Long Live No. 4
It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Brett Favre so I hope you’re ready for a long read. I remember hearing his name when I was a kid alongside names like Kordell Stewart. Of course, this was when I was 7 and before I knew really anything about sports or had any interest in them… but I remember the name. Of course, now I’m probably one of the biggest football fans you’ll ever meet, and I know all there is to know about Brett Favre that not knowing him personally will allow. These days, I hear his name synonymous with words like “sexting,” “egotistical,” “washed up,” “hate,” “annoying,” “disappointment”… disappointment? Disappointment?! I didn’t understand how anyone could be disappointed in watching one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever grace the league, and even after all that has happened this season, I still don’t understand it and I never will. Ultimately I came to realize that my attitude towards Brett Favre stemmed out of one simple concept: empathy.
A bit of a disclaimer: I’ll never know what actually happened behind closed doors, the full story, or whether I’m completely wrong or completely right because I wasn’t there. But if you’ll allow me to be nostalgic and a little self-indulgent in this post, I invite you to leave your current negative impressions or opinions, if any, regarding #4 behind for a moment so that I can explain (at length) my take on Brett’s trials and tribulations over recent years and hopefully shed some light on why some of you “haters” should not necessarily change your opinions of him per se, but rather simply that you should understand and respect him for what he’s done for the sport and all that he has accomplished… Okay, and maybe change your opinions.
The Love of the Game
Flashback #1: One day when I was 9 or 10, my Dad started taking me to Houston Rockets games. Completely unrelated to football, I know, but this is where my love of sports ultimately began. I was hooked. I couldn’t get enough. Understand this was during the Rockets’ back-to-back, 1994-1995 championship runs – it was very exciting to watch; the collective efforts of the fans rooting for the team, watching the players’ reactions after an amazing play or after the win… I knew I wanted this for myself. I wanted the starry eyes, the glory, the competition, and of course I wanted my Dad to think I was “cool”. I wanted to play sports.
So that’s exactly what I did. Anything and everything, I tried to be involved in. Tennis, Golf, Softball, Basketball; (I even asked the school football coach if I could play for him). And, of course there was my all-time favorite Volleyball; I played them all and I was good. Being good at what I was doing just made it all the more awesome. Not tooting my own horn here, I don’t think I was better than anyone on my teams because I was more skilled or talented, I just loved what I was doing so much it came easy to me. The sports I played became one of the most important things to me and I devoted as much of my time to it as possible. The same became of my interest in music. It was no different. The feelings that these extracurricular activities brought on were an addiction.
Compare now Brett Lorenzo Favre.
I’ll spare you the history lesson on his small-town life in Kiln, Mississippi and just get straight to the grid iron. Interestingly enough, in college he was actually asked to play Defensive Back at first, but he pleaded with the coaches to let him play the big Q-B. He was the measly 7th-string QB his freshman year for Southern Miss, but ended up moving to their starter just a few games into the season.
From the very beginning it was clear that he loved the game more than anything, however what was not clear was his potential. It wouldn’t be until his NFL career that his true skill level would present itself.
Later, Favre was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons 33rd overall in the 2nd round and then-coach Jerry Glanville was not happy about it. He was quoted as morbidly saying that it would take a plane crash for him to put Favre into a game. I’m sure that even now he’s not even close to being finished with eating his serving of crow.
Next season, the Packer’s traded a first round draft pick for him. He played very poorly his first few games after replacing the Packers’ injured starter. However, as most football fans know, he very quickly found his groove and rode it for the next 16 years through a Superbowl win with the Pack, another year with the Jets, and two more years with the Vikings.
Again, Brett Favre’s love of football was blatantly apparent. Well how would you know, you ask? A few weeks before his senior year season for Southern Miss, he was in a near fatal car accident. He lost control of his car and it flipped three times into a tree. They had to smash the windows open to get him out, and in the end he was left without 30 inches of his small intestine. All the while, during his ride to the hospital in the ambulance he kept asking his mother a single question over and over again. Not, “Am I going to have to eat through a tube for the rest of my life,” not, “Am I going to die,”… but, “Will I be able to play football again?”
People often forget that this is a man who played a Monday Night Football game on December 22, 2003, throwing four TDs, completing 73.3% of his passes and finishing the game with a passer rating of 154.9 – the highest of Favre’s career and just 3.4 points shy of perfect the day after the death of his father. Favre was later quoted as saying, “I knew that my dad would have wanted me to play. I love him so much and I love this game. It’s meant a great deal to me, to my dad, [and] to my family…” That, my friends, is love.
In 2006 while still with Green Bay, Favre was facing his 37th Birthday. While most of us would initially think, “37, big deal,” that is considered to be in the twilight years for NFL quarterbacks; that is you’re-on-your-career-death-bed age. You’re a decrepit old man at 37 in the NFL no matter what position you play, much less Quarterback. That is the age where a majority of quarterbacks have already retired, choose to retire or at least are seriously thinking about retirement. So naturally, this mentality was not lost on Brett Favre. Aaron Rodgers had already been drafted to be his heir-apparent, and the time would’ve been appropriate to hand over the reins to the Rookie. However, at the age of 38 he would ultimately not retire and return to play for the Packers in 2007 leading them to the NFC Championship, but ultimately (and ironically) losing by a field goal in OT to the NY Giants. Not too shabby for an “old man” by NFL standards.
In 2008, he announced his formal retirement, but later said that the Packers had pressured him to make a decision before he was ready and he still wanted to play. Whether that’s true or he just had a personal change of heart is uncertain. What is certain is that now he wanted to play. But the Packers told him that if he returned it wouldn’t be as their starter and on top of that, they refused to give him an unconditional release from the team. However, after an overblown media debacle, the Packers and Favre came to an understanding and they traded him to the New York Jets.
Favre had a mediocre year with the Jets but it wasn’t for lack of skill or trying. 8-3 by week 12, they lost the final 4 out of 5 games due to a torn bicep muscle in Favre’s throwing arm (Big Surprise: The Jets were fined $125K for not reporting the injury). Either way you could tell something wasn’t clicking between Favre and the administration because Mike Tannenbaum was making statements like, “It may be time to look in a different direction,” almost completely ignoring that Favre – now at age 39 – took them to 8-3 going into the end of the regular season.
But like I said, Favre was 39 at this point. So not surprisingly, he again announced his formal retirement and was subsequently cut from the Jets Retired List in Spring of ’09. It was an emotional affair; crying, sobbing, reminiscent… most people found this contemptuous as they naturally felt strung along by the hall-of-famer by this point in time. I couldn’t help but feel an all too familiar lump building up in my throat (as Flashback #2 will clarify). The man was in the midst of giving up the thing that he loved; the thing that had treated him so well for so long. How anyone could find contempt in that is beyond me.
Along comes Brad Childress from the Vikings, who not only practically begged Favre to come play for them (because, let’s face it, Tavaris Jackson is just terrible), but waved millions of dollars – $20 million for one year to be exact – in front of his face in order to entice him into coming out of retirement. Which is exactly what Brett did.
Enter Flashback #2: Just as I was really starting to get serious about sports, I came to a crossroad. Not many people know this but I was asked to play Varsity Volleyball at an uncharacteristically young age in High School. I was also asked to play in the school band. However, there was one huge problem – I was told I could not do both and had to choose between one or the other. Choose?! How could I? I loved doing both so much, I didn’t value one over the other. I tried everything to get the school to make an exception for me, but to no avail. Both sides were tugging at me in opposite directions trying to persuade me to do one thing over the other. So I made a decision and sports didn’t win. The rest, as most of you who know me would say, is history. I told myself that I’d come back to it after just trying music for one year. Needless to say, that didn’t happen. I simply filled in the void after Marching Band practice by taking out my frustrations on large guys during our daily tackle football game.
I know we all like to admit that we have no regrets in our lives, but candidly I regret leaving sports behind with all my heart. I miss it so much. I tried to get re-involved in collegiate leagues but that was a bust, and I’m constantly looking for competitive adult leagues around town. I want that feeling again.
Now, granted no one is offering me millions of dollars to come back to Volleyball, and I was just a high school teenager while Favre is an adult career player, but my ultimate point here is this: Brett, I understand. I cannot and will not ever fault a player for not giving up the game that they love simply because the career norms say otherwise when not only do they feel that they can still play effectively, but they’re being solicited with millions of dollars and actively pursued by owners and coaches to continue on.
It’s simple. Think of the one thing in this world that you love doing. You’re good at it, the public, your friends and family all recognize you for it, and you’re heralded because of your specific skills and abilities within that niche. Then, you get a bit older, and the outside world is pressuring you to quit; certain norms and assumptions point to the fact that you should be unable to continue on despite the fact that you feel perfectly capable. Everyone is expecting you to quit. People are saying it’s time, just give up. You’ve publicly gone back and forth with your decision which has caused some unrest amongst your following, but ultimately you feel like you’re left with no other option and so you take that option against your own better judgment. Then along comes someone who’s still very interested in you. They recognize your skill, they need you, and they want you to be a part of what they’re trying to accomplish. Not only that, but they’re willing to offer you a SUBSTANTIAL amount of compensation to bring your talents to (South Beach? Juuust kidding) their organization. Now honestly, what would you do?
In my mind, it would require little to no thought. Every fiber of my being would be instinctively screaming, “Let’s do this.” Then again, that’s just one sports fan’s opinion. You can say he handled it poorly, you can say he was arrogant and toyed with people and maybe there was a better way that he could’ve handled it. But to me, it had nothing to do with that; the man was simply having serious trouble letting go of the game.
You’ll have to forgive me because I’m very bitter about this particular set of events and it’s difficult for me not to sound condescending but I’ll do my best. Whether that has to do with my knowledge of the law or simply because I’m a woman is not clear even to me. Having spent a lot of time on my Grandparents’ farm, I simply know what bullshit smells like, and this reeks of it. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not ruling out the fact that Favre acted inappropriately… I never have. Also, I would just like to preface all of this with the fact that I think nobody actually deserves to be sexually harassed. But I cannot now nor ever in good conscience sympathize with any of the women alleging harassment against him… especially Jenn Sterger.
So, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that not only has Brett Favre been accused of sexual harassment by one Jennifer Sterger in the form of inappropriate text messages, but he’s now being sued by two women who were “massage therapists” for the New York Jets for, again, sexual harassment.
If you’ll allow me to go Judge Judy on you for a second, I’ll fill you in on the legal perspective. The Statute of Limitations for Sexual Harassment is 3 years in New York state. In other words, you have 3 years from the time your cause of action arises to file your lawsuit. So why all of these women have waited over 2 years to file their lawsuit is beyond my comprehension. “Oh my God! I’m so grossly offended I’m going to allow two full years to pass before I decide that I can’t take what was said to me all those years ago ANY MORE!” Yeah, right…
I know the law technically allows you this lengthy period of time to wait, but the reasoning behind this is because most states require that if sexually harassed while in the workplace – as all of these women allege – you follow your employer’s policies and procedures in dealing with it first and the law should be considered a secondary remedy. Think about it, if the courts allowed anyone to bring suit immediately against someone who happened to make a sexual comment or joke towards them that even slightly offended them how many suits do you think would be clogging up our judicial system? To quote a famous court case dealing with offensive language, “grow thicker skin.”
Let’s not mince words here, Jenn Sterger has amassed her “career” based solely on her looks and sexuality. She gained notoriety via the internet in 2005 after being shown on television during the Florida State/Miami football game. After the camera had fixated on her, Brent Musburger commented that “1,500 red-blooded Americans just decided to apply to Florida State.” Please be more creepy, Brent. She went on to pose for Maxim and Playboy.
She attracted more attention to herself when she decided to make public her decision to remove her breast implants literally stating, “My implants got my foot in the door… They started costing me more work than they were actually getting me, so I knew that they had kind of run their course.” That’s a class act right there, ladies and gents.
In a classic head-scratching move, Sterger also publicly criticized Ines Sainz — the Hispanic female reporter who was reportedly harassed by the Jets in their locker room — for “never dressing appropriately,” and “accomplishing exactly what she set out to do.” Are you freaking kidding me? I challenge you to Google images of Jenn Sterger and find more than two photographs where she is dressed “appropriately” and/or not partially or fully nude. The hypocrisy is strong with this one, it is…
The idea that this woman could be so offended by these photographs and that Favre’s contact with her so unwelcome that it drove her to seek action against him was a little absurd even at the beginning stages of this story if you ask me, but hey… I don’t believe this necessarily warranted her being harassed so I tried my best to keep an open mind. However, it just kept getting worse.
As most of you know, in 2008 during her whirlwind “success” of a career, she worked as a “Team Hostess” for the New York Jets. Enter sexual harassment claim.
Let’s talk about her initial allegations. First of all the media outlet which broke the story was Deadspin. According to them, Sterger approached THE EDITOR, A.J. Daulerio while there discussing a Deadspin Swimsuit Project and the two began discussing the (apparent) epidemic of “dong-shot sexts”. According to A.J., Sterger “claimed that she’s been on the receiving end of several of those types of cell phone interactions by drunk men, some of whom were professional athletes.” She later writes to A.J. in an email telling him to keep his mouth shut about the entire thing and that she doesn’t want to be involved.
Alright, I have two major problems with this. First off, Sterger admits to receiving SEVERAL of these types of photographs from many different men, yet somehow she miraculously singles out Brett Favre as being more offensive than the others? Gee, I wonder why… Yeah, yeah I know what you’re thinking – it’s the text photos PLUS the voice mails that give rise to sexual harassment. That would be true if you actually believe that this is the first time a man has proactively pursued her in this manner and if the voice mails were anything but innocent and at worst misguided. Nothing in those VMs incriminate Brett Favre in any way… except for perhaps with his wife.
Even more ridiculous is that she spills this entire story to the EDITOR of a successful internet sports blog notorious for slandering athletes and printing embarrassing, almost National Enquirer-like stories about them… and she expects this person to keep quiet about it? Please…
So the story gets out and it’s everywhere. And, SHOCKER, heeeeeeere come the photos. Her next move is also a shocker: she damn near commits extortion by telling Favre’s camp that she won’t cooperate with the NFL investigation if she and Favre reached a financial settlement. Let’s peer into her and her representatives minds at this point: OH @#$%! Baaaaaaaad idea. Let’s try to “moral up” and save face.
Coincidentally, a story surfaces stating that Sterger sold Deadspin the voice mails and photographs allegedly implicating Favre for $12,000 right around the time the television show she co-hosts is getting canceled after a rip-roaring seven months on the air. Denials galore. I’m sure this is all coincidence… Meanwhile, back at Sterger’s camp: “Well, shit. This looks terrible for us, AGAIN! Let’s just go to the NFL and see what they can do for us.” NFL investigation ensues, Sterger will not cooperate. What? Are you serious? You made this huge stink about all of this, posed an ultimatum to both Favre and the NFL and you won’t cooperate? Later, she has a change of heart and began to cooperate fully and made several statements to the tune of having turned in “indisputable evidence” that the photographs are from Favre.
This is just getting ridiculous. First of all, if you believe you have a legitimate lawsuit, then take. your. case. to. court. Or at the very least file your lawsuit to induce settlement negotiations. You claim to have indisputable evidence, and you also have the fact that Favre admitted to sending the voice mails… yet you take your case to an entity (the NFL) that has no legal authority, no subpoena power and no authority to force Favre to cooperate in any way shape or form? Then, when the NFL merely fines Favre $50K for “not cooperating” with the investigation you act all surprised and upset? You continue to threaten to sue and yet never do? What happened to indisputable evidence? Oh that’s right, you know if you go to court Favre’s and the NFL’s attorneys will rip your client a new one with her stellar reputation leading the way.
Ultimately, the NFL stated openly that they found no violations of the NFL’s policies on sexual harassment. The NFL is not there to police private conversations between employees outside of the workplace.
Basically the way I assume this went down is that yes, Favre did send those pictures – or at the very least came on to her pretty blatantly. She thought she could make a dime off of it by simply threatening action and went to town on him. Oh shit, it didn’t work he called her bluff, she looks like a piece of crap, and now he has a permanent mark on his reputation all because someone decided that they wanted to get greedy over a married man’s poor decision making.
To make matters worse, after the Sterger matter wrapped up, two more women who were “massage therapists” for the Jets came forward and filed a lawsuit against Brett Favre and the Jets organization. I give these women a little more credit, but not much more. We know very little about these women and what they’re alleging happened between them and Favre. However, again, why they’ve waited not only until the ultimate conclusion of the Sterger matter AND over two years after the alleged incidents occurred is making them look not so great. We’ll just have to wait and see what becomes of that but I’m not thinking much will.
In sum, none of this will impact Favre’s career the way steroids have put a stain on some MLB players’ careers. People have pretty much already forgotten about it, or see it as an afterthought even in the wake of these most recent allegations. But Favre’s time in the NFL speaks volumes, and that will trump some horribly handled allegations by some women who appear to only be after monetary incentive. To be frank, when it was all said and done I didn’t even care if Brett had sent these women pictures of his testicles, the way it all went down made them look like nothing but money grubbing gold diggers trying to extend their 15 minutes of fame in a sneaky and sleazy manner.
Was it a good idea for a married man to flirt with and possibly send scandalous photos of himself to the women who surrounded him at times during his career? I think we can all agree that it wasn’t. But, after all, Sir Charles said it best: “They don’t keep you out of the hall of fame for being freaky.”
Yes, legacy. I don’t care what you think about him, to deny his skill is just plain sports ignorance and the epitome of stubbornness (and trust me, I’m a stubbornness expert). Love him or hate him, Brett Favre has left his – likely permanent – mark on Football. The man is now a statistical God, who’s records are not likely to be broken any time soon if ever.
I can already hear what some of you naysayers are thinking: “But Blair! He leads the NFL in all-time interceptions! Clearly he’s terrible!” Didn’t I tell you to leave your stubbornness at the door? Let’s go outside my comfort zone and do a little math. Favre has 10,169 attempts and 6,300 completions. That means over a 20 year career he’s completed 62% of his passes. Out of those 10K attempts, he has 336 interceptions which equates to 3% of his passes. His career ended with an accumulate QB rating of 86 and a post-season QB rating of 88. Hell, I’ll even put it in layman’s terms for you: When you throw over 10,000 passes in your career, you’re going to have some interceptions in there.
In 2009, at age 40 (FORTY, PEOPLE!) he had one of the greatest seasons in the history of NFL QBs (363-531, 4,202, 33 TDs and 7 INTs). The only QBs that even come close to comparison are Favre’s own previous seasons from the mid to late 90s and Peyton Manning in 2008 and 2009, and Trent Green in 2005. If that’s not proof of the man’s awesome abilities, I don’t know what is.
Ironically, in 2005 he was named the #4 greatest QB of all time behind Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana, and John Elway. Favre currently holds 46 NFL records and is ranked 2nd in several other categories. He is the only quarterback to have led a team to victory over all 32 teams in the league since the NFL first expanded to 32 franchises in 2002.In addition, Favre owns a number of team records, having cemented his name into almost every passing category in the history of the Green Bay Packers.
For obvious reasons, Favre also owns many age-based milestones in the NFL. At 40, Favre became the oldest starting quarterback to win a playoff game by beating Dallas in the 2009 Divisional Playoff game. He is also the first known player to be a grandfather while active in the NFL. I hope that sunk in
I think it’s pretty obvious that he’s made quite the impact on football and a definite statement redefining the longevity of NFL QBs. I would argue that he’s the Hakeem Olajuwon of the NFL: It will be a while – if ever – before we see another one like him. I salute Favre and I thank him for all of the great grid iron moments and the ri-freaking-diculous 2009 season especially. Despite his lackluster 2010 season, if that’s the last time I’ll have ever seen him play, I’ll still feel like I witnessed history. Love him or hate him, he has done more for the game of football and the position of Quarterback than almost anyone else who’s stepped onto the field. Will he be back in 2011? Who knows? I’m not holding my breath this time, but at any rate it doesn’t matter. An exciting player to watch with the career and numbers to back it up, Brett Favre will be talked about long after any of his worst critics are gone.
So Brett, I say forget the critics; forget the hate some have thrown your way. Pay all of it no mind whatsoever. You’ve done all of your talking on the field and that’s all a true football fan could have ever asked of you. Long live your reputation as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. Long live your absurdly impressive records.
Long live No. 4.