Based on the 2009 regular season, you could debate which was the better team between the Dodgers and the Phillies, but based only on the 2009 NLCS ( which is all that really mattered ) it was clear that the Phillies played better. So, for a Dodger fan, it was a bad loss, but it was not a senseless loss. The pain of the loss came from the feeling that the team should have played better. It could have been worse. It could have been the kind of contest after which the losing fans feel that a cruel script has been drawn up for them, been laid upon them, like an old world curse, that strange chance and untimely weakness has tragically unwound all skill and achievement and delivered, at the end of struggle, bitter defeat.
And that was the fate of Viking fans yesterday. Better, by far, to have been a Jets fan yesterday, and know that your team played well, achieved beyond sensible dreams, but just wasn't as good as the Colts. But for the Vikings, what logic determined their fate? They outgained the Saints by over 200 yards, but could not hold on to the ball. Both teams, in fact, had trouble handling the football. The Vikings fumbled six times, and lost the ball three of those times, while the Saints fumbled three times, and lost the ball once. In spite of this barrage of fumbles, the Vikings were in position to win the game as regulation came to a close. The game was tied 28 apiece, and Brett Favre has driven the Vikings to the doorstep of a make-able, game-winning field goal. Third and 10, and maybe a run up the middle for five yards would be just the thing to set up the field goal and win the game. But before anything like that could happen then there was a senseless penalty for 12 men in the huddle. Suddenly the field goal was a little too long, and it was third and 15, and a play had to be made to save the chance at the game-winning kick. I'm sure that's what he was thinking, Mr. Favre, as he came out of the huddle for that fateful play. He had to make a throw. He had to make something happen. I think maybe Brett Favre was the greatest ever at making something happen in the history of sports. And here, finally, in a game full of fumbles and muffs and strange plays was the inner logic that would guide the game to its conclusion. What had to happen, happened.
The Saints came after Favre, and he was chased to his right. Thinking, probably, that he had to make something happen, Favre threw back to his left, against the grain, as they say, against sanity, they might just as well say, for those poor Vikings fans. But for the rest of us? It was the greatest throw of Brett Favre's career.
I would like to think he made that throw for us, the rest of us. The ones who were tired of the how much announcers gushed over him. The ones who were sick of his yearly retirement dance, which first began in 2006 and has become worse and worse with each passing year, culminating in the sleazy farce this year where he said he was retired for good at the start of training camp only to then suddenly come out of retirement after training camp was over. That throw was for us, intended or not. It revealed the truth, that Favre is still an overrated gunslinger. Everything that came after, the overtime coin flip won by the Saints, the overtime penalties, the pure field goal for the win by the shaky young kicker, it all seemed to flow from that throw. That beautiful throw. An interception, from Brett Favre's hand, across the field, into the arms of America.