Well, the Brett Favre saga has finally come to what appears to be an end. The speculation as to what would happen to Favre after his un-retirement has been the dominant sports story for seemingly the past few years, when in reality he has only usurped all other headlines for around a month or so. The Green Bay Packers decided not to take the face of their franchise back, instead opting to deal the legendary QB to the New York Jets and pin their own hopes on the arm of the young Aaron Rodgers. I explored my distain for this story in the previous post (scroll down if you’re in to that sort of thing) and while I am happy that the Favre/Green Bay limbo is finally through, the end result has not changed my opinion on Favre, the Packers or the media.

Favre still comes out of this looking narcissistic and egomaniacal, and the Packers still look level headed and have their sights set firmly on the future. The media attention paid to this story is warranted to a degree, because I can’t remember a more compelling off-season hysteria like this in pro football in my lifetime. While ESPN has nauseated me with its blanketing, make that tarp-like coverage of the whole ordeal, the fact that the Packers shunned their hall-of-fame QB because of their need to move forward and because of his attitude is still rather surprising. The NFL, more than any other sport, is a business first meritocracy. If you’re the best at your position, you’re the one that plays there, bottom line. The only exceptions to this rule in the past have been when players put themselves too far ahead of the team’s best interests, as in the case of guys like Keyshawn Johnson and Terrell Owens, who both made early exits from the Bucs and Eagles respectively for attempting to poison the locker room to a cataclysmic degree.

It seems that the only logical assertion to be made in the Favre situation is that his return to Green Bay would have harmed the team’s chances in the upcoming season. Not because he isn’t the best man for the job, which he clearly is, but because his attitude and the level of attention he was garnering would have been horrible for a young and upcoming squad like the Packers. In my mind, that’s the decision the front office and coaching personnel in Green Bay made: “We love you Brett, but you’re going to do us harm if we let you come back”. It’s almost like that old boyfriend or girlfriend who wants you to forgive them after an infidelity and no matter how much you think it would be bad for you, you think about doing it. If the Packers were me and Favre were a girl, they would have folded like a bad hand in poker and taken him back, but they showed a level of professionalism and resolve that could go down in NFL history as one of the best decisions ever made.

Why do I think so? Because Favre is on the last three years of his career at best, with a more likely timetable of two more quality years in the NFL. Then his body will finally give out and no matter how much he wants the attention, he will have to at long end remain retired. Therefore the Packers were able to move on more quickly, keep Aaron Rodgers (who will end up being a damn good NFL quarterback, mark my words) and avoid a media circus throughout training camp and on into the regular season. Not only that, but they avoided sending Favre where he wanted to go, the Pack’s division rival Minnesota Vikings and instead sent him to the AFC. The Jets being outside their conference, Green Bay won’t even meet New York for two more seasons, by which time Brett might already be riding off into the sunset.

Now on to the New York Bretts…er…Jets. In the interest of full disclosure, I stole that from some guy on ESPN because I love a good play on words. Anyhow, they’ve made a move that might just get them back in the playoffs and should at least make for some entertaining football now that Favre and the Jets will meet Tom Brady and the Patriots two times a season. They simultaneously released their starting QB Chad Pennington, a Marshall grad who has run into both arm strength and injury problems during his tenure as a Jet. He was getting a run for his money from back-up Kellen Clemens this past year, and will most likely fair better with the team that recently signed him, the Miami Dolphins. I heard a talking head on ESPN call Pennington “flat out bad” and I really feel like that is an unfair assessment of Chad’s ability. The guy hasn’t been able to avoid injuries during the better part of his career and it’s not like he had a Pro Bowl squad surrounding him at any point. Favre will find that inheriting the QB position in New York is a daunting task, not only because of the fact that the city is a media tempest, but because that team just isn’t ready for prime-time at this point. I thought that Pennington would end up in either the role Favre was after as the Vikings signal caller, or put both Kyle Orton and Rex Grossman to shame in a three way battle for the Bears’ QB spot, but he ended up in Miami where Bill Parcels is running the show. Parcells drafted Pennington when he was the head coach in New York and since he’s now the behind the scenes shot caller in Miami, it's not at all surprising Chad is a Dolphin. It follows Bill's trend of bringing in “Parcells guys” when he switches venues and will help a team that is in dire need of some stability at the quarterback position. So the Favre drama is put at (somewhat) of an arm’s length (for now).


This year’s pennant races stirred up a little bit of a bugaboo for me, which is the outright buying and selling of talent down the playoff stretch. This rampant selling off and adding on of players is not only a problem in baseball, but in the national pastime it seems to be an all-out bidding war every year when the trade deadline comes around. Not only that, but this year especially big-name talent is moving around from team to team as pennant races tighten up and the run for playoff positioning begins in earnest. It’s a strange phenomenon when losing teams simply give up on guys that could be the core of their future success to dump salaries or acquire even more young prospects which they will eventually probably deal in coming years at the trade deadline. Multiple unproven prospects for proven ability is usually the exchange in a lot of sports, not just baseball, but it just seems like many teams just won’t sit and wait for guys to pan out anymore. Manny Ramirez, Mark Teixeira, Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn (the latter both being Cincinnati Reds’ players) all switched squads, and their proven ability sent a lot of no-name minor leaguers and lesser known utility players to new teams in the swap. Not only that, but we should be ready for more to come as baseball’s waiver wire heats up. Gary Sheffield of the Tigers just hit the waiver wire after he moaned about a lack of playing time and will probably end up as yet another hired gun on a team trying to make the playoffs or win the whole she-bang.

I understand that baseball is a business at its core and entertainment is always its aim, but winning at the cost of your future has become the move du-jour among any team within a mile of making the playoffs these days. I’m afraid when I tell my children about the guys I grew up watching like Alan Trammell and “Sweet” Lou Whitaker of the Detroit Tigers, who stayed with the club for their entire careers, the story will become as alien to them as legends my dad and uncles told me of the glory days of their baseball. The game changes at lightning speed nowadays and I’m just afraid that the lack of team loyalty, which has for so long been blamed on money-hungry ball players, will actually be eradicated by winning obsessed owners and team presidents, who will stop at nothing to claim victory now. This win yesterday mentality is going to end up poisoning sports for a lot of guys and gals my age as we get older and the generation behind us is probably going to understand free-agency and the waiver wire better than I understand the actual ins and outs of the game of baseball. It used to be that owners were all about money and the players were all about the game. Then the Black Sox Scandal proved that the players were also all about the money, just like the owners they were railing against. Then the players’ salaries inflated to such breathtaking amounts that owners cried foul at their greed. Now the bottom line might as well be chalked onto the field alongside the bases, where cash is the only language both sides seem to speak anymore. I might be getting a bit jaded, but then again I might be witnessing the last throws of a battle between baseball and football for the American sports fan’s soul. Football, the intense and brutal meritocracy of sport, is built for this type of money-grubbing and win-now bullshit. I never thought my precious baseball was set on such an untoward path, but I now see even football players and owners as comparative bastions of loyalty and pride. Oh, me.

I hope to post again soon, so stay tuned for a few thoughts on the Olympics, both sporty and political.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, stay tuned for LeBron dunking and blocking the [bad word] lights out. In your face, China and Greece. Pau Gasol, you're next.