Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Done Four

Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Mike McCarthy. Brett Favre. Green Bay Packers. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Trade or release. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Tampa Bay, New York. Brett Favre. Brett Favre.

If you are anything like me, at this point you have walked away from your computer, madly pulling out your hair and screaming “I DON’T F***ING CARE!” Now, hopefully for the sake of this blog’s popularity, you are willing to overlook your frustration and distain for this story and continue to read this particular column, but if you aren’t I kind of understand. The coverage of this non-story has created more distain for sports media in me than any topic in my lifetime.
There are so many reasons to that this story bugs me, it is difficult to know where to start. Essentially there are two elements to why I can’t stand this particular media circus.
The first, and most important, is that it is a non-story. The fact is, there have been countless hours spent discussing and covering the (non)story (much has been made of the 2000+ hours that NBC and it’s networks will spend covering the Beijing Olympics, I would venture a guess that ESPN and its networks have spent much more time covering Favre), and yet there really hasn’t been much of anything to cover. Favre retired, then four months of nothing (which were mercifully devoid of 23 hours a day of FAVRE WATCH! on ESPN). Finally, Brett decided that he wanted to come back. Brett said that he wanted to come back, but the Packers didn’t say anything. Think about it, for two weeks, there was nothing to cover, no events, no solid rumors, no comments from the parties involved. Just a player interested in coming back. No story.
That didn’t stop ESPN. Instead of ignoring it and saying “we will keep you posted and let you know if something happens,” the Worldwide Leader decided to make this the largest story of the year. We were subject to coverage of text messages, secret meetings, private jets, tampering phone calls and trade rumors, all of which really didn’t lead to anything. I’m not sure, but I think at one point Bob Ley hosted a 2 hour special on why Favre was pronounced Farv, instead of fav-rey.
After four or five days of covering a story that didn’t exist, the sports media (ESPN bears the brunt of this criticism, but only because it is the largest outlet. Others are no less guilty) began the tell-tale sign that a story has been overblown. It started covering itself. With no new developments to hyperbolize, radio hosts, talk show hosts and pundits began to discuss themselves, and debate whether or not they were paying too much attention to #4 (they failed to see that the answer was inherent in the debate). It is a pity that Jon Stewart doesn’t cover sports, it was the kind of thing he could have had a proverbial field day with.
The second thing that bothers me about the coverage, is that everyone seems to be wrong. (Warning: this is where I weigh in on the story, I completely understand if you want to stop reading now.) It has become a forgone conclusion for most writers, hosts and pundits. The Packers are better off with Favre and are foolish not to welcome him back (most of the time it is said with considerably less conviction, but that is the general consensus). While my first point that this story is fairly popular, my second point is far less accepted. I doubt that I am the first to say it, but I am certainly one of a few. The Packers are much better off not welcoming Brett Favre back as their starting quarterback. It isn’t even really a debate.
There are plenty of reasons that this is the case, but to me, the most obvious has been completely neglected by the media (I apologize if this has been argued, but I have yet to hear it). Aaron Rodgers may not be a better player than Favre, but he is not significantly worse than Favre. Make no mistake, the Packers were not better last year because Favre reformed himself made less mistakes and lead them to where they ended up. Last year saw the exact same Favre recklessness and mistakes as when the Packers had loosing seasons. 2007 just had better pieces around him.
Still I will concede that Favre has a slight edge over Rodgers, so why not take the upgrade, which doesn’t cost anything, however small?
Because the upgrade actually has a considerable price. Highly regarded throughout college, Rodgers has performed when given the chance (one game, but still…). The Cowboys game last year aside, Packers organization has seen more of Rodgers the last two years than anyone else. They have had an ample opportunity to evaluate Rodgers, they are not blandly handing the reigns to a rookie. Clearly they think highly of him based on what they have seen, given that they were willing to push a legend out of town to give Rodgers his chance. So why not take Favre back for a year, before handing it over to Rodgers when Favre is done?
Hopefully those who have followed the story are beginning to see the answer already. Rodgers is the quarterback of the future for the Cheeseheads. If it is allowed to begin, he just might chose to stick around for that future. Rodgers becomes a free agent in 2009. If he is jerked around and forced to spend another year with a clipboard, make no mistake, there will be another 2 way quarterback race in Green Bay in ’09. Not Rodgers and Favre, Matt Flynne and Brian Brohm will battle it out while Rodgers gets his chance in New York, Tampa Bay or Baltimore. Is it worth it for an upgrade that is marginal at best?
The confluence of over coverage and ignorance has frustrated me beyond belief. It has made me virtually unable to watch SportsCenter, and dismissive of the many talk radio podcasts I subscribe to. The list of things I would rather hear about is long (the MLB deadline which saw a number of big names move may not have been completely overshadowed, but the coverage was certainly diminished because of Packer-gate). Unfortunately, Favre stepped off of his private jet and saw his shadow, meaning that the coverage has no end in sight.

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