I last visited Minneapolis in the summer of 2007, a few weeks before the I-35W Mississippi River Bridge collapsed, killing 13 people and injuring 145. I was there with my son, on our way to a hockey camp in the upper lakes. The city provided a brief respite before we loaded our rental car and headed north. We spent our only night in the city strolling through Nicollet Mall, gazing at the shops and sidewalk cafes before settling down for dinner at a local sports bar.
My impression of the city was quite favorable. The streets were clean, the shops and restaurants inviting. I was most struck, however, by the friendliness of the people and the sense of contentment that was apparent wherever we went. Perhaps we were merely witnessing the relief of summer after what was undoubtedly a harsh winter (many of the downtown buildings are connected by elevated skyways, which are used to traverse the area when the cold pervades). Whatever the reason, it was clear that the pace of life in Minneapolis is much slower than that of Miami and New York, where I have spent most of my life. Drivers are much more courteous, residents much more patient.
The people of Minneapolis will need every ounce of their patience to deal with what has become an annual sporting rite. Every year at this time soon-to-be Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre begins his game of “Will He Or Won’t He.” Fabre is now 40-years old, and clearly does not relish the idea of spending late summers in camp, training with teammates for the upcoming season. Thus, every year he wavers between retirement and return to the NFL, feeding the media’s appetite with occasional comments of non-committal.
Perhaps to justify Favre’s apparent indecision, and the long, drawn-out process that inevitably results in his return, each year rumors circulate about injuries Favre has suffered and must overcome. Last year speculation centered on Favre’s shoulder, this year on his ankle. Each year, however, the pattern is the same: as the start of the season approaches, Favre’s aging body stages a miraculous recovery, and he is able to join his team for one final preseason game before the NFL campaign begins anew.
The impression is that Favre is playing a game that he seems to relish more than what he does on the football field. He enjoys being the center of attention, and will keep his employer guessing while he appears to weigh options and makes daily headlines. The Green Bay Packers and New York Jets both tired of Favre’s off-season game, and moved on to new quarterbacks who may not share Favre’s celebrated status, but can be counted on to be there, ready to play, at the start of training camp.
The Minnesota Vikings, Favre’s present team, is taking a much more patient approach, perhaps reflecting the attitude of the citizens of Minneapolis. The team and its fans appear willing to sit back and wait while Favre makes up his mind about what will be his 20th NFL season. They have reason to be patient: last year the team missed the Super Bowl by the narrowest of margins, eventually succumbing to the New Orleans Saints and a last-minute interception by Favre. This year, with Favre expected at the helm, the Vikings are again among the favorites to reach the Super Bowl. However, before they do, and before the first regular season game is played, the team and its fans must sit back and await Favre’s decision, a process that will inevitably tax their patience but result in the aging quarterback’s strapping on pads yet again is his search for victory, glory, and one final headline.