In the last three years, the Brett Favre(notes) we used to know has changed. He was the most recent (and perhaps all-time best) name on that list of gunslingers we love so well. From Bobby Layne to Joe Namath to Terry Bradshaw to Ken Stabler to John Elway, there are few things the NFL community respects more than a guy who will pull himself up out of the muck and throw a 60-yard bomb for the winning score. There's a certain mentality to it that transcends the game, and Favre showed enough of it though his career in Green Bay to build up a big bank account of media love.
Through his departure from the Packers to where we stand now, Favre would need it. In traveling from Green Bay to New York to Minnesota, he's displayed his worst traits and brought out some of the media's worst, as well. It's become clear that in the end, Favre is driven as much by his insecurities as his bravado -- insecurities about how his body will hold up, how he's seen at any given time, and what the people dependent on his ability to fling touchdown passes will do to prove their need for him to do so every single year. The annual retirement drama has morphed into a cross between a four-year-old kid threatening to run away from home and the most unintentionally hilarious media campouts you will ever see.
But with the recent allegations against Favre, the league's Golden Boy is less a complicated hero and more a field of landmines for his team and the league. The NFL is now investigating allegations unearthed by Deadspin.com that Favre texted inappropriate messages and photos to Jenn Sterger, a former New York Jets "game hostess", when he was the Jets' quarterback in 2008. That was bad enough, but those allegations brought out others. Now, two massage therapists who were part of the Jets' physical therapy group have come out and said that Favre sent them similar messages. You can go to Deadspin.com and hear what certainly sounds like voicemails to Sterger from Favre, clumsily attempting a hookup that doesn't appear to have reciprocal interest. It's a grab bag of stuff for the media, especially with Favre's Vikings getting ready to face the Jets this Monday, and so soon after the Ines Sainz drama.
(By the way, it's important to note that the alleged Favre stuff in New York happened during Eric Mangini's time as the team's head coach, though Tony Dungy will probably find a way to blame it on Rex Ryan).
Why are these allegations important? Why are they any of our business? And why is it such a potential problem for the NFL?
First, the allegations are important because the NFL has a personal conduct policy that reaches into the lives of its players. And with the possibility that a Jets employee acted as an intermediary between Favre and Sterger, this becomes more of a public matter -- now, we're dealing with the possibility of workplace harassment.
And the allegations are our business because Brett Favre is our business, and that's the way Brett Favre wants it. Favre has made a tacit agreement with the media that during the offseason, he will keep the tension of those retirement/non-retirement announcements going as long as possible, giving said media something to talk about incessantly when doing homework on minicamp bodies and sixth-round draft picks doesn't have the juice we're looking for. Ed Werder and Scott Hanson (who are qualified for far better things) can be sent to Hattiesburg on a moment's notice every time something burps up from the Favre compound, and the circus can start all over again. One wonders how "comprehensive" the coverage will be if the allegations against Favre uncover truths as deep and disturbing as they appear.
And the NFL, who just made a major moral statement with Ben Roethlisberger's(notes) four-game suspension, can not been seen as weak if another star quarterback has engaged in deviant behavior of any stripe. What if Roger Goodell has no choice but to slam the hammer down, and levy a large fine and/or multi-game suspension against Favre? That could easily prompt the one arrow Favre is always eager to pull from his quiver -- the specter of yet another retirement. For a readership/listenership/viewership that would probably prefer a work stoppage to another offseason of "Will he or won't he?" -- that's where everyone could be feeling Favre's punishment.
"I'm not getting into that," Favre said during the press conference that announced the trade for Randy Moss(notes). "I've got my hands full with the Jets and am trying to get some timing down with our guys, so that's all I'm going to discuss."
Don't worry, Brett. We'll do the talking for now. You're the center of attention again, and we know how important that kind of momentum is to you.