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Rams or Vikings? Can We Talk?

“The Minnesota Vikings will beat the Rams in Monday’s NFC Wild-Card game,” I told my buddy from Minneapolis the other day. I said it with a tone of finality, as if there couldn’t possibly be any disagreement.

“You’ve been eating too much mercury-tinged sushi,” he said. “It’ll be the Rams--easy.”

“Will not.”

“Will so.”

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I decided this tone of finality stuff wasn’t working. So I resorted to a time-tested method of debate: Insults.

“You wouldn’t know a sure thing if it handed you a business card,” I said. “What you got, tundra stuck in your ears? I said the Vikings can go ahead and make their airplane reservations for San Francisco and the divisional playoffs. The Rams couldn’t win this game if Georgia Frontiere’s airbrush depended on it.”

That should do it, I thought. Now sit back and listen to him crumble.

“Oh, I forgot,” he said, his voice not exactly in the crumbling stages, “you taught Vince Lombardi all about football. You invented the game. You used to stitch leather helmets. Let me tell you something: The Vikings are a team divided. You read the newspapers, or do I have to tell you everything?”

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“Whaddya mean?” I asked.

“They’ve got troubles, smog man. Wade Wilson, their Pro Bowl quarterback, got pulled by offensive coordinator Bob Schnelker in last Monday night’s game against the Bears. And is Wilson steamed. He says he doesn’t get the respect he deserves.”

“So?”

“So. . . would you want to start the playoffs with your starting quarterback ticked off at the world? Would you want some of your team rooting for Wilson and others rooting for his backup, Tommy Kramer?”

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“No,” I said.

“I rest my case.”

“Whaddya think, the Rams have it made in the shade? They went 0-for-November. This month, they beat the Chicago Bears when the Bears were down two quarterbacks. They beat the Atlanta Falcons when the Falcons were down seven starters. They beat the 49ers when the 49ers couldn’t care less. This is a juggernaut?”

“They’re better than the Vikings. Burnsie--that’s Coach Jerry Burns to you--is without linebacker Jesse Solomon, only about the most indispensable guy on the defense. They’ve got no depth there.”

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“But you’ve got nose tackle Henry Thomas coming back this week. He’s a great player.”

“Yeah, but running back Darrin Nelson’s hurt.”

“Big deal. Nelson only gained 380 yards all year. Charles White barely played this season and he gained almost that much.”

“OK, top this: The Vikings lost to the Green Bay Packers .”

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“The Rams lost to the San Diego Chargers,” I said.

“The Vikings were completely outplayed by the Bears in the second half of that Monday night game. They needed a miracle interception return to beat a team that had almost nothing to gain.”

“The Rams lost to the Chargers.”

“The Vikings don’t have a running game. The Rams do.”

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“The Rams don’t have the No. 1-ranked defense in the league. The Vikings do. I saw a statistic a few days ago. It said that before the Vikings lost to the Packers, they had outscored their opponents, 167-26, in 5 games. And, that the Viking defense had outscored opposing offenses, 21-19, in the same stretch of games.”

“Really?”

“Yep,” I said, sensing victory.’

“But don’t the Rams play well on the road?” he said.

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“They’re 6-2 this season.”

“And hasn’t Coach John Robinson convinced the Rams that it’s fun to play on the road? That the crowds are more excited than the crowds at Anaheim’s Mausoleum Stadium? That Christmas in Minneapolis is great--just as long as they don’t have to stay?”

“Well, I guess so. But. . . “

“And don’t you think it’s about time that the curse of the Vikings be broken?”

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“I suppose so. After all, the Vikings have won 4 out of the last 5 playoff games against the Rams.”

“But wait a second,” he said. “Aren’t the Vikings 7-1 at home this year?”

“Yep, but except for the Bear game, the Metrodome crowd hardly ever bothered anyone.”

“Well, at least the Vikings can shock the Rams with the weather. I figure with the wind-chill factor and all, the temperature should be about 130-below zero.”

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“And about 72 degrees inside the Metrodome. It will be colder back in Orange County.”

“Oh.”

“So, who do you like?” I said.

“I’ll take the Vikings,” he said sheepishly.

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“Ah-ha! A believer.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” he said. “And you?”

“Uh, the Rams. Easy.”


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