Monday, November 2, 2009

Brett Favre: My hero? Not so fast

I had a chance to be at Lambeau Field for yesterday’s Vikings-Packers game. I didn’t have tickets, but Kristin and I were going to tailgate with my brother, uncles and cousin and then watch the game at the outdoor tailgate zone in the parking lot.

We decided against making the trip, in part because I thought the atmosphere could get pretty ugly. There is a lot of emotion surrounding the Vikings-Packers rivalry—and usually a lot of beer and liquor to go along with the emotions.

With Brett Favre having jumped ship to the Vikings, we figured Lambeau would turn into a war zone. Drunk, obnoxious fans on both sides would fail to keep things in perspective. Fights would be prevalent, or so we figured. So we stayed home and watched it on TV with a friend.

My celebration was limited to some clapping and a fist pump or two, especially when Aaron Rodgers’ fourth-down pass fell incomplete with just over two minutes remaining in the Vikings’ 38-26 victory. I was happy the Vikings hung on, and that this Viking-Packer business was over for now.

Favre was impressive, tossing four touchdown passes in his first game at Lambeau in an enemy uniform. He threw no interceptions and wasn’t sacked. His passes allowed Adrian Peterson some running room that was missing when the teams played earlier this season in Minneapolis.

On Sunday, Favre walked off the Lambeau field a winner. More importantly—and definitely lost in all the Favre hype—the Vikings walked off the field as winners. They are 7-1 and in control of the NFC North. Although Troy Aikman claimed they weren’t anywhere near as good as the Saints, they are one of the best teams in the NFC.

It must be because of Brett Favre. Viking fans should rejoice in our new hero, right? Well, as Lee Corso would say, not so fast, my friend.

This Vikings fan isn’t so willing to jump on the Favre bandwagon. Not yet, anyway. Maybe it’s the 17 years of bashing him. Maybe it’s because I still hate to see him deified by the national media (when is the last time you read or heard that Favre is the NFL career leader in interceptions thrown?). Maybe it’s because I remember last year wasn’t the first season he faded at the finish line.

Whatever the reason, I’m not willing to overstate Favre’s value to the Vikings. He’s an important part, no doubt. He filled a glaring void the team needed to become Super Bowl contenders. Without him, the Vikings might be 5-3 or 4-4 right now. Too many teams would have forced the Vikings to win on the unproven arm of this guy.

But they might not be 7-1 without Percy Harvin and his electrifying kick returns, either. And they might not be 7-1 without a relentless pass rush led by Jared Allen. And they might not be 7-1 if Peterson isn’t leading the NFC in rushing touchdowns.

With Favre, the Vikings have offensive balance. That doesn’t mean they need to use the same amount of running and passing plays. It means when the running game is taken away, Favre can make defenses pay.

But that’s as far as I’m willing to go at this point. Favre still has things to prove to me and other Vikings fans.

On Saturday I was at the Fox Valley mall with Kristin. I was wearing a Vikings cap and hooded sweatshirt. We stopped into a Chicago sports apparel store where the clerks wanted to know my thoughts about Favre and whether or not I can cheer for him.

“It’s still kind of hard to,” I admitted. “I’ll have to wait to see. I’ll let you know at halftime of the Super Bowl … if the Vikings are winning.”

But maybe I’ll wait until the fourth quarter. Just to be sure.