Shoutout to Norse Code, the Vikings podcast by Arif Hasan and James Pogatshnik, which this comic was made with affection for. There’s a good chance some of my Vikings fan readers discovered me through them, as I have a pretty solid twitter relationship with both, and Arif has been featured and killed multiple times in various older comics. I also made their logo.

This past weekend against the Cards, when they missed the PAT, I immediately understood how the game would end. I even called it. While I may not be a Vikings fan, I get this team. I understand what the Vikings are. I understand the pain the Vikings cause. I get it. I’d like to finally tell the full story as to why.

I’ve mentioned a few times that I consider the Vikings my “second team”. My relationship with Vikings fans is pretty unlike other fandoms, who always feature some people getting mad at me if I mock their team. Vikings fans always seem to see me mock them and go “yeah, haha, true, I’m gonna kill myself now”. They never yell at me. I feel a kinship.

But I’ve never gone into detail about why the Vikings are my second team, probably because it’s a long story, but I think it’s a pretty good one. So in case any Vikings fan out there doubts my Vikings fandom credentials, this should do a good job explaining that no, I might be a Giants fan, but I’m one of you.

In 7th grade, I had a really cool math teacher. Mr. Romeo, if you are reading this, you ruled. At the start of the year, he came up with a project for the class. Everyone would pick an NFL team, follow their season, and do a bunch of math-based mini-projects around it. Stuff like using probability to predict wins, plotting the logo on a graph, things like that. Great project for someone like me, who loved sports. I feel bad for all the dorks who had no interest in football.

The class drew numbers out of a hat. I picked 7th. The Giants were available. So did I pick them? I did not. Why? Well, here was my dilemma:

The project had a prize. Two, in fact. If your team made the super bowl, you got 5 homework passes and a quiz pass. If your team won the super bowl, you got 10 homework passes, 2 quiz passes, and a test pass. It was math, my worst subject. This was a legit prize. The Giants had been bad the year before. Was I going to win a prize with a team that bad? No.

But the Vikings? They had gone to the second round the year before. They had Daunte Culpepper. They had Randy Moss, the absolute coolest motherfucker in the universe and probably my favorite player. I already vibed with their color scheme and logo. I did not know their history. So I had to choose. The team I grew up rooting for, or the team I felt had a better chance at getting me the prize. I played to win. I picked the Vikings. Stop laughing the story isn’t over yet you can laugh then.

My dad was confused but I lied to him and said someone already picked New York to avoid the shame. My mom was supportive and bought me a Vikings hat. For that season, I would be a Vikings fan first.

It started out as one of the best decisions I ever made. The Vikings started the season 7-0 and were the last undefeated team. They easily cruised to a playoff spot. The project successfully made me a better football fan, because I had to pay attention to new things. I learned more about the sport. I actually wondered if I was just a Vikings fan now. The Vikings earned the #2 seed and easily dispatched the Saints in the divisional round. And that’s when the Vikings organization played their cruelest trick, one that I have never forgotten, and one that has shaped me to this day. Some of you may have already figured out what particular season this story takes place during, and you know what’s coming. The greatest irony was about to hit me like a ton of bricks.

I had ignored the Giants that season since following the Vikings was now literal homework. The Giants, the team I avoided picking because they were bad the year before, had found inspiration and gone on an absolute tear under head coach Jim Fassell to take the #1 seed. The team I had betrayed was now hosting the team I betrayed them for in the 2000 season NFC championship.

Now, all of a sudden, I was pitted against my own family, all due to my own hubris. I decided to watch the game on the basement TV to avoid the confrontation. Those of you who remember what happened next know I made the right choice. 41-0, Giants. A disgusting slaughter. Possibly the greatest Giants win I was old enough to appreciate in my lifetime up to that point, and I spent it in my basement, sadly building legos as I listened to my dad cackle wildly with joy upstairs. The team I picked specifically to win, which I had come to appreciate over the course of the year, threw my dreams in a dumpster. If I had picked my own damn team from the start, I’d have won a prize. The Vikings robbed me of my math prizes and appreciating the Giants success. Fuck you, Minnesota.

A few days later I had accepted my ironic fate and thrown my support fully behind the team I should have always picked. I proudly wore my Giants gear for two weeks, only to have that team shit the bed against the Ravens in the Super Bowl. Since I grew up in the suburbs of Baltimore and was the only Giants fan in a sea of Ravens/Skins fandom, the bullying was merciless. I never brought up my sports fandom in school again until college, after I had escaped Maryland. That season changed me.

The team I picked to win let me down. The team I loved from childhood let me down. The local team I used to like as a second team, the Ravens, became my enemy. 2000 was the worst year of football fandom I have ever experienced. There is something horrible about watching a bad team be bad all year long. But I understand the pain of rooting for a team that actually has a chance, only to rip your guts out in front of you. It happened to me twice that year in rapid succession.

But thanks to my year of following the Vikings, I gained a deeper appreciation and understanding of football. Until the end, that team was fun. My mom gave me an ornament commemorating the year, and I hang it on my tree to this day. I still kinda love the Vikings, and to this day will always root for them, except when they play the Giants. I’ve learned that lesson.

I was lucky enough to have a team that later that decade would repay my returned loyalty with two incredible Super Bowl runs I will always cherish. The Vikings may have been a brief affair, but I still love them, and I have a deep and profound respect for those fans and the suffering they endure. Skol, my brothers. Skol.