My favorite football commentator, Gregg Easterbrook (author and general smart guy) in his guise as ESPN.com’s Tuesday Morning Quarterback shows us not one but two lessons of Ancient Greece in his analysis of the Vikings / Saints game on Sunday.
The first example is of hubris in the posting of the picture attached above on the Vikings’ website during the fourth quarter of the game. Aristotle and his boys would have loved that. Considered the greatest crime of the ancient Greek world, the hero performs some act out of great pride that leads to his/her death or downfall. Well done, Vikings front office!
TMQ provides the second lesson:
Hamartia. The “tragic flaw” described by Aristotle: A leader cannot control his own inner shortcoming, which causes him to achieve the reverse of what he desired. In “Antigone,” the king, Creon, tells himself he is acting in the interest of the city, when actually he is acting to glorify his own ego — this hamartia destroys him. Brett Favre comes up a bit short of a character in ancient Thebes, but on Sunday he was brought low by hamartia all the same. It was not enough for Favre’s team to reach the Super Bowl — he had to get the credit. Game tied with 19 seconds remaining, Favre scrambled at about the New Orleans 40-yard line, with open field ahead of him. All he needed to do was run a few yards, hook-slide, call timeout, and the Vikings’ strong-legged kicker, Ryan Longwell, had a solid chance to win the NFC championship. But the credit had to go to Favre; he had to throw a spectacular pass at the end, so television announcers would swoon. So he heave-hoed a dramatic across-the-field pass. It was intercepted, and the Saints won in overtime.
Perhaps you are thinking, “It was just a dumb mistake, and the whole thing happened in a couple of seconds.” No. Two years of Favre’s life built up to that moment. For two years, Favre has insisted that entire NFL franchises, the Jets and the Vikings, become thralls to his celebrity. He has used his stature to demand, demand, demand — the crux of the demands are always attention and publicity for himself. Now he is brought low. In two of the past three seasons, Favre has lost in the NFC Championship Game. Each time, his team seemed poised to win at the end; each time, Favre’s final play was a disastrous interception. And each of those title losses eventually came in overtime — to punish Favre for his hamartia, twice the football gods allowed him to come so close, so close, then denied him. Favre has been brought so low, he is now being laughed at in Wisconsin, and he has only himself to blame. Aristotle would not be surprised by the ending of the Favre saga. If, of course, it was the ending.
Hit the guy in the right flat that’s standing 5 yards from any other opponent and he steps out of bounds and you win. But no. And now it’s vacation time down on the bayou for ol’ Brett, and time for another round of “will he or won’t he”. Can’t wait for that.