I’m not buying any of this. And neither should you.
Whether Brett Favre announces his retirement today, tomorrow, next week or in 2017, why should anyone believe Madonna with stubble?
More than any other pro athlete in our time, Favre — who may or may not have texted retirement hints to Minnesota Vikings teammates on Monday night — has mastered the art of media manipulation. Like a movie star from the 1930s who knows any publicity is good publicity, he’s learned when to talk, whom to talk to and how to play coy to his advantage.
He’s played this retirement gambit for five years now, starting in 2006, and he’s reversed course so often he’s got as much credibility as BP.
In 2008, he filed retirement papers with the NFL, changed his mind, barged into Green Bay’s training camp and tried to bully general manager Ted Thompson into trading him to the Vikings. Thompson, unmoved, sent him to the Jets instead.
Last year, after asking the Jets to release him, Favre negotiated with the Vikings, decided to stay retired, then led fans and at least one news helicopter on an O.J. Simpson-like chase when he finally showed up Aug. 18. Favre said he was having second thoughts when Vikings Coach Brad Childress called him on the 17th and asked if his decision was final, a story that sounded almost too sensational to be true.
The latest retirement rumors broke this morning. The topic dominated the questioning at Childress’ news conference in Mankato, giving the coach another chance to mangle the English language as he tried to talk over the heads of the people covering the team. Quoting Childress at length is dangerous. He speaks in paragraphs cloaked with jargon, makes obscure references to 1950s popular culture (the day he tried whistling the theme from “Lassie” was classic), and often makes up words as he’s going along, baffling even the most savvy observers.
Childress was in classic form this morning, saying he spoke to Favre within the last 24 hours and claiming Favre never mentioned retiring. “I’m not a big hearsay person,” he said. “I’m a horse-say person. I’ve got to hear it from the horse’s mouth.”
Horse-say? Is that even a word? So what does that make Favre?
Now, Favre could have been sitting home in Hattiesburg, Miss., his surgically-repaired left ankle aching, feeling down, then venting with texts to a couple of teammates. It happens. As of early afternoon, Favre hadn’t checked in yet with his ESPN buddies, and his agent, Bus Cook, is often the last to know anything.
But as we’ve all learned, nothing is ever final with this guy. He’s due to make $13 million this year, which buys a lot of groceries, jeans and kids’ clothes. (Favre is a grandpa now, remember.) Teammates say the sting of the NFC Championship Game loss still gnaws at him, and no one questions his toughness and competitiveness.
Favre could use the ankle as a reason to blow off the preseason entirely, something he couldn’t do last year coming to a new team. It’s less of an issue now that he knows the offense and his personnel. Favre wouldn’t be the first player to start an opener after missing the preseason, or even the first couple of weeks of the regular season, though it would be funny if Tarvaris Jackson were leading the NFL in passing when our hero finally strolled into Winter Park.
Even Favre makes money off his indecisiveness; bet the house we’ll see that Sears plasma TV commercial, or an updated version, this fall.
But this can’t be fun for Vikings stadium lobbyist Lester Bagley, whose chances of getting a bill through the Legislature next year hinge as much on the on-field product as the new occupant of the governor’s mansion. The Vikes are Super Bowl contenders with Favre and uncertain without, and an 8-8 season might mean a couple of one-year extensions on the Metrodome lease instead of a gleaming new stadium. (Bagley declined to address extending the lease when I raised it with him the other day, which isn’t surprising because it weakens his bargaining position.) Anything less than Favre in uniform makes Bagley’s already difficult job harder.
Even if Favre announces he’s done, files retirement papers or whatever, there’s no reason to take him at his word. If you’ve got a beating heart, you should be skeptical. Maybe Favre wore No. 4 all these years because that’s how many retirements he’s planning, which means he’s got two left. Or is it one?