I am a Minnesota girl. My first football love was the Minnesota Vikings. It was a tortured relationship. Especially in January. And December. And sometimes November. September was usually good. And October…at least the beginning of it. But it was usually downhill from there. It was alright though. It was one of those things that united us as Minnesotans. Bad winters and bad football. Funny thing, when I go back home to Minnesota, those are the two things everyone is still complaining about. Especially my great uncle, Elliott.
Every Vikings season started the same way…with changes. Big ones. Usually at quarterback. Most NFL fans can name their team’s quarterbacks over the last few decades, easily. I never could. Still can’t. There were just too darn many of them.
Let’s take a walk down Vikings memory lane, shall we? The first Vikings quarterback I remember was Wade Wilson, but I don’t remember him well. I do remember Rich Gannon, then we had that guy from the Bears with the dark glasses…Jim…McMahon, yah that’s it. Then…hmmm. Daunte (Love Cruise) Culpepper was in there (if you ever meet my Uncle Elliott, don’t even bring that name up), then there were a few more leading up to…Brett Favre (who was really a Packer)…Donovan McNabb (the Eagle)…a few young guys…and now, Christian Ponder. Right?
After googling Vikings starting quarterbacks, here are some of the names I left out: Tommy (Two Minute) Kramer, Archie Manning (the Saint…yes, Peyton and Eli’s dad played one season for the Vikings, at least that’s what I’m told), Sean Salisbury (oh, yah), Warren Moon (wasn’t he an…Oiler?), Brad Johnson (yep), Randall Cunningham (from the Eagles), and Jeff George (the Colt). I guess I do remember some of those guys. But their stay was brief and relatively unremarkable, at least in Minnesota.
In case you didn’t notice, most of the Vikings quarterbacks of the past have one thing in common. They came from other teams where they had success. All of their success.
The Vikings have always had great fans, good ownership (or decent at least), a strong defense, and a solid running game (explosive now, thanks to Adrian Peterson). The one thing that has held them back the last…say, 30 years…is the lack of a franchise Fran Tarkenton quarterback to bring them together and lead them to greatness.
I’m not talking about someone they pluck off another team and try to fit into their system, I’m talking about someone they draft, invest in, and build their team around. Someone with talent, smarts, leadership, and most importantly, heart. And they may finally have that…in Christian Ponder.
The Vikings took Ponder in the first round (12th overall) of the 2011 draft. He played for Florida State and comes from a football family. His father, David, was a defensive lineman for the Seminoles. Last week, Ponder led the Vikings to a huge win over the San Francisco 49ers, a team many had ranked at the top of the NFC.
They say your first love will always have a special place in your heart. And for me, the Minnesota Vikings do. I hope they finally find the success that has eluded them for so long. The long suffering Vikings fans deserve it. My Uncle Elliott deserves it. My dad, whose birthday is today, deserves it. And I hope Christian Ponder can give them that. Even more so, I hope the Vikings keep Ponder around long enough to give him a chance to.
And happy birthday to my dad, the man who introduced me to football, and the man who will never give up on his Vikings.