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.

The Greatest Second Basemen in SFG History

(things looked worse a year ago than do they today; a year ago, here were my thoughts)

The Giants moved Ray Durham over the weekend in what hopefully is the beginning of a full scale "our lease wasn't renewed, everything must go - we must be maniacs to deal at these low, low prices" firesale. We're 40-58. There's blood on the tracks.

Everyone older than Matt Cain out the door.

Front office included.

San Francisco's had 18 primary second basemen, they are listed below. Joe Strain and Joe Straint variants are not listed; I've assigned a second basemen for each season of San Francisco Giants baseball with his WARP3 total while a Giant (not necessarily just at 2B) and his best season(s) as a Giant.


'Cause I feel like it. Go Giants!

2003 (6.5)

-Durham's career WARP is in the mid 80s, but his six best seasons were with the WSox.

2002 (12.3) 2000 (12.1) 2001 (10.5)

-Obviously, he'll be on my list of the 200 greatest players in major league history and he should go to the HOF. He's the greatest SFG second baseman ever.

1993 (9.7)

-Robby's second. Kent just exceeded Thompson's value as a Giant. Thompson's 4 best seasons are all better than any Durham year in SF.

1984 (2.2) 1985 (2.2)

-A terrible baseball player. His career WARP3 in a 17 year career was 37.1 He was 6500+ plate appearances of lousy. He got 505 plate appearances for the '85 Giants and (untranslated) his OBP was .287 and he slugged .288. This is why performance analysis is a good thing - it isn't that these metrics weren't valued in 1985 as they are today so Trillo should only be evaluated on his batting average (which was .224 in '85, so who was he foolin', exactly? - I'm looking at you Jimmy Davenport) its that many in positions of power (front office and media) didn't recognize what it was that made someone a good baseball player. We have all of these sportswriters (and Steve Hirdt) spouting this nonsense about how "feared" Jim Rice was. We don't need to talk in cliches - we have data. We can see what actually happened - and we could see it then too - it's not like they are declassified Societ memoranda - we don't need John Gaddis to explain (wrongly explain, I might add) the Cold War to us in hindsight, the numbers existed then, had you read Bill James, you wouldn't have given Manny Trillo 505 plate appearances and you may not have lost 100 games.

That's not presentist speak - I was reading Bill James in 1985 - we didn't have WARP3, but I knew Manny Trillo was an out machine.

There's no excuse for baseball executives and opinion makers, in 2008, not to understand what happens on a baseball field. Just today, literally this very day on Mike&Mike I heard Buster Olney criticize Alex Rodriguez for "meaningless hits."

You know what was a meaningless hit? "Ray of Light". Alex Rodriguez is a legend. Do your job.

1982 (1.9)

-Kuip split time with Brad Wellman in '83; since he's become a professional orange and black wearer, I thought he'd be the one to make the list. He was bad.

1982 (8.5)

-Joe Morgan's one of the half dozen greatest second basemen who ever lived and the greatest player from the Big Red Machine. He was a pretty good Giant too. That 8.5 was his best year since '77 and his last good season. It was the 9th best season of his career. And he hit that one home run. You remember. There's nothing he could say that is so wrongheaded that would change any of that. He unfortunately doesn't understand the very metrics which place him as such an elite all time ballplayer.

1980 (.4)

-Not a typo. Rennie Stennett got 400+ plate appearances in 1980 and put up a WARP3 under 1.0. Why am I doing this list? Because the San Francisco Giants have never (and will never, at least in my lifetime - and no, that's not quantitative, I'm just venting) won a World Series and these are some of the reasons why - 400+ plate appearances to Rennie Stennett and his .4 WARP3 in 1980. Kent's 2002 year was the best ever for a SFG second baseman - this was the worst.

1978 (8.2)

-He finished 18th in the NL MVP balloting in '79 despite a combined WARP3 of only 5.4 with us and the Pirates. Power of winning a title, I guess. Had a good WS, 9-24, 5 walks. Wasn't special, but was a damn sight better than Stennett. Jebus.

1977 (1.3)

-I was 6 years old in 1977, it's the very first Giants team of my memory. And they gave me 500 plate appearances of Rob Andrews and his 1.3 WARP3. I shake the fist at you Joe Altobelli! Shake the fist!!!

1975 (4.3)

-We got by far the best year of Thomas's awful career in '75 - and then got stuck with him in '76. Second base was a goddamn horror show at the Stick.

1973 (7.3)

-Fuentes had the job in '67 - and then from '71-75, before the shift to Thomas - almost half of his career value was in that early 70s run at second base. Fuentes's Giants WARP3 is just higher than Durham's, but it took him 4 more years and he played some short and third in that run - were you ranking, you'd have to put Fuentes behind Durham for pure second base production in SFG history, but Tito did have a higher Giants WARP3 overall.

1968 (8.4)
-Hunt was underrated, his career WARP3 approximates Thompson's and he was a better Giant than Madlock. Dude could get on base, he had a .400+ untranslated OBP his first year out of San Francisco - if he had spent his whole career as a Giant he'd be Robby T.

1969 (4.1)
-Lanier had the job at second from '64-'66, before giving way to Fuentes, who then gave way to Hunt, who provided competence at the position - Lanier moved to short and did 4 years as the SFG starter there, where he had a little more value, given the defensive+ of being able to field that position.

1962 (6.1)
-Hiller had no career - except for '62, when he was the 4th best Giant on a 103 winning NL championship team.

1960-61, '63
1960 (3.1)
-Also played 45 games back in '54 and '55 - meaning that Amalfitano's got a ring. It's '61 where he was the starter, and he couldn't play - he's Hiller without the career year.

1960 (4.2)
-This run of guys, man. The 60s were rough, until Hunt, we had one season where a second baseman had a WARP3 over 5.0 - and that was the fluke okayish/goodenough year by Hiller. It wasn't until Hunt that we had anything approaching good play from second - then a couple of good enough seasons from Fuentes - then we had to wait for a good season by Madlock - wait a little more for a good season from Morgan - and eventually Thompson shows up. No wonder he was so well liked in town - if you can put a decade of okay numbers after 30 years of musical mediocrity, that's enough to get you a statue. Blasingame never got close to the promise he showed in St Louis.

1958 (8.3)
-Why the hell did we move Daryl Spencer? I don't mean the positional move - he was the Giant shortstop in '58 and then moved to second in '59 - but why did we move him to the Cardinals for Blasingame? It took us a decade to find a second baseman as good - now, Spencer fell off the table once he left - his best North American days were in San Francisco, making it hard to knock the move too violently - but we don't sniff his 7.9 WARP3 as the '59 second baseman until '68 with Hunt - and then no one reaches that again until '78 with Madlock. 20 years of subpar second sack seasons. The Curse of Spencer.

1958 (4.6)
-Your first SFG second baseman. Eh.

So, what have we learned.

The best 3 seasons for a SFG second baseman were all Kent's from 2000-02. Then Thompson's '93. Then Kent's '98; rounding out the top 5 is Morgan's 1982, as Spencer's best year was as a SS.

Jeff Kent, clearly, is the greatest SFG second baseman ever. Robby Thompson is second. Ray Durham is third. We say goodbye to Ray Durham.

Retro Post: One of my 2008 Campaign Rants

Well, I guess that settles it.

If you or anyone you know is basing your vote on which candidate you'd like to have at your summer cookout, please stay home election day.

How bad do things have to get before we stop talking about first ladies and flag pins and ministers and cookouts? I didn't need to see Obama bowl or Hillary Clinton drink or Bush chop wood or Kerry windsurf or Clinton play the saxophone. Just stop. We're in a trillion dollar war; we're at record foreclosure levels; we've radicalized future generations of middle eastern kids who have watched us kill a hundred thousand Iraqis, we've got 50 million Americans without health insurance while US military spending is up 65% since Bush took office, our levels of health care/education rank near the bottom of the industrialized world while our levels of incarceration are the highest in recorded history, we've seen essential civil liberties eroded, we are on the brink of a pretty thorough environmental and economic collapse; median income is down during the past 7 years; real wages for averages Americans have flatlined since the early 1970s, we have less personal savings than anytime since the Depression, and more Americans are below the poverty line today than they were yesterday, unless you are an oil company CEO or a major shareholder in the military industrial complex, your answer to that old Reagan campaign question "are you better off than you were four years ago" is almost certainly no.

I've got two graduate degrees and am cutting my own hair 'cause I don't have 20 bucks a month to spend on haircuts.

Why the fuck does anyone care which candidate would be more fun to eat bratwurst with? Have you been to the grocery store in the past year? Who can afford a cookout anyway?

It's the Gilded Age. We are living in the Gilded Age. Or the last days of Pompeii.

Stop talking about cookouts. Or saying the New Yorker, of all things, is racist. To see liberals who celebrate Stephen Colbert, liberals who all grew up understanding Jonathan Swift, who have read Doonesbury all of their lives suddenly not understand a satirical magazine cover made me cringe all week. Stop. Seriously - stop.

We torture. We spy on American citizens. We detain suspects with charge or lawyers. Did you not see that a bank failed last week? Who do you suppose will pay for the coming bailouts? What additional legacies of a quarter century of deregulation will come out of your pocket?

We slaughter foreigners and let Americans die while our standard of living slips further and further away from us; if there were an orange alert level for the current threats to our lives based on the last quarter century of domestic and foreign policy it would have exploded into a supernova in the past four years.

Any rational person would be scared to death about what's coming tomorrow, hoarding beefaroni and shotgun shells.

Who would you rather have at your cookout? Seriously?

McCain, right? Old dude, good stories, probably would nap early and you could hit on his most likely unfulfilled wife. Yeah. That's the stuff. Glad we resolved this. Good talk.

Retro Post: Remember Rick Reilly at the 2008 Home Run Derby?

Former Seattle RB Shaun Alexander is a born again Christian; his children are named Heaven, Trinity, and Eden; he's publically credited the power of prayer for injury recovery, and in his book, Touchdown Alexander, he wrote "Everyone has been given gifts that can be used to bring glory to God," he writes. "And when we bring glory to God through the gifts He has given us, we are blessed. For me, the gift was athletic ability."

And Shaun Alexander had a terrible season in 2007. In fact, he's been below 4.0 ypc in each of the last two seasons, and just two years after his 1800+yd season in which he was first team All-Pro and led the Seahawks within a couple of crummy referees calls to winning their first ever Super Bowl - he got released and as of this writing - he is out of the league. It is a freefall of historic proportion and one which should squarely be blamed on his religious faith.

Or so Rick Reilly would have you believe.

Monday night, in the midst of Josh Hamilton's 28 home run round at the All Star Game Home Run Derby, Rick Reilly, making, I think, his live event debut for ESPN after years of writing for Sports Illustrated, punctuated a story about Hamilton's Christian conversion deserving the credit for his comeback from heroin and crack addiction with the following:

"It's a lousy night to be an atheist."


ESPN's had a little controversy recently; a columnist from their website, Jemele Hill, recently took a suspension for making a joke about how rooting for the Celtics was like rooting for Hitler.
It was a joke, in the context of jokes, but ESPN made a corporate judgment that it wasn't the type of joke permissible on its website. My suggestion is that people stop using Hitler references entirely and instead focus on former Indonesia dictator Suharto. He was a bad dude too.
Rick Reilly made a joke on Monday, "It's a lousy night to be an atheist." Interestingly, that comment was following several in which Reilly noted the lack of racial diversity in the home run hitting contest; a fair, if provocative, observation that couldn't have resounded with a bigger thud from the other analysts. You could almost hear in Karl Ravitch's voice that expression of panic Mike Myers had on the Katrina special when Kanye said that George Bush didn't care about black people. Maybe that's what we can blame for The Love Guru. Kanye scared the funny clean of out Myers.

A discussion of politics in the context of sports is not only appropriate, it's needed; politics are everywhere, embedded in everything we do - that baseball has embraced a former heroin user while Barry Bonds cannot get a job for the minimum salary is a political issue; that the percentage of major leaguers who are African-American (8.2) is the lowest its been in 20 years is a political issue; the domination of sports clubhouses and corporate suites by conservative Christians is a political issue.

Ideally, that's the purpose for this space, to discuss those issues (at least, when I'm not making a list...I love me some lists). My main thought about Rick Reilly's comment is that gas is 4 bucks a gallon, I don't care if he makes a bad joke about atheists; it reflects, more than adds to, the status of atheists as incredibly marginalized minority group in ChristianAmerica.
Reilly couldn't have gotten away with saying the things I wrote about Shaun Alexander. Even if it were a joke, he would have lost his ESPN job more quickly than did Rush Limbaugh. When we talk about religion in sports - it's almost always conservative Christianity, and almost always in glowing terms. Not only do we not ever hear the equivalent of the old punchline "Jesus made me fumble," but a non-believing athlete has as much chance of getting a positive airing for his belief that a lack of reliance on Jesus or Allah or Zeus or any other mythological being makes him mentally strong as a gay athlete does of coming out of the closet to thunderous acceptance.

All credit to Josh Hamilton for being able to salvage his career. He can certainly pass that credit on to his religion; that's his choice.

But Rick Reilly was wrong - Monday night wasn't a bad night to be an atheist.

I had a helluva night. I bet on Justin Morneau.

Moving Back.

Well, a year and nearly 400 posts later and I'm moving back.

My blog has been at the other place.  But isn't there anymore.  I'd prefer to import the full posts/comments from that place to bring them over here, but that isn't going to happen either. 

So, I'm back here again.  And until I lose access to them, I'm bringin' my stuff.  Like Stern taking his tapes back from Les Moonves!  Very exciting and full of skullduggery!

Enjoy the old posts.

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