As much as many of us would like to sit here and assassinate Brett Favre's character, the problem with casting Brett Favre as this terrible villain in the NFL is that he's never really claimed to be anything other than a deeply flawed character. As one writer remembers in the Washington Post, Favre will be the first to admit to his shortcomings:
By the time I left town, Favre had talked about vodka blackouts, a Vicodin addiction, his father's meanness and the fact he probably would need a cane before he turned 50. He ran down the Green Bay Packers, his longtime team. He ran himself down for his annual Hamlet act (this was the third or fourth season in which he vacillated between playing or retiring). He was the opposite of the Jordanesque inscrutable sports icon. Here was a guy confessing all in advance.
Addiction... Insecurity... Resentments... Self-obsession and self-loathing in equal measure... Brett Favre is exactly the sort of person who'd show terrible judgment in sending a picture of his penis to a 26 year-old sideline reporter. The writing was on the wall all along.
Instead, the real story with Favre is, and always has been, the way the media shapes him.
Favre's public fall doesn't resemble the descents of Tiger Woods or Lance Armstrong, holier-than-thou icons whose comeuppances had more to do with their self-righteousness and hypocrisy than their sins. Favre was never that guy. He's always been a redneck, an egomaniac, an addict and an eternal child. Those shocked by the allegations haven't been paying attention. To paraphrase the philosopher coach Dennis Green, Favre is who we thought he was.
When you think about it, the only difference between Brett Favre and, say, Allen Iverson, is that the media cast Favre in the white hat. He's been dysfunctional all along; more surprising than his downfall was that we put him on the pedestal to begin with.
I'm sick of writing about Brett Favre or even thinking about him, so we'll keep this brief. But it's certainly a question worth asking, even if we leave it unanswered. Why did we worship Favre?
The answer says something about us. Or at least the way mainstream media understands us. In the minds of big time corporations like ESPN, we need heroes like Favre. All part of the business. But the problem is, Favre stuck around too long. Because in 2010, tearing down the mainstream icons has become its own industry. The editor behind Favre's latest scandal explains his publishing rationale:
A Minneapolis reporter later asked Gawker Media founder Nick Denton, [Deadspin editor] Daulerio's boss, about the ethics of burning a source. Denton ... tweeted: "Our ethics policy? To publish the real story, the one that so-called sports journalists have spent their careers avoiding."
And with that, we get a glimpse at the life cycle that's emerged in journalism in recent years. Favre's the perfect example. The mainstream media distorted him into some paragon of American values, and a blog like Deadspin does the yeoman's work to point out the lunacy of that image, turning him into some dirty old man, much to the delight of cynics everywhere. We get one image that's too big and too great to possibly be true. Then another that's comically shriveled and skewed in its own right. It's a hall of mirrors effect.
And somewhere in between, there's Brett Favre and the rest of us. Unsure who to trust, looking around at all these distorted images, staring in the mirror, and asking a simple question: "Is this what we've become?" With apologies to Nick Denton and his pictures of Brett Favre's penis, and without any real answers, I'd say that's the "real story" here.