Raising Hell: From the desk of Nathan Hellman

When a superstar’s career is on its last legs, the most frequent question directed toward that athlete is almost always, “What do you think your legacy will be?”

When a superstar’s career is on its last legs, the most frequent question directed toward that athlete is almost always, “What do you think your legacy will be?”

Take former Green Bay Packers signal caller Brett Favre. He must have become nauseous at the mere sound of the word “legacy” at the tail end of his illustrious 17-year career, considering most had pinned him as a retired man in each of his final three seasons.

In sports a legacy is crucial. It’s how someone is remembered. It’s the lasting image of a career, whether it’s fruitful or largely mundane.

This concept of legacy also applies to teams, which is where we get the “Steel Curtain” defense of the 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers and the “Bad Boy” tag commonly placed on the late 1980s Detroit Pistons.

Over the final month of their season, the Vikings softball squad answered this question: “What do you think your legacy will be?”

Like the Steelers and Pistons, the Vikings let their on-field actions craft the story. But, unlike the other two, Portland State’s final stretch is not a thrilling tale of domination and triumph. It’s just not that clear cut.

There will be many ways to remember the Vikings’ 2008 season.

Some will claim it’s the year Portland State gobbled up 30 wins. Others will assert it’s when the Vikings rebounded nicely from a lackluster 2007 campaign. Still others will say it’s the season Portland State came up just short, finishing a game out of first place in the Pacific Coast Softball Conference.

But the most accurate summation is that the Vikings failed to capitalize on a perfect opportunity to propel themselves in the PCSC driver seat not once, but twice.

With this said, two absolutely crucial series versus conference foes come to mind. One is the mid-April series against St. Mary’s and the other came the following weekend when Loyola Marymount visited the Rose City for a four-game tilt.

With both series, the Vikings were in prime position to take a firm hold on the conference and its single ticket to the NCAA Tournament. Both times Portland State was playing at Erv Lind Stadium, its home park. On both occasions, the opponent was an upper-tier conference foe.

And, somehow, both series materialized into nothing more than a stalemate, with two splits as the end result.

That’s on par with shelling out $100 to watch a prizefight, and then the 12-round bout ends in a draw.

Even worse, the pair of splits are most damaging to the Vikings because they were still trying to make up ground after dropping three of four games to the eventual PCSC champion, Sacramento State, earlier in the year.

It’s a bit harsh to characterize the Vikings’ performance in these series as a choke job, mainly because they still maintained a .500 record in each. However, it’s fair to call it a colossal disappointment because both series were at home and came at a time when Portland State could have seriously raised its stock in the PCSC.

On Sunday, a couple weeks after these fateful series, Portland State wrapped up the season with a sweep of Santa Clara. The Vikings tossed the lowly Broncos around the diamond, steamrolling Santa Clara to the tune of a 21-2 run differential with three straight shutouts to close the series.

A four-game sweep and utter domination is an excellent note on which to end the conference schedule.

But the Vikings would have never been placed in this precarious position if it weren’t for the inability to take advantage of a seemingly perfect situation against the Gaels and Lions a couple weeks earlier.

Sure, fans will remember the stomping Portland State handed to the Broncos, but only briefly. When people refer to this team down the road, the first anecdote that will come to mind is the Vikings whiffing on two pitches right down the middle of the plate.

Missed opportunity–unfortunately that will be the legacy of this year’s version of the Vikings.