first round playoff bye, and the Vikings several crucial spots in April's NFL draft. Even they win, the Vikings lose.

The Vikings return to Detroit, this time as the visitors. Prior to the game, the Vikings remove the interim label from Leslie Frazier's title. The team responds with a half-hearted effort, and a 20-13 loss drops the team to 6-10. In one year, the Vikings fall from the NFC Championship Game to the NFC North cellar. After the game, Brett Favre retires for the fourth straight year. It's a fitting end to one of the most memorable seasons in team history.

As fans, we'll be feeling the after effects of this for some time. It will be a very different healing process than the one we went through after the heartbreaking finish to last season. The sharp pain that left us counting the days until training camp, and ultimately, redemption, is long gone. Going forward we'll experience a forlorn ache that creeps in when hope becomes doubt, and certainties become questions. Has the window closed? Will a new season really mean a clean slate? Sure, Frazier's return as head coach should provide stability, but the fact remains that this team is still without a home or a quarterback. As we watch the Packers and Bears battle in the NFC title game next week, the promised land will never seem more distant.

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