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Column: Vikings' 2009 Super Bowl victory cured what ailed Minnesota

John Shipley

MINNEAPOLIS — Brad Childress announced this week that he will retire almost exactly eight years after being elected to his first term as Minnesota's governor and ending an unprecedented run of health and happiness in his adopted home state.

"It's time," said Childress, elected in a landslide a year after leading the Vikings to victory in Super Bowl XLIV. "I've been blessed, and it's time for new blood in Minnesota state politics."

Lt. Gov. Randy Moss will take Childress' place until he gets tired of it or is elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, whichever comes first, aides told the Pioneer Press.

With Super Bowl LII scheduled to be played Feb. 4 in the privately funded Brett Favre Lee Jeans Stadium and Churro Emporium, Childress said he couldn't help but wonder how this latest chapter of his life might have ended had the Vikings not beaten the New Orleans Saints in a tight NFC Championship Game at the Superdome on Jan. 24, 2009.

"Probably as some assistant in Kansas City, or something," he said, breaking into the hearty laugh for which he's been known during his time as Minnesota's "Garrulous Governor Chilly."

After beating the Saints to secure the team's first Super Bowl appearance since 1977, the Vikings easily handled the Indianapolis Colts, 39-12, for their first NFL championship since the 1970 merger with the AFL.

"Somewhere in the Multiverse," Childress said, "there's probably a world where Adrian Peterson fumbled after that turnover in Saints territory right before the half. Like on a bad exchange or something. Or maybe Percy Harvin coughs one up; he did that kind of thing. Who knows? Things could have been a lot different."

That would be bad news for Minnesotans living in such a world.

Before the Vikings' 2009 Super Bowl victory, the state was shrouded in a pall of pessimism and negativity that pervaded nearly all aspects of life. Minnesotans had always been hard-working and well-educated, traits that had always attracted Fortune 500 company to the area, but few knew how much a provincialism bordering on nativism had held the state back until the Vikings finally won the Super Bowl.

Almost immediately, the landscape began to change, first when the St. Paul Pioneer Press began home delivery in Minneapolis, then when Childress and his Purple Pride party swept into power in the 2010 election. That March, thousands of Vikings fans filled an abandoned gravel pit in Savage with tears they had been saving for future calamity, and the state has since unofficially become known as the Land of 10,001 Lakes.

Since then, the state has exploded economically, adding thousands of jobs as a result of the Minnesotans Love Newcomers Initiative spearheaded by Childress, which urged longtime and native residents to include others in their communities rather than just pretend.

Although the Vikings (13-3) are still in the hunt for the Super Bowl this season and will meet the Saints again in a divisional playoff game Sunday at the "ChurroDome," fans vow they are content to enjoy the experience and to live with the fact that, if the Vikings lose, it will be because the other team was better.

"For so many years, more than half my life, I was convinced that the Universe, or God, or the Cosmos hated me, hated Minnesota. That we couldn't have nice things," said Herb Kuehl, 70, of Roseville. "It always felt like we had to bunker down against a world bent on our destruction, even after the Twins won. Because, you know, that was just baseball.

"When we finally won, it was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders, just all the negativity. I hope the Vikings make the Super Bowl again this year, but if they don't, it won't ruin my life."

Childress, 61, said he was proud of the work he did as a two-time governor and that he plans to retire on his sprawling Stillwater estate, "Twelfth Man Ranch," named after a penalty called on the Vikings as they wrapped up their victory over the Saints in the NFC title game.

"Football has been good to me and it's been good to Minnesota," Childress said. "I'm going to watch the game Sunday and enjoy it."

The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.

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