Brett Favre being elected to the Hall of Fame was as certain as the sun rising in the East. Obviously, he's going to be identified as a Green Bay Packer, and he should, all the kidding aside I give to my Packers friends about 'all time Vikings great Brett Favre'.
But for me, Favre will be an all time Vikings great, for a couple reasons. If you don't mind, I'd like to explain...
Ask any Vikings fan about 2009, and you'll get a wide range of responses. Most fans focus on the NFC Championship game, and how that ended against the Ne[EFF THOSE GUYS]ints.Hey, I get it. How that game ended ranks right up there in terms of franchise heartbreak moments. For me, I'm not even bothered by it.
Personally, I loved the 2009 season. For a litany of reasons, it will be my favorite Vikings season ever, regardless of how it ended. I always look back on 2009 and smile. A lot.
And it's due, in large part, to Brett Favre.
When Brad Childress took over in 2006, he had to rebuild the Vikings roster. By 2008, he had taken the Vikings to the top of the NFC North, but were bounced in the playoffs by the Eagles. As 2008 turned to 2009, the Vikings found themselves one player away from being a serious Super Bowl contender, and that player was a quarterback.
In New York, Brett Favre told the Jets that he was done, after a season that began with a lot of promise ended with an injured biceps. It finally looked like the Hall of Famer was at the end of the road, and an all time great career was coming to an end. The Jets released him and he said he was going to retire...again.
Of course, the speculation that followed became part of NFL and Vikings lore, speculation that finally culminated in one of the craziest series of events I have ever seen--Brett Favre landing in Minnesota on a private plane, being picked up and chauffeured to Winter Park by Chilly, all while being followed by TV news helicopters. With fans lining the streets along the way. It was mayhem.
Turns out that was just the beginning of what was a career full of memories packed into one season.
I remember when the Favre signing was happening, and my Dad and I had been talking about it. I went over to his place and he said 'son, this might be the year. We finally have a quarterback'. I can't explain it, but both my Dad and I knew, instinctively knew, that as long as Favre was healthy we were in for a special season. A couple days later purple Favre jerseys were available, and I went to the mall and both got us one. Up until that point, my father had never owned a Vikings jersey in his life. And he's never wanted another.
To this day, my Dad still wears his Vikings Favre jersey on every Vikings game day, without fail.
Like I said, I wish I could explain it, but we both knew something special was going to unfold, and we would watch it unfold together. 2009 was the first full season of Vikings football we saw together, from beginning to end, since I was a kid growing up in Richfield. And it turned out that was the year Brett Favre had a season for the ages.
The first two games were fun, but then came week three, against the 49ers. 1:30 left, no timeouts, 80 yards to go. Vikings down by four. Both my Dad and I stood up, beer in hand.
"Here we go, son. This is why we got him."
When Greg Lewis hauled in that speedball on a dime, we whooped and hollered like we were back on Harriet Ave in Richfield, circa1975. Just like the old days with Fran Tarkenton, Chuck Foreman, and the Purple People Eaters. Brett Favre was putting the Vikings on his shoulders and taking us on a magic carpet ride. It was magical.
The Vikings were also coming to St. Louis a few weeks after the Metrodome Miracle. Dad wasn't a spring chicken anymore, but we talked about it and he wanted to go. So I threw him in a wheelchair, got us tickets, and we went to our first Vikings game together in over 30 years. He even got on TV at the end of the game:
Yeah, that's him...hat on backwards, Favre jersey on and everything. OG Don G, lol. We both got a beer, settled in, and marveled as the Vikings completely dismantled the Rams 38-10. We saw Adrian Peterson score two touchdowns, Favre throw a TD pass (and a pick to OSU alum James Lauranaitis best of both worlds AMIRITE), and Jared Allen even scored on a fumble recovery.
I remember wheeling my dad out of the Edward Jones dome, and he became an impromptu Vikings fan mascot. Maybe it was the hat on backwards, maybe it was the wheelchair, but it seemed like every Vikings fan (and there were a ton of them at the game that day) we passed wanted to high five my dad, so he just sort of kept his hand up as we made our way out of the stadium. If he got high fived once between our seat and the car, he got high fived a hundred times, always with a 'Skol Vikings!', or 'Great game!', or something to go along with it.. Heck, he even got high fived by Rams fans tailgating in the parking lot after the game.
We were grinning from ear to ear all the way home, like a couple of complete dorks, clad in our purple Favre jerseys while dissecting the game. In the years following, he's had some serious health challenges we'll deal with for the rest of his life, so that day has taken on even more meaning, and has become more special for me as the years pass. His health was too poor to take him to the Rams game in week one of 2014, and there is no more NFL football in St. Louis, so I now know, definitively, that was the last game we'll ever see together in person.
What a hell of a game it was.
When the end came to that season, suddenly and with such brutality, I was angry. Not at Favre, not at the Vikings, but at the Football Gods. It felt like the last real chance my Dad and I had to watch the Vikings win a Super Bowl had slipped through our hands, and that pissed me off to no end. I had to take him home after the game, and it started to sink in that the season was over. I had expected to be watching the Vikings in the Super Bowl in two weeks, but my Dad, ever the wise man, gave me some more sage advice:
"Well, son, you can't win them all."
"No Dad, you can't. But it would be nice to win one."
"It was a helluva run. I had a great time watching the games with you this year. Who woulda thought Brett Favre was going to be our quarterback?"
"Who woulda thought, Pop?"
"Give me a hug and go home. The sun will come out tomorrow. Might snow a little bit, but we'll live."
"I'm sorry the Vikings didn't win, Dad."
"Son, I know if it was up to you, they would have won the Super Bowl. Just wasn't meant to be. Go home, I'll see you tomorrow."
2016 brings promise, to be sure. The Vikings have one of the youngest, most talented teams in the NFL, and a lot of people are predicting great things. I hope they all come true and the season culminates with that ever elusive Super Bowl victory.
But for me, 2009 will always hold a special place in my heart, regardless of what happens in 2016 and beyond.
And for that, all I can say is...