Thursday, December 16, 2010

National Friday League, Week 15

Outdoor Winter Football in Minnesota
Seeing a Viking home game played in cold December, snow plowed to the sidelines, will make me nostalgic for a time I never even saw. Purple jerseys in the cold!

On not giving a shit (or, Vikings v. Bears)

The 2010 Vikings are either going to finish 5-11, 6-10, 7-9, or 8-8 (assuming no ties, I guess). I can't find myself caring where they actually end up on that spectrum: it just doesn't really matter. If this were a young team, we could hope for a strong finish to build for something next year. But this is an old team that is going to have to make some big changes next year regardless of the next three weeks (the dread rebuilding, but with a solid core of elite-level players to rebuild with so it could turn quickly, with savvy and luck).

Yet on the other side, the Bears are one game in front of the Packers for the division. I have no animosity for the Bears outside of Viking-Bear matchups, and intense animosity for the Packers. And that can, ultimately, matter: seeing the Packers in the Super Bowl would crush my spirit.

Am I saying I'm rooting for the Bears to beat the Vikings? I would never say that. And I would never feel that.

Randall Cunningham and Brett Favre
Randall Cunningham and Brett Favre each quarterbacked the Vikings to a spectacular, memorable season that ended with an overtime defeat in the NFC Championship Game. Here were their comparable numbers during those seasons:

Cunningham '98
3,704 yards, 34 TDs, 10 INTs, 60.9%, 106.0 rating, 13-1 record
(playoffs: 46/75, 502 yards, 5 TDs, 1 INT)

Favre '09
4,202 yards, 33 TDs, 7 INTs, 68.4%, 107.2 rating, 12-4 record
(playoffs: 43/70, 544 yards, 5 TDs, 2 INTs)

Outside of those magical years, neither QB shined. In 2010, the Vikes started 5-7 with Favre as starter, and he threw 18 interceptions and added six fumbles. In 1999, the Vikings started 2-4 with Cunningham as starter, as his rating fell down to 79.1. Cunningham also finished the 1997 season, when he was the starter in a week 17 win to make the playoffs, as well as their first playoff win of the '90s.

Who did more for the Vikings? When I see Randall Cunningham Viking jerseys, I just feel empty. I don't know how I'll feel when I see Favre Viking jerseys in ten years. That depends, I suppose, on whether the Vikings win a Super Bowl before then...and whether the "Minnesota Vikings" exist at all.

Penelope waits
There are different ways to create stories and meaning from sports. Some may view through a Hero Myth, where the story is the heroism of the great individual player or the great team, whose on-field successes and failures are all part of the story of the hero's greatness (and tragedy). Or you can see sports as a Quest Myth, where the team or individual strives and struggles and takes forward and backward steps on the mission to achieve an idealized end, to cross into the Promised Land, to find that Holy Grail, to return home from Troy.

Readers know how I watch the Vikings. And during the latter parts of a season during which the Vikings will not make the playoffs, I feel like I'm stuck on some crazy half-god's island just waiting for a boat to come by so maybe, maybe I can get back on that journey home. At least then, no matter how far I am from Ithaca, I'd at least be on the water moving, quite possibly even in the right direction.

Other Games

A nice slate of games matching up teams with winning records.

Eagles-Giants. How I got my wife to give me a disgusted look Monday night: "You know how I've said if the Vikings relocate I'll become a Bears fan? Well, when Peyton Manning retires I'll need a new favorite non-Viking player. Football is way more fun for me when I have a favorite non-Viking to root for. So I was thinking, when Peyton retires, how about little brother?"

Saints-Ravens.

Jets-Steelers.

Packers-Patriots.

Jaguars-Colts. If the Jaguars win, they win the division and the Colts miss the playoffs for the first time since 2001. If the Colts win, they haven't clinched anything, but they're in very good shape to do so. The Vikings make me shake my head sadly; any football nerves I have now are reserved for Packer games and Colt games.

Remember Spurgeon Wynn?
Horrors. Just remembering.

Fantasy Box
Readers know my antipathy to head-to-head fantasy standings, and the absurd unfairness of fantasy playoffs (why not just pick a week at random and say the highest score from that week wins the championship?).

But I do now see the excitement of a playoff. When you're on the bubble just to get into the playoffs, it's exciting because you still have a shot at winning a fantasy football champion. And then if you get into the playoffs, even as the lowest seed, you need one good week against the top seed and you can still claim that champion. I get it.

Of course the week-to-week, every-game excitement of Cross Country standings overcomes the focused excitement of a playoff matchup. Still, this is fun.

3 comments:

  1. Re fabtasy:

    While I am a big fan of complete round robin to determine champions, I must say especially in fantasy I see the advantage of all that luck centered Formats.

    After all the purpose of fantasy is to keep you involved in Football, even when you have no rooting interest, when your team is in the 5-7 quagmire, when OAK plays Ari. It is also a lot about luck, no matter how you format it. Who is really to know, when Bowe is putting up 25 points and when he lays an egg. Who knows before the season, who will be this years R. Grant.

    So I feel its ok, when Fantasy is random, but it should be exciting. And the H2H/playoff format are a good way to get to a very long excitment curve.

    This year I missed at QB and WR and so I was a truly mediocre team. After 8 Weeks I stood at 3-5 and would probably been eliminated from League Title in all but the most extreme scenarios as one other team was cruising to a 12-1 finish. But through luck and a new vigor in the BOwe/Cassel partnership, I managed to finish 7-6 and get the last playoff spot on tiebreakers. that time was the most exciting of the year, whee you can calculate scenarios and really care for all teams. I dont think this would have been possible in Cross Country, as I would surely eliminated at least by week 10.

    PS: Luck dooes actually continue as I defeated the #1 team when he layed his second egg of the season, while the other two teams beat us both by a million points but played each other. I know its unfair, but it is exciting.

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  2. Anonymous12:33 PM

    Cunningham was a guy the Vikings picked up off the scrap heap before the '97 season. Favre was a gun-for-hire who didn't participate in a single training camp practice during his time with the Vikings. Cunningham's greatest playoff sin was underthrowing Randy Moss on a deep ball against Eugene Robinson in overtime. Favre's greatest playoff sin was bypassing a 5 yard run to get Longwell in 50 yard field goal range to instead throw a crazy pass back across his body that was predictably intercepted. I will always like Cunningham better than Favre.

    Let me ask this; if Cunningham had skipped training camp in '99, would you still be wondering who you'd feel better about? I bet if Cunningham had done that, people would have been outraged. But when Favre does that (two year in a row) it's okay, even cute when the Vikings send three teammates to go get him. The fact that he extorted more money out of the Vikings is apparently irrelevant.

    Cunningham will always be the more respectable player. I have no respect for a guy who shows such little respect for his team that he doesn't bother showing up until mid-August, and only then because the Vikings increased his salary. Favre never for a second cared about this season, and it showed in his play, which was, for the most part, awful.

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