Monday, December 26, 2016

How Long It's Been: The Minnesota Vikings Reached a Super Bowl

December 26, 1976, 40 years ago: The Minnesota Vikings, a.k.a. the Purple People Eaters, beat the Los Angeles Rams 24-13 at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, Minnesota, and win their 4th NFL/NFC Championship in the last 8 seasons.

They advanced to Super Bowl XI, where they lost to the Oakland Raiders, 32-14. They fell to 0-4 in Super Bowls, having also lost Super Bowl IV to the Kansas City Chiefs, Super Bowl VIII to the Miami Dolphins, and Super Bowl IX to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Like the ancient Israelites, the Vikings have now been in the wilderness for 40 years -- and even before that, they didn't go all the way. The 2016 season is the franchise's 56th, and while they are on target to make the Playoffs again, they have never, not even once, gone as far as the rules allowed them to go.

Even in 1969, the last year of the pre-merger National Football League, they were NFL Champions, but they were not World Champions, having lost Super Bowl IV. That means that, while they have won an NFL Championship more recently than the Cleveland Browns (1964), the Philadelphia Eagles (1960), the Detroit Lions (1957) and the Cardinals (the current Arizona franchise won it in Chicago in 1947), those teams have won World Championships, while the Vikings have not.

It's been 40 years since the Vikings even reached a Super Bowl. How long has that been?

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What the team in question was like then.

The Vikings were coached by Harry "Bud" Grant, who is still alive at age 89. They featured quarterback Fran Tarkenton, center Mick Tinglehoff, offensivle tackle Ron Yary, defensive ends Jim Marshall and Carl Eller, defensive tackle Alan Page, and safety Paul Krause. Each of these 8 men is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. They, running back Chuck Foreman, linebacker Matt Blair and team "medical adviser" Fred Zamberletti are in the Vikings' Ring of Honor.

Metropolitan Stadium, home of the Vikings and Twins at the time, has been torn down. So has the neighboring Metropolitan Sports Center, home of the NHL's North Stars. Both have been replaced by the Mall of America. The Metrodome, which became the home of the Vikings and Twins in 1982, has also been torn down, and the Vikings' new home, U.S. Bank Stadium, was built on the site. The North Stars have moved, and been replaced by the Wild. The NBA's Timberwolves have also begun play.

Only 6 NFL stadiums in use in 1976 were in use in the 2016 season: The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Rich Stadium (now New Era Field) outside Buffalo, and, for the moment, the Oakland Coliseum and San Diego Stadium (now Qualcomm Stadium).

The NFL had 26 teams. There was one in Baltimore, but it was the Colts, not the Ravens. There was one in Houston, but it was the Oilers, not the Texans. The Los Angeles Rams and Oakland Raiders have moved, and moved back. The Colts, the Oilers/Titans, the original Cleveland Browns, and the St. Louis football Cardinals have all moved. There had not yet been a team in the States of North Carolina, Tennessee, Indiana and Arizona. There are now.

The Raiders, Rams, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Francisco 49ers, Washington Redskins, Chicago Bears, New York Giants, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks had yet to win their 1st Super Bowl. The Rams, Steelers, Bears, Giants, Oilers/Titans, Buccaneers, Saints, Seahawks, Denver Broncos, Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers, Cincinnati Bengals, New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills, San Diego Chargers, Atlanta Falcons and St. Louis/Arizona Cardinals had yet to reach their 1st Super Bowl. Each of these achievements has since been reached. Hell, the Bucs had gone 0-14 in 1976, their 1st season, so they had yet to win their 1st game.

NFL team founding owners George Halas of the Bears, Art Rooney of the Steelers, George Preston Marshall of the Redskins and Earl "Curly" Lambeau of the Green Bay Packers, were still alive. Halas and Rooney were still running their teams. Charter (1963) inductees to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Halas, Lambeau, Red Grange, Sammy Baugh, Dutch Clark, Red Grange, Mel Hein, Cal Hubbard, Don Hutson, John "Johnny Blood" McNally and Bronko Nagurski were still alive.

Joe Namath and O.J. Simpson were painfully running out the string. Roger Staubach was the NFL's defining player on offense, Mean Joe Greene on defense. Walter Payton was in his 2nd season. Ron Jaworski and Joe Montana were in college. Ray Lewis was a year and a half old. Peyton Manning was 9 months old. Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Tony Romo, Eli Manning, Troy Polamalu, Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers weren't born yet.

Current Giants head coach Ben McAdoo wasn't born yet, either. John Hynes of the Devils was a year old. Kenny Atkinson of the Nets was 9, Jack Capuano of the Islanders was 10. Todd Bowles of the Jets, Joe Girardi of the Yankees and Jeff Hornacek of the Knicks were in junior high school. Alain Vigneault of the Rangers was in high school. Terry Collins of the Mets was managing in the Pittsburgh Pirates' minor-league system.

The Steelers, the Cincinnati Reds, the Boston Celtics and the Montreal Canadiens were the current holders of their sports' World Championships. The Heavyweight Champion of the World was Muhammad Ali.

The Olympic Games have since been held in America (4 times), Canada (twice), Russia (twice), Bosnia, Korea, France, Spain, Norway, Japan, Australia, Greece, Italy, China, Britain and Brazil. The World Cup has since been held in America, Argentina, Spain, Mexico, Italy, France, Japan, Korea, Germany, South Africa and Brazil.

Jimmy Carter had just been elected President of the United States, defeating and succeeding Gerald Ford. Former President Richard Nixon, and the widows of Presidents Lyndon Johnson, John F. Kennedy, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Harry Truman were still alive.

Ronald Reagan was now out of office, having failed to wrest the Republican Party's nomination for President from Ford. George H.W. Bush was Director of the CIA, and his son George W. was failing in the energy business. Bill Clinton had just been elected to office for the 1st time, as Attorney General of the State of Arkansas. Hillary Clinton was about to start working for the Rose Law Firm in New York. Barack Obama was in high school in Hawaii. Donald Trump was making his bones as a racist slumlord, just like his dear old dad.

The Governor of Minnesota at the time was Wendell Anderson, a former hockey player -- but he had just appointed himself to a vacancy in the U.S. Senate, caused by the election of Walter Mondale as Vice President. Current Governor Mark Dayton was an aide to Mondale. Anderson was succeeded as Governor by his Lieutenant Governor, Rudy Perpich. The Governor of New York was Hugh Carey. The Mayor of New York was Abe Beame. The Governor of New Jersey was Brendan Byrne. Andrew Cuomo was at Fordham University. Bill de Blasio and Chris Christie were in high school.

Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan were just awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, for their work to ease tensions in Northern Ireland. The Pope was Paul VI. The Prime Minister of Canada was Pierre Trudeau, father of current PM Justin Trudeau. Queen Elizabeth II was on the throne of Britain -- that hasn't changed -- and James Callaghan was Prime Minister. Liverpool were holders of the Football League title, Southampton of the FA Cup, and Bayern Munich of the European Cup.

Major novels of 1976 included The Deep by Peter Benchley, The Boys from Brazil by Ira Levin, and Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice. Judy Blume published her children's books Blubber and Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Alex Haley published Roots: The Saga of an American Family; Erma Bombeck published The Grass Is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank, and William F. Buckley Jr. published Saving the Queen, his 1st novel featuring the secret agent Blackford Oakes. George R.R. Martin was teaching English at Clarke University in Iowa, and J.K. Rowling was 11 years old.

Recently released films included Carrie, Network, Rocky, Silver Streak, the original version of Freaky Friday, Dino De Laurentiis' version of King Kong, and the Barbra Streisand version of A Star Is Born. Star Wars was being finished.

Recently-debuted TV shows included What's Happening!!, Alice, In Search Of... , The Krofft Supershow, The Scooby-Doo/Dynomutt Hour, Baa Baa Black Sheep, Charlie's Angels, Holmes & Yo-Yo, Mr. T and Tina, The Muppet Show; the next series of each half of The Odd Couple: The Tony Randall Show and Jack Klugman's Quincy, M.E.; the game shows The Gong Show, Family Feud and Double Dare; and a short-lived sitcom version of Ball Four, written by and starring the pitcher who wrote the original book, Jim Bouton. The show failed to smoke 'em inside. None of the Kardashian siblings had yet been born.

"Tonight's the Night (Gonna Be Alright)" by Rod Stewart was the Number 1 song in America. The Ramones had recently founded American punk by releasing their self-titled debut album, and the Sex Pistols had effectively announced the British version with a profanity-laced TV appearance. The Eagles released Hotel California. The Band played its farewell concert in San Francisco, filmed by Martin Scorcese for his documentary The Last Waltz. Guitarist Tommy Bolin died of a drug overdose.

All 4 former Beatles were still having hits. So was Elvis Presley, but no one yet knew that he was in the last 8 months of his life. Frank Sinatra was still selling out arenas, Bob Dylan had recently completed his Rolling Thunder Revue, and Michael Jackson was still mainly thought of as the leader of his brothers' group.

A Subway ride in New York was 50 cents. The average price of a stamp was 13 cents, a gallon of gas 59 cents, a cup of coffee 35 cents, a McDonald's meal $1.32, a movie ticket $2.13, a new car $3,175, and a new house $43,400. The Dow Jones Industrial Average close the year at 1,004.

There were video games, but they were still new; arcades were dominated by pinball and other analog games of skill. Portable telephones existed, but they certainly couldn't fit in your pocket. Personal computers/ The Apple II and the Commodore PET were a few months away from being introduced. When people meant AT&T, they said, "the phone company." The Internet? Hardly anyone had even heard of it. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Tim Berners-Lee were all 21 years old, and just getting started in the computer industry.

In December 1976, reggae star Bob Marley, his wife Rita, and his manager Don Taylor were shot in an assassination attempt in Kingston, Jamaica. All survived, but Rita and Don nearly didn't. Bob was supposed to perform a concert for national unity 2 days later. He did. The Viet Cong, successful, was disbanded, and absorbed into the Vietnam People's Army. The United Nations adopted the Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques. In other words, the UN banned torture.

Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, and composer Benjamin Britten, and Hall of Fame baseball manager Danny Murtaugh died. Matthew Shepard, and Donovan McNabb, and Takeo Spikes were born.

December 26, 1976. The Minnesota Vikings advanced to the Super Bowl, for the 4th time in the last 8 years.

They haven't done it since. They didn't make the Playoffs this season. Will they ever do it again? Stay tuned.

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