Persona non grata

While most of the country celebrates Brett Favre’s amazing success at age 40, Packer fans know better. They know one thing and one thing only – that if No. 4 displayed even a sliver of the control and focus during the last 10 years of his career in Green Bay that he’s shown during the first five months of his career in Minnesota, Cheeseheads of all ages would’ve been partying in the streets of Houston, Texas and Glendale, Arizona instead of tossing and turning in their sleep following brutal playoff losses to the Eagles in 2004 and to the Giants four years later. Yes, it hurts every time Favre the Viking throws a safe pass in lieu of unloading one of those season-ending prayers that Favre the Packer seemed to perfect in his later years with the Green and Gold.

Why is this version of Favre so much more careful with the football than the version of Favre that the entire state of Wisconsin used to know and love worship? The answer is quite simple – he finally has something to prove. For the first time since the early ’90s, the old gunslinger entered a season besieged by extreme doubt and heavy criticism. In fact, the din was so audible that even ESPN’s constant ass-kissing couldn’t drown it out. So Favre decided to prove to all the nay-sayers that an old dog can indeed learn new tricks. He simply decided not to throw interceptions. And it has absolutely nothing to do with coaching. Mike McCarthy and Tom Clements are about as good as it gets when it comes to working with quarterbacks. As far as Twiddle Dee Childress and Twiddle Dum Bevell are concerned, they’re far better at chauffeuring around a quarterback than they are at developing one.

It all comes down to accountability, or in the case of Favre and Green Bay, a lack thereof. While McCarthy was certainly demanding, how much could he really do by the time he took over as coach in 2006? Favre had long ago become bulletproof and he darn well knew it. How else can you explain all the people who blamed Mike Sherman’s fourth-and-one call, Ed Donatell’s 4th-and-26 defense and Bob Sanders’ inability to adjust against Plaxico Burress for excruciating playoff losses while at the same time being able to almost overlook two of the worst passes in postseason history? Let’s face it, if Favre could come out of those two games virtually unscathed, he was indeed as invulnerable as Superman. And while that’s a great trait for a Superhero, it’s not so desirable in a quarterback. The kid from Kiln needed to be humbled and that’s just what took place in the weeks leading up to the ’08 season.

That brings us to Favre and the Vikings. The more you watch this story unfold, the more you’re reminded of Damn Yankees – a musical comedy written in 1955 about a middle-aged fan named Joe Boyd who makes a deal with the devil in order to become a star outfielder for the Washington Senators. His dream is to help that struggling team beat the damn Yankees. The newly-coined Joe Hardy was willing to do almost anything to make that happen – include selling his soul. Fifty-five years later, Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings are starring in an updated version of the play. In this adaption, a middle-aged quarterback and a desperate organization are willing to do anything to win a Super Bowl. That includes lying (Favre), tampering (Childress and Bevell) and cheating (Kevin Williams and Pat Williams).

So far, so good for Minnesota. Favre has enjoyed arguably the best season of his long career and the team is one victory away from a trip to the Super Bowl. But just remember, the Senators didn’t win the World Series. Hardy ultimately decided that his prior life and his soul were more important than hoisting a championship trophy. And while Favre and the Vikings apparently have no such integrity, if there’s such thing as karma, they’ll run into their own version of the devil either tomorrow evening or in two weeks. So while it’s been difficult for the greatest fans in the NFL to watch what’s been happening for the past five months, just think of how good it’ll feel when it all comes to a bitter ending. Wouldn’t that be the best story ever?