Sunday, July 6, 2008

Hurrah!! Everyone's A Victim!!!

I think it all started in the 90's, with the whole talk-show coming-out parties, in which every celebrity who had done something stupid would talk about the atrocities of their childhood, and how it impacted them in their adulthood to embezzle money or cheat on their spouse.

Yes, the 90's were the Decade of the Victim, and we all followed suit (or, in many cases, filed suit). The court system became inundated with civil suits claiming that someone else's actions had caused them emotional and mental harm. This started, of course, with the woman who earned millions of dollars getting burned by a cup of coffee at McDonald's, which is why every Styrofoam cup has a disclaimer informing us that coffee is hot.

My point in all this? It's amazing watching the media, bloggers, and forum posters lay blame in every direction for this unsourced story about Favre's alleged desire to return to the Packers this season. What's amusing is the number of people who are legitimately trying to make out that "their boy" is some sort of victim in the whole matter. Somehow, this supposed desire of Favre to rethink retirement is full of helpless, sobbing damsels in distress at the hands of a merciless, cruel overlord with a black moustache.

Brett Favre is the victim of a heartless general manager who has been trying to railroad him out the door since he took the job.

Aaron Rodgers is going to be unable to take a single snap because of all the pressure he's been placed under by Favre's enormous shadow.

Ted Thompson is essentially a lame duck GM, as he can only stand by and watch Brett Favre willfully deconstruct everything he has tried to do.

All together now...


I don't know if it is our storybook nature to create sympathetic characters being tortured by villains, or just ourselves projecting our own scapegoating nature onto the the personas of people who have done substantiate that they are indeed victims.

In fact, they haven't said anything. So, we do their speaking for them, and place them in the good guy/bad guy roles that suit us best.

While I don't fault non-professionals like forum posters or bloggers for such debauchery, the media (once again) should have the integrity to not fall into such pitfalls. But, alas, they have led the victimization storm in this situation.

My point: these are all big boys who have been paid a lot of money to do their job. They are professionals who aren't out to destroy anyone else, but to do what is best for their situation and the Packers. Here we go:

Brett Favre

Our Irresponsible Journalist leading the foray into Favre-as-victim is Al Jones, a writer for the Biloxi Sun-Herald and self-proclaimed friend of the Favre family. Jones has often been the reporter that Favre has gone to for his announcements through the media while down in Mississippi, so there is some reason to think that Jones has some attachment to Favre.

But, he busts open the Thompson-as-villian in a rant, stating that Ted Thompson has never wanted anything to do with Favre, and essentially hurt Favre's feelings this offseason, driving him to retire when he really didn't want to.

"It all comes down to Ted Thompson," Jones said. "The main thing is the man has shown no respect to perhaps the greatest quarterback in their franchise history. Brett's a little disappointed. He feels like he can still play. He knows he can still play."

"When it's all said and done, Ted Thompson is the man to blame on all this," Jones said.
Now, Favre's mother and brother added a little fuel to the fire, too, but the one thing missing in each and every one of their tirades is two words..."Brett said...".

Nowhere are Brett's words cited here. Could he potentially have feelings that he wasn't wanted? Sure, and the emotional confusion of retiring can bring about tough days where you wonder if the whole world hates you. But these aren't Brett's words. They are opinions of those who are close to him.

Ted Thompson doesn't control Brett's actions. Brett is a professional tackle football player, paid millions and millions of dollars over the course of his career, and has a golden commercial career to follow for as long as he would like to. He has labored over this retirement decision for years. As he has, the media and fans have long placed a label of indecision on him.

But, while it has taken him a while to make the retirement decision the past several seasons, he has stuck to his guns once it has been made. When he made the decision this past season, it was his and his alone. Ted Thompson, for Brett's family and friends (and fans) would like to make him out to be, isn't a guy to beg anyone to stay, nor try to talk them out of their contract.

Thompson has had a plan since day one, and like it or not, he's stuck to it. He isn't worried about spending his salary cap, signing free agents, or whether or not he has veteran depth at a position. And, whether he would prefer to move on without Favre or not, it doesn't matter.

Favre had a contract, a near-MVP year, and an NFC Championship game at a pretty advanced age. He shut up his critics who questioned his ability and cemented his spot as an all-time top ten quarterback.

He made the choice to leave. Period. If he needs his ego stroked to be convinced whether to retire or not, he shouldn't be an NFL quarterback.

But, I don't believe he is an insecure teenage girl on the inside, desperate for validation from his authority figures in order to feel self-worth. He's an aw-shucks hillbilly who is very emotional about his decision to retire, nothing less, nothing more.

To make it out that Ted Thompson is the villain in this case is the sentiment of a mother's protective nature and a journalist's lack of objectivity.

Favre, in my opinion, will stay retired, and should. Ted Thompson has had ample time to prepare for this day, and frankly, is paid a lot of money to be ready for life with Brett and life without. But the decision to leave was Brett's and Brett's alone.

Ted Thompson

In this case, Mike Vandermause of the Green Bay Press-Gazette dons the role of Irresponsible Journalist, taking what other journalists have hinted at and putting it unequivocally in print: "Thompson Getting Blame" (and a previous article, "There's no Room for Sentiment - Even With Favre")

The landscape has changed over the past four months. After the Packers spent the offseason setting up their offense to highlight new starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers' strengths, it appears neither Thompson nor McCarthy is eager to see Favre return.

While we wait to see how this saga plays out, it's clear those closest to Favre are making Thompson out to be the fall guy. Whether Favre shares those sentiments remains to be seen.


Would Thompson be willing to endure the public relations fallout? Then again, would Thompson be doing his job properly if he was offered a first-round draft choice and didn't seriously consider it?

Thompson repeatedly has said he places the Packers' long-term future above public sentiment, but that philosophy would be severely tested.

Trading Favre could incite an angry mob, yet stranger things have happened.

Hidden in the shadows is the murmuring that Favre's desire to return is going to place Thompson in a no-win situation, forced to accept a player back that he doesn't want, or to have to suffer a job-threatening decision to trade or release the most beloved Packer in recent memory.

Bloggers and other media types have dissected all of Thompson's possible outcomes, and of course, predicted the backlash for each. Poor Ted, who is only trying to build this team for the draft, again falls to the mercy of the "media whore" quarterback who is simply out to selfishly sabotage the team.

Again, and sadly, the main people involved in this whole mess haven't said a word about it yet, with the exception of Favre, whose text messages indicated that this is all "rumor" and there is "no reason" for the media firestorm that has resulted. Yet, somehow, this is all Favre's fault for intentionally trying to make life miserable for Thompson.

Quite simply, if Favre did make an inquiry into whether he would be welcome back at training camp, he did it privately and directly with the head coach, not through the media and certainly not through ESPN or Al Jones, who can't cite a source to save their lives. Again, if Favre did question Mike McCarthy, he did it professionally and privately.

So, how does this make Thompson out to be the victim? Do we honestly believe the man who won the NFL GM of the Year award is in his office, breathing into a paper bag while lying in the
fetal position? Do we really think that he's helpless in this situation, and that public opinion is going to be the end of him?

Got news for you, kids. The Packers went 13-3 last year, and a double-digit win season is the best cure for any fan backlash. Ted Thompson is paid an awful lot of money to put a team on the field that will win, and it is his job to not only plan for any contingency, but to make the big decisions that will make or break him in the long run.

He's not a victim. This is what he gets paid to do.

If Favre were to request to come back, it is Thompson's decision to make, regardless of what the fans think about it. If he were that sensitive to what fans think, would you imagine his drafts would look a little different than they have? I have questioned every draft he has made, questioned his lack of free agent moves, question
ed his methods for leaving entire position squads lacking in depth or experience.

How much has that affected him? In all honesty, I may never admit to "liking" Ted Thompson. But guess how much that impacts his job security?


If this were to actually come down to it, Thompson will decide to keep him on in whatever role he wants, ask him to renegotiate his salary, or most likely, release backlash notwithstanding.

But, I doubt it will come to that, because Favre has stated many times he doesn't want to finish his career elsewhere, and if Thompson says he wo
uld prefer not to activate him, that's where it will stop.

Aaron Rodgers

Oh, this poor kid. This poor, injury-prone, almost invisible-in-the-shadow kid. It's not bad enough he has to follow Brett Favre, but every single fan in the world is out to hate him because they love Brett Favre so much. He is doomed before he even takes his first snap, all because Brett Favre still exists.

If only there was a way to erase every fan's memory of the past 17 years, Rodgers might have a sliver of a chance.

I just have to laugh at this. Aaron Rodgers isn't getting any pressure from Favre, who is being made out again to be the bad guy in all this. Chris Ballard of Sports Illustrated is this Irresponsible Journalist, making sure we know that any problems Rodgers faces has to be from Favre.

Of course, it's easier said than done, especially if, as in Rodgers's case, you haven't been playing much these last three seasons. Still, now is his time, even if his long-awaited debut, Sept. 8 against the Vikings at Lambeau on Monday Night Football, just happens to be ... the night they retire Brett Favre's jersey.

Just perfect, right? The kid finally gets a chance to take the spotlight, and Favre will be there, looming over him, not just metaphorically but physically. It's best for Rodgers to get used to it. Because that's how it is in the NFL: Legendary quarterbacks never go away, even when they go away.
So, there you go, right? Rodgers has a built-in excuse for any struggles he has on the field: everyone else won't let go of Brett Favre.

Nope. Aaron Rodgers, like Favre and Thompson, is paid millions of dollars a year to be a professional. This is his time to shine, and it is a moment he has been preparing for since he was drafted in 2005.

That means this is his fourth season as a professional football player, and in those first three years, we've seen Rodgers mature from the kid we saw come in with a chip on his shoulder. Certainly, we know he's had time to work on his game, getting the bulk of snaps in every minicamp. .

On a contemporary scale, we've seen that young quarterbacks that have had time to sit the bench and wait for the game to slow down before taking the reins have had more success than those thrust in their first year. Phillip Rivers and Carson Palmer are both prime examples of the success you have watching for a while. David Carr and Alex Smith are both great examples of why sitting and learning might have been the way to go, before you develop the bad habits behind a rotten line, habits that haunt you for the rest of your career.

On a historical scale, even though Rodgers is following a "legendary" quarterback, his experience in the league is paramount. I did a quick study of the quarterbacks that followed other legendary quarterbacks (specifically, Marino, Elway, Unitas, Montana, Bradshaw, Namath, Aikman, Starr, Tarkenton, and Young). Of all those who followed the legends, guess the number that had as many or more years of experience than Rodgers ?

Only one: Steve Young for Joe Montana.

I commented on this at the end of the 2006 seasom, when people were calling for a third-year Rodgers to take the helm, and still believe it in retrospect.

If I truly believed that Aaron Rodgers was ready, I would be supporting him as a starter. But at this point, I don't think Rodgers has what it takes to be a starter in this environment. Now, don't take that as some Rodgers-Bashing-Hating statement. I do think he can develop and be a solid game manager, but not without a solid running game (ours finished 23rd in the league in ypg and scoring), not without solid reliable receivers (Packer receivers led the league in dropped passes, and had the second-highest drops per attempt in the league), and not without solid red-zone targets (Bubba Franks finished with a career-low receptions (25) and no touchdowns for the first time in his career).

Now, factoring in an offensive line that needed extra blockers in for protection purposes (according to former offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski) and Rodgers' lack of pressure awareness and labored reads would lead me to believe that he would get hurt in his first significant playing time of the season.

Oh, wait. He did.
Rodgers is going to enter this upcoming season with most of the pieces in place around him. He has targets galore in the receiving field and a threat at running back. And, he has the maturity he did not have years ago.

No, I do not believe, as journalists like Vandermause seem to, that Rodgers is a disaffected video game-playing Gen Y-er who needs constant reassurance that he really is "okay". He's a pro. And he is in the position he has wanted to be in for four years.

This is his moment to play, and no matter how much the media tries to make Favre's shadow bigger than it is, Rodgers is the guy being paid to put the ball in the hands of his receivers.

Favre can't do anything about that...even if the rumors are true and he wants to come back. He won't, and it is up to Rodgers, the pro, to go out and do his job. He knows no one is going to do it for him, and having fans and media trash Favre for still being a part of the Green Bay psyche isn't going to change it.

Even moreso, having fans and media make Rodgers out to be a fragile china doll doesn't do anything to help, either.

In conclusion, there is no victim in this situation, and frankly, there's no bad guy, either. Without the media blowing this out of proportion, everything that has been happening is just business as usual, a business run by and operated by professionals.

Although many of us have our own "heroes" we cheer for, whether it be Favre, Thompson, or Rodgers, it is quite the opposite to paint them as helpless, passive victims of the actions of the villain. Favre didn't retire because he felt unloved, Thompson isn't cowering in his office, and Rodgers isn't in group therapy.

If they can't handle the pressures of the job, then they don't deserve the millions they are being paid. I like to believe that all three are professionals who rise above those pressures, who are in control of their own destinies and are the captains of their own ships.

To make any of them a victim robs them of their dignity, even if it is being done in their defense.


TheVegas said...

Excellent read. You always seem to put things into perspective, offering a different (and in my opinion, more accurate) view on the situation at hand. Couldn't agree with you more on this one.

Non-sports Journalist said...

As TheVegas said, this was an excellent read.

I would be somewhat disappointed in Favre if he indeed has changed his mind at this late stage, mainly due to the impact on the roster. That would be Thompson’s dilemma – and not a bad one to have.

As a sidebar…
For the sake of accuracy, the McDonald’s coffee lawsuit was $160,000. The woman tried to settle for twenty grand but McDonald’s wouldn’t hear of it. It wasn’t merely “hot” coffee – McDonald’s was heating its coffee above 180 degrees at the time. So the coffee delivered third degree burns. Ironic, that you would misuse this case in an article that you label several journalists as irresponsible.

LosAngelis said...

thevegas, thanks as always. Sometimes the angst just drives me crazy. When I am defending Ted Thompson, you know that things must be getting pretty irrational.

NSJ, thanks to you also. I really don't know what impact this whole thing would be. I don't believe Favre could truly expect to come back at his contracted salary, so that would take a hit. And, I also think that if he was told there would be a trade or a release, he would just re-retire as a Packer.

Oh, and I am honored to be thought of as an irresponsible journalist. Only problem is, I am not being paid to do it! :-D

LosAngelis said...

Oh, I double checked:

The coffee lawsuit was eventually settled on appeal for $480,000.

The original punitive damages before appeal was $2.7 million.

Nothing like checking those sources....gotta do that more often with my sidebars.

Non-sports Journalist said...

I wasn't meaning to prod you D.

Coffee-gate is one of those stories that grows larger with each telling. Few people have any idea about the case.

Here is a link, that I used... is an interesting look at the case.

I didn't do a lot of digging, since this was from an actual law library.

LosAngelis said...

No prob at all NSJ...I was curious about it once you mentioned it...I had always remembered it as the "millions" number, so wanted to confirm!

Thanks for the comments, btw!