As someone who spent the lead-up to the Vikings’ opener Monday questioning whether this team was destined for a very bad season, I don’t want to pivot too hard off of one game.
But let’s say this: Regardless of how ragged the Saints defense looked Monday, the Vikings’ offense looked quite promising. Sam Bradford had time to throw and he delivered. Dalvin Cook — a running back who can play all three downs! Who knew it was possible? — had a strong debut. Our own Ben Goessling has a smart look at the creativity that was either a cause or effect (maybe both?) of the improved offensive flow. The Vikings are 1-0, and in a schedule with just 16 games that’s meaningful.
Let’s also say this: If … if … if the Vikings team we saw on Monday is going to be the one we see more often than not this season, Minnesota should be a good team.
And if the Vikings are a good team, this suddenly will go from a surprisingly good time to a surprisingly great time to be a Minnesota sports fan.
In my adult life, there has been one (brief) era that had this much collective potential: the time from roughly 2002-2004. The Timberwolves reached their franchise peak (to-date). The Wild made the Western Conference finals. The Vikings were a threat. The Twins were winning divisions. Glen Mason had Gophers football at its highest point in a long time. The Gophers men’s hockey team won a pair of national titles. The Gophers women’s basketball team made a Final Four. And so on.
If we’re talking about the “big four” men’s pro sports teams, Minnesota came as close as it ever has to getting all four in the playoffs in the same season in 2003. The Wild, Wolves and Twins all made it. The Vikings started 6-0 before a massive fade. Between 2000 and 2004, all four of those franchises were in a conference title game or series. None of them made it further, of course — so this golden era didn’t even include a major pro sports championship.
That was also a long time ago (even if everything at a certain point in my adult life feels like it was five years ago). There have been high points for various teams since then, but the collective potential strength now is at a point unmatched in the past decade-plus.
The Twins have their best team since they were regularly winning division titles and could have a sustained winner. The Timberwolves have a genuine reason for optimism after 13 consecutive playoff-free seasons. The Wild, the most consistent men’s pro team in town of late, should be steady again. The Lynx, the standard bearer for success since 2011, are gearing up for a run at their fourth WNBA title in seven seasons. The Gophers football team just won a road game at a Pac-12 opponent by 34 points. The Gophers men’s basketball team is a trendy pick to make the Sweet 16 and the men’s hockey team has plenty of reasons for optimism as well.
I thought the Vikings would be the sad trombone in the middle of all those happy tunes. We’ll need to see more than one game to form a new opinion (hey, remember last year’s 5-0 start?), and sports — like all things in life — are subject to abrupt change.
But if the Vikings are good? This could be quite a time.