Monday, October 26, 2009

Plenty of gray areas

Every Sunday evening at 9:30 local time, I tune in to The Sports Show with local sports commentators Sid Hartman, Dark Star and Patrick Reusse. Mike Max is the moderator who throws out sports topics and the aforementioned curmudgeons regurgitate their opinions.

While opining on yesterday’s Vikings’ loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Reusse specifically referenced the interception thrown by Brett Favre with a minute to play and the Vikings trailing 20-17. The pass was actually tipped by Vikes RB Chester Taylor before it found its way into the arms of linebacker Keyaron Fox. It was subsequently returned 82 yards for a TD, capping a 27-17 Pittsburgh win. Upon rehashing the loss, many Vikes fans lamented the fact that it was the reliable Taylor not hanging on to the catchable throw from Favre which resulted in the final dagger. With that in mind, Reusse went on to suggest that had it been QB Tarvaris Jackson throwing the pass, the blame would have been heaped upon the quarterback as opposed to Taylor. Reusse also contended that the alleged fawning over Favre causes the Vikings faithful to shift the culpability to anyone but the QB. He didn’t elaborate, but I wondered if he was implying that many Vikings fans are too overly fond of having a white quarterback.

WHOA!!!! That’s quite a charge! How could you possibly draw that conclusion?”

Uh, from things Reusse has said in the past.

Go back to December 2005 when the Vikings were hosting, ironically enough, the Pittsburgh Steelers. After an 18-3 loss in which the Vikes offense was utterly inept, Reusse felt there wasn’t nearly the invective directed towards quarterback Brad Johnson as there would have been had Daunte Culpepper exhibited the same performance. In his column the following day, Reusse said this:

That serves to reaffirm that many Vikings fans are phonies at best, and overly fond of the idea of having a white quarterback at worst.

If you were among the thousands sitting there in silence as the offense stumbled through the second half Sunday, and want to claim you wouldn't have been screaming for Daunte's neck in the same circumstance, you are lying and you know it.

Man, what an arrogant putz.

Before that December '05 loss, Johnson had guided the Vikings to six consecutive victories, something that took fans totally by surprise. Expectations were not nearly as high for Johnson (then in his 12th season) as Culpepper, who was tabbed the franchise QB after his selection in the first round of the 1999 draft and was runner-up for the MVP award just a season earlier. In fact, Culpepper's first season as full-time starter (3,937 yards passing and 33 TDs in 2000) ingratiated him to Vikings fans until a drop-off in performance over the next two seasons. Fair or unfair, the disdain for Culpepper stemmed from his inability to maintain the high level of play he had shown in previous seasons.

But the frustration over Jackson's mediocre performances had to do with the fact that there were zero expectations that he could succeed in the NFL. So when T-Jack was soundly booed, it was less personal towards him and more a message to coach Brad Childress that he was vastly overrating Jackson. It was at the behest of Childress to trade up to the second round to acquire Jackson when no other team had him projected higher than mid to late third round. Vikings fans felt precious time was slipping by given a strong supporting cast around a QB who many felt couldn't lead the team to the proverbial Promise Land.

So do I believe Reusse was invoking the race card on Sunday? No, I do not. Given some of things he has written in his time as a Twin Cities sports columnist, he's nothing more than a condescending gent who feels he's our intellectual superior in every way.


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