Ever see an actor in person and feel like they look different on film? Or hear a musician live and find the sounds incomparable to what’s on your iTunes? Well, I just saw an image that looks completely different to me than the photoshopped versions that have existed for months – a photo of Brett Favre in Vikings gear.
And, just like those other examples, something feels a little off.
Three weeks after declaring that he couldn’t convince his body to undergo the strain of another full season (and three weeks after I compared him to Meg Ryan on this site), Favre has signed on to be the Minnesota Vikings quarterback. Just hours after getting off the team’s personal jet in St. Paul, Favre was taking snaps at practice, getting ready to start in Friday’s exhibition against the Kansas City Chiefs.
There he was, in purple and gold regalia, handing the ball off to Adrian Peterson, throwing slants to Percy Harvin. It sounds like a Viking fan-tasy. But as an outside observer (Dolphins fan by birth, not by choice), all I feel is melancholy, for all the parties involved.
First, there’s the man from Mississippi, who conveniently waited till just after training camp was over to renege on his retirement. Favre didn’t want the wear and tear on his body, Favre already knows the offense, Favre is a consummate pro who has worked out on his own time: the excuses will be myriad. That bit of shadiness isn’t what gets me.
He’s obviously clever enough (or manipulative enough) to get what he wants, but Favre doesn’t know what that is. I don’t begrudge the man the right to make 12 million dollars this season on what looks to be a contending team; it just strikes me as sad that a 39-year-old can’t make up his mind, even as he hurts the Green Bay fans who once worshiped him.
Packer fans put him above even Vince Lombardi, the milk that made the cheese. Despite Favre’s massive ego, I never thought he could bring himself to play for Green Bay’s fiercest rival. What I didn’t take into account was that Favre doesn’t know who he is or what he can do at this point in his career.
Judging statistically from the past three seasons, Favre isn’t a top-tier quarterback anymore. The body that led him to three consecutive MVP awards in the ’90s is not the same anymore. The credibility of a Super Bowl win and a Hall of Fame resume isn’t there anymore, replaced by 1,000 days of hemming and hawing. In essence, the Gunslinger has used up his bullets.
That spells trouble for the team that continually caved to Favre’s demands. Don’t get me wrong: on paper, the Vikings look great. On the field, Favre is still probably an upgrade over the QB offices of Jackson & Rosenfels, INT.
But wins aren’t determined on paper, and sometimes what happens off the field has just as much to do with success as what happens on it. The carnival that comes with Favre, which the Vikes have already experienced for a few months, takes a toll in the locker room. It was clear in Favre’s stint with the Jets that some of his teammates would have preferred he not be there. Now in a new setting, will he accept handing off to the game’s best rusher? Will he accept being a glorified Trent Dilfer? That’s really all the Vikings need, someone who can throw accurately and run the play-action, and it is doubtful Favre can handle the subservient role.
I know Vikings fans are, for the most part, ecstatic today. The team finally has a quarterback that can (allegedly) put the team on his (aging) back. But can Brett Favre possibly live up to the reputation of being BRETT FAVRE? Know what you’re getting: someone who fell apart in the second half of last season, someone whose legend is built on the premise of “unsafe” plays, someone who is bipolar in his decision making. On Facebook today, many of my Skol friends expressed their joy over getting a “ticket to the Super Bowl.” Minnesota, you’re not the New York Jets, but you’re not the Steelers, either.
The Land of 10,000 Lakes has embraced its old villain, and in the process, ramped up its expectations. Now, only a Super season will do. If Favre helps the Vikes achieve that goal, he’ll be hailed as a savior (it would actually be AP); if they lose along the way, head coach Brad Childress and Favre will be out the door. It’s a situation ripe for failure.
Not that it will matter on Friday, when Favre will take to the Metrodome sidelines as conquering hero, Vikes fans pouring adulation onto him. He’ll break huddle with purple over his arm and over his head, and fans will have a season left to wonder whether it’s a symbol of royalty or bruising.
I ended my last column on Favre by talking about how Meg Ryan keeps working, but it’s best to remember her for the good work she once did, like “You’ve Got Mail.” There’s a reason for that: the stuff she’s doing now is painful to see in light of the past.
Just like Brett Favre in purple and gold.
David Gregory – GooseRadio