Wednesday, October 22, 2008

FavreGate: Cutting Through The Crap

I've refrained from commenting on the who recent Favre-Lions brouhaha for one simple reason: if I'm not happy with people making snap judgments based on vague information, I wouldn't be any better by jumping into the fray. It's been best for me to sit back and let the "trickle truth" eventually come out.

What I see right now is this: the "crime" that has been alleged is probably a lot less sinister than initially suggested, and probably more shady than what Favre allowed in his press conference.

But of higher interest to me was the reaction from all across Packer folks were so quick to jump on Favre, on Glazer, on ESPN, and worst of all, each other. Incredibly disappointing, I must say: when Packer fans have to turn on themselves (with Vikings fans so ready and available for abuse), it is an embarrassment for us all.

The following are observations by me, trying to take as objective as possible for me. I know that in our politically polarized environment we are presently living in, that's not very exciting. It would be more interesting if I just acted as judge, jury, and executioner, but that's a job that's already been done by many.

Timing is everything: Don't think for a moment that this hasn't been carefully timed out by Jay Glazer. While trying to defend himself from rushing to be the first with a scoop, he inadvertently admitted he's been sitting on this story for three weeks, and decided now that it was an opportune time to release it.

Why? Well, for one, three weeks ago, the Packers were mired in the midst of a three-game losing streak, and Brett Favre was leading the NFL in passing efficiency rating. Not the best time for Glazer to release a story designed to tarnish Favre's name.

But, Glazer even admitted that when the "calling Romo" story came out last week, he felt it was time to move forward with his story. I translate that as "piling on". Face it: the Packers are now on a two-game win streak and Rodgers is garnering accolades for playing through pain. Favre has looked quite mortal the past few weeks.

Timing is everything. Releasing the story on the day of the Packers' last game before the bye, so there would be a week of nothing but this story? Anyone who has read my work knows my disdain for members of the "entertainment sports media". Why sit on it for three weeks?

Because Glazer was looking for the best window of opportunity to make the biggest waves, and that means he's not reporting with integrity.

Favre has always been a class individual?: I've heard this one from several Favre Defenders lately, and it one that I have to smile at. Bart Starr was a class individual. I define "class" as a person who takes the high road so often that the people making the evaluation of "class" have to admit he does it more than they would.

No, Favre hasn't always been a class individual. This summer certainly proved that, but at the same stroke, the Packer administration didn't show that much class either.

John Elway, still worshiped in Colorado, once pulled an Eli Manning and threatened to refused to play for the team that drafted him, forcing a one-sided trade with the Broncos.

Class is a great thing to have, but it doesn't make you a great quarterback. It does make you a hero, and certainly, while Favre still deserves respect for his play on the field, he has deservedly lost some of that luster in the eyes of many with the unceremonious demands for a trade from the team.

But, don't confuse class with humanity. As I said, class is something that puts someone on a higher pedestal than "us", like a Bart Starr. Favre was always human, and his life was always out there on his sleeve for us to accept or reject.

I really believe that this is what has made Favre so polarizing over his career. He is human, and has let us into his life, moreso than any other Packer in recent memory.

Why is ESPN a part of this?: The biggest stupidity that this story has devolved into is some sort of chest thumping between Jay Glazer and ESPN, which is like watching two Science Club nerds battling it out after school on the playground.

Please. The "integrity" of entertainment sports media types? There is no such thing. Listening to Glazer talk about his "track record" and getting indignant when people challenge it is ridiculous. The media has one job, and that is to present the world of sports to those of us who can't see it in any way but through the media. It is their job to present it to us, not color the world for us.

But, it is exactly stations like ESPN that strive to be as much a part of the news as the news itself that has created this monster. Jay Glazer camped out in the Orlando airport for two days this summer, just so he could be the first to break the news of a Tampa Bay/Favre deal. Why???

This isn't what the media's job is. Their job is to allow us to see the sports world from our living room, and allow us to make our own judgments. The entertainment sports media, including ESPN and Glazer, have to place a spitting match over who has more integrity.

The answer is neither. And the sissy slap-fight that is ensuing is sadly humorous, at best.

Sources?: As I farcically alluded to in my last article, I can't for the life of me understand how such entertainment sports media types can get away with attributing things to "sources", who never have to come forward and take any accountability for what they say.

Yet we, in our PFT Rumor Mill passion, are ready to believe whatever we see or hear in print. Doesn't matter if it is an unnamed insider source or whether it is completely conjecture...if it is what we want to hear, we take it.

Brett Favre, whether you believe him or not, took the stand today and told his side of the story. Jay Glazer responded by saying that "Brett and I will have to disagree on some of the details".

Jay and Brett disagree? How about the source and Brett? It's the details of the source that are in question...and it makes a huge difference if Millen initiated the phone call and conversation versus what Glazer intoned, which was Brett initiating the call and offering 90 minutes of detailed game planning.

Yet this "source" (multiple "sources" even) doesn't have to call a press conference and answer questions drilled at him from reporters. In fact, Glazer just gets to keep saying the "source" is reliable, whether we hear from the "source" or not.

This isn't right. Even I, as a hack blogger, need to cite my sources. I'm never going to say that "someone told me this" and pass it off as truth. And if I, as a hack blogger, have that much integrity, why can't a nationally prominent entertainment sports media professional have the same?

Is it a business or not? One of the grenades being lobbed at Favre is that he is being incredibly disloyal to his former teammates and fans in committing such a grave and lowly act.

Come on. We are going to bring loyalty into this?

I will grant you that Favre was incredibly presumptuous with his retiring Houdini trick this summer. But, regardless, whenever loyalty was brought up by those wanting Favre back in green and gold, they were trumped by "the NFL is a business".

When folks questioned why Favre couldn't get the release he requested, they were told "this is a business".

When folks anguished over why Favre was traded to the team furthest away from a chance to win, they were told "this is a business".

But, when the dismissed employee talks about his past experiences with that employer, suddenly it is no longer a business, but a matter of loyalty?

Is this a business or is this a an environment of passionate loyalty? I don't care which you decide, but don't apply some sort of double standard to how the Packers handled the situation this summer with what we should expect from the guy who saw loyalty take a back seat to the cold, hard world of business.

If Favre is guilty of depraved disloyalty for talking about his former employer that essentially turned down his services, refused to release him, accused him of participating in tampering, offered him a $20 million to stay retired, then traded him to NFL Siberia, then what is Ted Thompson and Co. guilty of this past summer?

Can't have it both ways. Sorry. It's a business for both, or a matter of loyalty for both.

What if?: There were so many if-then statements these past few weeks.

Brett called Romo because of his injury, but not Rodgers, then he was a classless cad for treating his former teammate like that.

If Favre initiated the call with Matt Millen and gave him information, then he was a complete loser and the Packers should hold a "#4 jersey burning night" at Lambeau Field.

(Trouble is, a lot of media types, bloggers, and forum posters skipped right by the if parts.)

But now, after Favre's presser, there are some new if-then statements to deal with.

Such as, if Favre is truthful when saying it was Romo who had initiated the call to him to ask about injury issues, then is Favre owed an apology by those who denigrated him?

Or, if Favre was called by Millen, who initiated questions about the Packers in a desperate attempt to keep his job, then does Jay Glazer owe a retraction for misrepresenting the situation in an intentionally unflattering light?

It's ironic listening to folks, who have spent so many days chastising Favre, now stating that you can't believe Favre at his word, even though he said unequivocally that he absolutely didn't initiate a call.

Weren't there folks trying to say that you shouldn't believe everything you hear from a person who can't even make their name public?

The Packers made the right decision in the absolute worst way: I had no problem with Favre riding off into the sunset this year. In fact even I, as a Favre fan, was uncomfortable when he announced he wanted to return.

This was Ted Thompson's year to prove his strategies were right or wrong, without his lightning rod and whipping boy distracting everyone. And Aaron Rodgers was as ready as he's ever going to be.

I like Rodgers and think as long as he gets the team to play around him like it did last Sunday on a consistent basis, he's going to be a solid quarterback in the NFL.

But, there was a lot of crap that went on behind closed doors. Favre says he felt pressured to retire. Apparently, there was some leftover unsettledness from the last interception he threw as a Packer, as McCarthy wanted a run play. Thompson decided to rip out Favre's locker and send it to him. By the time Favre finally spoke out, it was clear that this had been bubbling for some time and surprised no one in the Packers office.

I had no problem with the Packers granting Favre his release. None. I didn't care if he went to the Vikings. At least, that way, the Packers could wash their hands of it and say it was his request. And if Favre did help the Vikings, it would be for one year. We would have Aaron Rodgers, hopefully, for the next decade.

But that's not how it went, and the soap opera dragged on and on, putting Aaron Rodgers under the microscope and the team under unnecessary pressure. Headlines every day. An endless ESPN litany of discussions, reports, opinions, and debates, like watching CNN coverage of Hurrican Katrina. The accusations of tampering on the part of the Vikings, including allowing a rumor of a team-issued cell-phone used by Favre to contact other teams. An ill-advised attempt to offer Favre a ton of money to stay retired was interpreted by many (especially Favre) as a bribe. Finally, the Packers traded their hero to a place where he had little to no chance to succeed.

You can be right, and still be wrong. And when you choose to make these decisions with a guy like Favre, you really can't expect that just because the team has moved on, that he is going to be happy with how he was treated and move on, too.

Favre's decision to unretire, then request his freedom when it was clear his services were no longer desired, was a part of what an administration has to deal with. Yes, it was less than classy, presumptuous, and maybe even selfish on Favre's part, but that is still something that an administration is paid to do, frankly stated. This situation became drawn out, messy, angry, polarizing, and bitter, and it didn't have to be that way.

This situation needs a resolution: You probably guess from the tenor of my writing that I believe Favre is a complete victim in all this. You're wrong.

I liken this to being friends with a couple that you really like. The guy is your best bud, and he and his wife join you and yours for great times. Your kids play with their kids, etc.

Then, comes the split. Maybe it was your bud who decided to be disloyal. Maybe it was his wife that just got bored and wanted to see what else was out there. No matter who was at fault, what unfolds is an ugly, angry breakup with both saying and doing vindictive, hurtful things to the other.

Your bud calls you up after its all over, says angry and crude things about his ex. You know that he's hurt, and some of what she has done to him has crossed a line in your book. But, you also know what he's done has been the same thing. While you hope that they both can get through it, you really just wish it could all go back to the way it was, when everyone was happy together. It hurts to hear him talk that way about someone you know he was once incredibly loyal to, and you really liked both of them.

You then realize, you really liked both of them together more than you like either of them apart.

This is the situation with Thompson and Favre, and I specifically don't say "the Packers" for Thompson, because Ted is just as temporary as Favre was, able to shine in a moment of glory and able to be dismissed when services are no longer desired.

Favre feels he's been hurt, wronged, treated like a tool...and in many ways, there's some truth to it. He's certainly done his fair share in return. That's the way things like this go. Do I believe that he's actively looking to undermine his former team, searching out opportunities? No. But I don't it past him that he turns down an opportunity to bad-mouth those who scorned him, either. Human nature.

As for this situation with the Lions, I'm sure hoping it gets a resolution. I'd love it if Millen and Romo would both hold a press conference and just lay it all out for everyone, letting us know exactly how things went down. Then, at least we'd know all the fact before jumping to conviction.

But, with elections just days away, you only need to turn on your television to see accusations and defamation on a daily basis. Perhaps this is sports imitating life.


Rich Beckman said...

"I'd love it if Millen and Romo would both hold a press conference and just lay it all out for everyone, letting us know exactly how things went down."

Why? Nothing would actually be established. There would still be those who suspect they lied.

To my mind the real scandal here is that anyone has paid any attention to any of this. So what if Favre did call the Lions and spilled info on the Packers?

All this does is provide another possible distraction to the Packers team. A distraction they have no need of (next up is an undefeated team).

Let's get back to FOOTBALL!

C.D. Angeli said...

I know what you're saying, but I really wish folks had thought of this as nothing more than a distraction on Sunday and Monday, instead of taking a faceless source as truth.

Now, when Favre argues it, folks want to let it slip away. What happens, though?

Jay Glazer takes no accountability. He got more press for himself and FOX in the last four days than he's gotten all year.

What are other members of the entertainment sports media going to learn from this?

Today, it's Brett Favre. Tomorrow, it might be Aaron Rodgers.