Lessons Learned: Week Eight

In conducting live chats, reading comments from readers, and just generally gauging the reaction to recent games I have noticed that Vikings fans are torn on whether negativity, or positivity in some cases, is appropriate following poor performances.

I have given it a lot of thought in the last 24 hours and have decided that this is a rebuilding year, no matter how much success we have, and that whether they are contrived as positive or negative lessons, the most important thing to keep in mind is that this young team is learning the lessons they need to be learning.

So, for the rest of this season, you can expect to see my new weekly segment entitled “Lessons Learned” as I fully intend to focus on what this team has done, will do, and needs to do in order to create a brighter future.

Strangely enough, the first “lesson” I took away from Thursday Night’s debacle is not so much for the players, but rather for the Hoard.

On October 18th, 2009 Mrs. Warwas and I attended a game at the Metrodome.  The 5-0 Vikings, led by Brett Favre, were hosting the Baltimore Ravens.  Of course, we spared no expense and scored some tickets that sat us three rows back, on the fifty, right behind the Vikings bench.  Where the real fans sit… or so we thought.

Visanthe Shiancoe scored a touchdown, followed shortly by Bernard Berrian.  Each team then exchanged field goals.  By half, the Vikings seemed well on their way to an easy sixth victory.

The crowd around us seemed bored and lethargic.  The guy behind us couldn’t stop talking about some recent drama in his life as he sat there, wearing not an ounce of purple.  The people directly to our left seemed determined to break a world record for most trips to the concessions stand.  The people in front of us were so inanimate they might as well have been cardboard cutouts of the Mystery Science Theater variety.

The Mrs. And I, however, had paid good money (that we didn’t have) to attend this game and were super stoked to be there, watching the Vikings torch the NFL’s best defense, and we engaged in fan-like activity.  We cheered, we stood up, and we even had a sign… and you apparently would’ve thought we were some kind of public nuisance.

We were told to sit down by some guy about five rows back, in addition to a few others.  We got funny looks when we shouted out our approval of a third down stop.  The Desperate Housewife guy behind us took a break from his jibber-jabber long enough to shush us.  We couldn’t believe it.  After all, we really weren’t rowdy individuals at all, just cheering on the football team that we came to see.

I was pretty disappointed, to be honest.

Then, as any good Childress team was prone to do, the Vikings started giving the game back to the Ravens.  Terrell Suggs was on fire as he lined up against Bryant McKinnie.  Ray Rice was slicing up our defense, with Joe Flacco firing bullets.  The next thing we knew, the Vikings had blown a 27-10 lead and the Ravens were winning in the fourth quarter.  The offense did enough to get the Vikings back down the field for a go ahead field goal off the leg of Ryan Longwell.

But, as you may remember, the Ravens still had time.

Flacco dished passes off to Rice who sliced through a gassed Vikings defense and brought them right back into field goal range.

With two seconds left in the game and the Vikings trying to ice kicker Steven Hauschka before his game winning attempt from 44 yards out, the Vikings fans started flooding out of the Metrodome like large purple ants on their way to a picnic.

“Typical Vikings,” they grumbled.  “This team is no different than last year, or the year before that or the…”

Hauschka booted it wide left and the Vikings won that game by two, and the Metrodome went crazy.  The remaining fans went ballistic at the good fortune.  It was a great feeling.

“Six and Oh!” they shouted on their way out the door.  “Super Bowl or bust!”

I’ve been to plenty of other games, but that one rubbed me the wrong way on a lot of different levels.  Ever since, I have never been able to honestly write the words “greatest fans” in relation to Vikings fans (outside of the ones that read this site, of course) on the pages of the internet that I have been lucky enough to fill.

On Thursday night, what I saw on my TV screen was something that could, or possibly should, change the way Vikings fans approach a home game.

Turn your DVR of the game to the 3:23 mark in the third quarter.  What you will see is a Josh Freeman pass intended for Vincent Jackson fall incomplete.  On the bottom of your screen, however, will be Jared Allen getting the business from tackle Donald Penn and, well, you know the rest of the story.

A bloodied and angry Allen got right back in Penn’s face prior to either team being able to line up and the crowd was eating up every bit of it.  He then raised his arms up, a sort of bat signal for the Hoard to get fired up, and the Bucs were forced to call their second timeout with communication being utterly impossible.

The place went nuts.  After all, most places on this planet would consider a group of 60,000 very hostile people all wearing the same colors to be an army, not an audience.  The whole debacle had transformed the Metrodome crowd and that was before the best part.

When Allen burned Penn on the very next play to bring down Freeman, I actually felt the Metrodome emotion through my television for the first time since Favre threw that touchdown pass to Greg Lewis back in 2009.

It was a remarkable sequence of events that should be all the proof anyone ever needs to conclude that fans actually can have an impact on a football game.

Of course, the army soon transformed back into disgruntled boo birds when the offense failed to their part in righting the ship, but I still believe a lesson can be taken away from those seven minutes of football insanity.

The Vikings still have a chance at the postseason.  They still have three games left at the Metrodome.  If you are a fan that really wants the Vikings to win, and truly want to have earned the right to boo if they don’t, then get to that Dome and scream your fool heads off in support of the home team.  Even if the impact is only visible on one play in a game, that one play might just be enough to make the ultimate difference.

Don’t be a ticket holder.  And when I am there don’t you dare freaking shush me.

Show your horns and become an army.