American football: Favre leads all-star cast in Hollywood finals

By Cade Lucas

Among the many weird and wonderful pleasures afforded Australian viewers by the arrival of Channel 10’s One HD channel, the orgy of American sport it delivers into Australian loungerooms, free of charge, at a conveniently pleasant hour of the morning, is among the best.

And chief among these sports is that most American of all American sports: NFL.

I find US sport, much like the country as a whole, endlessly fascinating. In particular I’m fascinated that while other nations seek to avoid the cliches and stereotypes associated with them, Americans like to wear theirs as a badge of honour. Whether this is by design or because Americans simply couldn’t care less, I don’t now, but I’m quickly reminded of it as I tune in to the tail end of the AFC championship decider and the post-game wrap-up show. No sooner has Peyton Manning led his Indianapolis Colts into the Superbowl at the expense of the New York Jets, than we’re whisked off to the testosterone-infused gabfest that is the Subway Post Game Show.

Here a bunch of square-jawed ex-players, with names like Dan, Johnny and Jimmy, wax lyrical about the game with the same zeal as the voice-over guy who tells me that Subway is the food of ‘winnners!’

Yes, Americans love winners, even if they come in six-inch and foot-long varieties.

Amomg the panel members is former Pittsburg Steelers Superbowl-winning coach Bill Cowher. I know this because he’s continually referred to as ‘Coach Cowher’, as though most NFL fans need regular reminding that he did indeed once coach a Superbowl winning team.

All this backslapping bonhomie is then rudely interrupted as One HD cuts to the NFC Championship Game which is about to get underway in New Orleans. We cross just in time for the pre-game introductions and the national anthem. Out on the field the shmaltz level has been cranked up to 11. A giant American flag covers the entire field; the same field which only five years earlier was covered by thousands of refugees escaping Hurricane Katrina. Such sentiment clearly isn’t lost on anyone inside the stadium as the Star Spangled Banner is belted out with even greater reverence than usual. National anthems are par for the course at sporting events the world over, but really, nobody does them like Americans. Here, even the heavily tattooed behemoths who look like Snoop Dog’s bodyguards stand there, hands on hearts, chock full of patriotic pride and belt out the song with real enjoyment.

It all made me feel like getting up and making some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

No time for that, however — the drama was about to unfold. And what drama! Plot lines run through American sport like a James Cameron blockbuster. Never mind the fact that Conference Championships and Superbowl places were at stake; these games were dripping with fairytale storylines so perfect that you had to wonder if they’d be vetted beforehand by a Hollywood studio.

And mostly they centered on The Big Easy. In a physical sense, New Orleans still bears considerable scars from that devastating storm and its aftermath. But symbolically at least, the rise of the Saints, a team that had never made a Superbowl and was very nearly packed off to San Antonio post Katrina, seems to have given the city the type of re-birth that various layers of goverment haven’t been able to. It’s your typical rising from the ashes, sporting feelgood story.

Just as typical, and just as feel good, was a story playing out among the opposition Minnesota Vikings.  Brett Favre.

Favre is 40. He’s old. An already legendary quarterback with a Superbowl ring on his finger and a place in the Hall of Fame reserved for him, Favre has retired twice, but just can’t give up.

He wrote his legend with the Green Bay Packers, but, in a desperate attempt for one last shot at the big time, joined their most hated rivals, the Vikings. What’s all the more galling for Packers fans is that he’s arguably still as good as he ever was in Green Bay, and on the verge of leading Minnesota to their first ever Superbowl title.

Whether it be as a returning hero or villainous traitor, Favre is the undoubted star of this drama and the camera seldom lifts its gaze off him for the entire match.

Watching Farve wait on the sidelines, ready to be thrown into the game, the man looks faintly ridiculous. With his hair almost completely grey, he could easily be a middle-aged dad wearing a Vikings costume at a fancy dress party. If he grew a beard he’d probably resemble Santa Claus.

It’s only when he settles behind the offensive line, begins barking plays and throwing passes, that it’s obvious he still belongs. For most the of the game it seems inevitable that he and his team will triumph. Not because they lead on the scoreboard – the game was tight throughout – but because it’s easy to imagine the wily veteran having the final say and being the difference between the two sides. Farve and the Vikings seemed emboldened by destiny, the Saints burdened by history.

And that in a strange way that was exactly how it played out. Favre was the difference.  He threw an interception on the final drive of regular time with the scores level. His mistake gave New Orleans the ball for extra time, where the first score wins. The Saints kicked a 40-yard field goal to win their first NFC Championship and make their first Superbowl.

In Miami they’ll play the Indianapolis Colts, whose star quarterback, Peyton Manning, is from — where else? — New Orleans.

Pure Hollywood.

Comments

  1. John Butler says:

    Great stuff Cade

    Adding to the connecting plot lines, Farve grew up 60 miles from N’Awlins.

    This is one of the enduring attractions of sport. It so often produces story lines that defy script writers imaginations.

    Go the Aints!

  2. Cade,
    NFL is widely misunderstood, and thus ridiculed, in these parts. But it is actually a fascinating tactical and strategic battle (once you get to know all the rules!)
    I am looking forward to the Superbowl, and will be hoping Drew Brees turns on a show.
    By the way, I reckon it was Favre’s “Delay of Game” penalty right before the interception which was so costly.
    Cheers
    Darren Dawson.

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