You know, I've been doing a lot of thinking over the past couple of days, most of it relating to our Beloved Purple. And I tried to figure out exactly what it was that my fellow fans might be going through as it pertains to the whole saga that we've watched unfold with Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings over the course of the past month and a half or so. We've all followed this entire thing with baited breath, wondering what this is going to bring to our favorite club as we prepare for the 2009 NFL season, and I wasn't quite sure how to express that.
But, thanks to the good people that make the hilarious Cartoon Network show Robot Chicken, it appears as though I've found what I've been looking for.
In her book On Death and Dying that was published in 1969, Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross introduced to the world what has come to be known as the Kubler-Ross model, or more simply the "Five Stages of Grief." Now, while Kubler-Ross used this model in terms of people that are dealing with a tragedy in their lives, such as a terminal illness or the loss of a family member, and our friend the giraffe over there on the right is using it in regards to a bit of a predicament of his own, I believe that the process also describes how many Viking fans have felt about the entire Brett Favre to the Vikings drama that has been presented to us recently.
Keep in mind, I'm not meaning in any way, shape, or form to mock anyone with this post. If anyone is offended by my using something that is, indeed, usually used in connection with tragedy in some way as a basis for this writing, I apologize in advance. I have been through the grieving process a number of times myself over the course of the last 32 years, and mean no ill in any way as a result of this post.
Stage One - Denial
-Denial is usually only a temporary defense for the individual. This feeling is generally replaced with heightened awareness of situations and individuals that will be left behind after death.
Now, while the "after death" part certainly doesn't apply to an NFL football team in any tangible way, I'm pretty sure that this is the first thought that hit all of our minds as soon as the Jets released Brett Favre a few days after the 2009 Draft.
"Nah, there's no way the Vikings are bringing Brett Favre to Minnesota."
"The Vikings just dealt for Sage Rosenfels. He and Tarvaris Jackson will have an open competition for the QB job."
"Didn't you see Favre at the end of last year? Why on earth would the Vikings want to deal with that?"
When this whole thing first started, nobody believed that it was true. Nobody thought that there was any real way that this could even remotely happen after the Jets crashed and burned at the end of 2008 with Favre at the helm. Now, I don't really believe that there are a heck of a lot of people that are still in this stage. Not after all the back-and-forth between the team and the media and Favre and Brad Childress and everything else that's taken place since late April. I'm sure that there are still a few holdouts that are at this point, but many of them have moved on through the process.
Stage Two - Anger
Once in the second stage, the individual recognizes that denial cannot continue. Because of anger, the person is very difficult to care for due to misplaced feelings of rage or envy.
Of all the stages, I believe that there are a fairly significant number of Viking fans that are in this stage of the process. For example. . .
"Why the hell doesn't (Peter King/Mike Florio/ESPN/insert target of choice) stop talking about Favre? Nobody cares!"
"I don't want that damn lawn-mowing redneck cheesebilly on our team!"
"I swear, if the Vikings bring Brett Favre here, I'll (cancel my season tickets/cancel my Sunday Ticket/stop watching games) and never support this team again!"
And, frankly, that's understandable. I say that because I spent a pretty fair bit of time during this process in this stage myself. As someone that's been running this site for almost three years, part of my job is to rip on this team's rivals, and for 16 years, Brett Favre was the face of one of those rivals. I've copped to the fact that I have said a great deal of unsavory things about #4 in the past, and I have no problem admitting that. I also understand the fact that no matter what should happen before, during, or after the time that Brett Favre puts on a Minnesota Vikings' uniform. . .and I'm not going to insult your intelligence by throwing the "if" disclaimer out there, because I'm pretty sure that it's a done deal at this point. . .many people will never get past the fact that he wore that green and yellow jersey for all those years on the eastern side of the border.
What I fail to understand is why anyone would stop supporting the team as a result of the acquisition of a player whose biggest crime was playing for the Green Bay Packers for 16 years. Hell, we're not talking about O.J. Simpson or Rae Carruth or Michael Vick here or anything. . .those guys are outright scum. While I've never been Brett Favre's biggest fan, I wouldn't ever put him in the same category as those three guys. And bringing him to Minnesota certainly wouldn't be enough to cause me to stop cheering for the team I've been a fan of for 25 years. Like I said, I went through the anger stage for a while, too. . .but I couldn't see myself stopping at that stage. I hope that a lot of you out there won't, either.
Stage Three - Bargaining
The third stage involves the hope that the individual can somehow postpone or delay (the inevitable).
This is the one stage that doesn't seem to fit in quite as neatly. The Kubler-Ross model talks tells us that this is usually a person telling whatever higher authority they believe in that they'll start doing something if they're allowed just a little more time on this mortal coil. In the case of the Favre Stages of Grief, however, it more or less means that Viking fans are trying to convince themselves that bringing #4 to Minnesota could be a good idea. . ."bargaining" with themselves and their beliefs as a fan, more or less.
"Well, he's played pretty well the past couple of years when he's been healthy."
"Man, could you imagine the look on the cheeseheads' faces when Favre walks into Lambeau Field in purple?"
"Really, if we brought him in, we'd be upgrading our entire QB depth chart, not just our starter."
There are any number of ways to get through the bargaining part of the process. It could be to look at the stats that Favre has put up when healthy over the past few seasons, it could be going back and watching the playoff loss to the Philadelphia Eagles this past January, or it could just be sitting back and visualizing a Vikings' team with Brett Favre at quarterback. This is also sort of a turning point in the process. . .a person can either accept this and move forward in the process, or they can get even more ticked off and backslide into Stage Two. In either case, the stay at Stage Three is usually a relatively short one.
Stage Four - Depression
. . .the individual may become silent, refuse visitors, and spend much time crying and grieving. This process allows the individual to disconnect themselves from things of love and affection.
Again, the Kubler-Ross description is a bit more harsh than what we need to describe how a football fan connects this to their team. This is another point that many fans have come to at this point, in my opinion. They're facing the fact that, barring something crazy, Brett Favre will be the quarterback of the Minnesota Vikings on Opening Weekend 2009. This could cause their enthusiasm for Viking football to significantly diminish, and they may fear that they'll no longer recognize their favorite club if Brett Favre is leading them into battle.
To be honest, when I wrote my piece that I put together a month ago about finally being okay with the entire Favre situation, I might have actually been straddling the line between this stage and Stage Five. I had faced the fact that the Vikings were more than likely going to have #4 in the fold by the time Training Camp got underway, but I wasn't completely "at peace" with the idea. There was still that little part of me that wanted to hold on to the dislike and ill will that I had projected towards the guy for all those years he was in Green Bay. But, eventually, I got through it, and moved myself along to. . .
Stage Five - Acceptance
This final stage comes with peace and understanding. . .
I am quite proud to say that, after all these weeks of conflicting stories and debate and everything else, that I am firmly entrenched in this stage of the process. While I'm not a fan of Favre per se, and probably never will be, I have come to the conclusion that my being a fan of the Minnesota Vikings is much, much bigger than one player, and it has been for as long as I've been a fan of the team. The Minnesota Vikings were here long before Brett Favre, and they'll be here long after. Regardless of who this team runs out on the field in a weekly basis, whether it's this year or any other year, I'll be cheering them on every bit as much as I have every other season.
I'm not surprised that more Viking fans aren't in this stage with me, based solely on what I've observed, but I will say that I'm a bit disappointed by it, and saddened by the divide that it has caused within the fan base. You can be a Viking fan without being a Favre fan, on one hand. . .and on the other hand, you can be a Viking fan without having to name your first born after Brett Favre or offer to bear his children or anything like that.
I really, truly hope that if you're reading this, that you too have come to the realization that one or two seasons of Brett Favre in Minnesota in no way tarnishes nearly fifty years of Vikings history. As a group, we've been through way more than this, and we've been through way worse than this. . .and we've managed to persevere for this long. To be honest, I'm not even sure if "signing Brett Favre" would crack a list of the Top 20 most disappointing things to ever happen to the Minnesota Vikings.
Our team needs our support in 2009, regardless of who's calling the signals or taking the snaps. Join us. . .won't you?