The large majority of us fail to qualify as psychologists, but this really does come down to one of two things. Either Brett Favre is someone who likes to make people beg and craves attention to the point of addiction, or he is an inconsiderate, entirely self-absorbed narcissist who has no understanding of how his actions impact other people.
Unless, of course, someone can be all of those things at once.
Every year it’s the same thing: Favre finishes the season, jerks people around, plays with the lives and fortunes of those unfortunate enough to be wearing the same uniform. Through it all, he never seems to feel the least bit guilty. In this case, the Minnesota Vikings are conducting training camp without a real quarterback, and their Super Bowl odds in Las Vegas are dropping by the day.
Too bad for you, Jared Allen. You, too, Adrian Peterson. You’re a sap, Sidney Rice.
As for someone like defensive back Lito Sheppard, who presumably signed with the Vikes in April thinking he was thisclose to a Super Bowl, it may be time to reassess the situation. Sage Rosenfels or Tarvaris Jackson is every bit as capable as Favre of throwing a back-breaking interception in the NFC Championship, but each is far less likely to get the Vikings there in the first place.
Think there’s any chance Sheppard’s contract has an out clause in the event Brett was, you know, being Brett?
But seriously: what sort of cheap thrill does Favre get from pulling this stunt every summer? And just as importantly, why do people continue enabling his megalomaniacal behavior?
We know the answer, of course. Because Favre is a quarterback. Because the position is thinner than the Olsen twins. Because there are coaches and organizations willing to sacrifice all of their values for the chance to win, if for no other reason than the fact that sports have become big business and butt-kissing has become commonplace.
After all, it wasn’t enough for the New York Yankees to give Alex Rodriguez $275 million over 10 years; they had to give him season tickets and up to $30 million in bonus money for reaching certain milestones in home runs. (Huh?) Guys like Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez got to jump into pennant races, mid-stride, as if they were Rosie Ruiz. And conniving attention-seekers like Favre snub their teammates at the start of the season (by blowing off training camp) and at the end (with ill-advised throws) without the slightest bit of regret or remorse.
All of this brings to mind the saga of Carl Everett, the mercurial and former Red Sox outfielder who had, er, issues with authority. Everett believed his standing and accomplishments as a player allowed him certain privileges, like, for instance, showing up late. (Martinez, too, perceived this as an acquired perk.) Everett often argued that he deserved to be treated differently, failing to recognize that he was, in fact, getting preferential care.
Said former Sox coach Tommy Harper when asked about advising Everett: "I told him he is treated differently -- on the first and 15th of every month.’’
So that’s why people earn different salaries?
In the case of Favre, his behavior is now nothing short of pathological, no matter how you slice it. For the moment, let’s give Favre the benefit of the doubt and say that, on the first occasion, following the 2006 season, he truly did not know whether he wanted to play until he got to training camp the following year. Then he pulled the same trick in 2007. And in 2008. And in 2009. On the last two occasions, Favre ended with the New York Jets and then the Vikes, who are now falling all over themselves to grant Favre anything he wants so that their Super Bowl odds improve again.
At some point, it’s hard to know who we should feel sorriest for. The annual Favre story is now beyond a soap opera. Save for the Green Bay Packers, who finally told the quarterback to take a powder, everyone else involved in this never-ending satire has been downright pathetic.
Two years ago, when Favre un-retired and applied with the Packers to be re-instated, the Packers ultimately rebuffed him. Favre ended up being traded to the New York Jets. It was during this time that aging former Pats linebacker Tedy Bruschi was asked about the distraction Favre had caused in Green Bay, offering a rather succinct explanation for where the problem rested.
"I would take that responsibility as a player," Bruschi said. "As a player, the decisions you make, you have to realize the ramifications of them. When you say you're going to hang it up, that's got to be your (final) decision. If anything, I'm learning from this. Certainly, when my time comes, I'm going to take my time."
Last summer, Bruschi walked.
Too bad for the rest of us that Favre didn’t do the same.
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