By Bill Ribas
In the movie “Transformers,” the robot Bumblebee plummets to earth and assumes the shape of a 1976 Camaro. He bonds with the kids, and after their few close calls with the Decepticons, hottie Megan Fox wonders why the robot took the shape of such a “piece of crap car.” The kids get dumped in a tunnel, the car drives off, metamorphing as a bright and shiny totally redone concept Camaro (now in dealerships, and you can own one too) and the robots go on to save the world.
Now no one could have predicted that director Michael Bay would have or could have foreseen the government’s Cash for Clunkers program, where Uncle Sam will toss you some money if you unload your gas guzzling beater for a shiny new model, essentially transforming you into Megan Fox for a moment as you stand in your driveway, looking at that rusting, decrepit Chevy Camaro you’ve been driving forever, asking yourself why you’re still driving such a piece of crap car.
And while Cash for Clunkers may have worked for the bulk of the American people, it may not be as successful for the Minnesota Vikings. Although they didn’t have to trade a clunker, they may have instead received one. That’s right, that’s what I’m saying, they paid cash for a clunker. And that clunker is Brett Favre.
Now anyone who has bought a used car, certainly their first one, knows the power of acquisition, that feeling of independence, of being able to go wherever and whenever they want, dependent only on gas money, and hoping beyond belief that the car will run, if not flawlessly, then well enough to get you where you need to go. And everyone has a story about their first major breakdown, of how that vehicle broke and left you all alone, popping that bubble that the world was a safe place and making you realize that cars are not infallible, and that yes, you do have to pay for repairs, and you may not make it to your destination.
In my case, it was a fuel pump on a Toyota Celica that slowly went south requiring repeated visits to the service bay. I was fortunate enough to have a friend who posed both as a relative and a lawyer, who told the dealership he was calling without my knowledge, and were we going to have to go to court over this issue? Shortly after his call, I was in the office of one of the higher-ups at the dealer, repeatedly being assured with nervous anticipation that the car would be fixed as soon as possible, that there would be no charge, and that car ran like a top after that.
Unfortunately, Minnesota may not be as lucky as I was in my youth. While I am sure there are some Viking fans with freshly chewed fingernails hoping beyond belief that they’ll see purple and gold in the playoffs, I’m trying to decide among concussion, broken bone, personal reasons, or an undisclosed ailment, and just how teary eyed the press conference will be. Wasn’t it just last year Favre beat that retirement thing, came back with the Jets, and though he started well, tanked in the final few games, losing to the man let go to make room for him (and don’t think for a second Chad Pennington doesn’t chuckle out loud at random times while reminiscing. Take that Gramps!).
I watched part of the Viking preseason game the other night, and when Favre was on the sidelines, he looked out of place, older, gray and grizzled standing next to two linemen in their 20’s. Imagine your dad poolside at the Hard Rock Rehab in Vegas, for example, and you’ll know what I mean by out of place. Maybe dad could put away the Budweiser when he was younger, but now he’s asleep on the couch Saturday afternoon after cutting the grass takes it all out of him. Favre is no different. A story on the wire said Favre thinks he might have a cracked rib, but that’s just the beginning. Bones get brittle when you get older, and recovery times lengthen geometrically. In other words, Favre will get hurt more often, and take longer to heal.
The problem is, Favre has that type aggressive A personality, and, like a shark, he must keep moving or die (although that’s not true of sharks, and comparing them to Favre amounts to animal cruelty). But it’s tough to deal with a quarterback’s mentality, someone accustomed to giving orders and not taking them, and when he’s been successful (and Favre has been successful, no denying that), it’s hard to pack it in, to give up the rush and adulation, to admit that the kids are getting bigger and faster and better than you, that your body can’t do it anymore. Thus his vacillation on retirement, and groans from people like me saying, just let it go, you had a good run, move on. But he can’t let it go, or won’t. More groans.
It will happen though, at some point this season, Favre will break down, and beer sales will skyrocket in Minnesota (or anywhere Viking fans are found). Oh sure, back in ‘69, straight out of the dealership, that Camaro would light up the tires in a heartbeat, and smoke most anything on the road. 40 years later, it’s a different story. If it makes it any easier, imagine that ’69 Camaro sitting next to the car you’re driving right now. Sure, the Camaro might be decked out with pitted chrome wheels, have racing stripes and rust spots, and the engine sounds good when you gas it, but the oil spots on the driveway point to future troubles, and sometimes it won’t start. Which car are you taking to work? Better yet, which car do you trust to take you all the way to the most important meeting of your career? If that Camaro dies, you can at least donate it and take a tax write-off. My guess is the Vikings won’t be as fortunate.