Thursday, March 8, 2012

National Friday League: Ted and Me

How my Viking fandom got all psychologically tied up with How I Met Your Mother and that's not good for anybody.
If the 2009 Viking season was a story, while experiencing it that story felt like a narrative of redemption. The long-suffering franchise would finally break through and win a championship. The polarizing quarterback would cement his legacy with a final title run. We would remember the season forever as the joy of our fan lives.

But the narrative broke down.

The team that always comes up heartbreakingly short came up heartbreakingly short. The quarterback whose widely known tragic flaw was interceptions threw an interception. And Viking fans went once more into a dark, cold, lonely winter.

The fact that the story I thought I was watching (no, living) broke down made me desire the predictability of real narrative, especially those narratives I already knew so well. If I put in a DVD of Seinfeld, I will watch episodes I have already seen many times. I will know the rhythms (they are now in my soul), the specific jokes, the ultimate conclusion of the episode’s storyline. I will be comforted in this experience, knowing that nothing will be ripped away from me at the last moment. My expectations would never be disappointed.

Which brings us to How I Met Your Mother.

The premise of the show is that Ted in the future is telling the story to his children of how he met their mother, the story playing out with the single life adventures of Ted in the present day. The show makes creative comic use of this conceit, featuring distorted memories, censored details, hijinks with chronology, and self-reference of the long, long story Ted is telling. But you know where it ends: Ted is going to meet his kid’s mother. You know this not just because a sitcom about a hopeless romantic searching for love pushes toward this conclusion: you know this because Future Ted establishes that this is the conclusion. The very premise of the show dictates it, assures you that it is coming. Oh, it will make you wait: it will stretch things out and often jerk you around, but you know eventually it will fulfill you.

I may never see the Minnesota Vikings win a Super Bowl, but I WILL see Ted meet his kids’ mother.

In that January of despair, I turned to sitcoms like How I Met Your Mother. And somehow, through some unconscious will on my part perhaps, it got all mangled up in my mind. Ted’s quest to meet his kids’ mother was the Vikings' quest to win a Super Bowl, which was my quest to see the Vikings win that Super Bowl. They were the very same thing. This meant something like a confirmation that desire can be fulfilled: Ted WILL meet his kids’ mother! Sure, there is a long, long wait for this distant and currently unknown hope for the future, but it will happen! Waiting for this event while watching a current episode weekly is just like waiting for another event while watching a current game weekly!

But it also meant bringing the anxious desperate hopes I bring to every Viking game to my weekly watching of How I Met Your Mother. Whenever an episode ends with no progress at all toward that meeting, I grimace in frustration. When Ted gets caught up in a long relationship that we know won’t end in marriage, that the show eventually confirms won’t end in marriage (a whole season of Zoey!), I grow impatient just as I grow impatient late in a football season when the Vikes are already eliminated from the playoffs. Just end it already! This is all futile—let’s move on to the part where we’re making meaningful progress toward what really matters, the reason we’re all here. What's happening here is pointlessness.

(Have I been to a How I Met Your Mother wiki page? That’s none of your business. If I have been, would I find that the How I Met Your Mother wiki page provided very little information that I didn’t already know and regularly mull over? Well, how would you know if I did? I am not deranged or anything, people. I just love the Vikings and love Ted. I suppose you'll tell me the fact that I linked to such a wiki says I've been there. Well, nuts to you).

The thing is, How I Met Your Mother is a funny show. In some ways it is a conventional sitcom, but in many ways it is wildly clever with its narrative form, and the humor is often sharp and witty. But sometimes I forget that, in my desire to see the event that ultimately signals the end of a show that entertains me regularly. And when Ted is relegated to a subplot, I am indignant. You’re giving him a subplot so Barney can grow as a person or Lily and Marshall (who by the way, as the show has established on several occasions is a die-hard Viking fan: there have been a couple of episodes where it was central to the story) can learn some lesson about marriage or Robin can look off sadly? This isn’t why I’m here! Move Ted toward the mother! Give me progress! I may never see the Vikings win the Super Bowl: but I have THIS! Another subplot for Ted? Why?

And so here I am. Some nights I go for walks and think if only there weren't 12 men in the huddle, if only Gary Anderson, if only, if only...Some nights I go for walks and think Ted has just missed meeting his kids' mother, the show pushing us there, finally, finally...and people, here's the problem: I can't always tell the difference between these nights.

None of this seems particularly reasonable or healthy.

What the Vikings should do in FA
If I were running the Vikings (and I am aware I am not), my priority would be to sign as many competent defensive backs as possible. They should target any defensive backs they can get for good budget value, and sign as many of them as they can. One of the essential rules of professional football: you can never, ever have enough quality defensive backs. The Vikings need such a complete overhaul of the defensive secondary that they cannot possibly fulfill it entirely through one draft (even if they ignored their other needs, which are great). They need starters and backups. They should consider their roster currently empty of defensive backs, and assume they need to fill out every secondary position and all depth. And then no matter how many defensive backs they sign, they still won’t have enough, and they’ll have to draft some too. In a division featuring Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, and Jay Cutler, the Vikings are often going to struggle to defend the pass. If they can sign several competent NFL defensive backs, they can at least having a fighting chance to compete in those games.

Signing budget WRs gets you the likes of Michael Jenkins and Devin Aromashodu. Signing budget offensive linemen might get you some functional starters, but probably doesn’t give you a major upgrade over current talent. Those positions need to be addressed through the draft, or through a willingness to spend big on a free agent. But the Vikes can improve over their current secondary and fill out a roster area in desperate need of depth by targeting all the safeties and cornerbacks they think can be competent.

Here’s a list and ranking of FA cornerbacks (CBS). Obviously signing a player like Cortland Finnegan or Brent Grimes (or Grimey, as he liked to be called) would be great. But if the Vikings do sign one of those guys, they should smile, and then continue to try sign a bunch more DBs.

And it is true that at different points during the 2012 season, you will hate each Viking defensive back. They will occasionally get beat: that’s part of the NFL game today. And that’s fine: they’ll still be necessary for the Vikes to compete. The Vikes can’t sign a whole secondary of superstars, but they need to sign a whole secondary of players who won’t regularly blow coverages.

My wish
I wish the Vikings could sell sheets of imagination paper to fans. These pieces of paper would tell fans they could pretend they own the team, even though they will have no part in decision making and will never be allowed to make a profit. As it is, the Vikings (and all but one team that is granted an exception which seems unfair and seems to grant this team special privileges) are not allowed to do this. If the Vikings were allowed to sell these sheets of paper to us so that we could imagine we own the team, the profits from those sheets of paper could go some small way toward building the Vikings a new stadium.

And there’s nothing wrong with those imagination papers. Anybody can imagine anything they like: George Bailey gave Mary the moon, after all, and as Frida says in The Lacuna, any man has the right to make a kite of his pants and fly it.

Basketball Notes
Look at this. Look at it closely now. This is entirely real. It's really there. Do not take this moment for granted.

We should all thank the lovable show Parks and Recreation for this and this. And if I told you I have a Li'l Sebastian t-shirt, and also have Leslie Knope's book about Pawnee, you'd think I'm cool, right? Right?

Christian Ponder jumps into ice cold water. You sort of enjoy seeing crazy people do this sort of thing; I’m not sure you enjoy seeing your favorite team’s quarterback doing it (

"The Second-Class Status of Pre-Super Bowl History" (The Fifth Down).



  1. Great post.

    1) I feel like I get your Vikings/HowIMetYourMother thing. Like your Seinfeld habit, I watch old Simpsons episodes when the futility of the Vikings gets me down. I take great comfort in the fact that, for example, ol' Stampy is NOT sold to the ivory dealer in the end. This, incidentally, leads directly into my next comment...

    2) Nice Frank Grimes reference.

    3) I'm very interested to see the fresh DBs on the depth chart after FA and draft dusts settle.

    4) Which team is allowed to have imaginary owner papers?

    5) What's the deal with the arrested development clips?

    1. Grimes got franchised by Atlanta.

      As for question #4, I believ PV is talking about the Packers.

  2. Peter, my spring break tradition is to watch the Spring Break episodes of Arrested Development. I posted them out of nothing but amusement.