I grew up a Vikings fan. So much so that not only know Fran Tarkenton's middle name is (Asbury), but that, as an adult orphan, I know the day that he lost his father. The date was Dec. 28, 1975.
On that day, not only did the Vikings lose a heartbreaking playoff game that still harbors resentment with old-school Vikings fans, but it remains a memory that rivals the "Where were you when JFK got shot?" moment that anyone over the age of 50 can immediately recall. In fact, legend has it that Tarkenton himself found out about his father's death by hearing it on TV at halftime of the late game being played following the Vikings' 17-14 loss to the Cowboys.
Perhaps that is why the recent media blitz that Tarkenton has chosen – or been forced to endure – has become such a spectacle. Nobody forced him to call the Brett Favre situation "despicable." Nobody forced him to go on KFAN Radio or speak to the local media in order to justify his comments made on an Atlanta radio station. He chose to do it. Call it what you want – spin control or clarifying a point – but Tarkenton has learned the hard way that making comments on a local radio station have far-reaching consequences. In the era of world-wide communication, opening yourself up to criticism comes with a price.
I have tried on more than one occasion to get Tarkenton to comment on stories in the past. Above my computer, I have a dozen Post-It notes of phone numbers. One of them has Tarkenton's home and business numbers. I have tried them both when attempting to get comment on the Vikings' Super Bowl seasons of years past. I have met some very nice people that answer his phone, but have yet to get Tark to call back or acknowledge his own Vikings past, even when the subject is him being in the Hall of Fame.
So it comes as something of a surprise that he has chosen to be so venomous in his reaction to the Vikings/Brett Favre saga. He is far from alone in his feeling that hard-core Vikings fans can't and won't accept the possibility of Favre being a Viking after spending so many years with the Green Bay Packers. But, he as much as anyone should know that the game is much different than it was when he played.
On Thursday, Tarkenton went on the record with both KFAN and the Star-Tribune with his clarification of what he said on an Atlanta radio station about Favre. Whatever his motivation, the crux of what he said initially remains the same. He can invoke the names of Ray Nitschke or Jim Marshall, but the NFL is a much different game now. Loyalty is relative. If you're earning your paycheck, you stay on the team. If not, you're sent packing.
The fact that Favre is still relevant at age 39 is a testament to his skills. The fact that Tark has to call him out and question his loyalty is completely different deal. There is no bitterness on this end with what he has said or continues to say. He has the right to express his opinion. But, as someone who grew up following his career, I have to admit that some of the shine has been tarnished on that memory.
Fran Tarkenton will always be part of my childhood. That won't change. But his recent comments, especially the part where he said he hopes Favre comes back and fails, doesn't sit well. It harkens back to the 1972 Dolphins – who celebrate each year when the last undefeated team falls from the ranks of the unbeaten. If it happens, it won't change the fact that they were the first or that it took so long for anyone else to replicate the feat. It just makes them seem a little petty.
Commentary: Tark's talks seem petty
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