Why the memory of the 1975 Vikings
will never leave us!
It's opening weekend 2007, and I'm watching the marquee game between the Chicago Bears and the San Diego Chargers. It's very early in the game. Chicago just became the recipient of a turnover deep in their own territory. It was first down and they handed the ball to LT where he lowered his pads and smashes the ball down close to pay-dirt. 2nd and goal at the 1/2 yard line, and I'm thinking this is a no-brainer. The only question would be, "LT left, right or middle?" It just didn't happen.
The sight of that very next play in San Diego drives home a very vivid memory and the horror of my past returns. Chicago's defensive tackle jumps off sides a split second before the ball is snapped. The defensive tackle makes immediate contact with the center. The exchange is errant. Dah! The quarterback has absolutely no chance on the exchange. The ball is fumbled and Chicago recovers the football. Chicago celebrates. We watch the replay several times, the infraction is obvious. We wait and wait. There is no flag. There is no announcement. Play just continues. Fans and viewers throughout the land are in disbelief. That's just how the NFL handles gaffs ... deal with it.
At that very moment, the memory of Brent McClanahan fumbling on the goal line in the Super Bowl returned. That fumble mattered! You might say that it didn't matter to LT and the chargers because they ultimately won the game, but the team did have to regroup, they did have to make up for a blown call, and expend additional bodily reserves, as there is no such thing as a free lunch ... ever! Now put that innocent Chicago-San Diego infraction-turnover in a playoff format, or better yet, in the Super Bowl and then take a real hard look at that Gaff again. Does it matter now? Get over it, because the NFL says no, it doesn't matter. Hello! League officials ... League owners ... League Office ... are you absolutely out of your mind?
The haunting memories of December 28, 1975 will never leave me. Viking fans carry that memory like a ghost child riding their back every day of their lives. The 1975 Minnesota Vikings just drove the length of the field with what should of been one of the most celebrated drives in Viking history. They hadn't been able to effectively move the ball against a ferocious Dallas defense all day. Time is running out and the score is now 14-10 Vikes! We Viking fans are living large.
Now for a bit more history as it is important and pivotal for those that didn't experience this play live . Back in 1975 the game was quite a bit different from today's game. Back then you could pound a wide receiver into the ground from the time the ball was snapped all the way down the field, that is of course until the ball was released by the quarterback. When the ball was in the air, neither the defender nor the receiver could make any contact. If they did, it was pass interference ... the call was black and white back then ... back in the good old days before the Michael Irvin push off.
This doesn't even begin to mention the prior 4th and forever side line catch, which was clearly out of bounds. It was a good thing that the late rival John U. made that announcers call, "looks like a good catch". The following historic play should have never occurred in the first place. Game over. There is no replay. Our jaws drop in disbelief.
Nationally we recall watching the event live where Drew Person not only pushed off of Nate Wright, he physically knocked him to the ground, and what was also seen on-screen was what appeared to be a flag crossing simultaneously but in the opposite direction of the players momentum, as if it was thrown by a referee located somewhere in the end-zone. We Viking fans all took a collective breath and waited for the call that never came. Today, etched in my mind, the score is still 14-10 Vikings ... and that will never change.
At that moment, or shortly there after, we all collectively found out that Fran Tarkenton's father had died of a massive heart attack. Maybe at that very moment ... we don't know. Don't even begin to believe that this blown call didn't matter. All true Viking fans that experienced this event were changed forever by that one particular play, a play this is now called, "The Hail Mary". Were we collectively rapped, or better said molested by the league that day. No, but I can think of little else that could scar me to the degree that I felt on that day.
This was arguably our best team ever. Just casually glance at the trading cards of that 1975 team to get a clearer indication of all of the Viking accomplishments that year. This was our chance at vindication at playing the Steelers in Super Bowl X, which was then handed to the Cowboys on a blown call. You might recall that Super Bowl IX was a 16-6 loss to these same Steelers ... what is now one of the lowest scoring losses in Super Bowl history. At the time ... people wanted scoring, not a defensive battle ... today they would scream for such a contest as most Super Bowls have been blow outs.
Why can't we let that very instant in time to slip away for all time? The answer that no one seams to want to talk about is that we, the Vikings fans, didn't matter then, and we don't matter now. I scream this with a rotten raw egg in my hand ... as I'll have it cocked and aimed at the commissioner the first chance that I get.
You see, the injustice was never corrected! It's still happening today. It will most certainly happen tomorrow. What evolved from that contest that day must have been politically negotiated as the result has the makings of a dirty diaper. Every NFL fan is still living with its results.
What was not learned by the NFL on that cold December day was that a key pivotal play, that determines the outcome of the game, which upon further review involves a penalty (not to mention an out of bounds pass), that gives one team an undeserved advantage, needs to be reviewed, not ignored. It doesn't matter when it occurs in a game. It's called justice! Let me say this one more time. I didn't say, "may determine the outcome of a game". It must be assumed that a blown call will determine the result of not only any game, but every game, as it must be assumed that all contests are evenly matched regardless of the combatants. These are the principles of justice and fair play, and a blown call reviews must be in place before any contest begins.
Look back fondly upon the great 1975 team. Viking fans had it all that year. All, except for justice of correcting a wrong so that it should never happen again ... to any team.
Maybe one day, when a pivotal penalty "non-call" occurs to a NFL team that matters (like America's Team) or against an NFL franchise that counts, will the NFL owners be made to take the time to correct the injustice of that cold day in December 1975. The reckoning is at hand, and teams like the Cowboys are already making some noise about the impact of a blown call and possibly a blown play. The irony about this whole ordeal is that if the Cowboys now think that it now might be important ... maybe the league should re-visit the topic one more time.
That K-ball that Tony Romo fumbled that provided Dallas with an early exit from the 2006 playoffs looked awfully shinny to me ... Isn't it funny what a little Lethicin or Silicone can do! A little payback for the pokes! No, not a blown call ... but maybe ... just maybe ... a bit of shenanigans to tip the scales. Romo never had a chance to inspect that ball either. After it slid through his hands it was recovered by the other team and brought immediately to their bench. My first comment after seeing that replay was ... that was the shiniest ball that I've ever seen. Wasn't it odd to see David Acker's personally handling and thoroughly inspecting the K-ball's in Philadelphia that following day during their playoff contest prior to his clutch kick.
Until then, however, I've learned to accept that Viking fans never mattered and never will matter ... where I carry the pain of December 1975 like a badge of honor.
You see ... my pain is truly the only thing that belongs to me ... everything else, including my turds ... they tax.
The Viking Ghost