When I was 13, I stood in line for four hours at a Dayton's store to buy tickets to see the Vikings take on the Bears in a playoff game. My family all ditched me to go to a movie in the same mall, and when they came back the line had barely moved.

We got tickets and eventually went to the game. The Bears destroyed Minnesota 35-18 in a game that was never close.

I think 1994 was the first year of my hard-core Vikings fandom and my first taste of what it means to truly be a Vikings fan: Pain.

We all remember the magical 1998 season and its subsequent ending, which shortened the lifespan of the average Vikings fan by 3-5 years. The '94 loss sucked, but the '98 loss to Atlanta was the worst I had ever felt as a sports fan.

I had been going through a lot of stuff in real life during that season and the games were about the only positive thing I had going that fall, I thought maybe the Vikings would be the thing to make it better by finally winning the Super Bowl.

The loss was just an absolute gut punch for me and my group of friends.

Speaking of those friends, one of them was 'lucky' enough to attend that game in person. When he got home he gave me a call to tell me he was switching allegiances.

"From now on, I am cheering for the Cleveland Browns. Every week you KNOW they will lose so there will be no getting my hopes up." To this day, he is a Browns fan.

By the time the 2001 NFC Championship game took place, I was 18 and just graduated from high school. My buddies and I got together to watch the game and I don't really remember much about it other than the (41-0) final score. I think we stopped watching and turned on the Playstation by halftime. The magic was fading.

In 2009, the Vikings signed Brett Favre and, once again, I allowed myself to be suckered in. The Greg Lewis catch vs San Francisco, the wins over Green Bay, a resounding win over Dallas in the playoffs.... this was the year!

As you probably remember, the Vikings were beaten (figuratively and literally) by the Saints in the NFC Championship game once again. I blamed myself for falling into the trap again, sucker punched right in the snout by the hand of fate.

When Blair Walsh missed his kick against the Seahawks in the 2016 playoffs, I just laughed. I saw it coming and went about my day.

The Vikings made the playoffs in 2017 and hosted the New Orleans Saints. All the elements were there: a late Vikings collapse, the opposing coach mocking fans by doing the "Skol" chant, a meaningless hail mary on deck to end the game.

But then, a miracle happened: Stefon Diggs came down with Case Keenum's pass and took it into the end zone! Touchdown Vikings!

The play was so improbable that my dad, who was at my place to watch the game, was already in the entryway putting on his boots to go home. He missed the whole thing.

The next week the Vikings played against the Eagles with a trip to the Super Bowl (in the Vikings' home stadium) on the line. I even had somehow procured a press pass for the Super Bowl and I foolishly allowed myself to daydream.

Once again, the football gods mocked my optimism and the Eagles destroyed the   Vikings to advance to, and win, the Super Bowl.

Last season, the Vikings again upset the New Orleans Saints to advance to the second round of the playoffs, where they would match up with an untested San Francisco 49ers team. It was also the first time in my life the Vikings played a game on my birthday, so of course they were going to win!

Narrator: They did not win.

So, to sum up, I have missed maybe three Vikings games in the last 26 years of my life. Countless beautiful fall Sundays that could have been spent, I don't know, picking apples or something, instead spent losing hair and gaining weight watching a team I know in my heart will never, ever win the big one.

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