Fran Tarkenton doesn’t just think signing Brett Favre would be a mistake for the Vikings as a football team – he believes it would violate the very essence of what it means to be a Viking; an essence that, in Fran’s mind at least, is intimately tied up with feelings of tribalistic hatred toward that team to the east that, with Favre at the helm, tormented Minnesota and their fans for so many years.
“I know the Minnesota press, fans, whatever have gotten kind of excited about is the flamboyant, Hall-of-Famer to be, the great Brett Favre going to come here?” Tarkenton said. “But if they sober up a little bit [they will think], ‘Is that the old Packer over there leading the Vikings?'”
“I can’t put my arms around this as a Vikings fan. I was born a Viking, I retired a Viking and I will die a Viking. … And in the spirit of sport — I don’t like to use the word hate — but [the Packers] are the enemy are they not? And I want to embrace the icon Brett Favre to come over here and play for my team? He’s a Packer and should be a Packer. That’s his legacy. Now if he were to go out and play for the Chargers, I don’t have any problem with that.”
Some have accused Fran of hypocrisy, pointing out that he once forced the Vikings to trade him away – a funny way for a loyal Viking man to behave – and that, in recent years, he hasn’t exactly been a vocal team booster. A few have even alleged that Fran is only making these remarks because he has a book coming out and it’s all a marketing push. To which I say: “Can it all you haters.”
Fran, with his old-school way of looking at things, is a refreshing voice rising above the chorus of Favre worshipers and saying, “Hold up here a second.” And yes, maybe his motives are self-serving, and maybe he’s full of crap in the end – I frankly don’t agree with him that the rivalry matters – but the fact that he’s willing to set himself against the tide of popular opinion and throw new takes into the monotonous mix makes him a kind of hero in my book.
Shaking things up is never bad. And Fran has definitely shaken things up.