Thursday, April 10, 2008

Like Favre, Media Obsession Grows Old

I have determined, in my own little mind, that the most disappointed people out there when Brett Favre announced his retirement was not his most ardent fans, nor the Packer organization, nor the Packer ticket brokers, nor even John Madden.

The most disappointed parties were the media hoards, who have spent the last five years or so reporting whenever Brett Favre gets a haircut, dangling it out in such a way that Packer fans can interpret that haircut to mean he might be retiring. Or maybe not.

The sports paparazzi knows that Brett Favre is an instant hit with readers...sort of the sport world's version of Britney Spears. Love him or hate him, any story about him is sure to be a winner, even if it is reporting nothing more than a hangnail. And certainly, nothing will get the public going more than the old "holding the franchise hostage" retirement talk.

Except, of course, he's finally retired. The cash cow for the sports paparazzi is gone. No more endless speculation about whether he's going to retire; no more out-of-context quotes suggesting he is demanding Randy Moss as a teammate; no more discussion of his private gold-plated dressing room with a wet bar and personal masseuse.

Or is it?

We see this in the National Enquirer all the time. Endless media speculation whether a celebrity couple is going to get married, are they going to tie the knot (why haven't they tied the knot yet??), until they finally get married. Soon thereafter, the paparazzi shifts gears and begins speculation on how long that marriage is going to last, speculating that someone must be cheating, unhappy, ready to call it quits. They build them up, then tear them down. Doesn't matter to the media, as long as they have their front-page headline.

And so it is with Brett Favre, the instant headline maker. "They just won't let me retire," he said in the last speculative drive declaring he might return, just a week or so ago.

But, relentlessly, the stories press on, and now, it is headline news that Brett would consider returning if the Packers were in dire need.

Headline news. Everywhere.

We really don't have much of an idea of how the question was posed to him. Did the reporter ask him, "Say, Brett, if the Packers really had some injury problems and needed a quarterback in a pinch, would you be available?"

Or, was it, "Brett, if all the Packer quarterbacks and every free agent quarterback in the league happened to be on the same train at the same time, and got into a fiery and fatal accident, so there were literally NO other quarterbacks on the entire planet, and Ted Thompson came to you, begging on hands and knees for your return to the team, would you be gracious enough to help him out a bit?"

Come on. Who wouldn't allow such an idea to shoot past their mind upon retirement? The world is full of folks who have retired from prominent, administrative, or management positions, only to return in a short-term role if their company really needed them.

Why would they be needed? Sometimes, a bridge is needed between the old regime and the new one, and a familiar face can grease the wheels a bit. Or, probably more often, the replacement plan was a tremendous failure, and the retired general is brought back in to smooth things out until the company can get itself upright again.

Either way, neither is a long-term plan. But, the way you read the headlines, you would think that Favre is planning a full-scale un-retirement, sending Aaron Rodgers into the fetal position and, once again, undermining Ted Thompson's master plan at rebuilding the team.

Let's get real.

Number One: The media needs to get itself a life. Go find someone else to make your new Paris Hilton. Favre is gone, has repeatedly said he is gone. Why keep asking him about this loophole, or if this situation came up? Would you still retire then? Huh? Huh? Huh? Would you? How about if you lost everything you own and you desperately needed money to feed your family, would you come back then? Huh? Huh? Would you?

Number Two: If Brett Favre were even remotely interested in returning, he would need to be keeping his body in condition. At his age, you can't take an offseason (or even a month or two) off from conditioning and expect to be at the same level you were. When you're in your 20's, most of us know you can bounce back from a week or two of Domino's and get your muscles back in shape. When you start hitting your 30's, your muscles deteriorate faster, even when you are keeping your conditioning up.

Favre knew this a couple years ago, when he began his offseason core training back in 2005. At age 38, there's little chance that he can get called up in October and start playing like he did last year, especially if the most work he'd been doing is chopping wood on the Favre estate. I've heard nothing to suggest that Favre is keeping himself in playing shape, so my guess is that he's not working with a core trainer once a day anymore. Even freakish physcial specimen Reggie White didn't take long to allow his body to deteriorate after his final retirement.

Number Three: Favre has little to play for, especially as what might be considered an emergency fill-in. There aren't any more records to break, his start streak will likely be done, and I doubt money is a problem. The thing that might bring him back is the thrill of competition and proving he can do it. Favre has never worried much about his legacy, as his 29 interception season in 2005 would attest, but now that he's getting a chance to sit back and look at it, he has a chance to think about how he left the game. Is there a chance he wants to go out like Michael Jordan with the Wizards, more a name than a player?

Number Four: And, this is likely the most important one. Ted Thompson will never allow himself to ask Favre to return. Period. Thompson has had a plan to build this team according to his plan for years, and when Favre retired, it put the ball squarely in his court. It is true that Thompson is doing very little to bolster the quarterback position thus far, and the starting job has been handed to an unproven and possibly injury-prone Rodgers. However, Thompson has shown that even when a position is decimated (offensive line in 2005, running back in 2007), he would rather sign street free agents than proven veterans.

And, there are those who would see it as a sign of weakness on Thompson's part to have to ask for Favre to return. It might be admitting that he did a poor job of preparing for Favre's departure, and he'd rather struggle with lesser talents than admit that.

Bottom line: the imaginary scenario set up by the paparazzi will never likely happen. Favre isn't going to be asked to return, and certainly not begged or pleaded with. And, while Favre knows that he lives for Sunday afternoon, the grind of getting back in shape on Monday through Saturday is the very reason he elected to retire to begin with.

There's few out there who have defended and supported Brett Favre as I have over the years. But the silliness has to end. Favre has ended a great career as a beloved and revered quarterback in the NFL, spent time as its poster boy, and spent his latter years as tabloid fodder.

Let's let the man retire in peace, and look towards the future of the Green Bay Packers.

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