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"You can talk to my wife about the way I was for a month after that game," Allen says. "I would never compare it to a clinical depression that I couldn't get out of, but from a professional standpoint—and that part of this profession leaks into my personal life—I was heartbroken."
IF THERE WAS a bright side to that loss, it was the opportunity to finally bond with Favre, one of the few athletes who has intimidated him. Allen, who travels with the team, has cultivated a core group of players whom he talks with after games to help him analyze what happened on the field, providing fodder for the next week's radio shows. Allen says he spoke with Favre early last season, but could tell that the Hall of Fame quarterback was uncomfortable, so he stopped. But he wasn't going to let the season end without telling Favre in the locker room how much he enjoyed being part of it.
"Brett had just hugged Percy Harvin, Sidney Rice, and Adrian [Peterson].... He was crying and I went up to him and I put my hand out and I said, 'In my eight years of doing play-by-play for this team, you're the greatest football player I've ever been around. I really hope you come back next year, and thanks for letting me be part of it by calling your games,'" Allen recalls. "He shook my hand and put his arm around me and hugged me, and I almost started crying. It was the most emotional moment in sports that I've ever had."
Allen's high-energy, homer approach to play-calling has certainly pleased the Vikings. Earlier this year, the team renewed its contract with KFAN to broadcast its games through the 2011-12 season.
"I truly feel he's the best play-by-play announcer in the National Football League," says Steve LaCroix, the Vikings' vice president of sales and marketing. "He relates to the fans and the emotions that they go through during a game, and he translates those over the airwaves. With radio, it's all about painting the picture and bringing that passion without any visual context. I think he does a great job of that."
Swedberg also likes the "voice of the fan" approach, as long as it's a Vikings fan. "I like it when PA yells, 'Touchdowwwwn Vikings!' because I'm yelling that myself. Now, if you were to ask me whether I like his approach in other markets, well, I think it's over-the-top and terrible, but I'm not a fan of one of those teams."
For his part, Allen says he is intent on keeping the focus on the plays and the players, but he's earned some leeway with his on-air antics.
"Because I have equity with this team now and I've been involved in a lot of big spots with this team—where my highlights have been all over the place on ESPN and the NFL Network—I have achieved something where I am identified with the team," Allen says. "It's not like people are saying, 'Hey, let's watch the Vikings so we can hear Paul Allen's highlights.' It's the Vikings—Brett Favre, Adrian Peterson, Jared Allen—called by Paul Allen. It all ties together like someone who has been with the team for a long time."
FRIENDS AND COWORKERS say Allen is intensely loyal, a trait that wore him down emotionally when his KFAN partner Jeff Dubay struggled with drug addiction, sought treatment, relapsed, and was eventually fired by the station after being arrested for possession of cocaine during a routine traffic stop in October 2008.
Allen says Dubay confided in him earlier that year, asking for help, but also asked him not to divulge the addiction to station management.
"Between my wife, his mom, and me, we put a lot of time, energy, and tender loving care into it. It was working and then it wouldn't work, and then it would," Allen says. "It got to a stage in August 2008 that it was really affecting my marriage. It was taking too much of an emotional toll on me to keep it from KFAN executives. In fact, it's the closest to a divorce that my wife and I have ever been."
It all came to a head one August night when Allen's wife called a KFAN executive and told him the station had to deal with the situation or it would ruin her marriage.
"What Julie did was the best thing for the whole situation because it brought it out and got Jeff in touch with management, which sent him into rehab," Allen says.
Dubay was off the air during Vikings training camp that year, returning briefly in the fall before being arrested. He served time in the Ramsey County workhouse, was released on parole late last year, and has been arrested twice since for violating parole. He is scheduled to be released from the workhouse in early August.
Allen says he speaks with Dubay's mother occasionally, but he can't recall when he last spoke with his former radio partner. Despite the risk the Dubay situation posed to his own career, Allen says he never held it against his partner.