Thursday, September 2, 2004

Was Brock Lesnar Punk'd?


Brock's departure does seem a bit odd. I wonder if the Vikings gave Brock a real chance? I watched the preseason games and Brock was easy to find on the sideline but hard to find on the field. His playing time was very late in games and I don't think he even appeared in the road game at Atlanta on Friday, 08/20. Brock seemed to contribute well on special teams in very limited playing time. At a minimum, he provided a spark plug that so many teams need in today's money-hungry, bling-bling, me-me-me! world. I thought Brock would be a great special teams player. After all, the Pro Bowl now brings a player just for special teams. I think this position was created because of the contribution of Bill Bates (#40) of the Dallas Cowboys in the '80s and '90s. Bill Bates is a Cowboy fan favorite and his presence on special teams made an impact. After all, besides a play as effective as the Randy Moss bomb (and how many teams can do that?), the kickoff is a team's best chance to score. Any way to prevent that should be examined.

But at least there is justice in Brock getting to play late in the two home games. First, the fans wanted to see him play. Second, the Vikings wanted the fans to stick around. At the game last Friday night, the buzz was for Brock and people around me were looking for #69. I had heard rumors that he might be cut today and I wondered if Mike would give him a curtain call or make him go away quietly.

But the rumor confused me. Brock was rumored to be cut but just last Thursday, I received a Vikings newsletter informing me I can order a Brock Lesnar #69 jersey (or my favorite player) and that the jersey will ship soon. That didn't seem right if he was halfway out the door. Obviously, the Vikings's marketing machine knew Brock was gathering Moss-like attention. Honestly, I heard he was the most sought after Viking after Randy Moss. I think many fans wanted to see Brock and see him succeed.

But the marketing machine didn't catch up with head coach Mike Tice. I guess Tice doesn't get the Vikings newsletter. Maybe he didn't hear the fans roar every time his name was uttered. Maybe Mike didn't see Brock ask fans to cheer on the Metrodome's giant TV screens. Or maybe, just maybe, there's a real reason...?

Since day one, I have watched Brock Lesnar and wondered about him being a Viking. I was excited when he tried out for the Vikings. Being a local boy, Brock almost seemed destined to wear the Purple. His hometown neighbors, high school buddies, and college classmates could all watch him play each Sunday. I was happy that the Vikings extended him a contract. Was this guy a better addition to the team than some scrub from Mini-Small School State? Could he actually contribute as the 65th player on the roster? (The NFL allows teams to carry 65 players.) Honestly, I knew it was a long shot to see Brock starting in games. I knew he was a 'project' and he would need time to learn the system and get his football legs. But one month later it's over? That doesn't seem right. Where's Ashton Kutcher and his hidden cameras?

After he signed on the 28th of July, there were two big questions:

1. Could Brock survive?
2. Would the fans accept an ex-pro wrestler in the NFL?

The biggest question for me, is what about that slot. The day Lesnar was signed, the Vikings waved goodbye to Ben Nauman, a rookie safety from Augustana (S.D.) College. Now that Lesnar's gone, I must ask, is Brock's spot really better served by player number 65 on the roster? Does that guy show the fire? Does he push his teammates to be better? I sure hope the 65th man does!

But Brock's story does end on a good note. For a guy chasing a dream, his last game (until further notice) ended perfectly. On the last play of the game, Brock's name poured over the loudspeakers at the Metrodome as he collected another tackle before time ran out on the game and his short career.

For history's sake & Brock's scrapbook, here's the official last play of the Vikings versus 49ers on Friday, 08/27/2004:

San Francisco 49ers at 0:22
1-10-SF 12 (:22) 26-J.Wright left tackle to SF 17 for 5 yards (69-B.Lesnar).

Bleed on,