In this Jim Klobachur column on MinnPost.com, Bernie discusses the Vikings Super Bowl prospects and makes the right call on an Adrian Peterson fumble during the recent Bears' game.
Bernie Kukar retired from officiating a few years ago to the less chaotic arbors of life in the Minneapolis suburb of Edina and on the North Shore of Lake Superior. In his last two years as an NFL official he was the Super Bowl referee, meaning he was recognized by the NFL as the best in the business. While we watched the Vikings' 36-10 destruction of the Chicago Bears Sunday. Kukar looked on with the repose of a man no longer threatened by a lynch mob of 60,000 as the price throwing a yellow flag on Sunday afternoons.
Somewhere in the second half when Peterson, battling for extra yards, lost control of the ball to the Bears' Hunter Hillenmeyer, the still-athletic old football warden didn't wait for the Vikings to demand a replay. "The Bear guy was obviously out of bounds when he covered the ball," Kukar said. "The Vikings will challenge and win."
Kukar also had some interesting things to say about Brett Favre.
Around here (the Vikings played and lost four Super Bowls in the 1970s) older folks say Super Bowl and still roll their eyes. But the peaking saga of Brett Favre, his remarkable blending with the Viking cast and his performance in the 19th season of an unparalleled career, captivates not only the NFL crowds but his peers and the platoons of media analysts who played against him.
To these add the name of Bernie Kukar, who officiated Favre's games for nearly two decades.
"I found that the greatest players, almost without exception," he said, "were the ones who played the game with respect from start to finish. Brett Favre is one of them and I think he's the toughest guy I ever saw in football. The blitzers would pound him and sometimes they came in high, but as the years went by you'd see some of the best of the rushers pull up after he released the ball, rather then follow through in a way that might have been legal but also might have hurt Favre. That's the respect they gave him. He never bellyached about a hit that I can remember."
Then there are his thoughts about Chicago great, Walter Payton.
Kukar remembers only one other player as fondly in his 22 years in pro football, the late Walter Payton, the Bears great running back. "Everybody who played with or against him loved him," Kukar said. "He played every down to the hilt. But he also was mischievous. I was un-piling five or six guys after one play, and there at the bottom was Walter Payton, untying my shoelaces. 'Walter,' I said, 'you've got to stop doing that.' But Walter, bless him, never changed his habits."
Neither, obviously, has Brett Favre.