Thirteen years ago, the advent of the 24-hour news cycle collided tidily with sports, celebrity, sex, race and crime to create a perfect storm of serialized obsession. The O.J. Simpson trial commanded the constant attention of millions of citizens from disparate walks of life – particularly those of us with work schedules that allowed us to do some television-watching during daytime hours.
As the proceedings dragged on, cynics would utter protests about overkill. The refrain would be repeated five years later, when the capricious controversy over the 2000 presidential election provided a month's worth of intrigue. "I just want it to end," people would moan. To which non-9-to-5ers like me would reply, "What are you talking about? I don't ever want it to end."
All of this, naturally, brings us back to Brett Favre, who has turned what is normally a dead spot in the NFL season into a ceaseless Fourth of July fireworks display. As a football columnist and unabashed fan of real-life daytime drama, I have absolutely no problem with that, and unlike some others – say, Packers general manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy – I'm certainly in no hurry to see it go away.
It won't anytime soon, thanks to interviews like the one Favre gave Monday in which he essentially accused the Packers' power brokers of lying and insisted that they've told him he's no longer welcome in Green Bay and that they hope to prevent him from playing elsewhere.
And to whom did Favre choose to grant his first interview since news of his desire to end his retirement went public? Fox News' Greta Van Susteren, whose career-making moment occurred as a CNN legal analyst during the O.J. circus.
Does this make Favre the new O.J.? That's a rough comparison, especially given the preponderance of perceived villains in this saga. While some blame the legendary quarterback for waffling and putting the organization in a tough spot, others want Thompson (and, to a lesser extent, McCarthy) run out of town. Others reserve their spite for Favre's presumed successor, Aaron Rodgers. And, naturally, there's that hearty faction that blames it all on the people in my business.
As always, I'm here to put the "me" in media. Have at it, ladies and gentlemen of the jury:
TRIPPIN' ON E(MAIL)
"Can you please share the number of hate e-mail you got from Packers fans after your recent column? I would really like to know … As a Packers fan, I agree with what you wrote, but I know many won't … Thanks."
I can't tell you the exact number, but I can definitely share …
"Thank you Mister Rat Bastard. With your awesome reporting and column, you helped to show the media's feelings (and the yearning of the underprivalaged Aaron Rodger's 'I have a dream of being injured' fanclub) on the Farve situation. Being from Wisconsin, I can remember when Green Bay drafted Tony Mandarich and Terrell Buckley. Perhaps if you managed to wait a while for your column, maybe Ted Thompson (who is overrated) could have traded for a draft pick. Or a player. Although I guess it wouldn't matter much to you, as the teams you seem to cheer for don't win championships anyways. Please go cheer for Tom Brady for the next, oh, decade and leave the Packers alone. Its cold enough up here without your 'help.' "
Would it help if I taught you how to spell underprivileged, when "it's" requires an apostrophe or (amazingly) how to spell the last name of the legendary quarterback in question? Or, at the very least, some manners? On a positive note, you nailed "Mister Rat Bastard."
"Thank God half the media is smart and the other half is like you. How do you presume after the season we had that that is what Thompson shold do? How do you presume after the season he had second only to Brady in statistics that he needs to exert his executive power? How do you presume to decide what would be good for the Packers? Not everyone blames that 3-point loss in the OT (versus the Giants) on one man. People were not catching, blocking and making plays. That ultimatly decided the game but is not the reason we lost. If everybody did there jobs it would be the Packers all over Patriots instead of the Giants. You and Cris Collinsworth must talk negatively about Brett as some kind of pillow talk! Duh, lets put all our money on an injury-prone question mark instead of the guy who has got us to 22 playoff games. Duh lets potentially send him to the Vikings or even worse the Bears who we play twice a season so he can rub our noses in the fact that Thompson read one to many articles by idiots like yourself, and believed he could walk down the streets of Green Bay after making a stupid decision like letting a legend go. I know Rodgers would probably do good but if he goes down we would be screwed. I feel my brain cells burning after reading your article. I don't care who reads this, but I only pray Thompson does."
I can feel your brain cells burning, too … both of them. Sorry, Sir Sir, but you just made it too darn easy. Oops, Mr. Collinsworth just rolled over with drool on his lips. Gotta go!
"Brett Favre should be playing for the Packers, Aaron Rodgers has only proven he can get hurt whenever he plays plus Brian Brohm will be the Packers starter when Brett Favre does retire for good. I am not sure why you think Rodgers is so good I guess he played for Cal maybe thats why anyway the Packers were not a very good team for over 20 years before Brett Favre started for them and they have been a good team since the Packers would be wrong if they didnt let Favre be the starter and went with an unproven Rodgers!"
I am so thankful that Rodgers went to Cal, because attending the world's greatest university ensured that, unlike you, he understands the value of basic punctuation. That said, your points about his injury history (juxtaposed with Favre's amazing ability to play through pain) are valid ones.
"Man, your an idiot. Favre wants to play, let him stay. You don't release or cut a Pro Bowl QB. Idiot."
Man, you're a master of unintended irony. Is that John Denver I hear in the background? Country roads, take me home/To the place, I be-long/West Virginia, mountain momma/Take me home, country roads …
"Only problem regarding Ted Thompson releasing Favre is, well, this is a town that killed Dan Devine's dog after a loss once. I'd like to hope that Thompson lives in a gated community, but having been to GB many times, I don't think they have any."
Unfortunately for the proud residents of Green Bay, dog killing is no longer cool – as I was just discussing via heavily scrutinized correspondence with Michael Vick.
"Why don't you shut your mouth about Brett Favre. You are obviously not a fan. Favre has at least one if not two years left that he can play and be productive. Arron Rodgers is a joke. He is half of what Favre is. I hope they trade Rodgers and place Brohm under Favre and he will be twice the quarterback Rodgers is. So why don't you keep your Packers-hating comments to yourself. If you had half the heart Favre does you would be the best sportswriter in the nation. And you are not."
Grand Forks, N.D.
Actually, I am (as well as being the most modest). I would also note that "Arron" Rodgers is twice the player that Aaron Rodgers is, were the former player, in fact, to exist.
"Michael you disappoint me. You've obviously lost your sports fan soul. This is not a topic you can apply business practicality and/or logical thinking towards; it's much bigger than that. It's about witnessing greatness, in its natural environment just one more time! Think about it, what would you give to see an all-time great of yesteryear play, and play well just one more season? Well Brett Favre is one of those guys and he can still play! Soak in the sun my friend! Anyone that's a fan and/or in the business of football should know that. Shame on you Michael."
I hear you – as I've written many times during Favre's amazing career, most recently after watching his retirement press conference in March, it has been a true pleasure watching him play. I didn't enjoy seeing Joe Montana suit up for the Chiefs or watching Emmitt Smith charge out of the tunnel with the Cardinals, either. I just happen to think that starting Rodgers in 2008 is the best thing for the franchise. I have no problem with Favre changing his mind about retirement – it's a tough decision, and obviously a very emotional one. Others, however, are not so charitable …
"Hey Michael, the Packers stated that they will 'do the right thing' regarding the whole Brett Favre situation. More important is that Roger Goodell do the right thing and that is to disallow Favre's reinstatement and keep him on Green Bay's retired list. When this guy is really ready to retire, he should do so and not tease everyone with his going in and out of retirement. It is not fair to the fans and also has an impact on the team, especially Aaron Rodgers, whose time, as the QB of the future, has arrived. After all, who does Brett Favre think he is, Mark Martin? For the sake of the game, the Packers and the fans, I sincerely hope Goodell leaves Favre no choice but to honor his commitment to retirement. All great careers must come to an end and the time is right …"
Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
Interesting idea, albeit an unconstitutional one.
"Brett Favre, you have openly heard me say 'Otherwise known as GOD in Wisconsin.' Growing up a mere 30 miles from Green Bay during the non-Super Bowl days, I have been so proud of the Pack and Brett. Sorry if it is the NFL, but if Favre plays somewhere else it would be like my husband waking up and saying he is leaving me. He will be dead to me (Brett, not Mitch)."
You go, Lorena …
"Hey Mike, just wanted to say i enjoyed the article about Favre. I will start by saying that I am a proud cheesehead. However, I do not believe Favre is even considering a comeback. I firmly believe it was a story made out of nothing as Favre did not sign the papers yet. If i am wrong about this and Favre does attempt to come back and counters his own words of 'it is just rumors,' then i agree, the Packers should trade Favre. I am a huge fan and am very thankful for being able to watch a guy like him. In fact, he is my role model, he always has been, but it is time to move on. Considering how Ted Thompson has performed brilliantly in the previous drafts, I support whatever decision he makes. Thompson is looking at the best interest of the team, which includes looking ahead towards a brighter future. So, my point is, regardless of what other criticism you receive from Packers fans, I feel your opinion is correct. I also liked how you used the 49ers story between Montana and (Steve) Young, that was a great example. I have faith in Ted Thompson and the Packers. Go Pack Go!"
Thanks, and vaya con Dios, mi amigo.
"First of all, I enjoy your writing. I think your heart is in the right place when drumming up sentiment and support for a young football player that appears to be a class act and a genuinely nice guy. I've noticed Charles Barkley taking up Aaron's cause, too. However, I can't agree with your spin that Aaron is one of a select few in the NFL who is excited to prove themselves at training camp. Nor can I agree that his green room incident entitles him to a sympathy vote while competing for a starting job in the NFL. Lombardi said it best, quoting old Romans: winning isn't everything, it's the only thing. What would Vince, or any other great coach do when faced with the choice of playing Rodgers over Favre? Once you ignore the drama surrounding Brett's retirement and the spin that Rodgers is a nice kid from Cal who needs a chance, you are faced with one cold, hard fact: Brett Favre is by far, a superior quarterback than Aaron Rodgers. Imagine listening to a pack of younger employees whispering around the water cooler, surmising when the 'old guy' is going to retire for good (after all, they've put in their couple years and 'deserve' a promotion in his stead; despite the superior job performance the 'old guy' brings to the bottom line.) McCarthy will start Favre if Ted keeps him on the team and doesn't find a suitable place to trade him. What I don't foresee is Ted sticking to the line: 'Aaron Rodgers is our starting quarterback' for much longer. Will I feel sorry for Rodgers? Yes and no. He has a great attitude that I think any NFL team could appreciate. However, the story 'Rudy' could only ever happen on a college football field in this generation. Attitude be damned: it all comes down to how a player can help a team win this year, because if a general manager is making decisions to focus on the following year, they should be sacked."
I understand your points, and I appreciate the levelheaded delivery. But I also think that the analogy is flawed. I jumped into the Pacific Ocean on Monday afternoon with Dan the Man, with whom I've been best friends since we were four. He works the ramp for a major airline, a job he has held for more than 20 years, and generally likes Favre. His take as we dodged seaweed and choppy waves at Ocean Beach in San Diego: "If I retired tomorrow, then told the company four months later that I wanted my job back, they might give it to me: But I'd be at the bottom in terms of seniority and salary, as if I'd never worked there at all."
"I am a born and bred Packers fan. I've loved having Brett Favre as my Green Bay Packer QB all these years. He's done some great things. But I am 100 percent behind Aaron Rodgers as the starting quarterback of my 2008 Green Bay Packers and beyond. Here's to building another Super Bowl winning team! Go Pack Go!"
If Rodgers leads the Packers to a Super Bowl victory, you'll have plenty of company.
"Why don't you just start being more independent about trying to write things that are just dumb and mundane? I mean, to say Rodgers is better than Favre and say he will beat Favre's streak is purely anonymous. Even people from Green Bay would agree with that."
Help me out, people. I'm really lost here.
"Your article about making the hard call in Green Bay shows why you write for a living and are not in football operations. If Green Bay's GM dumps a proven Pro Bowl QB over QB who hasn't proven anything he won't be a GM for long."
Reader alert: Kindly remind me to keep doing whatever it takes to remain a sports columnist and avoid working in football operations.
"No question, merely a comment. July seems to be acknowledged as the slowest 'NFL' news month so, with Bret Favre's reputation as a practical joker, I think he's merely having some fun with the media and fans starved for NFL news that doesn't have anything to do with DWI's, domestic disputes, drug testing, drug abuse, spying and whatever else the idle ballplayers can come up with. Was that a run on sentence or what?"
Yes, but you are excused, for the premise is genius.
"You know, when something like this Brett thing goes down everybody asks the coaches and players how they feel. What about you guys, the reporters? I mean, you all must be pretty stressed, darting around trying to get the best story. It seems as if the players and coaches take it all in stride. I've never heard a player say 'yeah man, it's screwing me up, this drama with (T.O., Tiki, Brett, Vick, etc.) We won't make it to the playoffs.' No, I don't recall one moment when they've uttered those words. You reporters though … you guys have it rough, trying to keep ahead of 'the pack' on 'the story.' So Mikey, how are you holding up? Tell me how this Brett fiasco makes really you feel."
Like the late, great Godfather of Soul, I Feel Good!