On the Bench with Byron Higgin

Hail Millie!

A couple of weeks ago, I asked a friend how the Minnesota Vikings will do in the playoffs. “I’m hoping, and they’re good — but they’re still the Vikings,” came the reply.

My own son in North Carolina loves the Vikings but got caught up in the “curse” that has seen the Vikings blow each and every opportunity to win a Super Bowl.

“There’s the curse,” he would say. I remember when there was the “Curse of the Bambino” hanging over the Boston Red Sox.

Since then they’ve won the World Series three times.

There was the “curse” in Chicago of not winning a World Series since the early 1900’s for the Cubs.

In 2016, they broke the curse and won the World Series. The Minnesota Vikings have suffered the fate of the “Hail Mary Pass” by the Dallas Cowboys that destroyed the Vikings hopes. In fact, the “Hail Mary” was invented on that day, so it goes back to being a Minnesota thing.

And the Minnesota Vikings have been to the Super Bowl four times — and came away the loser, every time.

So it was with no particular joy the “curse” made its way into U.S. Bank Stadium to hang over the Vikings once again. And it seemed to be in place, hanging over the jam-packed crowd like an ominous black cloud ready to burst over the unsuspecting multitude.

New Orleans had a 24-23 lead over the Vikings and the Vikings’ “curse-splattered” fate hung in the balance.

But in one area of the stadium sat, Millie Wall, the nearly 100-year-old Viking fan who was watching her FIRST live football game. In her hand was a white towel, saying “Bring It Home”, which she waved vigorously.

At her side were a granddaughter and another relative, probably her son.

A sign the granddaughter held told the world Millie was here and it begged for a Viking miracle for “My 100-year-old Grandmother.”

The “curse” didn’t know it at the time, and the terrible overhanging depression of the “Hail Mary” could hardly have guessed why Millie was there. In fact, both ignored her as the seconds ticked away and the Minnesota’s eventual sorry fate hung in the balance.

Then, somewhat in desperation, another little Viking miracle, quarterback Case Keenum let the ball fly toward the sidelines, with a hope in his heart that receiver Stefon Diggs would somehow find it.

Diggs leaped into the air with the idea he’d catch it, turn toward the foul line and step out-of-bounds to save precious seconds and give his teammate Kai Forbath a chance to kick a very long field goal to win the game.

But when he turned he saw both New Orleans Saint defenders had crashed to the ground and he was all alone. Diggs ran for the goal line — crossed over and threw his hands into the air, then tossed his helmet and began to celebrate. He’d turned an uncertain fate into a victory and send the “curse” screaming for cover — far outside U.S. Bank Stadium.

The football world was stunned. Was this a new “Hail Mary,” in the land of the “Hail Mary’s birth?” First of all, we need to coin a new term.

Let’s take baseball for instance, which has a unique term called, “The Walk Off,” — which is used when the last batter gets a hit to win the game.

Let’s attach “Walk-off” to this pass reception.

Now, here it is. Millie was waving her white flag all the while and the 100-year-old was there when Keenum and Diggs SAVED THE VIKINGS. THUS ... “The Hail Millie.”

So from this day on, “the pass” that sent the “curse” running for shelter, destroyed the myth of the “Hail Mary,” and gave Minnesota fans reason to hope they will see their team play in the Super Bowl in their own US Bank Stadium was still alive.

Miss Millie even has tickets to the big game, given to her on Sunday by the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. There it is Minnesota Vikings fans. The birth of the ... “Walk-off Hail Millie,” reception.


•A banner hangs in the Wabasso gymnasium proclaiming, “800 Wins for Gary Hindt.”

The former Wabasso and later Wabasso/Red Rock Central wrestling coach has retired after 49 years of coaching. And now, he will be inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame at Austin, MN on Saturday, April 21.

Hindt finished as the second winningest coach in Minnesota with over 800 career coaching wins. His wins rank seventh in the USA for Most Wins in a Career. He also is a two-time State Coach of the Year and a six-time Section Coach of the Year.

Four of Gary’s teams advanced to the Minnesota State Class A Dual Meet Tournament where they placed second and fourth. He was also a head football coach for 21 years.

Personally, I’ve known Gary for most of those years and presented him with an award once myself. No greater gentleman of the great sport of wrestling has ever existed.

•The Zumbrota-Mazeppa wrestling team coached by Link Steffen (of Granite Falls), is a powerful machine I don’t see losing this year. They have THREE wrestlers ranked No. 1 — including Steffen’s son Caden at 182; Jacob Bennett at 195 and Jarret Haglund at 220.

Byron Higgin

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