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Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Favre's INT a bad decision, not karma

By Tim Keown

There's been a lot of talk about karma over the past day or two, most of it in relation to Brett Favre's game-, season-, and maybe career-ending interception near the end of regulation in Sunday's NFC Championship Game.

If you haven't heard, the interception -- and Favre reverting to his pre-Viking "gunslinger" days -- was a result of karma for him doing all those things he did to put himself in position to have maybe the best season of his career. And to put himself one play away from a Super Bowl.

Brett Favre
Writers could attribute mystical properties to Brett Favre's play, or they could better serve their readers by providing description and analysis of his play, good and bad.

The good karma ran out, apparently, replaced by bad karma at just the moment when it could do the most damage. Otherwise sane people write and pontificate about this karma thing, as though there's a deity looming above, doling out nasty bits of karma like a big Pez dispenser in the sky.

Here -- here's an interception when you can least afford it. It will bring you endless scorn and personal regret. That'll teach you to sit out most of training camp.

This isn't about Favre, necessarily, because just about everything else today is about Favre. This is about the employment of magical thinking to explain non-magical events. It happens more than it should.

The idea of karma as it applies to sports -- something happens because an unrelated event from the past triggers some sort of present cause-and-effect -- is far removed from the eastern philosophy from which it sprung. Essentially, it's how we attempt to explain things that are either unexplainable or take too much work to figure out.

"Packers/anti-Favre fans are jubilant with what certainly seems to be karma." -- Bill Michaels, WTMJ Newsradio

Dumb coaching. A quarterback who played a juvenile game of retirement/non-retirement in the offseason and has now choked in his last two big games? Who says there's no such thing as karma? -- Jeff Blair, Globe and Mail

So Favre didn't just throw the ball to the worst possible spot on the field at the worst possible time, when he had either Bernard Berrian in the flat (check the film, he was open) or five or six yards of clear field ahead for a scramble -- no, he was punished for his past misdeeds, whatever they might be. It wasn't anything close to Pat Robertson, reprehensibly attributing the earthquake in Haiti to time-release karma, but it was typical of our tendency to shrug our shoulders, look to the sky and invoke mysticism in the face of the unexpected.

I heard someone describe Favre's game Sunday as "ennobling," and that's about as concise and precise as it gets. For those of us who haven't always enjoyed his off-field act -- myself included -- there was no denying the man's nobility on Sunday.

So forget karma. But in the end, it sounds more profound than stating the facts: Favre got greedy and threw a really bad pass that was intercepted.

Expect to hear a lot in the next few weeks about the Winter Olympics being a financial disaster for just about everybody but the athletes. NBC has already announced it will lose money on the Olympics for the first time, and the Canadian press has already documented the ways in which Vancouver will avoid a big windfall.

British snowboarders such as Ben Kilner will compete regardless of the financial status of their country's Olympic association.

(The NBC thing is probably karma for the whole Conan O'Brien-Jay Leno deal, don't you think?)

For instance, the company that owns Whistler Resort, home of the alpine skiing events, will be auctioned off right in the middle of the Olympics, according to the Globe and Mail.

Oh, and there's not nearly enough snow.

Even the British Ski and Snowboard Association is in debt to the tune of about $975,000, so it'll probably be selling off its boards soon. The insolvency caused the International Olympic Committee to issue an unusual decree: The 14 British athletes will be allowed to compete even if the association goes bankrupt and folds.

If you aren't a die-hard Colts fan, you've got to be rooting for the New Orleans Saints. And even if you are, there's got to be a part of you that's saying, "If we have to lose to someone ..."

They probably won't lose. Between now and a week from Sunday, there will be more than enough time to dissect and inspect, but most of the time logic prevails and in this case logic is on the side of the Colts. The likelihood of the Saints' defensive backfield being able to hold Peyton Manning and the Colts to less than 35 points seems slim.

However, it's rare that non-aligned fans are presented with such a clear-cut, feel-good choice. Nothing against the Colts or Manning or Jim Caldwell, but the whole scene surrounding the Saints, from Drew Brees to the reaction on Bourbon Street, throws off good vibes.

Most in New Orleans have even found a way to forgive owner Tom Benson, who seemed intent on getting his team out of town following Katrina. Now he's being hailed as a major investor in the city's future. He's even going to be grand marshal of the Mardi Gras parade next month.

And now he's in the Super Bowl. Maybe it's karma.

ESPN The Magazine senior writer Tim Keown cowrote Josh Hamilton's autobiography, "Beyond Belief: Finding the Strength to Come Back," which is available on Sound off to Tim here.