The mythology of Brett Favre

I used to be a Brett Favre fan.  It was hard not to be — this guy could seemingly do anything in the 4th quarter with Green Bay in the late 90s.  Throughout that run, he was the iron man (who never missed a start) who would come out in near-zero temperatures and lead the Packers to victory.  That was his mythology.  But, I’m fed up with the press still buying into that despite all of the evidence to the contrary that he is, in fact, a selfish player who has no concept of “team” (in what is one of the ultimate team sports).  And after last night’s preseason game against the Texans, apparently he’s something else I didn’t think he could be:  a dirty player.

His recent prima donna routine has been tiresome and certainly did a lot to destroy his formerly stellar legacy.  The whole “will he retire/won’t he retire” BS got old the first three seasons he did it.  Green Bay got so tired of it that they eventually forced him out.  But instead of taking the hint that maybe he didn’t have a whole season in him anymore, he went to the Jets last year, played half of a season fairly well, and then proceeded to tank his team right out of playoff contention.  I get that he’s a competitor and needs that competition — it’s something people love about sports.  But, what he did was something more than that.  He made the game solely, and completely, for him.  And after that, the mythology of Brett Favre grew again.  He seemed to get that he might’ve pushed things too far, and he claimed to retire – again.

This summer, with ESPN parking Rachel Nichols in his home town, he went through the whole “will-he/won’t-he retire” bullshit again.  Like a petulant child, he said he was retiring (ie, quitting) when the Vikings told him he’d have to go to training camp to learn his new team’s offense.  (Favre is somewhat notorious for skipping training camp with Green Bay).  But, he went on Letterman & basically said “who knows” if he’d play if he “felt the itch” during the season.  In other words, it wasn’t over.  On major network TV in the largest media market in the world (the market of his former team), he goes on TV and tries to coyly claim “who knows”, and then bemoans the speculation of the media — the media that he most obviously is courting.

And this is where the mythology of Brett Favre is so frustrating.  The media (and he) portrays Brett Favre as this good ol’ country boy who just likes to play football and is just so horribly misunderstood throughout his dealings with teams.  In reality, he’s a selfish me-first guy who shopped for teams that would let him get away with skipping training camp and basically gets away with it for the sole reason of his (now-sporadic) ability to throw touchdowns.  Fine.  There are worse guys in the league, for sure — but let’s not pretend he’s some great guy.  He’s an all-time great talent past the peak of his career who happens to also be a selfish player, who pretends to be a folksy nice guy.  Pluses, minuses.  I can deal with that.

That brings us to last night.  Lining up at the WR position in a wildcat formation, Favre cracked back on the Houston Texans’ safety, Eugene Wilson.  That is, he delivered a purposely illegal hit on Wilson’s knee, who was injured and expressed relief that he could even walk after the game.  That type of hit is illegal because attacking the player blindly at the knees is notorious for incurring career-ending injuries.  And in this league, we’re talking about costing another guy several hundred thousand dollars, possibly millions.  Favre was flagged for the foul, and hopefully he will be fined.  (Let’s be clear — if that was a linebacker delivering the same hit on Favre, the linebacker would be fined and possibly suspended).  Even ESPN’s commentators, who incessantly and effusively mentioned Favre throughout the night, called the hit what it was:  dirty.  That doesn’t make Favre “a dirty player” by nature, necessarily.  He hasn’t been in the past.  But, Favre is not the mythology of his past, either.  Favre is what he is now.  And right now, he’s a player that will play through the 3rd quarter of a preseason game and take a career-ending shot at another player’s knees in a meaningless game.

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