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Esiason: Unbelievable, Inspirational And Totally NFL


Watching the Vikings lose to the Cardinals Sunday wore me out -- and I didn't even play. What a wild day for the NFL. Wasn't it Mike Holmgren who asked for divine intervention after his Seahawks beat the 49ers a day earlier? Well, guess what? The unexpected actually did happen. The Seahawks have Saints to thank; the Packers can thank the Cardinals.

There were smiles and cheers in Green Bay, while tears were shed in Minnesota. This season-ending loss to the Cardinals will be hard to forget for the Vikings' faithful and will be forever remembered in the annals of team history. If you watched the Vikings-Cardinals game from start to finish, you probably could never have predicted the outcome.

With a series of events that started to unfold last Monday night in Oakland, events too unbelievable to explain, it is now the Green Bay Packers who represent the NFC North in the playoffs. As the Packers were crushing the Broncos in Green Bay on the final day of the regular season, the lowly Cardinals were inflicting a final mighty blow to the Vikings in Arizona. What a way for Dave McGinnis to go out. With his career in Arizona finished, McGinnis is able to savor a memorable final victory over a heavy favorite that needed a win to make the playoffs.

What in the world was going on Sunday? It's hard to explain. My initial thought was that there's definitely a guardian angel flying over the Green Bay Packers and their quarterback, Brett Favre.

How else can we explain what happened in Arizona? These things just don't happen -- a fourth-down, game-winning 24-yard touchdown pass on the game's final play by the Arizona Cardinals? Are you kidding me? Quickly, answer this: Who threw the pass and caught it? Answer: Josh McCown to Nate Poole. Now see if you remember that next year at this time.

As Vikings players fell to the ground in complete disbelief in Arizona, pandemonium erupted at Lambeau Field. News of the Cardinals' game-winning touchdown spread like wildfire through the stadium as Packers fans gripped their portable radios and watched the luxury box televisions to confirm what they had just heard. Packers players got the sense that something must have happened in Arizona, as they could not understand why their fans were cheering so loudly for the two-minute warning. Let the postseason party begin in Green Bay.

Uh-oh! Wait a minute! The final play is under review in Arizona. They're waiting in Green Bay for final word from Arizona ... and finally, the ruling stands: touchdown. I wonder how many people thought of Irvin Favre, Brett's father, at that moment. I know I did.

It has been an awfully tough week for Favre, except for maybe the football game Monday night against Oakland and the scrimmage against Denver on Sunday -- at least that is how the Denver Broncos viewed the game against the Packers. It was what took place between these two games that tested Favre.

In his personal life, he was trying to cope with the death of his father. In his professional life, he was trying to somehow focus on the games. Focusing on football while trying to grieve in public is not easy; it is the cost of being famous and carries a large responsibility. Favre is bigger than life and is the NFL's most popular player. He was answering interview requests and receiving condolences everywhere he turned. How was the toughest guy in football going to deal with the pain associated with losing his dad, his life-long best friend and mentor? We all wanted to know, or at least the media wanted to know. This was now the ultimate reality show for NFL followers. Will Brett Favre be able to handle this situation and stay focused or will he succumb to the emotional distractions caused by grief? Isn't that what draws people to watch television these days -- human emotions at center stage for everyone to see? My goodness, give the guy a break. Allow him the peace and privacy we all long to have while grieving.

I know Favre's pain, as my father died on Thanksgiving night in 1998. The following Monday, I was to be in San Francisco to work on Monday Night Football. My thought was to go to work and do the broadcast because that was what my father would have wanted me to do. It is the same reasoning I would expect from my loved ones if the roles are ever reversed.

The best way to honor the memory of those you love is to put forth the effort to remain as normal as possible. Favre did just that by going to work.

Was I surprised that he was able to function at such a high level? NO! He was exactly where he and his dad wanted him to be and he was doing exactly what he was supposed to be doing ... and doing it extremely well. It would make a father extremely proud.

My wish for Brett Favre is that when this season is finally over, he and his family can quietly reflect on all the memories Irvin Favre left them. Because at the end of the day, that is the final gift a father can leave his son. Believe me, I know.

Sleepless Nights:

  1. Mike Tice, Minnesota Vikings: Forget the fourth-down play. Where was the vaunted offense?
  1. Mike Martz, St. Louis Rams: So long Super Bowl ... a loss to Detroit? Az-Zahir Hakim, remember him?
  1. Steve Spurrier, Washington Redskins: They'll never rest until you are fired. The media, that is.
  1. Drew Bledsoe, Buffalo Bills: Where will you be next year? Anywhere Kevin Gilbride isn't.
  1. Mike Holmgren, Seattle Seahawks: Be careful what you wish for ... now you have to go into Green Bay!
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