Imagine it’s the summer of 2009 (for many, many reasons but just for football reasons in this case).
The Vikings are closing in on signing Brett Favre, their on-again, off-again pursuit of the legendary QB having paid off. They arrive at the moment of truth, but there’s one wrinkle: Favre can play for the Vikings … but he can’t play for them in their two games against the Packers in 2009.
Is that a deal-breaker?
Pardon me for engaging in such a strange hypothetical, but I’ve been thinking a lot about the 2009 and 2010 Vikings seasons — and their seeming parallels to the 2019 and 2020 Vikings season.
And then a curious story from our Minnesota United beat writer, Jerry Zgoda, put me down this path.
Zgoda wrote about how Loons striker Kei Kamara, acquired in September from Colorado, was not going to play in Wednesday’s match against his former team because of a “gentlemen’s agreement” reached before the deal was consummated.
Apparently such arrangements are common in European soccer.
“A lot clubs during the season will ask that you don’t play against their old club,” said Loons coach Adrian Heath.
And indeed, Kamara did not play for United in Wednesday’s 2-1 victory.
The concept seems completely foreign to U.S. sports, where a player going against his former team is a compelling angle — sometimes about revenge or proving doubters wrong, as it most certainly was in Favre’s case.
The Kamara situation isn’t quite the same since Favre came to the Vikings after playing a season with the Jets. But the chance to play against Green Bay — which dumped him in favor of Aaron Rodgers — was a prime motivating factor for Favre and quite probably prevented him from being traded to Minnesota a year earlier because the Packers wanted none of that.
As former Vikings coach Brad Childress told me in an interview last year about the courting of Favre and his arrival:
“For me, I really felt like he was in it to obviously play the Packers twice and rehabilitate his image from the Jets — the way things finished [there]. I don’t think he wanted to let it finish on that note. And then it was a bonus, I mean there was a reason Green Bay traded him to the Jets. They didn’t want him in the NFC. Little did they know that the Jets were going to pick Mark Sanchez and Brett was going to be on the street. And then we were going to try to move heaven and earth to get him on our team. I don’t think he seriously considered anybody else except coming to the Vikings.”
Imagine it’s 2009, and a “gentlemen’s agreement” is in play: Favre can play 14 games … but Tarvaris Jackson or Sage Rosenfels has to start the two very critical games against the Packers (both wins for the 12-4 Vikings, by the way, that swung the division title in their favor over the 11-5 Packers).
European soccer can keep that tradition across the ocean. I’ll take the best players on the field and the subplots that ensue any day.