Never have we seen so much revealed about a team in one game and a couple post-game interviews, but leave it to the Vikings, who have been amidst so much controversy this season, to do something unexpected this week.
Viking Nation: Cross your fingers and hope Monday night's game doesn't end up being a metaphor for the rest of the season. Tonight, the Vikings took to the Meadowlands (amidst torrential rains) to face the New York Jets in a game that began steeped in uncertainty, took an encouraging upturn and ended in a soul-crushing fashion.
There are three key subplots I identified in watching the press-conferences and the interviews (aside from the fact that Rex Ryan tells it like it is). We're going to start with the good, work our way to the bad and finally, end with the ugly.
The Good: In Two Words, Randy Moss
He's ba-aack! Randy Moss gave one of the most uplifting, encouraging interviews I heard all night. Despite having had a "long week" and being "frustrated," Moss showcased the kind of maturity, class and eloquence in his post-game interview that, in some way, exemplified his character and showed how far Moss had come as a veteran in the league.
Moss gushed over the Jets' terrifying tandem of Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, comparing them to the Tampa Bay secondary on the 2002 Super Bowl-winning team. He empathized with the Jets' Darrelle Revis (yes, the same Revis who called Moss a "slouch" last season) and his hamstring injury.
In a brief interview, Moss made nothing but politically bullet-proof statements, and had one message that stood out among all others: "It's time to get to work." Moss' infectious work ethic has already rubbed off on young receiver Percy Harvin, who, according to Favre, had "two of his best practices this week" as a result of Moss' presence.
In what looks promising to many Vikings fans, Minnesota appears to have received Moss 3.0: the new, improved, mature Moss who admits to reporters that he remains a "student of the game," as opposed to (my personal favorite) Randy "I play when I want to play" Moss.
Despite Antonio Cromartie doing everything short of smothering Moss with chloroform and saddling Moss with his child support bills, Moss managed 81 yards on four receptions, including his first connection with Brett Favre that just happened to be Favre's 500th career TD pass.
Moss, unlike his quarterback, comes with no excess baggage. He even clarified that Tom Brady sent him a text today. He wouldn't divulge the contents of the text but said to the camera, "Tom, I know you're watching this right now. I'm sorry I couldn't bring it home, buddy, but I appreciate the text."
It doesn't take Miss Cleo to figure out that the text went something along the lines of "Rip the Jets a new one for me, please." And you thought they were feuding.
The Bad: Trouble On The Home Front for Brad and Brett?
Forget about Brett Favre's off-the-field problems for now because for Monday night's post-game conference, Favre forgot about his off-the-field problems. Aside from the fact that Favre is bound for all kinds of marital strife with the revelation that he has been sending inappropriate text/picture messages to former Jets' associate Jenn Sterger, Favre was focused on a completely different marriage during Monday night's press conference: the marriage between himself and Brad Childress.
I saw Favre take more veiled potshots at his husband (Childress) than a drunk, unhappy woman at a cocktail party. Interesting stat: Against the heavy rain, Favre only passed the ball seven times in the first half, as opposed to 27 times in the second half.
When asked about the disparity in play-calling at the press-conference, Favre responded that it was "as boring a first half as [he's] ever had," and he remarked with notable bitterness that he "didn't have very many opportunities in the first half."
It was one of the times that Favre sounded borderline emotional, but his expression betrayed one of regret. Weather notwithstanding, it is possible that Childress did not trust either Favre's emotional state or his tendinitis-inflamed throwing arm.
Remember, when Childress responded to the Deadspin allegations of Favre sending lewd messages and pictures to Jenn Sterger, he said, with particular emphasis on the latter part of the sentence, that the allegations "did not affect anyone on the team: except Brett Favre." Do statements like these betray a rift between the thoughts of Favre and the thinking of Childress? Only time will tell.
The Ugly: How Does the Sterger Scandal Affect Favre's Performance...or Attendance?
It's interesting to note that Favre's inconsistency to begin Monday night's game could have been attributed to a multitude of things: the heavy rain, tendinitis in his throwing arm, disparate play-calling and finally, the allegations brought against him by Jenn Sterger, a former Jets' associate.
However, I believe the Sterger situation really did not affect him tonight. Favre is the consummate competitor, the kind of player who can block out distractions. He has the selective amnesia of a goldfish (which might be a bad thing considering he has more interceptions than touchdowns this season), but when he becomes truly invested in the game (something I sense hasn't happened since last season), Favre becomes so lost in his passions that he can block out distractions and have fun playing football.
Favre's marital infidelity being brought out into an embarrassing public forum, however, WILL play a role later into the season should his wife decide to file for divorce during the season. This suddenly becomes a much bigger issue that threatens not only his peace of mind, but also demands much of Favre physically. Divorces are not just physically taxing, they are mentally and emotionally draining affairs.
Does Favre, at the age of 41, have what it takes to handle that much stress at the same time?
Furthermore, what are the chances that Favre's consecutive starts streak is ended by a suspension handed down by Roger Goodell? Goodell has shown that he is not shy about dropping the gavel in cases of moral turpitude. Sterger has not made any allegations that imply anything outside of marital infidelity, but a sexually-charged case involving a former NFL employee certainly makes it the NFL commissioner's business.
So What Does This Mean for the Vikings?
All things considered, with Moss's positive, hard-working attitude being pretty much guaranteed, and the potential effect of the Sterger situation and Favre's relationship with Childress being but circumstantial theory at this point, it's safe to say that the Vikings will come back and begin to win games.
I never would have thought the day would come that Favre would have a potentially detrimental effect on the Minnesota Vikings from inside the organization, and that Moss would emerge as a humble role model...on the Minnesota Vikings. However, that day has come, and what a ride it's been. It looks to be a roller-coaster season, but a 1-3 record means only that there's a lot of football left to be played. Here's to hoping that it doesn't end on a soul-crushing interception from Favre.
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