I identify myself first and foremost as a Minnesota Vikings fan. I grew up watching Cris Carter, Robert Smith, and Warren Moon represent the purple and gold with valor. I bore witness to The Game That Shall Not Be Mentioned, the 1998 NFC Championship Game. I was there for Culpepper’s MVP, Moss’s mimed moon in Green Bay, and the infamous Love Boat sex scandal that involved players, exotic dancers, and alleged prostitutes on a yacht on Lake Minnetonka. Knowing the disappointing history of my franchise, I’ve come to expect little from them. They’ve never won a championship, and their Super Bowl history is disappointing at best. They made it to four Super Bowls between 1969 and 1976, led by a ferocious defense (known as The Purple People Eaters) with all-time greats Alan Page, Carl Eller, Gary Larsen, and Jim Marshall, only to lose each one. The Vikings are all-time leaders in franchise futility.
As a Vikings fan, I have also had a rabid hatred for the Green Bay Packers for as long as I can remember. They broke our hearts as many times as we broke theirs, and the one man who broke my heart so many times over the years was Brett Favre. This freewheeling, gunslinging, redneck cowboy of a quarterback from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, drank his way out of Atlanta, cheated on his wife, and got addicted to painkillers, all in the course of a 17-year career that recently “ended” with a two-year-long media blowjob orchestrated almost solely by the Worldwide Leader in Hype, ESPN. Last summer was filled with endless footage of a sleeveless Favre throwing drills with a high school team in Mississippi and accompanied by endless commentary by talking heads discussing the Favre situation. He retired, then promptly unretired. He wanted to play for the Vikings but the Packers wouldn’t let him. He was traded to the Jets, but the Packers put a clause in the contract that made the Jets give up 3 first round picks if they traded him to any team in the NFC North, including the Vikings. It was never-ending, and then when the season started, the Jets were the biggest story of all, because of the gray-stubbled, grizzled veteran lining up behind center every week. The same dance began again this April, when the Jets released his rights, opening the door for any team to sign him. He swore up and down he wasn’t coming back, but the reports would not go away that the Vikings coaching staff was courting him like a junior-year prom date.
It was obvious that something was going on when he decided to get surgery on the throwing shoulder that made the last eight games of last season miserable for him. Throughout June and July the chatter continued, and Favre himself admitted that he wanted to play for the Vikings. Finally, in late July, Favre re-retired, claiming that he was not willing to put up with the stress of another NFL season. Along with my fellow fans, I breathed a sigh of relief, thankful that the whole ordeal was finally over. This past week, Jay Glazer of FoxSports.com reported that anonymous Viking players were sure Favre was going to join the team; the next day Favre boarded a plane from Hattiesburg to St. Paul, and that afternoon was suited up and in practice.
Even without Favre, the team we have this year would still be one of the best in recent memory. We boast the NFL’s best player in Adrian Peterson, and the defense will likely rank among the league’s top five. With 6’8” rookie right tackle Phil Loadholt in place as the starter, the offensive line is formidable as well. Last year, they went 10-6 and made the playoffs, losing in the first round to the Philadelphia Eagles, 26-14. The consensus among the media and scouts was that the Vikings were a passable quarterback away from being Super Bowl contenders. Now that we have a passable quarterback in Brett Favre, I am conflicted. I’ve spent my whole life mocking Brett Favre, even expressing joy at the news of his wife’s cancer diagnosis and the destruction of his house by Hurricane Rita. I’ll admit that was cold, but I reiterate: I am a Minnesota Vikings fan. I hate the enemy. Brett Favre was the enemy for as long as I can remember, and now I am placing my hopes squarely on his surgically repaired, yet somehow still injured shoulder. He gives us the best chance to win a Super Bowl, but it is shaky at best. What if he doesn’t want to play second fiddle to Adrian Peterson? What if he starts flinging the pigskin with reckless abandon, as he did in his worst days in Green Bay? What if he gets hurt during Week 3 and we have to give the ball to an understandably disgruntled Sage Rosenfels? The variables are endless, but at the end of the day I have to root for whomever gives us the best chance to win.
The most distressing part of this whole ordeal is the looming stadium situation. The Vikings’ stadium lease ends after the 2011 season. There is no plan to build a new stadium, and neither the NFL nor the Vikings organization wants to re-lease the dismal Metrodome. After the Love Boat, the public perception of the team has dropped significantly, and after signing off on brand new stadiums for the Gophers football team and the Twins, the legislature is reluctant to sign off on what could be a nearly billion-dollar proposal.
There may not have been a more ironic situation in the history of sport. The Minnesota Vikings have turned to the man who has been a thorn in their side for over a decade and a half. The franchise’s most infamous enemy is also the man who needs to win it a Super Bowl this year. If he doesn’t, we may lose our team. Torn doesn’t even begin to describe the way I feel about the Brett Favre signing. I guess we’ll see what happens.