When i was just a lad, part of my attempts to shirk convention and cement my non-conformity involved developing a passionate hatred of local heroes the San Francisco 49ers. I can recall rooting for them when they won their first two Super Bowls with Joe Montana, as i was still in elementary school. But by the time the Steve Young era rolled around i was rooting for whoever the Niners were lined up against. So much so that i was getting yelled at by my poor mother, who didn't have the nerve to watch Niner games live and knew that if i was in the other room cheering then something bad was happening. As i was a football fan, i had to have some team to get behind, and as the Raiders were still down in L.A. (and they routinely sucked), the two teams i wound up becoming a fan of were, for no real reason, the Minnesota Vikings and the New Orleans Saints. Both were respectable in the 1988-1992 timeframe, not winning championships but performing adequately. I remember getting really upset after a game in which the Saints blew a chance at the playoffs by letting the Los Angeles Rams come from behind to win. I even remember my favorite player on the Saints, defensive end Pat Swilling. I wanted a Saints baseball hat with "#56 Swilling" printed on the back. Again, for no sensible reason.
Long ago i realized it was ridiculous for me to loathe the 49ers, unfortunately after their glory days and well into their current mediocrity. My fondness for the Vikings and Saints also faded from lack of reason. However this past Sunday my former allegiances went head to head for a place in the Super Bowl, what would be the first for the Saints and a fifth chance for the Vikes to get their first championship. I didn't watch much of the game, but what little i did see put a definite ranking on who my true team was ... who dat? ... the Saints. As the game entered overtime i found myself genuinely nervous that the Saints would lose. Whether this is because i truly love dem Saints or because i can't handle any more Favre gushing, who's to say. But i am feeling a cosmic right that one ended up winning and the other, perhaps more importantly, ended up looooooosing.
On that note, one can only hope that Brett Favre has thrown his last pass in the NFL. And what a perfect ending to his career, as his last throw was a horribly ill-advised cross-field wounded duck that was picked off, ending the Vikes push for a game winning field goal and sending the contest into overtime, where the Saints won the toss, marched downfield, and ended it. The Favre disciples love to tout his gunslinging ways, but i remember plenty of games where he got in a hole, then dug it deeper and deeper by trying to be the hero and throwing more and more bad passes. Four interception games. Games where Favre was undeniably responsible for the loss. His messy divorce from the Packers was more Favre cult revisionism ... nowadays people like to blame the Green Bay brass for letting him go, apparently forgetting that Favre retired and then threw a fit when he changed his mind three months later and found the team in the midst of rebuilding and unwilling to scrap it all to take him back. The fact that he ended up in Minnesota is also frequently explained away ... let's be clear, the chance to go up at least twice against the team that had the audacity to let him go was a huge factor in his decision. I'll admit, i was surprised at his performance this season as Favre appeared to have left his gunslinging ways behind him, trimming down on his mistakes and turning the Vikes from a team with potential to a legitimate powerhouse. I thought he'd get drilled into the turf by week 9 and spend the rest of the season on the bench, but the iron man prevailed. I thought the Vikings had a great shot to best the Saints and make it to the championship game, but at the critical moment Favre's failings reappeared ... a crushing injury that he had to show he could play through (although to be fair, letting Tarvaris Jackson step in would've been much, much worse), and then a horrible pick that he never should've thrown that killed Minnesota's final chance. Brett has undeniable durability and has been an interesting NFL fixture for 19 years, but compared to a Joe Montana? Dan Marino? More recently, Tom Brady? Peyton Manning? Not in the same league. Again, the Favre defenders will point out that he rarely had the supporting cast of those characters, but i can only judge on what i saw. And i saw Favre throwing a lot of bad passes.
V bought me a pair of Ugg slippers last week, and i now find myself putting them on within minutes of walking through the door. I think that makes me officially old.