Thursday, August 20, 2009

Brett Favre's Legacy: Tight Ropes and Toxic Assets

As one might have expected, the media have been busy the last couple days speculating what, if anything, Brett Favre brings to the Vikings' proverbial sex boat. Growing up a Packers fan, I've seen Brett Favre do some absolutely spectacular things on the football field, and I've seen him do some unbelievably stupid things, too. But that's Brett Favre defined, isn't it? He walks that tight rope between the Twin Towers of Brilliance and Brainlessness, and he's never been afraid to fall. That's why we love him. That's what makes him Brett Favre, and that's why the Vikings are taking a chance on him.

But at 40, can Favre load the Vikings on his back and walk the line from the Tower of Brainlessness that is his second NFL comeback, to the Tower of Brilliance that would be his second Super Bowl title? We'll have to wait and see, but one thing is for sure: 2009 became a "Super Bowl or Bust" season for the Vikings, and especially for Brad Childress, when Favre stepped onto the practice field Tuesday. So what happens if, at the midpoint of the season, Favre, and the Vikings find themselves stuck way up on that wire in a foul, swirling wind of mediocrity?
(Foul, swirling winds of mediocrity are the only kind that blow in Minnesota.)

Unfortunately, from that perch, there is obviously no turning back. You could try, but clearly it would be no easier than just pushing forward. The Vikings, however, have never been the type of team to bear down and forge ahead when the going gets tough. In fact, the last time the stakes were this high for them was in 1998 when they played defibrillator to another aged quarterback's dying career. And we all know how that ended.

(This is surely in the Top Five of every Packers fans' favorite Vikings memories.)

But the silver lining for Vikings fans is that they can still revel in the fact that for 18 games, their team was one of the best ever; they can spin that story. But they'll be lucky if Favre can give them half as much to work with. The turd that Vikings fans will have to polish this season is this little nugget: for 17 years their quarterback was one of the best who ever played for... Not the Vikings. So what will Vikings fans be able to do, or say, about Brett Favre and something as ugly as a 65.7 QB rating for the month of October?
(Favre's monthly QB rating splits for 2008)

What Vikings fans need is a refresher course in PR. Let's take a look at this artcile from to see how the pros of politics and finance make their shit seem as though it doesn't smell like poop:

The article continues:
MARA LIASSON: Legacy securities is a new Washington buzz word. When the country first found itself in a financial meltdown, people used a different description for all those bad loans poisoning the banks' balance sheets ... Toxic assets sounded clear enough. Maybe too clear for Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, who offered this revision.

"We've put in place funds and facilities to help provide a market for those legacy assets."

LIASSON: Legacy assets. That sounds so much nicer than toxic assets. It's the difference between dark polished wood and something stinky and noxious. And that's the point...

Come on, Mara. Let's call a spade a spade here: "something stinky and noxious" is a euphemism for "shit", isn't it? But I guess you probably can't say that on the radio.
She's right though: "Legacy assets" does sound much nicer than "toxic assets." All it took was changing one word and suddenly toxic assets seem like something that could get you into a fraternity without being paddled by sadomasochistic closet homosexuals. Of course, the "asset" to Brett Favre's career that became "toxic" as time passed is his "gunslinger" mentality.

As a younger man, he threw many "stinky and noxious" passes, but he threw them either so hard or from such an awkward position that he left defenders slack-jawed and unable to intercept them. More often than not, the ball would whiz through defenders' hands, spiraling at 45 miles per hour into the waiting hands of a Packers receiver who knew it was coming because he'd seen Favre throw even goofier passes in practice. But having played in the NFL longer than most of his teammates and opponents have been alive, Brett Favre can no longer shock and awe opponents with stumbling, no-look shovel passes, or 50-yard bombs from his back foot. Those feats are no longer impressive. At least not when they're done by Brett Favre.

The other problem is that after having been on the wrong side of the duel for 17 years, hearing the word "gunslinger" may evoke confusion and anger among Vikings fans. They're liable to punch the Favre fan sitting next to them at the sports bar but, unlike from 1992 to 2007, that Favre fan will also be a Vikings fan. What will they do in the throws of such psychological dissonance?

Yes, "gunslinger" needs to be replaced by something new. By something that implies it's not only ok to walk the tight rope between the towers of Brainlessness and Brilliance, but also to be old and to fall; that you meant to fall, and that you love the sensation of falling.

That's a mouthful. Vikings fans may need a whole phrase. "Crazy like a fox" seems almost perfect, as many people feel Brett Favre is crazy for unretiring again. But it implies that Favre is more cunning than he is fallible. It implies he has something other than a torn rotator cuff up his sleeve. Let's try a variation of that:
Homer: That tree's been in Springfield since the time of our forefathers. Give it back or we'll bust in there and take it!

Homer2: Bust in here and take it? You must be stupider than you look.

[tries to climb the fence; fails]
[panting] I'm OK.
[tries again; fails again]

Homer2: [chuckles] Don't you get it, Springfield? It's over. You lose!

There we go: Brett Favre is no longer a "gunslinger"; he is "Stupider like a fox." This is perfect. Vikings fans are going to be hearing how stupid Brett Favre is quite a bit this year and, "Stupider like a fox!" will be the perfect response to such criticisms. In fact, this phrase will even help them deal with all of the interceptions Brett will be throwing as a Viking:

Vikings Fan 1: Man, that interception was worse than the last two he threw this quarter! Favre is stupider than I thought!

Vikings Fan 2: Stupider like a fox!

You see? In an instant, Favre is made a hero again. Can you imagine chants of "Stupider like a Fox! Stupider like a fox!" rumbling through the Metrodumb whenever Favre does, well, anything? This phrase meets all of our requirements and invokes both cunning and failure. And that is Brett Favre defined, isn't it?

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