As I write this post, the Minnesota Vikings are playing the Houston Texans in a pre-season game. I have no idea how the game is going, nor do I intend to watch it. I rarely watch football games, even during the regular season, that don’t involve the Washington Redskins.
I confess, however, to having some interest in the Vikings this year ever since they brought Brett Favre on board. The last-minute addition of the illustrious, flamboyant veteran quarterback– plus all of the will-he-wont-he and will-they-won’t they that preceded it – was a major topic on sports radio for weeks. In these parts, there there seemed to be considerable sentiment that (1) Favre should stay retired, (2) the Vikings shouldn’t bring him back, and (3) there would be something wrong with Favre, the long-time Green Bay Packer, playing for the rival Minnesota team.
I didn’t really understand any of these views. First, perhaps because of my age, I’m sympathetic to athletes who want to keep playing. Favre will have the rest of his life to not play football; why wouldn’t he want to lead an NFL team for another year?
It can be a bit sad when a player is truly washed-up and won’t admit it. But there’s little evidence that Favre is washed up. Last year, playing for the New York Jets, his QB rating was 81. That’s not great, but it’s good enough to demonstrate that he wasn’t washed-up last year. In fact, it’s not substantially worse than his career rating of 85.4 (which includes last year’s rating).
Second, why would the Vikings, who aren’t exactly loaded with quarterbacking talent, not want a player of Favre’s caliber, especially after their putative number one guy got hurt? As much as Favre struggled for the Jets in the second half of last season, the team still increased its win total from 4 games to 9. Moreover, Favre played the latter part of the season with a torn biceps tendon in his throwing arm. Absent that injury, he might well have the Jets into the playoffs and possibly to a dream season.
At Favre’s advanced age, of course, injuries are to be expected. But it’s not unreasonable for the Vikings to hope that Favre will stay relatively healthy. If he doesn’t, they can always play the guy who would have started had Favre not been signed.
Finally, anyone past puberty should be able to deal with the fact that a Packers legend will be lining up at quarterback for the rival Vikings. In fact, for most of us the story (or “story line” as a story is called nowadays) will make the season a bit more interesting. In any case, the Packers basically ran Favre off their team, as I understand it, so why shouldn’t he sign on with a rival outfit?
Decades ago, George Blanda became a hero to middle-aged men by playing football until the age of 48 as a place kicker and, in theory at least, backup quarterback. Frankly, I don’t see Favre’s decision to continue playing at age 40 as particularly heroic, but I do respect it.
JOHN adds: For me, the all-time great sports analyst is Bill James. I remember, more than a couple of decades ago, James writing about the Chicago Cubs’ starting the young rookie Shawon Dunston at shortstop. James rehearsed the arguments about whether teams ruin prospects by bringing them up prematurely, but concluded by saying that the only important point was that Dunston was a hell of a lot better than anyone else the Cubs had. If you’re a GM, that’s the bottom line. And, while I’m not much of a pro football fan, after a couple of exhibition games it’s obvious that Favre is a hell of a lot better than anyone else the Vikings have.
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