Retro Blog - I Hate Brett Favre

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

(a year later, people are starting to come around to my way of thinking. You're welcome.)

In 1995, I started writing what purported to be humorous essays for internet consumption (yeah, I know, 13 years later I should get the hint that I'll never earn more than 17 bucks). One of the very first pieces I ever wrote was entitled "Kirk Hiner (who you can go read here - - Kirk actually gets paid cash money for his work) Hates Madonna."

The premise of the piece was - well, let me quote myself from 13 years ago...

See, I'm agnostic on Madonna, which gives me leave to make the point that, while sometimes provocative, Madonna isn't exactly brimming with a whole lot of readily discernable talent. More accurately, her level of success has outstripped her level of ability to such an extent that it causes even those who are emotionally stable to view her with a certain degree of distaste - and fills Kirk Hiner with an uncontrollable rage. It's not so much that Kirk Hiner is jealous of Madonna. After all, John Glenn has achieved a similar amount of success and Kirk Hiner has never uttered an opinion one way or the other about him. Nor is it abject self interest. Kirk Hiner doesn't believe that there is a finite amount of success, maybe stored in a secret vat in Dayton, Ohio, such that for every drop of Madonna success an identical amount is rendered unavailable to someone whom Kirk Hiner might deem more worthy, say Alyssa Milano. I mean, that, in fact, is the case, but Kirk Hiner doesn't believe it.

To my way of thinking, a person's value as a human being can readily be tabulated using a series of mathematical calculations which are then placed on a nexus of interlocking grids (I've got the charts laid out back at the house, please call before you stop by). I conceptualize this as if on an X,Y axis. A person's aggregate worth being placed on the horizontal plane, and level of success existing on the vertical. Kirk Hiner would probably plot Madonna as something approximating (-6,92). That's a -6 for worth and a 92 for success. Subtract 92 from -6 and you get a final product of -98 which, as I don't have to tell you, is pretty darn low.

I know, right? How has no one hired me?

On the other hand -

Anyway, there were jokes about Miss Piggy and Ray Combs and Mike&Maty and Team Tecmo 2000 - it was a whole thing - but the essential insight (!) was that we all have an internal fairness calibration that, when it's violated by the culture at large, causes us to become irrationally excessive. There are people/places.even ideas that you love beyond measure or hate outside of reason - consider the degree to which your feeling is driven by reaction to the public at large. That band who you followed, that author you cherished - how much of your adoration was based on it being your adoration, one not recognized by the general public. And that actor you hate, the movie that drives you crazy when its praised, how much of that is just your pushing back against its outsized praise?

Me - I love the Replacements. I hate Forrest Gump. Ask me, I'll tell you. But I'm self aware enough to understand the why behind the why.

I don't hate Brett Favre. I don't. He seems like a good enough guy. I don't recall the last season where I haven't rooted for him to break his femur.

See, he's just not in the discussion for greatest QB of all time - he's 15th in career QB rating playing the last stretch of his career in a period of intense offensive inflation.

Football metrics aren't as advanced as baseball metrics; when I am doing my list of the top 200 baseball players ever, I am flat telling you that's the list - and the reasonable disagreement gets harder the closer you get to the top. I am solidly convinced that the 2 best players in baseball history are, in some order, the 2 best players in baseball history and say so without equivocation. I am as certain of it as I am of virtually anything.

Football's not that - and my ability to utilize football data is not as advanced as my ability to use baseball analysis.

But, in a shorthand way, let me absolutely say that the 15th highest rated QB ever, without even adjusting for passing era, is not anywhere near the discussion of best ever. He can't even listen to the discussion he's so far away (hyperbole, see how that happens? it's sneaky -- actually, gun to my head, all personal feelings aside, I'd rank him 5th, I think)

Doesn't mean he's not a HOF'er. Just means he wasn't as good as Fran Tarkenton (for a more advanced metric, to that end consider

Beyond that, what I'm reacting to is the privileging of certain behavior. Favre's had a history of behavior that, in other players resumes, would carry a negative stamp. Drug rehab, apparently permitting the record breaking Strahan sack, occasionally reckless play that one might label selfish, missing training camps, the annual will he/won't he retirement dance, the demonstrative nature on the field --

Favre's been given the title of hero, of boyish hero who plays the game the way it's supposed to be played - just a regular guy, a big kid, playing a game.

And that's okay to feel that way.

Because I like a cocky athlete; I like my athletes to have some flavor; I don't mind some rough edges, some personal demons; I am entertained by a guy who isn't completely subsumed by the corporate ethic that has swalled whole American professional sports.

But the guys I like are named Deion. And TO. And Bonds.

And the same sports media that deifies Favre has always crucified the guys I like. From Hoya Paranoia to UMiami football to UNLV to the Fab 5 to a host of touchdown celebrating, finger pointing, sack dancing ballers.

Give me Floyd Mayweather. Give me Carl Lewis. Give me attitude and defiance and swagger.

But sports analysts, sportswriters, commentators, ESPN, talk radio, fans -- they hammer those guys - they scream about taunting and character and fill the empty bucket called "sportsmanship" with the behavior they prefer.

If it's Brett Favre or Joe Namath or Pete Rose (cough, cough, before...) then the sports intelligensia embraces them.

If it's Chad Johnson or Michael Irvin or Muhammad Ali (cough, cough, before...) then he's a troublemaker. Not a team guy. Bad for the league. Bad for America.

I know what you're thinking.

Sure, it's not just race - we loved us some Barry Sanders after all. And Evander Holyfield. Quiet, Christian men (evidence of Holyfield's massive PED use aside).

We loved Barry Sanders. Respectful. Knew his place. Handed over that football like he'd been in the end zone before.

Yessir! Barry Sanders!

Barry Sanders was great. We didn't much like Ricky Watters. We liked Booker T Washington and Joe Louis and Jesse Owens and Martin Luther King (cough, cough, after) as long as they were benign as Tiger or Will Smith or MJ. We played down their swagger, smoothed out their rougher edges, assimilated them as having transcended their race to become fully corporate, homogenized men.

We didn't like WEB Dubois and Malcolm X and Jack Johnson and we don't like Spike Lee and Terrell Owens and Barry Bonds. Not enough shuffling. Not enough toothy smiles. Too much strut. Too much swagger.

Roger Clemens always swaggered. Swaggered like a cowboy and we loved him. Until we didn't.
Barry Bonds always swaggered. Swaggered like the best who ever lived and we hated him and now he's been disappeared like someone in the Chilean resistance during the CIA backed Pinochet administration.

We loved that Pete Rose swagger. Called it hustle. Look at him sprint to first on a walk! We hated that Deion Sanders swagger. Called it showboating. Who does he think he is?

Two most dominant forms of American pop music in the past two decades are hip hop and country.

Listen to the lyrics. Watch the dress. Hear the rhetoric. All attitude. All swagger. Which is the one found offensive by cultural critics? Which is the one that triggers discussion about our deepening moral failings?

NBA dress codes, NoFunLeague touchdown celebration penalties - hell, in college football, any display of personality whatsoever is 15 yards the other way. We've legislated against defiance - corporatized, whitewashed every aspect of our sport. Don't exist outside of a narrow conception of what sports media has decided is acceptable behavior.

And you wonder why MMA has been the hottest sport of the 21st century. All of the attitude of professional wrestling in a sporting package. Does Dana White have a no celebration policy at UFC? Is loud and brash and cocky acceptable for a shootfighter?

I don't hate Brett Favre. In fact - the kicker is - right now, I've never liked him more. Right now, the Brett Favre defiance is running head into the authoritarian ethic of the NFL and the need that sports analysts and many sports fans have to bow before their corporate masters- Favre's being told to know his role and shut his mouth - to stay in his place - to just be a statue now, to be our memory and not a man - to be that good ole' boy who did things his own way but as long as he was still doing things our way.

The more he bucks authority, the more he refuses to defer himself for the good of "the team" - the more he risks alienating that fan base that loves his defiance in the abstract - that worships him as symbol of the individual American man, but only in context of playing the game the right way. The right way where you lie down before coach, before ownership, before corporation.

Yessir! Nossir! How high!

It's too bad the Raiders aren't the Raiders anymore. That would be a good last chapter. Historic havens for the individual in a sea of NFL corporate conformity. Long gone. Their outlaw image is just another brand name now.

The further Favre slips in the popular mind of the general public - the more I like him.

Hell, 13 years later, maybe Kirk Hiner's come around on Madonna too.

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