Saturday, October 16, 2010

Favre's Three Strikes

I've always considered myself a Brett Favre fan.

Not in a sport a #4 tattoo or buy Wrangler jeans kind of way - but I've always admired him.

I admired his 16 historic seasons in Green Bay and his seemingly infallible relationship with the Packers faithful. I admired his fiery and unflappable demeanor on the field and his casual Southern drawl off the field. I admired his dedication to his family and his public support for his wife, Deanna, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004. I have even continued to admire his love of the game and his unfailing passion for the sport of football, despite his continued failings at successfully achieving retirement (more on that later).

However, after doing a fair amount of reading on Mr. Favre this past week, I think it might be time to take off my rose colored glasses.

Now, I'm a firm believer in an individual's private life being just that ... private (even for those who are in the public eye more than us lowly bottom-dwellers). And I am not calling for Brett's head over a few measly inappropriate text messages. But, this news about good 'ole #4 led me to do some investigating into Brett, and what I found did not fulfill the image I have always had of him courtesy of our unbiased, thorough American sports media.

First off - this most recent scandal. Now, even if it's true that Ms. Sterger was a willing recipient of Brett's texts and voicemails, I think perhaps this news (if it's true), at least alters his image as the loving, ever-devoted husband. I don't care if my husband is Brett Favre. He better not be texting pictures of what goes in his jock strap to other women. Period. I don't care if there was an emotional relationship or not, physical intimacy or not, multiple episodes or not. That's just not how a good 'ole Mississippi boy (or any self-respecting man for that matter) treats his breast-cancer surviving wife of 14 years. Strike one.

Author's note: pardon the baseball metaphor, but there's really not one from football that works.

Number two - Aaron Rodgers. You may say, "I thought we were talking about Brett Favre"? Let me digress for one moment. In an effort to be a transparent blogger (I feel like "journalist" sounds much more legit, but I don't think I can really use that title without severely disrespecting true journalists), I will be honest. I've developed a bit of an interest in Mr. Rodgers. My Mom has always been a Green Bay Packers fan (although for the life of me I don't know why - she's never lived in Wisconsin and she abhors cold weather), and I think a little of that Cheesehead loving rubbed off on me. So I've always followed The Pack . . . especially when #4 departed in 2008. I was interested in this somewhat groomed replacement in Aaron Rodgers. I remembered his impressive college play at Cal, and was intrigued by his personality - on and off the field. Plus he seemed smart. Maybe not freakish Peyton Manning smart, but he appeared to be a student of the game, which I really respect.

In all of my reading about Aaron Rodgers I uncovered several disappointing trends in Brett Favre's life. First of all, he was, reportedly, wholly unwelcoming to the young quarterback when he was selected by Green Bay as the #24 pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. According to several reports, Favre was worried that his starting spot was not secure and that the 1st round pick was brought in to challenge him for his spot. Really, this was a little ridiculous. Green Bay was coming off a 10-1 season in 2004, albeit with a disappointing loss in the NFC Wild Card Game to the Vikings. In fact, their last .500 season was in 1999. Hardly a struggling team with a need for a rookie QB at the helm.

However, reports are that it took weeks for Favre to warm up to Rodgers, and that at first he was hardly the veteran mentor that one would expect. Now Rodgers himself notes that things improved, and the two developed a good relationship through the course of their three shared seasons in Green Bay. Although few QBs want to run the scout team, Rodgers even credits his relatively smooth transition to starting NFL quarterback to this time in his career as a backup QB to Brett.

In fact, there are dozens of pictures like the one below floating around on the internet of the two Green Bay QBs, in which they look like more than strict colleagues and even like *gasp* friends.

However, when it was decided between the 2007 and 2008 seasons that Brett would be leaving Green Bay (retiring, not retiring, who knew?), things got a little weird. Rodgers himself admits that after Favre's infamous retirement press conference in March of 2008 (although now not quite so infamous since it happens annually) he heard nothing from his former mentor, teammate and friend. Not a word. Not a text. Not a phone call. Not an email. Nothing.

Now, I'm not a professional athlete, and I don't understand what it's like to move from team to team or leave a world as all-consuming as that; but I've gone through transitions in my life, and I don't just pretend the previous life didn't exist. If I had worked with someone for three years and attempted to groom them to take over a job that was near and dear to my heart - I wouldn't just cut them out of the loop when that time came. Yeah, I'm sure it was hard for Brett, and then came the whole "Green Bay not wanting him back" saga; but in purely examining his relationship with Aaron Rodgers, I was disappointed, and I have to think that Rodgers had to be a little disappointed too. In fact, Rodgers says that the next contact he had with Favre was at midfield after he led Minnesota to a victory over Green Bay in 2009. Strike two Fav-ra.

Author's Note: Really? How do you get "far-veh" from "fav-re"? I do not understand this, nor do I think I ever will.

My last point is a little weak, but I'll make it nonetheless. This whole faux-retirement drama has to stop. The first time, we all understood. The second time, we talked about how dedicated he was and how Brett just loved playing football so much that his life outside of it seemed bleak and dull. We admired his love of the game and his willingness to play wherever he could.

Now it's just ridiculous.

No matter what happens to the Vikings this season, Brett Favre has tarnished his legacy. He could recover from his elbow tendinitis and rally the Vikings from a disappointing 1-3 start to the season to a playoff run (although doubtful, but possible). But, I would argue that the damage has been done. Last year in Minnesota was magical, but it appears that the magic has run out. Favre is sitting at a passer rating of 67.0 right now, and has a TD/INT ratio of 5/7 for the season. Far from spectacular.

Reportedly, Jared Allen and other members of the Vikings squad appealed to Favre during the offseason to return and continue to lead the magical team from last year. But, that team is gone. And I would venture to say that Favre would have been much more of a leader to Minnesota had he realized that his body has simply racked up too many injuries over his 20-year career and it was time for him to pass the torch onto a younger generation of NFL Quarterbacks. Better for Minnesota to have a rebuilding year with a young QB, than a disappointing year with one that forgot that he retired. Strike Three Brett.

Few would argue with the fact that the previously clear issues of Brett's unbridled love for the game, selfless dedication to his team, and unblemished off-the field record are starting to get a little hazy; and his multiple retirements and de-retirements are undoubtedly only muddying the waters.

Mr. Favre needs to tread carefully, or the air will soon clear and he will be left looking like a much more bitter, more selfish, less talented version of the #4 that American so loved for so many years.

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