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The Curious Misadventures of the Unlikeliest Sports Blogger–Part 3

The NFL lockout has dragged into its fourth month, the Minnesota Vikings and lawmakers are at odds over the Arden Hills stadium proposal, and not even Bryant McKinnie, who usually doesn’t disappoint, has caused a scandal lately. To say that stories about football in general and the Vikings in particular are thin is kind of like saying George Hamilton has a bit of a tan.

So, with absolutely nothing else to distract me, it seemed like a good time to turn my attention back to the long-neglected topic of how the heck I got into sports writing. That’s right we’re back with Part 3 of the Curious Misadventures of the Unlikeliest Sports Blogger. Which you already know from reading the title of this article. Hmmm, kind of stole my own thunder on that one.

But enough of that, back to the story.

To recap, I’m a girly-girl crème puff who also happens to rabidly love Minnesota Vikings football. In Part 1 of this series I wrote about how in August 2009, I responded to an ad asking for writers to blog about the Vikings on a site called vikingsmix and suddenly, I was writing about football every week–a prospect that wouldn’t have scared me so much if I had known just how few readers vikingsmix had. Then, in Part 2 of this series, I mentioned discovering the Daily Norseman and how different it was from vikingsmix.com. When I posted a story on the Daily Norseman I knew that people actually read it because they left comments. It was cool to write something and then share a dialogue about it with other fans. I wrote a couple posts and started to get some attention, not much, but some. Then, I posted “Brett Favre Returns to Football Again, Er, Again-Again.”

He’s ba-ack!

Eventually, the day will come when the football world no longer cares about every single thing Brett Favre does. Fortunately for me, August 18, 2010 was not that day.

Favre returning to the Vikings in 2010 was big news. It wasn’t as big a deal as it was the year before, but it was still big news. The Wilfs sent Steve Hutchinson, Ryan Longwell, and Jared Allen to Mississippi to reason with Favre and they managed to get him to agree to return for another season. Once again, Minnesota Vikings fans wanted to read everything they could about Brett Favre—even Daily Norseman fan posts written by Skol Girl. Yeah, that would be me.

My August 18, 2010 post about Favre rejoining the Vikings garnered lots of comments, lots more than my previous posts, and it even received a few recs. The recs were particularly exciting because they kept my story at the top of the fan post queue, exposing my story to more readers. However, more important than the comments or the recs, that post attracted the attention of Ted, my fairy godfather.

Where I meet Ted, sort of

Ted didn’t sprinkle me with pixie dust or say, “bibbity-boppity-boo”, but he was the first member of the Daily Norseman staff to leave a comment on one of my stories. Complimentary comments were always nice to read, but complimentary comments from someone on the site’s staff were even better. I love to write and it’s something I do almost more naturally than speaking, but I’m not doing this to get poor—so, knowing that someone on the Daily Norseman staff was reading my material made me feel hopeful.

That hopeful feeling was validated when, about two weeks later, I heard from Ted again. After my story about a particularly ugly preseason game he left me a comment saying I was a great writer and that he loved reading my posts. I remember I smiled benignly at my computer screen and asked, aloud, “Then why the hell haven’t you hired me?”

The computer screen did not respond. Fortunately, I didn’t expect it to.

The right ingredients

Success in life is about working hard and making the right choices, but it’s also about timing and luck. Ideally, through hard work and good choices, you’ll be in a position to take advantage of luck when the timing is right. This combination has almost always eluded me.

But not in early September 2010.

It was the day after the draft party for my fantasy football league and I was dead tired. We had stayed up ridiculously late enjoying the Minneapolis nightlife on a rooftop patio the night before. I was so tired that it hurt to focus my eyes enough to read. And yet, for some reason, I thought this was a good time to check my email.

Lurking in my inbox was an email from someone called Christopher Gates. I didn’t know who that was but the subject line was about the Daily Norseman. Despite not knowing who Chris was, I opened the email. It was an offer to write for the front page of the Daily Norseman.

I won’t kid you, in my sleep-deprived state, and considering what I’d been telling my computer screen less than a week before, I was under the distinct impression I was being punked. In retrospect, I can see that that didn’t make sense, but at the time I was really, really tired and not thinking straight. I did the wisest thing I could think of, I logged out and went to bed.

The next day, being much more rested and no longer seeing double, I reread the email from Chris. Good thing too because the offer was genuine. That’s how, just a month after I became at member on the Daily Norseman, I was a front-page writer.

For once, it seemed like my hard work and good choices had put me in the position to take advantage of some well-timed luck.

Thanks for reading and I’m fairly sure that in Part 4 of my Misadventures I’ll get around to mentioning marriage proposals, stalkers, and my first front-page post for the Daily Norseman. Oh, and more about Ted’s role in how I got the offer to write for the front page.

 

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Stops and Starts: What Are the Chances Favre Will Sit This One Out?

At the start of this season I naively believed that the 2010 Minnesota Vikings season would be a continuation their 2009 season. Six games into the 2010 season the Vikings have a 2-4 record and that’s just the beginning of the dissimilarities. But, should it actually happen, perhaps the most surprising difference between this season and last could be the benching of Brett Favre in favor of Tavaris Jackson.

Just typing that feels strange.

After the Vikings played the Packers last Sunday, Vikings quarterback Brett Favre hobbled off the field so gingerly that we knew he was either really hurt, or his acting had dramatically improved since There’s Something About Mary. Turns out he was hurt and had not one, but two fractures in his left foot—one in his ankle and one in his heel. With pretty much any other player, that would mean sitting out a game or two, but Favre isn’t any other player. Despite having his injured foot strapped into a walking cast most of the week and not practicing, Favre not only wants to play against the New England Patriots, but thinks he can help the team win.

I’m not sure if that’s inspirational or delusional, but it’s certainly stirring up a storm of speculation.

In an interview with the St. Paul Pioneer Press this week, former NFL quarterback Rich Gannon said that it seemed Favre’s footwork suffered when he was scrambling to try to make something happen. With his footwork and mechanics thrown out the proverbial window, Favre was making more dangerous throws resulting in more interceptions. And that was before Favre had two fractures in his left foot. One can only imagine what his footwork will be like after not practicing this week and trying to shuffle around on a fractured foot. My imagination is pretty good and I can’t come up with a version of that vision that doesn’t end poorly.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Favre could do something that makes sense and sit out Sunday’s game against the Patriots, letting Tavaris Jackson have the start.

Ideally, a back-up quarterback can step into the game when a starter is out, run the offense and not screw things up—it might not be spectacular, but it should be safe. Whether or not Tavaris Jackson is capable of that is uncertain, however, with a 2-4 record it isn’t as if Favre has raised the bar too high this season.

Now in his fifth season, Tavaris Jackson was supposed to be the Vikings’ quarterback of the future, but his tenure with the Vikings has had mixed results. At times when he steps back to throw, I can see what Childress saw in Jackson—he’s tall and athletic with a good arm. But then when Jackson overshoots his receiver or starts looking panicked after an opposing defense has gotten to him…well, then I start wondering how long it will be before rookie Joe Webb is ready to start.

While we can debate whether or not Tavaris Jackson has what it takes to be an elite quarterback in the NFL all day long, he does have something the Vikings desperately need right now, health. With two healthy feet, and a throwing arm unaffected by tendonitis, Jackson seems like the logical choice to start on Sunday. If Favre and Childress were making decisions logically, Jackson would start. Favre is too important to the Vikings to have him out on the field when his movement is hampered by a serious injury—it’s unnecessarily dangerous.

Today in the St. Paul Pioneer Press Ryan Longwell, when being asked about Favre’s ability to play on Sunday said, “I’ve seen the guy have a lot of injuries, and you just don’t bet against him.”

For me, it isn’t Favre’s toughness that’s in question, it’s his effectiveness I question. How effective can he be with two fractures in his left foot?

While Favre has good reason to have a messiah complex with regard to the Vikings (sending the team captains down to Mississippi to beg him to return can do that), his very desire to help the team should convict him to make the decision that will give them the best chance to win. Rationally, it’s hard to believe that the Vikings are better off having him play this Sunday. Maybe he’ll surprise me and have an amazing, breakthrough game and the offense will score early and often and it will be magical. I would love that. But, given the nature of his injuries, it seems like his health and availability through the rest of the season is more important than satisfying a messiah-complex or maintaining an epic string of continuous starts.

*This piece is also posted at http://www.dailynorseman.com/ under my alter ego Skol Girl.

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2010 in Brett Favre, Football, Series

 

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Deja Favre

In this changing world it should be reassuring that some things never change. However, when one of those non-changing things is the “will-he-play-or-not” dance between the Minnesota Vikings and Brett Favre, it’s debatable just how reassuring sameness really is.

Reading the paper this week I was having a serious case of déjà vu. Once again Brad Childress was in Mississippi chatting with Brett Favre and trying to find out if he wants to come back for another season in the NFL. Once again every sports reporter worth his jockstrap* is asking every Vikings player and coach he can find if they think Favre is going to play for the Vikings. Once again, no one will probably know anything until after training camp.

Last year Brett Favre proved that he could miss training camp and play football just fine. Better than fine. With the Vikings Brett Favre posted one of his best years ever. That strikes me as an incredible fete considering that even if his mechanics were great he still didn’t know his teammates and what their tendencies and abilities were.

Maybe it’s because I’m drawing on last year’s experience where I got all worked up about the possibility of Favre coming to Minnesota, despaired when he refused, and then rejoiced when Childress picked him up at the airport, but I’m promising myself that this year will be different. This year I will not succumb to apoplexy with every little update on what the MVP quarterback thinks or feels. Nope, I’m practicing being cool as a cucumber, taking deep cleansing breaths, and just waiting this one out. Valium may also be employed to keep me in a Zen-like mindset. And I think there is some justification for that approach.

With the exception of the loss of Chester Taylor and Artis Hicks and the addition of Toby Gerhart, the offense is essentially the same as it was last year. So unlike this time last year, Favre knows his teammates and their capabilities. Seems to me that would be a very important factor in Favre’s decision-making process. He can weigh what he knows of those players against their chances of winning a championship.

He also knows that, with the possible exception of Tavaris Jackson, his teammates appreciated him and want him back—no training camp, no problem. By all accounts, the Vikings players embraced Brett Favre like a legend, a coach, and a friend all rolled into a grubby hat and hooded sweatshirt. Loyalty and admiration seem to have been part of the intangible “it” factor that helped the Vikings to win the NFC north last season for the second year in a row. For as much as football players are professionals who are paid to perform, and for as much as they are also competitors who want to win because they like it, after a loss Vikings players routinely expressed sadness that they hadn’t won for Favre. Are you kidding me? There’s a dome full of fans, there’s an even larger audience watching on television, there are disgruntled owners and coaches, but the players said they wanted to win for Brett Favre.

To a guy who felt, justified or not, as if the Green Bay Packers gave him the professional equivalent of “It’s not us, it’s you” and “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out”, knowing that nearly everyone (again, T-Jack might not be so keen on it) in the organization appreciates his contribution and wants him to return has to be like ambrosia. More than any assurances Childress and Rick Spielman make, I would imagine that all that goodwill and appreciation could be the deciding factor.

So, that is why I’m going to keep practicing my yoga breathing and make an effort not to get too worried every time Coach Childress mutters into is mustache something inconclusive about the Favre situation.

*Yes, I know there are some women who report on football, but, by and large, the area is dominated by men.

 
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Posted by on July 23, 2010 in Brett Favre, Football

 

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