In the harsh world of the NFL, players can be released or allowed to move on if their production doesn't match their contract number. Some players are referred to as "salary cap casualties" when they are cut loose while others – like Vikings veteran leaders Matt Birk and Darren Sharper – hit the free-agent market without much if any interest from their old team. In the end, they all say the same thing – "it's a business."
On-field success aside, the business side of the potential Brett Favre deal could have a major impact on the future of the Vikings franchise – even if Favre was to play just one year in Minnesota.
I've been a Vikings fan since I was a kid and perhaps the only moment that compares to the buzz surrounding the potential signing of Favre would be the Herschel Walker trade. While remembered years later as the deal that gutted the Vikings of draft picks for years to come and being one of the primary reasons that the Cowboys became a dynasty team in the 1990s, at the time the fans were giddy about getting a player that many believed was the best running back in the game. While Favre isn't the same player he was a few years ago, his cache with fans on both sides of the Minnesota-Wisconsin border make this potential signing the biggest sports news to hit the area in decades.
Over the last 48 hours, I've had phone calls, text messages and e-mails from people I haven't talked to in months, if not years. From the checkout guy at the grocery store to the teller at the bank to the receptionist at the dentist office, everyone is talking about this story. It has come to show how much the Vikings can dominate the news and, hopefully, will serve as a signal to Minnesota legislators just how intensely their constituencies feel about the Vikes.
All four of the local TV stations had their Vikings coverage not in the sports portion of the 10 p.m. news broadcasts, but either as the top story or within the first three or four minutes of the broadcast. Why? It is what all Minnesotans are talking about. The potential Favre signing is water cooler talk gone insane. It would seem even the most casual of fans has an opinion of what is going on and, whether Favre is signed or not, it should be noted the power of the relationship between the team and its fans.
If the Vikings do land Favre, you can bet there won't be any threatened blackouts at the Metrodome this season. Tickets will start flying out the door – even in a dismal economy. It may be a circus, but it will be a circus fans want to say they were a part of. In the long run, those who have been on the fence of whether or not to build a new stadium for the Vikings to assure they remain in Minnesota may be influenced by what they hear from their constituents. Vikings fans may not always be vocal in their support of keeping the team in Minnesota, but the Favre saga has forced many of them out of the woodwork and into the light of day.
Their passion for the team has been crystallized by the Favre story and should send a clear indication to the politicians of Minnesota that the Vikings are a vital part of the fabric of being a Minnesotan. Whether Favre signs with the Vikings or not, the politicos should take a step back, open their eyes and ears and take in what the fans are saying. They love their Vikings and the thought of losing them would likely end the kind of coffee shop chatter the potential Favre deal has inspired. Even if he doesn't come here, the point has been made – the Vikings are part of our culture and shouldn't be taken for granted for the sake of money and ill-sighted political harrumphing.