The Free Press
Non-sports fans often overlook the unifying factor that can happen in athletics. Most of the time, exciting events on the field of play are compartmentalized, or marginalized, as if they're only important for a certain percentage of the population.
But every now and then, extraordinary sporting accomplishments rally collective pride like no other thing can do. Such was the case in Minnesota after the Vikings defeated bitter rival Green Bay to qualify for the National Football League playoffs on the last game of the regular season, with the incomparable Adrian Peterson nearly breaking the single-season rushing record.
The Vikings lost their playoff rematch with Green Bay on Saturday. But that's almost beside the point. They won only three games last year and weren't expected to win many (if any) more this year. They won 10, almost single-handedly due to the fellow they call "All Day."
Peterson tore the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee on Christmas Eve in 2011, and no one really knew how useful he'd be in 2012. He was more than useful, finishing just eight yards shy of Eric Dickerson's single-season record of 2,105 yards rushing. That Peterson did it following a major injury, with a team with one of the worst passing games in the NFL, against defenses that stacked the line of scrimmage just to stop him, makes his 2012 season one of the most remarkable single-season achievements in NFL history.
Peterson showed this year that he's not only a great running back, but he's jaw-dropping great.
The season is over for the Vikings, but Minnesotans would do well to reflect on Peterson's accomplishment this week and next as the playoffs continue.
And Peterson should win the league's most valuable player award, announced at the end of the season.
It's a quarterback-driven league and it probably won't surprise anyone if the most celebrated quarterback of his generation, Peyton Manning, wins the MVP award this year after his remarkable year in Denver. But Peterson's season was even more remarkable, and no one was more valuable to his team than Peterson was to the Vikings. And it's fair to assume that if Peterson wasn't good enough to win the award this year, no other NFL running back will ever be good enough to win it after this year.
You're on notice, NFL. Minnesota is watching.