After a seven-game win streak, the Redskins beat their division rival to win the NFC East for the first time since 1999. My Facebook feed lit up with shocked and overjoyed Skins fans. This was like the Taylor Swift of playoff runs.
It’s a feel good story, and as a dejected, agonized Jets fan, I need something to feel good about other than firing Mike Tannenbaum and Tony Sparano. I need a team to root for in the playoffs. And it would have been the Redskins if something better hadn’t happened:
Adrian Peterson fell short of breaking Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record. By 9 yards. Nine. Single digits.
Are you a sadistic wretch?
Now, I know you think I’m drunk off Haterade. I know it sounds like mean-spirited schadenfreude. But, you have to believe me, it’s not. I love AP. I have a big, fat, jersey-chasing crush on him. I mean, look at this man.
He’s an MVP candidate. He’s physically flawless. He’s excellent at his craft. And he’s not even a jerk. Adrian Peterson is a bonafide good guy. He’s damn near perfect.
So if you like him and he fell short, how is it the best sports story of 2012?
Someday, you’re going to have a son and he’s going to play football. And he’s going to be good. Damn good. As a running back, he’ll be a man among boys. He’ll be fast, strong, slippery, and agile. Virtually unstoppable.
Your son will be picked 7th overall in the NFL draft. He’ll go to a freezing cold Midwestern state where they have accents like oh-Bobby- don’tcha-know. He will be surrounded by very nice white people who are sick of Brett Favre.
Your son will only get better, faster, and stronger. He will work his tail off. He will rush for an obscene amount of yards per carry, per game, per season. He will make fantasy owners sing “Dream Weaver.”
Every opposing team will focus its defense on containing him, which will open up passing lanes for receivers and make his quarterback look like a first-rate game manager (even if he’s actually Christian Ponder).
Your son won’t complain about his number of carries. He won’t blame his teammates, coaches, or officials when the game doesn’t go so well. He won’t do idiot things off-the-field that jeopardize his health and well-being.
He will be everything good and pure and whole in sports. He will be good for the game.
Oh, I see. Adrian Peterson is your protagonist.
The day after Christmas, he will tear his ACL and MCL. It’s going to be devastating. He’ll schedule immediate reconstructive knee surgery. People will talk about how he’ll never be the same, how he was always injury prone. They’ll wonder if he’ll be back for Week 4, Week 6 of next season? Should he even bother?
But he’ll rehab like a motherfucker.
He’ll run before people think he could walk. He’ll do agility drills as if nothing happened. His rehab will put your hardest day at the gym to shame.
By the time camp comes around, he hasn’t lost a step. He’ll be back, at full strength, by Week 1. It’s not a miracle. It’s Adrian Peterson. You should know this by now.
The Vikings’ season will have its ups and downs, but the one constant will be AP. He will go H.A.M. week after week, and by mid-season, Eric Dickerson’s 28 year-old single season rushing record will be within reach. He’s going for it. He wants it. He wants it badly.
Skip ahead to Week 17. He’s so close to this record that Eric Dickerson can’t bear to watch the game (cut to 4:13 to hear him say so). I mean, it’s right there. If AP has an AP day, we might see history.
After all he’s been through, this story just wouldn’t be fair if he didn’t break that record.
Now, hold up.
What’s the point of the game? What’s the objective?
So how about this sweet little twist? If the Vikings win this game, they go to the playoffs. And if they lose, their season is over. This is high stakes.
The score is tied at 34-34 with 0:04 left on the clock in regulation, and the Vikings have the ball on the 11-yard line. They could run one more play, hoping AP will make it to the endzone, get his record and send them to the playoffs. If it doesn’t work out, there’s always overtime, right?
But that’s idiotic. That’s poor management. That’s selfish. And that’s not how you win football games.
Instead, the Vikings drill a 29-yard field goal to win the game 37-34 and go to the playoffs. Our hero and protagonist walks off the field victorious but nine yards shy of his personal record.
It’s so bittersweet that it’s almost tragic.
Life’s like that, isn’t it?
I really thought this story would be about personal achievement and triumph over adversity, but it revealed what we often forget about professional sports:
There is no “I” in team. Fantasy stats don’t count. And the best players in the game play to win.
Isn’t it poetry? It’s just about the most beautiful story I’ve ever heard.
And because of Adrian Peterson’s grace, talent, and because he has a sick body, I am riding this Viking ship until the fat lady sings.