Brett Favre Saga Reinforces Athletes Aren’t Role Models

A beautiful, loving wife like Deanna Favre would be more than enough for most men. But most men aren't pro athletes like Brett Favre.

As if the Tiger Woods saga wasn’t enough, it’s possible Brett Favre is the latest mega athlete to reinforce a) athletes aren’t role models b) athletes are self-entitled and c) talent in sports does not equate to skills social or moral.

For those keeping score at home, there are rumors (and pictures) claiming Brett Favre sent photos of his genitalia via text message to Jenn Sterger while playing for the New York Jets two years ago. Favre has been unwilling to discuss or deny the allegations while the National Football League has opened an investigation. (Sterger was an employee of the Jets at the time, so even while she hasn’t pursued sexual harassment charges, the league sees Favre’s alleged conduct as a serious disciplinary issue.)

Did Favre do it? Sure. Probably. Have you met a professional athlete? I have. I lived with nearly 90 of them during an NFL training camp. One night, they would cavort with some honey they met at the club. The next day, they would welcome a pregnant wife for a camp visit. I don’t want to paint the stroke to broadly, but in many cases, football players and pro athletes in general are just big nerds who happen to be talented at a sport, and they can’t believe a woman — a beautiful woman — might reciprocate interest in them. Then, they get used to the attention. Then, they find themselves in Brett Favre’s uncomfortable position.

Let’s review the lessons in case Favre cops to sexting Sterger. I want to make sure we don’t lose sight of reality:

Athletes aren’t role models. Athletes do embody a number of respectable traits and virtues: Hard work, determination, willingness to sacrifice, dedication, etc. However, one can find these intangibles among any different crowd, like policemen, firemen, soldiers and even parents. It’s not right to hand pick a few aspects of a person and turn your shoulder to the colder realities. It’s similar to when people applaud Adolf Hitler’s leadership. Really? That’s your guy?

It’s hard to fit the role of role model, but that’s why they’re so important to youth. Role models need to be held to the highest standard. So, let’s mine elsewhere because athletes will always disappoint.

Athletes are self-entitled. This shouldn’t require elaboration. When the world has been given to them for possessing such a simple, irrelevant set of talents, believe they expect the rest of humanity to abide their will. They feel all the money, parties and women are fruits of their labor. They deserve to be treated differently because they’re better. Someday, we’ll find a gene linking pro athletes with those who suffer dementia.

Talent in sports does not equate to skills social or moral. In fact, success in sports requires an extreme cold-bloodedness and a survival-of-the-fittest mentality that makes athletes incredibly self-absorbed. Not all athletes, but this explains why some of the best athletes in the world find themselves in Favre’s (alleged) position. When it’s Compete! Compete! Compete! your whole life, it’s hard not to hold your interests above all others. The alpha dog rarely plays nice.

What Winning and Losing Really Means

If ever there was an image to depict the 49 years of failure by the Minnesota Vikings, this is it. Will the 50th season be any different?

I was living in Portland, Ore. when the New Orleans Saints defeated my Minnesota Vikings in last year’s NFC Championship. Famously, the Vikings dominated the Saints for four quarters, but committed turnover after turnover, including a costly interception by quarterback Brett Favre just as the team was positioned for a game-winning field goal attempt in overtime:

I don’t want to relive it, but many Vikings fans will tonight when The Purple seek revenge against the Saints at the Superdome.

Back to living in Portland. I was as traumatized as most, but lucky for having lived and worked in a city that was largely apathetic to the NFL. If I’d lived in Minnesota, I doubt I would’ve gone to work. Misery loves company and all, but we fans of Minnesota pro sports have played that card too often. I would’ve spent the week in bed.

Last night, my girlfriend and I attended a Minnesota Twins game. (I went because the company I worked for was offered a spot in a suite. Beth went because upper deck tickets were just $4.) I got into a conversation with two women in their 30s who remember (fondly) the Minnesota Twins winning the 1991 World Series. One was at Game 7 while the other missed school to attend the World Series parade. That’s all I needed to hear, because it made me realize that’s all we Vikings fans really want: A celebration to break up the monotony. Something positive for a change. We want a parade.

As a sports fan, I’ve hedged my emotional investments after countless heartbreaks. You might argue it’s me getting older, wiser, more sensible, and realizing pro sports are merely entertainment. I don’t disagree.

However, I believe pro sports also bring about civic pride. There’s a reason we wear the team gear outside of season, kind of like a proclamation — This is where I’m from. This is what I’m about. A city like Minneapolis has a billion things to be proud of, but we can’t brag about our lakes, the arts scene and our best bicycling city title. Nothing could make us stick out our chests like a Super Bowl win. It’s not about pride in our town, but pride in our city. It just so happens pro sports are the best measuring stick.

I’ve argued, time and time again, sports matter because they don’t matter. We live at a time where everything matters — the economy, the housing market, the BP oil spill, the wars, etc. (And I don’t mean to underplay other issues using an et cetera, but that list could go on for days.) All the world’s seriousness stops outside of the stadium, never crosses the sidelines and can’t stop us from ejecting off our coaches when our favorite team scores a touchdown or hits a home run. That’s the beauty of it. The best part about pro sports is our team can lose and it doesn’t mean a damn thing.

The Vikings are five-point underdogs tonight. It’s possible the Saints throttle the Vikings and we’re left with the cold reminder brilliant seasons like last year’s are rare. It’s also possible they’ll go down to New Orleans and level revenge and have the Greater Twin Cities teeming with hope come Friday morning.

Either way, it’s better to be here, in Minneapolis, no matter suffering or celebrating. Although celebrating would be nice for a change.

Favre From Over

Brett Favre is helped off the field during last season's NFC Championships Game against the New Orleans Saints. Lingering injuries from that game may prevent Favre from continuing his playing career.

“This is it.”

Doesn’t get much more ambiguous than that, does it? According to 723 sports media outlets, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre allegedly sent “This is it” in a text message to several teammates Monday night, which in overzealous-sportswriter terms for “I’m hanging up my cleats.”

We’ll see about that one.

If you care enough to read on, you’re familiar with Favre’s career, both on the field and off, which has been defined by his decision-making. (Or, in this case, his lack thereof.) I’ve become more pragmatic as a sports fans the past few years, looking at these situations not as an emotionally attached rube, but a practical human being. One couldn’t be further from the other. For instance, in the recent case of LeBron James leaving his de facto home team to play in Miami, I ask how would you feel being forced to work at your first place of employment until your 30s?

The problem is I’m having a harder time phrasing anything similar to Favre’s situation. Age aside, his quasi-retirement reminds me of my grandpa’s. After putting in three decades at a Ford dealership, the old man retired, but continued to work by delivering pharmaceuticals throughout South Dakota and Minnesota. He would wake at 4:30 a.m., read the paper, eat his breakfast and be on his merry way before the sun had risen. The moral of the story: Some people just don’t know what to do with themselves without work. Such is Favre.

I imagine Favre’s ankle really does hurt. A lot. As a 20-year veteran, he understands the importance of good health going into a grueling NFL season. The Vikings have upped the ante for Favre by offering nearly $7 million more atop the $13 million he was already owed for this season. The Vikings could return all 22 starters (including Favre) this year — an anomaly in the free agency era of professional sports. These facts, cobbled together in one messy paragraph, are the realities Favre faces as the media circus rolls on and Vikings fans wait with bated breath.

“This is it.”

So what’s “it” going to be, Brett?

That’ll Do, Brett. That’ll Do

I guess when you’re 40 years old and you’re keeping up with guys nearly half your age, you can get a little carried away. Such is the case of Brett Favre, who after the Minnesota Vikings’ 34-3 playoff win over the Dallas Cowboys busted out that stupid “Pants On The Ground” song from American Idol:

Has the aging quarterback slipped into senility? Quit while you’re ahead, Brett.