A happy cartoon dog sits dutifully on a wooden chair, the surrounding room engulfed in flames. His world may be in chaos, but he’s perfectly content to remain seated. “This is fine,” he thinks, as the temperature rises and the fire take its toll.
This nameless pooch has become the face of self-denial and blind optimism; an oft-referenced meme in times of dire straits and despair. If you’ve logged onto Twitter during any Vikings game the past few years, you’ve likely seen his empty smile and blank stare on your timeline.
When news of Sam Bradford‘s knee injury broke, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to panic, then find reassurance, and hope for the best. “This is fine,” I thought, rationalizing the team’s best-case scenario — Case Keenum leading the Minnesota Vikings to a Week 2 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Alas, the flames consumed my ill-placed aspirations; Keenum looked lost on Sunday, and the outmatched Vikings fell 26-9 to move to 1-1 on the season. But, it’s early in the year, new reports on Bradford’s health are somewhat optimistic, and this collectively remains one of the league’s most talented rosters.
With that in mind, I’m not ready to declare the house on fire. I am, though, reminded of the constant back-and-forth that is rooting for this team; searching for peace of mind in times of volatility and uncertainty.
And as a Vikings fan, I’ve dealt with this for years. From two playoff field goal misses to the loss of Teddy Bridgewater, and possibly, Bradford, I’ve seen it all. I’ve tried to reason, to find the silver lining in every situation, but that becomes more difficult with each setback.
Hey, our quarterback had the best game of his career, things are looking up! Wait a second, he has a bone bruise and could miss six weeks (or more)? So Vikings.
For one stretch, the team goes undefeated. The next, it loses eight of its final 11 games. A quarterback silences the critics in his first outing of 2017, then misses the next game with a mysterious affliction to his knee.
At times, it feels as though rooting for the Vikings is a never-ending internal dialogue to convince ourselves that “this year is different” or things aren’t as bad as they seem. In tugging my emotions all over the place, I’m reminded of a song by Max Richter, one that takes our aforementioned dog friend to the next level. It’s called ‘we circle through the night, consumed by fire,” and I think it’s an apt metaphor for Vikings fandom.
Despite the early ugliness of this season, daylight will break through the horizon at some point. I for one am hopeful that Sunday’s game was a circumstantial defeat, a foregone conclusion given Keenum’s difficult position and the strength of Pittsburgh’s performances at home.
There’s an irrational hope that Bradford, a perpetual health concern, will miraculously return and avoid the same swelling and pain that forced him from action last week. Maybe Teddy Bridgewater’s comeback is realized after Week 6, or Dalvin Cook carries the team to the playoffs a la Adrian Peterson in 2012. Maybe the offensive line finally gels and gives the Vikings a fighting chance, or Zimmer’s defense powers Minnesota into contention.
I should stop before I get ahead of myself; once again, I’m circling through my mind, searching for an optimal outcome. Until that happens, let the fire rage. We’re not close to burning, yet.