THE SHIFTING TIDES OF BRETT FAVRE

brettfavreG_450x300Favre renders the childhood of thousands of Packers fans useless…

The Vikings are 5-0, and looked at objectively by NFL writers as one of the top 2 or 3 teams in football. The Vikings. The team that was going to run Tavaris Jackson or Sage Rosenfels out at quarterback and hope for the best. But with the team closing training camp, head coach Brad Childress rolled the dice and talked Brett Favre into coming back to the NFL one more time and playing for the Vikes.

And now they are the toast of the league.

Yet finally, the public opinion on Favre shifted. For the longest time the man could do no wrong. Waffle about retirement? That’s just Favre — the competitor — not sure if he can walk away from a game that he loves so much. Throw brutal interceptions? That’s just Favre — the gunslinger — trying to make a play to help his team win. Get out front and block for a running back or wide receiver? That’s just Favre — the perpetual child — playing the game with more love for it than any other player since pigskin was stitched into a goofy shaped ball. Start 273 consecutive games? That’s just Favre — the warrior — that will never let something as trivial as an injury get in the way of him and his teammates.

Now? Favre is a brittle old man that surely can’t make it through an entire NFL season. Peter King, one of my favorite football writers even though he has long lusted over the great Favre, finally had enough. After Favre neglected to tell King about his plans to continue playing, King had a seismic shift in his man-love for Wrangler #4, and it was brilliantly chronicled by Josh Levin at Slate.

King and Favre are the sports world’s leading symbiotes. For two decades and 78 retirements and unretirements—including Tuesday’s signing with the Minnesota Vikings—the quarterback has given Sports Illustrated‘s football scribe unrivaled access to his life and inner thoughts. In return, King has lovingly documented Favre’s on-the-field derring-do and off-the-field tractor-riding and lawn-mowing. For King, the QB has been both a meal ticket and a member of his extended family: The twosome dined together on the Fridays before Packers games and shared quality time on Favre’s Mississippi property.

As Favre began to contemplate retirement, the writer and the source stayed close. When the quarterback has that sinking feeling he might want to retire, King gets the first phone call. “I’m just tired,” the QB told the writer last year. “I wish I had some big dramatic reason why. But I don’t.”

Today, King continues to bang his new Brett Favre drum, and wonders (again) whether or not Favre can stay healthy. As if the 273 games of consecutive evidence means nothing and that Favre is merely one hard slap away from combusting on the field of play.

Favre turned 40 Saturday — doubt he got many birthday cards from Green Bay zip codes — and celebrated by leading the Vikings to their fifth straight win, in St. Louis on Sunday. But that’s not the milestone date I was thinking about this weekend.

Today is the one-year anniversary of the hit from Cincinnati linebacker Rashard Jeanty that led to Favre’s right biceps injury, and led to the arm and shoulder pain that made his late 2008 season so miserable. In his first first games a year ago — the injury happened during Game 5 — Favre completed 71.3 percent of his throws for the Jets, with 13 touchdowns and six interceptions. He was 63.3 percent after that, with nine touchdowns and 16 picks. So my question to him last week was the same as my question to him in the summer: Can you last?

“I don’t know,” he said when I spoke to him in the tunnel at the Metrodome, an hour or so after the emotional win over the Packers. He looked like he’d been through a 15-round fight, emotionally and physically. “No one knows. You never know what’ll happen. I know how hard I’m working for it.”

He said he hasn’t had anything to drink but water, has sworn off sweets, hasn’t been hunting, and said he’s throwing totally pain-free. I asked him about the gigantic welcome-to-Minnesota billboards Wrangler, one of his employers, has put up around town. “Haven’t seem ’em,” he said. “All I see is the road between my house and the training facility.” Tunnel vision.

That probably gives him the best chance to make it. But we won’t know how this story turns out until we see if Favre can make it and play competently through December, and he knows that.

It’d be one thing if Favre’s injury was something chronic — a knee, back, concussions — but we’re talking about a bicep tendon. That could happen if you’re 25 or 45, it’s a fluky injury that’s easily fixable, and was by a surgeon that may know a thing or two about arm injuries named Dr. James Andrews.

Listen, I’ve despised Favre for over a decade, his hyper-jubilance and fake team-first-rah-rah gag worthy, especially with him playing for the Guantanamo Bay Packers, but let’s all be honest. Favre has finally run out of good will, he hasn’t run out of football acumen.

It’s a brave new world for Vikings fans and while I’ll never fully get behind Favre as a man of purple, I’ll enjoy the ride, especially since it’s so wonderful to revel in the anguish of Packer fans everywhere, watching their savior quarterback the enemy.

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FEEL GOOD STORY OF THE DAY… OR NOT.

For your feel good story of the day, I present to you the heart-warming tale of Jennifer Valdivia, a 12-year-old girl going to her first baseball game with her Cuban grandfather.

Jennifer and Grandpa head out to the Marlins game and sit in the right-field bleachers, shelling out at least $4 a piece to sit in the middle of baseball’s Siberia. Yet when Ryan Howard bombs his 200th home run into the bleachers the ball bounces into Jennifer’s hands, and she’s immediately converted to a Phillies fan for life.

Or maybe not:

Jennifer, go away. Take your slimy lawyer, Norman Kent, with you.

Let’s be honest. The memorabilia market has cratered. Trying to say that Ryan Howard’s 200th home run is worth thousands of dollars is like saying that Billy Ripken F#ckFace card is going to pay for your kids college education. It’s just stupid. Thousands of dollars? Get serious, Norm. This kind of cash grab is disgusting. What next, did Jennifer slip on a wet spot on the clubhouse floor and injure her back? Maybe she saw a naked man in the locker room and now she’s having reoccurring nightmares that give her migraines and she’ll never be able to love America’s Pastime now. That’s got to be worth thousands of dollars too, right?

Did the Phillies handle this one the wrong way? Absolutely. But what are they supposed to do? This girl probably knows Ryan Howard the temp on The Office more than she knows Ryan Howard the baseball player, and it’s not like she’s interested in shaking the guys hand.

Congrats to Jennifer for getting her baseball back. Hopefully it brings you the money you feel you so richly deserve. But beware of those seller fees on eBay, they really cut into your profit margin. And please stay away from baseball games for eternity.

TBS AND MLB.COM DROP THE BALL AGAIN

Yesterday’s play-in game between the Twins and the Tigers was one of the greatest baseball games of all time. Game 163 is an incredibly rare occurrence and with the eyes of all baseball fans on the final regular season baseball game in the Metrodome, the epic battle between two teams playing for their season lived up to any hyperbole you could expect.

It’s too bad that Major League Baseball screwed it up.

MLB.tv has long been one of the only things that baseball does in packaging its sport better than the NFL. While fans dealt with the bad video feeds, clunky user-interface, terrible website and other idiosyncrasies, they dealt with it because they could watch their favorite teams on their laptop, an incredibly useful thing for hard core baseball fans that follow the game.

Yet baseball’s coverage of game 163 was embarrassing. Yesterday’s game wasn’t the beginning of the playoffs, it was the end of the regular season. This game counts in the regular season standings, it counts in regular season statistics, yet somehow didn’t count in the regular season coverage of baseball.

Most of us that watch these games online (like anyone living on the West Coast and trying to monitor the game from work) were forced to purchase Postseason.tv — another $9.99. I ponied up the money even though it was salt in the wounds and technically BS, because I wanted to watch the baseball game, and I’m glad that I did after following the action. But MLB.com and TBS couldn’t even give us a true broadcast of the game, instead scamming us with a half-assed product that was terrible to follow and had the production value of a high school A/V project.

Instead of letting us simply watch the broadcast like MLB.tv did all season, you were only given the TBS crew’s audio coverage, and one of eight camera feeds from the stadium. You had to manually switch from one to the other, with a huge buffer delay between the switch. You could chose to watch the game from the centerfield camera, the homeplate camera, or six different angles that stayed fixed on one thing the entire game. No replays, only limited camera movements, no graphics, none of the things that you’d assume you were paying for — after getting it for 162 other games. TBS was even dense enough to keep the microphone feeds on during commercial breaks, so you could hear first hand how awful Ron Darling and Chip Caray’s knowledge of the two teams playing in the game truly was.

“Is Mauer wearing a throwback helmet?” Darling asked at one time about the Twins MVP catcher. He’s worn the same catchers helmet for seasons, Ron.

Following the game from a stationary camera behind homeplate and being forced to listen to the absolute butcher job Caray and Darling did of the greatest regular season game in recent memory was just another example of MLB not understanding that the fan experience is one of the most important things they need to be worrying about. The slimy move of charging viewers that have spent good money all season to watch a game that should technically still be considered a part of the regular season is just one more reason I think Bud Selig is clueless.

Imagine my disdain if the Twins actually lost.

WHY DO PEOPLE CARE ABOUT THESE PEOPLE?

I give up. Why do people watch this crap? This entire panel is filled with people who shouldn’t have a public existence, yet all do for some reason. Nancy Grace… why are you famous? Short little black lady… who are you and why are you famous? Jon Gosselin… how can you walk around with that stupid diamond earring, dump your wife and eight kids, continue to wear Ed Hardy, and go on a show like this, just to win the public PR battle? And Lara whatever your name is… you have a job where you are mediating between all these not famous people. How do you look in the mirror?

All these people are idiots.

Idiots. Idiots. Idiots.

CAN I GET A CHERRY ON TOP?

domeoutsideCan we get a little bit more home sweet dome?

This has been the highest stakes weekend of sports in my career of fandom. With Notre Dame’s heart-stopping victory on Saturday, the Twins miraculously making up ground on the Tigers, the border battle for Paul Bunyan’s ax, Brett Favre versus the Packers, and the Twins about to face the Tigers in game 163 to close out baseball in the Metrodome, this has been one of the more miraculous sporting weekends I can remember.

(Combine that with a certain landmark birthday, and it was quite a rollercoaster…)

Now I don’t want to be greedy, but can we get one more? Can we see the Dome stay open for a few extra games, and get the Yankees to town for a nothing to lose shot at the Bronx Bombers?

The Twins have no business winning any playoff games this season, but that’s what makes this so enjoyable. The past few Twinkies teams to make the playoffs had the burden of expectations, which makes winning playoff baseball games even harder. This year’s Twins team would run Carl Pavano out for game one in Yankee Stadium… could you imagine it?

With a rotation pulled together from the discount rack, and a lineup missing the Twins’ most dangerous power hitter and starting infielders Nick Punto and Matt Tobert –two guys I’m convinced I could still go out and get out — the Twins need to get to a 20-year-old pitcher in the Metrodome before they get to enact Operation Smoke & Mirrors in the new Yankee Stadium.

Man I hope it happens…

YOU KNOW YOU’RE A DORK WHEN…

This from Stewart Mandel, SI.com’s premiere college football writer.

About once or twice a season, I like to go mingle with my fellow Northwestern alumni at Blondie’s, the fabled Upper West Side establishment where New York City Wildcats fans (yes, they exist) gather on Saturdays. Sadly, the faithful went home disappointed following a 35-24 loss to Minnesota, but not before engaging in an appropriately nerdy, yet brilliant ritual.

In past years, the Blondie’s contingent celebrated touchdowns by singing the school’s fight song, downing purple shots and lifting someone in the air (in past years, a girl; this year, a baby) for each point on the scoreboard. They’re still doing all those things — but with an added twist. Whenever the score comes on a touchdown pass by quarterback Mike Kafka, one of the ringleaders at the bar … reads a passage from Kafka.

There were several Florida State fans present at the same time watching their game. The only thing I saw them reading was the beer list.

If there was ever any question as to whether or not Northwestern people are dorks, I think this puts that one to bed.

Zany drinking games including purple shots, lifting people in the air, and Kafka quotes. One of those things doesn’t belong.

Then, in true snide Northwestern fashion, Mandel reminds us that people that went to Florida State didn’t go to Northwestern. Reading a beer list at a bar — how common.

Sigh…

ENJOY THIS BEFORE IT GETS PULLED.

Oh, bite your tongue Jesse Palmer, Chris Fowler, and Craig James. You guys must not remember what it feels like to put half the money in your college bank accounts on a moneyline parlays, then watch your team storm back from behind, only to lose on a f-ing field goal.

(2005 USC Flashback! 2005 USC Flashback! Make it stop, make it stop!)