Sunday, April 13, 2008

Vandermause Tells Favre To Zip It

After publishing this article a few days ago, I was actually somewhat surprised when some of the Scout writers decided to jump on the bandwagon with Favre Bashing, but I was even more disappointed when Mike Vandermause of the Press-Gazette decided to do the same thing on Sunday.

In his Sunday op-ed, Vandermause tells us that Brett Favre has to learn to "Zip his Lip". Somehow, his comments in response to a reporter's question about extraordinary circumstances affecting his retirement are detrimental to....what? Who?

Asked by the Biloxi Sun-Herald on Tuesday whether he would consider returning if starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers went down with an injury, Favre replied: "It would be tempting, and I very well could be enticed to do it." Say what?

In the same interview, Favre also said he hasn't changed his mind about retirement. He added he wouldn't return unless he was in shape. Is it any wonder Packers fans were confused by the mixed messages?

First of all, cherry picking the quote in and amongst all of the talking Favre did that day was, once again, a bit disingenuous (but makes for great copy!). Taking one quote out of the context not only of what he was asked, but in his entire thought process in his response is something I'd expect of a blogger, not a professional journalist.

But who is hurt in all of this? Who is Vandermause assuming is damaged by these comments of Favre? Why does he need to zip his lip?

Ah, Aaron Rodgers.

Even the hint Favre might play again will send certain fans and media outlets over the edge. It's not inconceivable that some people will root for Rodgers to get hurt.

Intended or not, Favre's comments added to Rodgers' heavy burden. It's difficult enough following a legend, but it will become harder if there's a perception Favre is waiting in the wings.

Now, let's come off this for a second. Aaron Rodgers has had four years to groom himself for this moment in time. He has learned from Favre, but more importantly, has the faith and trust of both his head coach (who has supported him completely) and his GM (who has yet to even find a suitable backup for Rodgers, much less competition for the starting job).

I'm really not sure which "fans" Vandermause is referring to. In most of the forums and fan chatter I've seen, the only people thinking this is Chicken Little territory are the same people who look to denigrate Favre regardless of what he says, not the ones who are wishing he were back in green and gold.

The only people who are making any measure of a big deal about this are the media, who essentially created this entire non-issue.

And this is what bothers me about Vandermause's little tirade.

Favre could have avoided all of this by emphatically stating he's happy in retirement. He should have politely declined to play a silly game of what-if. Instead, he fueled conjecture about a possible comeback.

How will Favre respond in his next interview when someone hits him with this: "Would you consider playing again if boar hunting gets boring, your golf game goes to pot and your lawn no longer needs mowing due to a drought in Mississippi?"

Against my better journalistic instincts, I would advise Favre to stick a sock in his mouth. Either that, or simply say, "No comment."

Somehow, this is Favre's fault. Somehow, in between his retirement press conference and this past week, he was supposed to finally learn to do what he's never learned to do over his entire career: not speak what is on his mind. Favre Critics have ballyhooed about his free speech rights for years, whenever he spoke out on any topic.

But Favre has never opened up a press conference and started talking. He is always asked questions by the media, because the media knows that if they poke and prod enough, the good ol' Southern boy will say something that will make a great story. This has been the story of Favre's career, particularly the past several years. Reporters drill him with questions, trying to get good quotes out of him, and usually, Favre delivers.

We remember the time he spoke out on Javon Walker, or criticized Wil Whittaker, or even made public comments stating he wanted Randy Moss. Do you really think he initiated these conversations?

No, the paparazzi media knows he'll say something, and they keep at him, relentlessly, trying to get a good quote out of him. And you wonder why he occasionally dressed in a separate area in the locker room when the press was released inside.

What bothers me is how Vandermause completely misses this point, placing 100% of the blame of this on Favre, and absolutely none on the reporter(s) who created some sort of fictional, extraordinary, nearly impossible scenario, presented it to him, and requested a response.

It's kind of like Marry, Date, or Dump. If you had a choice between Reese Witherspoon, Angelina Jolie, and Heidi Klum, which would you marry? Is your response really meaningful and worth reporting if it is never really going to happen in your entire life? Do any of us think those three are really going to be vying for our attention at the same time someday, so we should censor ourselves and not answer the question?

The quarterback situation is most likely not going to be that bad, and even if it was, Ted Thompson is not going to ask Favre to return. Ever.

One thing is for sure: if Brett Favre didn't "no comment" when he was a player and a part of the team, what in the world makes you think that he is going to start censoring himself when he is finally retired and doesn't owe anybody anything?

To me, Vandermause is guilty of one of two things. On one hand, he is either just protecting his fellow journalists, making sure that when Favre says something on his mind, he must have just said it unabated.

Or, worse, he is a part of a system in which one journalist essentially antagonizes quotes out of a player, to be used by other journalists for headlines during the dog days of the off-season.

Again, Favre hasn't hurt anyone with his comments: the Packers are still in existence, Ted Thompson isn't hiding under his desk, Mike McCarthy isn't in tears, and Aaron Rodgers is under the exact same pressure he's going to be under leading a 13-3 team back to the playoffs. Most intelligent Packer fans know that Favre isn't coming back, and Ted Thompson would never ask him to do so.

So, the only people who are apparently affected by these quotes are the media (who need to write something about the Packers) and those who look to place Favre in as bad of a light whenever they can anyway.

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