Traverse City Record-Eagle

December 15, 2010

James Cook: Detroiters treated to history


DETROIT — One fan at Monday's relocated NFL game held up a sign that read, "To Metrodome architects: Thank You."

While the Metrodome roof collapsed under the weight of a huge Midwest snowstorm, fans braved the nasty conditions to go to Detroit's Ford Field and see a game between the Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants. Free tickets didn't hurt.

The same blizzard that knocked the Metrodome out of commission also kept me stuck in Detroit after the Lions-Packers game, so lemonade was made from lemons, and the NFL weekend became a historic two-fer.

Another fan held up a sign that read, "Hey Eli, get me your brother's autograph."

Peyton Manning wasn't there, and essentially neither was Brett Favre, who tried to maintain a low profile in a knit hat on the sideline as his record streak for consecutive games played came to a screeching halt.

And that's about all of the Vikings you didn't notice.

The stadium turf was repainted with Vikings logos in the end zones and midfield, and Minnesota brought its own video board programs, cheerleaders, mascots, and even the pro shop was shilling Vikings merchandise. And, yes, there was the ear-gouging Viking horn sound that was played over and over ... and over. It was a novelty the first few times; then it just got grating. (Note to Lions owner William Clay Ford: The fans enjoyed having cheerleaders in the stadium.)

I wanted to make a sign that would have said, "Detroit may have massive unemployment, but we still have a roof over our heads." Alas, cardboard and markers didn't make it into the luggage.

The fans were pretty raucous, considering most were watching a game with little vested interested in either team. There were a fair amount of Viking and Giant fans who showed up, but they were vastly outnumbered by Lions backers, who loudly chanted "Let's go Lions" and "Suuuuuuuhhhhh!" during the game, as well as "Let's go Red Wings" and a massive "wave" that circled the stadium for most of a quarter.

For the most part, the fans were well-behaved (by NFL standards, at least). Although while waiting in line to get into the stadium, I did notice several spent handgun shell casings laying around the slushy curb.

Then there was the game, where poor quarterback play was the theme for the second straight day in Ford Field. Following a battle of back-ups in Detroit's Drew Stanton and Green Bay's Matt Flynn in Sunday's defense-dominated 7-3 Lions win, Monday's tilt featured the Giants' Eli Manning and Tarvaris Jackson, the player the Vikings were so desperate to not start that they flew players to Mississippi in the off-season to convince a run-down Favre to come back out of retirement.

Jackson played pretty horribly, but his offensive line didn't help matters at all, so it's hard judge him solely by that game. On the other side, Eli Manning looked as bad as Jackson, throwing two poor interceptions.

One of the game's highlights — other than the Giants' viciously effective running game — was Giants defensive tackle Barry Cofield's "taser dance" celebration after his sack of Jackson.

But the most humorous signs were ones dealing with Favre. Several young ladies had ones saying the quarterback could text them. And one man in his 20s had one comparing Favre's season — and the end of his career — to the deflated Metrodome roof.

Of course, almost immediately after he didn't play, Favre's website started selling "297" merchandise.

Unable to play Monday and his streak over at 297 games, it appears as if Favre is done — and none too soon.

No more of the "will he or won't he?" retirement banter that has been an NFL off-season ritual for most of the last decade. And on a related note, Rachel Nichols' off-season calendar just cleared up dramatically.

No more listening to announcers say "he's like a kid out there."

Although the Vikings have been non-committal, it seems like it would be best to shelve Favre on injured reserve and see whether Jackson has what it takes to be in the team's future plans.

Meanwhile, the Metrodome roof is still collapsed and the Vikings have a pair of prime-time games coming up, including hosting next week's Monday Night Football game against Chicago.

Wouldn't it be sweet if the Vikings decided that the University of Minnesota's stadium was too small and had to hold the game at Green Bay's Lambeau Field? Just imagine Favre having to walk the sidelines for that one.

Like a kid, of course.