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On grumpy old men

5/28/2009

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
A few (thousand) of you have suggested we move past the Brett Favre story until some actual news happens. I'm happy to oblige. Let's talk about Fran Tarkenton instead.

In all seriousness, Tarkenton's series of outbursts this week have made him the story instead of Favre. From his original analysis of Favre's "despicable" actions to Thursday's touting of a FoxSports.com poll that suggested 75 percent of fans agreed with him -- "It's a mandate!" Tarkenton exclaimed -- you would think Tarkenton is purposefully trying to draw attention to himself. What, does he have a book coming out this winter? Hmmmmmm.

The Vikings have a large and active alumni base, many who have been living in Minnesota since retiring from the team. Tarkenton, however, is not one of them. He lives in Atlanta, rarely spends time around the team and until this has accepted few interview requests. Tom Powers of the St. Paul Pioneer Press referred to him Thursday as an "AWOL" alumnus of the team. His assault on the Vikings and Favre is pretty much unprecedented in his post-playing career.

There are some who believe Tarkenton holds a special grudge against Favre not only because of his Green Bay ties but also because, in some ways, Favre in his prime was a better version of Tarkenton: Strong-armed, flamboyant and more than able to escape the rush with his feet. Favre out-Tarkentoned Tarkenton. (I admit I never saw Tarkenton play. So if there are some old-timers who want to disagree about their styles, I'm all ears.)

During an appearance Thursday on KFAN-1130, Tarkenton seemed to be reveling in the attention:

"I think this is so much fun. I have never seen anything like this. I read in the paper this morning that North Korea is going to declare war. They're going to bomb our ships. Iran has got nuclear weapons, and they're going to blow the world up. And Pakistan is going to give their nuclear capabilities to the world. The banks are getting tough. The financial system is collapsing. And we're talking about Tarkenton and Favre? Isn't this great?"

In the video at the bottom of this post, ESPN analyst Marcellus Wiley suggests Tarkenton must have spent some time on the set of "Grumpy Old Men." Yes, there does seem to be an old-timer element to Tarkenton's outrage. While it might have been sacrilegious 30 years ago for a player to move from the Packers to the Vikings, it really isn't anymore in this era of free agency. Fans have maintained the rivalries, but players move around enough that they don't share the same provincialism.

Tarkenton couldn't let Wiley's comment go, however. Speaking Thursday on Atlanta' 790 The Zone, Tarkenton said:

"Marcellus Wiley, who is trying to parlay a minimal football career into still making more money. This grumpy old man is 69 years old, I own six businesses, I've built 16 over the years, I'm paying my taxes, I've started two new businesses, we're hiring more people, we're not laying them off, we're not cutting their salaries -- we're increasing their salaries, and in this society we are productive when so many people are not productive. I'm not playing croquette down at Orlando at the Villages, I'm not playing golf every day, I'm out there as a 69 year old ... making money out of sports or with sports. I'm creating and building businesses from the ground up: That's this grumpy old man."

It's fair to give Tarkenton his opportunity to respond, but it's also fair for me to say that Tarkenton should be awfully careful about using his business ventures as a crutch for taking shots at other people. About 10 years ago, you might remember, Tarkenton paid $154,187 in fines after the Securities and Exchange Commission accused him of fraud. Tarkenton admitted no wrongdoing as part of the penalty agreement.

Ultimately, Tarkenton admitted this week that his words are unlikely to impact the decision of either Favre or the Vikings. "It's my opinion and it's not going to change the world," he said.

Consider it heard.