The quarterback speaks

There have been more successful quarterbacks in NFL history. There have been better quarterbacks in NFL history. But there has never been a quarterback that I loved half so well as Francis Asbury Tarkenton. And now, years after his retirement, he proves that he can be every bit as entertaining as a football observer as he was scrambling around buying time in the backfield:

“I think it’s despicable. What he put the Packers through last year was not good,” said Tarkenton, who played for the Vikings from 1961-66 and again from 1972-78. ”Here’s an organization that was loyal to him for 17, 18 years, provided stability of organization, provided players. It just wasn’t about Brett Favre. In this day and time, we have glorified the Brett Favre’s of the world so much, they think it’s about them. He goes to New York and bombs. He’s 39 years old. How would you like Ray Nitschke in his last year [playing for] the Vikings, or I retire, and go play for the Packers? I kind of hope it happens, so he can fail.”

“He told the Packers ‘I’m retiring,’” Tarkenton said. “They’ve got to move on. They’ve got to go through their offseason plan, their workouts, they go with the other quarterback, who is a good player, and then comes back and says, ‘I think I want to play.’ … You build your team in the offseason. Everybody knows that. It’s about team. It’s not about Brett Favre. So he goes and runs up to the Jets, doesn’t even dress in the locker room with the players. Has a separate facility. Playing quarterback is about the relationships you have with your coaches, with your players, with your trainers, with your managers. How can you do that if you show up on gameday and you haven’t put the time in. And now he’s trying to do it again in Minnesota. And if Minnesota bites, God bless them…. I understand he’s been glorified so much. He’s been a great player, there’s no question about it, but it’s all about him. It is supposed to be all about your team. If you’re going to be the quarterback of your team, you need to be there in the offseason workouts in March and April. Peyton Manning’s there. Tom Brady’s there. I think he has been a great flamboyant quarterback, but he has made more stupid plays than any great quarterback that I’ve ever seen.”

All I know is that as a Vikings fan, I never feared Brett Favre. Never. Sure, sometimes he’d beat you with a lightning strike from that cannon arm, but just as often – more often – he’d beat the Packers with an untimely interception. Now, I can’t honestly say with complete certainty that even an injured, nearly washed-up Favre wouldn’t be in the Vikings’ best interest this season, since I have reservations about Sage Rosenfels and the team has been essentially without an actual quarterback for three years, but I suspect No. 10 is probably correct.

Torture and the ticking-bomb myth

NW asked my opinion about legalizing torture, which is as follows:

I don’t think there’s any situation where it can be legally justified. I think it can at least theoretically be justified on moral grounds in some circumstances, and in those circumstances the torturer should be willing to pay whatever penalty is deemed appropriate. After all, if the information he seeks is that overwhelmingly important, then he should be willing to pay a price for obtaining it. If the torturer is not willing to sacrifice hiimself for the information, if he is only willing to sacrifice his victim, then how important can the information possibly be? Be realistic, the nature of government is to stretch its limits, so one can’t reasonably expect legalized torture to remain within the nuanced strictures its defenders envision for long.

As far as the oft-mentioned ticking-time bomb scenario, that’s a particularly ludicrous attempt to justify the unjustifiable on emotional grounds. The ticking-time bomb scenario is a Hollywood invention and to the best of my knowledge there has never been a real one outside of television. One might as reasonably contemplate the burning question of whether or not the torture of intelligent extraterrestrial aliens is justifiable. In reality, either the plot will be broken up by conventional means long before it was to take place, or it will take place as planned and the first the authorities will know of it is when someone calls to report a big explosion.

Moreover, even in the extraordinarily unlikely event that a ticking-time bomb scenario were to occur and the relevant information was extracted by torture, history strongly suggests that it would prove useless because the authorities would sit on it for one reason or another until it was too late. Government does not move quickly enough for even this very improbable justification to hold water.

UPDATE – There is also a broader issue at stake here. If torture is deemed legally permissible, what is the limiting factor in preventing it being applied to every situation in which the government would like to obtain information? First, torture is an obvious violation of the 5th Amendment since it is being used to compel the victim to testify against himself. Second, if it is legal and trumps the 5th amendment, why should the police, the DEA, and the IRS not also be permitted to compel testimony in this manner? Remember, we’re dealing with a government that has successfully claimed that it can ban certain naturally growing plants under the Interstate Commerce clause even though said plants are neither sold nor cross state lines.