Visiting kings, potentates, and showbiz titans historically have failed to bring the famously placid Minnesota public to the brink of amazement. But Tuesday, along came an aging football quarterback named Brett Favre.
"It was a zoo," a Minneapolis newsman reported from the Minnesota Viking campus in suburban Eden Prairie, where Favre and his wife rolled up to massed TV cameras as part of a motorcade from a private aviation airfield in St. Paul – signaling Favre's latest mission to avoid the comforts of retirement.
Not long afterward, he was formally enrolled as the No. 1 Viking quarterback, to the sighs of bafflement from everybody from football fans to park bench psychiatrists. The formalities didn't last long. Favre was in uniform in less than two hours, take snaps from center, throwing deep, wearing No. 4.
Nobody yet has convincingly figured out the mixed strategies of both the Vikings and the onetime Green Bay star in maneuvering him onto the roster of a football team that once more is on the verge of challenging for the Super Bowl. The months-long mating dance between the Vikings and Favre had equal parts intrigue, slapstick, and jockeying among the media insiders to get there first.
Some of this was present a year ago when Favre tried to muscle his way back to the Packer roster after announcing his retirement months before. He wound up with the New York Jets but faded in the final weeks when his ailing arm failed him.
He predictably retired again but surfaced once more this spring, encouraged and probably prodded by the Vikings, whose offensive coordinator, Darrell Bevell, was Favre's quarterback coach for three years in Green Bay.
A month ago, however, Favre said it was over. The Vikings headed for a season in which either Sage Rosenfels, a serial backup quarterback, or the still-unproven Tarvaris Jackson would be asked to take them to the Super Bowl. But with the end last week of the Vikings' twice-daily training grind, never Favre's favorite recreation, the old pro backed off from his earlier announcements and suddenly regained his urges to return to football.
The reaction among Viking fans, high in euphoria, of course, was not unanimous. Some of them were offended by Favre's string-pulling and coach Brad Childress's earlier commitments to Rosenfels and Jackson.
But the reality of Brett Favre's return is probably a lot simpler than suggested by his terse and mysterious earlier statements from someplace in Mississippi. Favre is a football lifer. Although nearing 40, he is healthy and strong enough to compete. He is the archetype eternal youth, or as close to it as we're likely to see.
Did money figure in it? Certainly. The close to $12 million he may make out of this is a measure of his unmatched productivity as a professional quarterback. It is also a measure of the Vikings hunger to win the Super Bowl they never have, one year before they go before the public for a $950 million new stadium, to be largely financed by the public.
But the contract money does not seem to be prime motivation for this future Hall of Fame football player. He has trouble retiring because he can't bear it when he does.
His arrival in Minneapolis Tuesday provoked instant speculation about the ability of the tiring old Metrodome to absorb all of the decibels when the Vikings face the Packers on a Monday night, of all things, Oct. 5. This is a border rivalry – Minnesota vs. Wisconsin. It is not for blood but for something called Bragging Rights.
No matter what the sound level at the Metrodome, it may not equal the seismic explosion when Favre and his Vikings face the Packers at Lambeau Field in Green Bay Nov. 1. For all of those star-tossed seasons in Green Bay, he comes to his reunion wearing purple, not green.
His reception will be predictably mixed. What is more predictable is that it will be thunderous. Pity the sound meters.
• Klobuchar is the author of an upcoming book on the transformation of the National Football League, titled "Alway$ on $unday."