Friday, July 31, 2009

SPORTS >> Favre to Rhinos a win-win option

Leader sports editor

If you are a Minnesota Vikings fan and find yourself wearing a purple Brett Favre jersey today, or even have one in your closet, shame on you. Unless you bought it for the sheer novelty of it, that is.

The dashing, risk-taking Favre has always been an unretiring sort. But none of us had this in mind when we described him that way.

I suppose there was always a chance the 39-year-old NFL record holder for touchdown passes, completions, yards passing — and interceptions — was going to suit up and play for the Vikings this year. I’m sure he probably had that in his mind when he began teasing Viking fans back in June.

But it’s hard not to think that on some level — either consciously or unconsciously — he simply wanted to jump start the media frenzy that ended with his “retirement” from the Jets in February. This guy is the Sarah Palin of the NFL: He needs a camera and a microphone in front of him like Pete Rose needs a bookie or John Daly needs another pallet of M&Ms.

If you don’t have a Brett Favre Google alert set up, or if you are one of the many people whose Brett Favre alert has gone off so many times it’s fried your computer, you may have missed the latest decision by the once-hallowed, now-ridiculed (former?)
NFL great. He has … let me check the wire for any updates … retired.

This column may never see the light of day, of course, given that I am writing it on Wednesday for Saturday publication. A guy can pack a lot of press conferences into 72 hours. Rest assured, we’ll take one last look at the AP wire before we go to press on Friday evening.

I couldn’t help but laugh when I read in this morning’s paper that Favre called his retirement the “hardest decision I ever made.” Yeah, and skiing was the hardest thing I ever did — until I’d done it seven or eight times.

Favre announced his original retirement in March of 2008, reversing that decision only three weeks later. It took him until June to actually ask to be reinstated by the Packers. By that time, of course, Green Bay had gone forward with its plans for new young quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

After a prolonged public spat, the Packers understandably refused to give Favre an unconditional release, which would have allowed him to play for division rival Minnesota, and the Vikings wanted him badly. In August, the Packers traded Favre to the New York Jets, who, after an 8-3 start, lost four of their final five games. Favre tossed eight interceptions over the final four games of the season, ensuring the Jets would miss the playoffs.

Displaced Jets quarterback Chad Pennington, by the way, led his new team, the Miami Dolphins, to the playoffs with an 11-5 record. Pennington finished second in the league with a 97.4 quarterback rating. Favre was 23rd with a mediocre 81.0 mark.

Favre proceeded to retire again this February, a decision he held fast to after shoulder surgery in May. But in June, apparently distraught over not receiving any Google alerts with his name in them, Favre dropped a hint that he was considering coming back.

True to his history, Favre spent the next month-and-a-half teasing the Vikings, and his indecision may even have been legitimate in this instance, given that he was feeling out the viability of his shoulder. But it’s hard to give this guy the benefit of the doubt anymore.

Meanwhile, though, the futures of quarterback Tavaris Jackson, who had a respectable 95.4 quarterback rating last season for the Vikings, and Sage Rosenfels were put on the back burner to deal with another round of Favre ego-massaging and press manipulation.

I don’t mean to knock the guy. I used to be a fan. And, no, I don’t resent him because my girlfriend likes the way he looks in a pair of Wranglers. It’s just: Enough already. Get gone. Stay gone. And let us remember you for all the thrills you gave us and not for your shameful end-of-career machinations.

But Brett, if you find you just can’t take the silence, that you require brighter light than the mere sun can provide, may I recommend the Arkansas Rhinos as your next gig?

Owner Oscar Malone is trying to infuse some enthusiasm for his team into Jacksonville-area football fans. It’s a win-win if I ever saw one. Favre gets an injection of life-sustaining publicity (I promise we’ll cover the heck out of it!) and the Rhinos get a full blitz media campaign and packed stands the rest of the season.

Here’s hoping this column sets off a Google alert on Brett’s computer and he gives coach Malone a call.