Friday, August 6, 2010

Favre and ESPN made for each other; Tiger, Rodriguez talk

Brett Favre is like the scene of a car accident. You know you shouldn’t look, that you should just keep going, but you find yourself slowing down to see if it really is as bad as it appears to be.

Of course he and ESPN are the perfect team: ESPN will report ANYTHING as long as it can claim it as some kind of news—even embarrassing infomercials like, ‘The Decision,’ which will be parodied for years to come—and Favre craves that sort of attention. Poor Ed Werder and Rachel Nichols must be paying income taxes in Mississippi by now.

Favre has now retired more times than Sugar Ray Leonard, George Foreman and Evander Holyfield. What is most amazing is he has done it without ever missing a GAME. Think about that: he cries in March; waffles in July and shows up in time to play in September. Why anyone—even the poor ESPN drones—would think for one second that he’s not going to play this season is a mystery. Heck, if the Vikings throw in an extra million or two he might fly to Washington en route to Minneapolis and take Albert Haynesworth’s conditioning test for him.

What we know about Favre after all these years and retirements and comebacks is the following: he can’t stand not being the center of attention. When he does finally have to retire in 2027, it’s going to kill him. Because as anyone can tell you, doing games or studio work on TV can’t give you the buzz or the high or the adoration that playing gives you. The one and only exception to that rule might be Dick Vitale.

We also know that this is all about BRETT, not about anyone else. Whatever team he happens to play for is just a tool to add to the legend of BRETT. What he did to the Green Bay Packers, to a town that embraced him and worshipped him, was shameful. Every year he rolled out the Hamlet act, topped in 2008 by the tearful farewell in which he told the Packers it was time for them to get Aaron Rodgers ready to play. Which they did until Brett decided about 15 minutes later he was just kidding and forced a trade to the Jets.

What he did to the Jets would have been worse except he’d only been messing with their heads for one year. He retired—again—this time by conference call and the Jets were naïve enough to take him at his word (If Favre told me the earth was round I would be very careful about sailing very far to the east or west) and put him on the retirement list. That meant he didn’t even have to wait for a trade as with the Packers, he was free to sign with the Vikings and then start his Hamlet routine with THEM.

Why does the guy get away with all this? Simple: he can play. If you can play you can lie, cheat, steal, bully, do drugs—you name it. They cheered Alex Rodriguez in Yankee Stadium the other day, didn’t they? People still cheer for Tiger Woods, whose crimes against his wife and children are not only unspeakable but were repeated over and over again. Why? Because they loved watching him play at his best and they want to see it again. Have you noticed that lately Tiger has been playing the “father card,” claiming he hasn’t been able to practice as much this year because he wants time with his kids?

My God! Do people actually believe this stuff? The answer’s yes—there will be people today who will post on this blog that who am I to question Tiger’s devotion to his kids, that people change, blah-blah-blah and his personal life is none of my business, just let him play golf.

You see, that’s the point. I didn’t bring up his kids—HE did. I didn’t talk at length about how being a father changed my life after my first child was born when I’d just been in Vegas cheating on my wife and my new-born child.

And I haven’t stood tearfully in front of assembled media and retired; then done it again and again when I was just trying to manipulate the system to get to a different team for more money. Look, there is NOTHING wrong with Favre playing until he’s 50 if he can play. Last year he clearly could still play—even though the old Achilles heel, the really dumb pass at the worst possible moment jumped up and nailed him at the end of regulation in the NFC Championship game. Even so, if you didn’t know the background, you’d have watched Favre in that game and been amazed by his guts and toughness: clearly hurt, even wobbly, he limped out there and kept moving his team down the field.

The day after that game, I jokingly wrote that the over-under on the first ESPN report that Favre was going to retire again would roll in about Wednesday. I was off by 24 hours—it came on Tuesday. Favre, ESPN reported, was “leaning towards retiring.”

Yeah, sure and there’s a new Tiger Woods who has embraced Buddhism.

Personally, I look forward to watching Favre play this season. He is a freak of nature and he makes the Vikings a viable contender. To me, the NFC North is football’s most interesting division because of the traditions involved, because a late-season game at Lambeau or Soldier Field is throw-back football (I didn’t say I wanted to go, but watching on TV is always fun) and because each city has a fascinating football culture in its own way. Yes, even Detroit.

But please don’t wake me up to tell me he’s retired again or un-retired or is getting his ankle checked or is talking to Ed Werder on a tractor or is throwing to high school kids or texting teammates. He’ll be in camp in time for the third exhibition game, which is the one the starters play at least a half in. He might play a series or two in the last exhibition game and then he’ll play all 16 games unless someone knocks him into next week at some point—which hasn’t happened since he first came into the league in 1953 so why should it happen now?

And then, 15 minutes after his last snap of the season, ESPN will report he’s leaning towards retiring. ESPN is Charlie Brown. Favre is Lucy holding the football. If you aren’t old enough to get that reference, look it up. Good Grief.

John's new book: "Moment of Glory--The Year Underdogs Ruled The Majors,"--is now available online and in bookstores nationwide. Visit your favorite retailer, or click here for online purchases


steveM said...

Good thoughs John. Favre will always be Favre & as for ESPN...well. In journalism shool students are taught about integrity. Given the lack of it & spin towards hype at ESPN are we safe to assume that no ESPN employees ever went to journalism class??

CincyJ said...

As I get older I am increasing cynical towards these things. Thus, I enjoy spectacles like Favre's "Will he won't he" dance, Tiger's struggles, the NCAA basketball tournament's eventual expansion to god-knows-how-many teams, and even "The Decision." Of course Favre will play this year, which is his right. I'll just enjoy ESPN's fellating him along the way.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, if you sit back and watch ALL of it, Favre Tiger A-Rod LeBron etc, its amazingly funny. ESPN is the married man with mistresses all over the place.

Anonymous said...

I believe a Minneapolis newspaper broke the story, not ESPN.

Tim said...

Yeah, I believe the Star-Tribune was the first to reporter on it, but ESPN certainly got their 'confirmation' and ran with it. I saw a release from them the night of the Favre stories, and they had quotes from, I believe this is right, EIGHTEEN of their talking heads on their comments of Favre's retirement. Or non-retirement. Was a farse.

Anonymous said...

John..everything Tiger Woods does you personally critique of don't believe. According to your logic he should go away and never return to rid us all of his 'evil ways'.

Sports are about redemption true Sports Fans know this. Barry Bonds was truly hated among you media types. I'll not soon forget how he performed on the field. A Rod is a bit of a robot..but I'll celebrate his achievements without being judge and jury.

ESPN has truly lost it..2010 has been's a sad sight

bisonaudit said...

Ahhh yes... the "true [insert group your pretending to be the membership committee of here]" arguement.

Tom Hawley said...

Okay, while we're in the 'bashing of prima donna athlete' mode, let's not forget Ken Griffey, Jr. He who insisted on a trade from Seattle in 1999, but only to Cincinnati, mind you, thus significantly hamstringing the team into getting what they could from the only team in the negotiation, if you can call it that. He returned and contributed last year, insisted on coming back for year two when his skills had clearly deteriorated, then retired, drove away and now says he won't come back to Seattle to let his fans honor him with a special night until Don Wakamatsu is no longer the manager! Who do these guys take us for? The suckers we are, I guess.

pulmcrit1 said...

John, THANK YOU for writing "What he did to the Green Bay Packers". Last season I was so sick of hearing "He's getting back at Green Bay for what they did to him". I never understood what the Packers should have done differently. Favre was the one who announced his retirement, complete with crocodile tears. Then, when he changed his mind, he expected the team to put Aaron Rodgers back on the bench. He is fun to watch on the field, but the off-season drama has really gotten old. Lady Gaga thinks Brett Favre is overexposed.

Doug said...

@bisonaudit mr.feinstein and his media cronies do not pay for Tickets, sit in the Luxury Boxes, Fly for Free, eat mostly for free. mr. feinstein is not starving ..clearly! They are not 'true' sports fans who pay hard dollars for sporting events. He is a pundit and a good one but please separate him from real fans. I'm o.k. with is opinions on all things but view them in the proper perspective...punditry 101 folks!

A Rod is a chump..congrats on 600 tho..Go SF Giants!!

John Graves said...

It's odd how many of you bash ESPN, but I'm quite sure you watch it on a regular basis. Hate it or not, they're one of the best known brands in the world, and they are where 99% of sports fans go to first to get their sports news. You mock 'The Decision,' but you know you watched it. I have to laugh.

God forbid Favre may actually be wishy-washy about retiring. The guy is emotional--he makes snap judgments on and off the field. It's a little annoying, but what else do we have to talk about over the summer. Baseball? Give me a break!

royalandancientdbag said...

I like it better now that Feinstein will fire away at Woods. For years he would just write stuff like "he is not a good guy" and it would sound bitter and jealous. But I love the new, gossipy, fire-away Feinstein. If you got nothin' nice to say, come sit by me.

Hustle said...

"..whose crimes against his wife and children are not only unspeakable but were repeated over and over again"'re reaching just a tad bit John. Last I checked, adultery was not considered a "crime". Take it down a notch John....he's not the first man to commit adultery (I'm sure you personally know people who have) and he won't be the last. Life goes on...just because he cheated on his wife does NOT mean he doesn't love his doesn't have anything to with the other. If the man says he's spending time with his kids, then so be it. If he's not, who cares? I know you don't so I don't know why it's such a big deal to you. Using the tired excuse that "he brought it up not me" is getting old. Even if he didn't bring it up, you still would and actually have in the past.
I've said it before and I'll say it again...the surprise to to me (and to any reasonable adult) wasn't that he was cheating but that it actually took this long for it to become public. Ali, Magic, MJ, Pitino, Trump, Steve Philips (ESPN)...they've all cheated. It happens..get over it. Life goes on...he's a golfer not the Pope. I know I have my own issues so who am I to judge him? Same should go for you and everyone else that keeps harping on his cheating...look in the mirror and your closet first.