The comments made by two star athletes in two different sports over the weekend were notable, though not much was made in the media of the comments made by the athlete that actually won their game.
On Saturday night in Atlanta, the New Jersey Devils fell behind 3-1 before the end of the first period, with goaltender Martin Brodeur giving up three goals on only six shots.
Devils coach Jacques Lemaire pulled Brodeur after the period, and inserted backup Yann Danis to start the second stanza.
The Devils, who had outshot the Thrashers 24-6 in the opening period, didn’t quit after their No. 1 goalie was pulled. New Jersey rallied, scoring four straight goals over the final 40 minutes, and pulled out a 5-4 victory.
Was Brodeur upset about getting the quick hook?
As reported by the Associated Press, Brodeur didn’t even beg Lemaire to put him back out on the ice. “No, no, no. We needed a kick in the butt. It’s all about winning, with me or without me” (AP, Devils lift Brodeur after period, still win 5-4, Dec. 19, 2009).
The star goalie also acknowledged his coach’s right in removing him from the game, stating, “After three goals on six shots, we had to do something.”
As Lemaire put it, “We changed goalies to make a difference…it was a good opportunity to put Danis in and rest [Brodeur].”
The Devils did come back despite having their top player on the bench.
Now, Brodeur’s unselfishness didn’t really get much press.
Still, it was certainly refreshing to know that an elite athlete was putting his team ahead of his own ego.
But on Sunday night, that wasn’t the case in Carolina, when another star wasn’t having a stellar game. The difference was this player refused to get pulled.
Brett Favre, quarterback of the Minnesota Vikings, was involved in what he called a “heated exchange” in the second half with head coach Brad Childress.
With Minnesota leading the 5-8 Panthers by a score of 7-6 in the third quarter, Childress reportedly thought about removing Favre from the game because his QB was “taking a beating” (AP, Childress considered benching Favre to protect him, Dec. 21, 2009).
Favre had already gotten sacked four times and been hit several other times during the game.
The quarterback, however, strongly objected and lobbied to remain in the contest, and ultimately did.
Alas, the Vikings’ defense allowed three touchdowns in the fourth quarter, and the Panthers came out on top, 26-7.
Favre threw for 224 yards and was 17-for-27 with no touchdowns. He had one interception, which came in the Vikings’ final possession of the contest, when the game was already out of reach.
As Favre put it, “Brad wanted to go in a different direction. And I wanted to stay in the game. It’s not 70-6, but we were up 7-6. I said I’m staying in the game. I’m playing…No way being up 7-6 and getting banged around a little bit would I consider coming out” (AP, Favre, Childress argue, Panthers beat Vikings 26-7, Dec. 21, 2009).
For Minnesota, the loss on Sunday night was its second in three games. The Vikings are now 11-3 following a 10-1 start.
Of course, concerns over Favre’s health are not unwarranted. Last season with the Jets, Favre led his team to a 9-3 start and had people talking Super Bowl, until he started throwing interceptions and the Jets missed the playoffs by dropping four of their final five games.
Naturally, it was within Childress’ right to want to keep his QB fresh. Childress, after all, is the head coach, not Favre.
And the Philadelphia Eagles (10-4), who have the tie-breaker over Minnesota, are now suddenly right behind the Vikings, sitting only one game back for the No. 2 seed in the NFC.
Childress supposedly wanted Favre to get enough rest for their final two games so that they can clinch the No. 2 seed and get a first-round bye in the playoffs.
But Favre wouldn’t have any of it.
Now, was it okay for Favre to demand to remain in the game?
Sure, his team was ahead, thanks to a missed point-after by the Panthers; otherwise it would have been 7-7. However, it wasn’t as though Favre was lighting it up against the Carolina defense.
Both Brodeur and Favre, of course, will end up in the Hall of Fame after their playing careers are over. Both are regarded as the best at their respective positions. Both have won championships and own numerous records.
In fact, Brodeur, the winningest goalie in NHL history, had just set the league record for goalies the previous night by playing in his 1,030th regular-season contest. And he didn’t argue about getting pulled on Saturday. All he talked about was the importance of the team winning the game.
On the other hand, Favre, who owns the NFL records for QB victories and career touchdowns, argued with his coach on Sunday night and kept talking about “I…. I… I…” after his game.
Incidentally, I'm not a fan of either one of these players, but what a difference between the two.