For Minnesota Vikings fans of a certain age -- especially those under the age of 30 -- there has been no game in Minneapolis more electric than the night Brett Favre beat his old team.
Favre threw three touchdown passes on Monday Night Football against the Green Bay Packers on Oct. 5, 2009, before a giddy crowd of 63,846 at the Metrodome. The game, which came 24 hours after the Minnesota Twins won an AL Central title with a Game 163 victory in the same building, drew the largest audience in cable TV history. It put the Vikings two games ahead of the Packers in the NFC North and catapulted them on a ride to the NFC title game.
With all respect to the Vikings' playoff-clinching win over the Packers in Week 17 of the 2012 season, their January 2016 wild-card playoff against the Seattle Seahawks and their victory over the Packers to open U.S. Bank Stadium last year, there has been no game in Minneapolis with the same charged atmosphere since Favre's triumph that Monday night. That could change in 139 days.
When the Vikings open the 2017 season on Monday Night Football against the New Orleans Saints, Adrian Peterson will be on the visitors' sideline. He might not enter the season as the Saints' starting running back -- and on a team that spent only 45 percent of the time with its quarterback under center last season, Peterson's role remains to be seen. But anyone who knows Peterson knows he'll come into 2017 intent on proving a point. And the 32-year-old running back's first opportunity to do it will come against his old team.
(For the record, we here at the Worldwide Leader in Sports are intrigued about this matchup, but no more so than we would be about any other Monday night season opener. Our strong suggestion you tune in for the TV broadcast of this particular game is offered with objective journalistic insight only.)
There was nothing particularly acrimonious about Peterson's split from the Vikings this spring; general manager Rick Spielman offered platitudes about the running back's place in team history, and Peterson had kind words for the Vikings after spending a decade in Minnesota. He will have his No. 28 retired once his career ends and he will stand as one of the greatest players in the team's 56-season history.
But the day after the Vikings announced they would not pick up his $18 million option for 2017, Peterson tweeted a video of him doing two 20-repetition sets of 225 pounds on the bench press. He repeated the process with several other workout videos during his eight weeks on the open market, noting on March 31 he was the only player in his training group older than 24 and challenging "haters" to "do whatcha do best."
Peterson relishes the opportunity to prove people wrong, as he did when ran for 2,097 yards and won league MVP honors in 2012 after returning in nine months from a torn ACL. He bristled at the notion he couldn't be effective after returning from a torn meniscus in three months last season, and has offered reactions ranging from amused to annoyed when his age (32) is used to suggest he might not be able to produce the way he has in the past. He undoubtedly will be intent on making a statement in 2017, and his first chance to do it will be against the team that drafted him, employed him for 10 years, brought him back after his 2015 suspension, but ultimately let him go when it decided to get younger.
The matchup is just the Saints' second trip to Minneapolis since the epic 2010 NFC Championship Game, and memories of that game already figured to stoke the emotions of Vikings fans. Seeing Peterson -- who fumbled three times in that title game -- in a Saints uniform only figures to provide an additional spark.
Perhaps he won't play much, and perhaps he won't have the kind of night Favre did against the Packers. But Peterson's return in a Saints uniform, with Vikings fans still figuring out how to process his final few years in Minnesota, means the 2017 Vikings season will arrive with a spark. It's only 4 1/2 months away. Get ready.