Trying To Forget Favre
MANKATO, Minn. (AP) -- As June turned into July, Chris Brustuen was convinced. Brett Favre was definitely coming to play for his favorite team, the Minnesota Vikings.
The 31-year-old special education teacher who lives in the Minneapolis suburb of Coon Rapids had read all the breathless media reports.
Favre had surgery to fix his ailing throwing arm.
Favre's family supposedly booked 25 hotel rooms in Green Bay for the weekend the Vikings will be at Lambeau Field.
Favre allegedly put a down payment on a condominium in the Twin Cities.
"It's a slam dunk," Brustuen thought. "This guy's coming."
So the married father of two went online and found a Web site advertising Vikings No. 4 jerseys with "FAVRE" on the back, and he didn't hesitate to plunk down $45 to order one. It arrived in the mail from overseas on July 21, and Brustuen was ecstatic to be ahead of the pack.
"I was pretty pumped to get it," Brustuen said. "I only wore it once and everybody had something to say to me, positively or negatively, and they all asked me where I got it."
Brustuen only got to wear it once, of course, because after a long courtship by the Vikings, Favre surprised nearly everyone in Minnesota by telling coach Brad Childress that he would not be coming out of retirement to join the team.
If the Vikings players were the only ones who had to forget about Favre, this rejection would have been so much easier. But the flirtation with Favre stoked the aspirations of a championship-starved fan base, had the team's box office expecting increased demand following a year in which they struggled to sell out a home playoff game, and could have helped efforts to get a new stadium gain some traction with state lawmakers.
"We never factored that in at all," owner Zygi Wilf said in reference to the business side of the Favre equation. "We just wanted to make sure, as we always do, that we get players on our team that make us better. It didn't work out and we move on and I'm looking forward to what's going to unfold here."
From the players' perspectives, Favre is already history. Most seemed surprised that he did not show up to camp, but also are relieved that the three-month circus is finally over.
"I'm done with it, honestly," defensive end Jared Allen said Friday after the first practice of camp. "I'm talking about the guys out here on this field. We have the 2009 Vikings right here, right now. That's all we're discussing."
The two players affected most -- quarterbacks Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels -- should be galvanized by the news after thinking their competition for the position was over before it started.
Childress called the notion that either quarterback would struggle because he felt betrayed by the organization's pursuit of a three-time MVP and future Hall of Famer "preposterous."
"When I saw it on TV, I watched it, but it wasn't a big deal where I was worried about it every day because it was nothing that I could control," Jackson said. "It was kind of out of my hands, as you all know. I just have to do my part."
Moving on may be a little tougher for others.
The Vikings have sold out 115 consecutive games dating back to Randy Moss's first season in purple in 1998. But without a star quarterback to help Adrian Peterson sell tickets, and with some fans still holding Childress's 6-10 record in his first season as coach three years ago against him, there is some work left to do this season.
Tickets have been selling at a slower pace this offseason, but vice president of sales and marketing Steve LaCroix said it's difficult to compare it to previous years considering the current state of the economy.
"Fans are starting to shift away from the Favre story line and they're seeing that this is a very good team," LaCroix said. "Admittedly, he would have made an initial surge across our revenue streams, especially ticket sales and merchandise. But it's not just about one player."
For about a month this summer, it seemed like it was for some fans.
Before school let out for Brustuen in June, he bet a colleague $1 that Favre would end up in purple. On the last day of school in June, the co-worker told him that he would have to find his address to send that dollar Brustuen's way.
"Now I have to find him," Brustuen said with a chuckle. "Grand total I invested $46 in Favre. And he hosed me."
Join the club.
When Favre's 16-year love affair with the Green Bay Packers ended with a trade to the New York Jets before last season, both sides wound up bitter.
Maybe those wounds will start to heal now after Packer fans watched their former hero hold their biggest rivals hostage for half the summer before leaving them at the altar two days before training camp started.
Joining the Vikings would have been perceived as an act of treason of the highest order in Packerland, where bashing a man once was viewed as the state's biggest icon has become common sport.
Just last weekend, a sports apparel store at a mall in Brookfield, Wis., had two T-shirts hanging at its entrance. One had a picture of Favre with the state of Wisconsin as its backdrop and the words "We'll never forget you Brent."
Another had a picture of Favre wearing a purple No. 4 shirt and sitting in a highchair with tears coming down his face and "I wanna play!" written across the top.
Now, for the first time in his 31 years on this planet, Brustuen might have found some common ground with Packer fans.
"I'm kind of frustrated," he said. "We were led on this long chase all summer long and then he left us. I just wish he was coming."
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)