BEST LOCAL BOY MADE GOOD - 2006
Has a star athlete ever been less appreciated than Daunte Culpepper? The sporadically brilliant, psychologically fragile former Vikings quarterback was never embraced by Minnesotans. Even when Culpepper was performing at the peak of his abilities—as in 2004 when he passed for nearly 5,000 yards and tossed 39 touchdowns—there would be some booze-addled yahoo calling into the KFAN post-game show to belittle and berate his efforts. With this year's cavalcade of bad decisions and worse luck for Culpepper, this simmering hostility came to a full boil. Behind a beleaguered offensive line, he started out the season miserably. These troubles were quickly compounded by the infamous Lake Minnetonka boat cruise, with Culpepper one of four players facing indecency charges. Finally, the veteran QB saw his season derailed by a serious knee injury. When the team's franchise player was then unloaded in the offseason for the fire-sale price of a second-round draft pick, most Vikings fans greeted the news with delight. Even though the only quarterback remaining on the roster was a 37-year-old, mobility-challenged, Tampa Bay Buccaneer reject whose chief upside was that he didn't throw many interceptions. More telling was the response down in Miami: astonished glee. Dolphins fans realized that they had potentially landed the rarest of commodities—a gifted, proven, game-changing quarterback. And for practically nothing. So, kudos to Daunte. He'll finally get to play in front of some fans who'll appreciate his superb skills. And the Lake Minnetonka antics that threw Minnesotans into such a finger-wagging tizzy will hardly raise any eyebrows on South Beach.