Neal: Wide left, take a knee, the curse. That was 25 years ago today.

\There was the Drew Pearson catch in a 1975 NFC divisional round game. Of course he pushed off.

There was the 41-0 loss to the Giants in the NFC Championship Game following the 2000 season. Of course New York stole the playbook.

There was "Bountygate" in the NFC Championship Game after the 2009 season. Of course the Saints played dirty in injuring Brett Favre.

Every fan base has experienced some sort of sports heartbreak. It comes with the job description. As fans, we deal with the lows because, eventually, there will be highs that will mitigate years of despair.

Except when it comes to Vikings fans. They seem to be cursed. Those three aforementioned events are only trailers for the feature presentation: Nothing suggested the football gods weren't (aren't?) fans of the Purple more than what happened 25 years ago on Wednesday.

Gary Anderson. Wide left.

The most entertaining team in franchise history blew a fourth-quarter lead in the NFC Championship Game to a resilient Atlanta Falcons team as Anderson — the Vikings kicker who was a perfect 35-for-35 on field-goal attempts during the regular season — missed a 38-yarder in the fourth quarter that would have iced the game.

For new owner Red McCombs, it turned a moment of Purple Pride into a Purple Gut Punch.

This was a high-flying team led by Randall Cunningham, Cris Carter, Robert Smith and some young guy named Randy Moss. Coach Dennis Green's offensive wizardry propelled the Vikings to a 15-1 regular-season record. They outscored opponents 556-296 during the regular season, with the only loss coming 27-24 at Tampa Bay.

Moss was a rookie on a mission after dropping to 21st in the NFL draft. On Thanksgiving Day at Dallas, Moss caught three passes for 51, 56 and 56 yards, all for touchdowns. The Vikings won 46-36. The team flew home following the game, and several players immediately headed for Champps Sports Bar in Eden Prairie for what turned out to be an impromptu and spirited celebration with fans. Good thing social media and selfies weren't big then.

No one was thinking about the division title. The town was thinking about a Super Bowl trip to Miami that year, with a chance to win a title that had eluded them in four previous trips.

My first full year at the Star Tribune was 1998, covering a 70-92 Twins team. The Wolves went 25-25 in a lockout-shortened 1998-99 season. The Wild and Lynx weren't around yet. The Vikings were the coveted ticket in town. And, if the Vikings reached the Super Bowl, the plan was for me to go to Miami, assist with the coverage, then drive across the state and get ready for Twins spring training.

So … Skol Vikings!

Sign up for our Vikings Update newsletter

After a 41-21 win over the Cardinals in the opening round of the playoffs, the Vikings entered the NFC Championship Game favored by a whopping 11½ points over the Falcons. The Vikings led 27-20 in the fourth quarter when Anderson, who had made all 94 of his kicks that season (35 field goals and 59 extra points), lined up near the left hashmark with 2:07 left and a chance to put the game away from 38 yards.

Most of Anderson's kicks faded left to right. This one drifted left and never came back, sailing inches outside the left upright.

"I don't understand the gods," said Mitch Berger, who held for each of Anderson's kicks that season.

The gods weren't done. Atlanta tied the score on Chris Chandler's 16-yard pass to Terance Mathis as the Vikings ran low on linebackers. Green had Cunningham take a knee with 30 seconds left while on their own 27 with two timeouts in his pocket. A moment of coaching madness. A knee that will live in infamy.

Morten Andersen then wins it 30-27 in overtime for The Dirty Birds with a 38-yarder, the same distance from which Gary Anderson missed. No 15-1 team had missed the Super Bowl before the Vikings.

Hours later, I'm driving down Interstate 494 between Bloomington and Eagan when I noticed several purple Vikings flags, the ones made to fit on car windows, strewn on the highway.

The Twins blew a 3-2 lead in the 1965 World Series to the Dodgers with the final two games at Metropolitan Stadium, but they still boast World Series titles in 1987 and 1991. Gophers men's hockey has won five titles. It also lost to Holy Cross 4-3 in overtime in the first round in 2006 and led 2-1 last season in the NCAA final but lost 3-2 to Quinnipiac. But at least those teams have won.

During the 2017 season, intrepid Star Tribune reporter Rochelle Olson asked then-Vikings coach Mike Zimmer if he believed in "the curse."

"There is no damn curse," he replied.

Two weeks later, Zimmer's team crashed with a 38-7 loss in the NFC Championship Game against the Eagles, who went on to the Super Bowl — at U.S. Bank Stadium. And the Vikings still have not been to a Super Bowl since the 1976 team.

Jan. 17, 1999, might be the worst date in the state's pro sports history. Can you think of one that beats it?