April showers bring May Brett Favre rumors; Manny being Manny just ain’t true

Sixers need a new coach – give me Avery Johnson. Samuel Dalembert and Willie Green for Andrei Kirilenko? I’d do that yesterday. Ray Emery to the Flyers? Only if he keeps his gloves on. Jamie got rocked by the Mets again. Still, the Fightins are hitting. Last year, pitching came early, hitting late. Hopefully, this season is just a bizarro version of the last. Little drama for the Eagles this week. Rare. But such is not the case all over the NFL…

Despite the fact that Favre is sticking to the “I’m actually retired this time” story, reports linking him to the Vikings have been running rampantly across my television and computer screens, embedding themselves into the rather large section of my brain that thaws again every Spring. Will he or won’t he? Should he or shouldn’t he?

Should we care, or shouldn’t we?

That was the topic of conversation at the beginning of Mike Missanelli’s show on 950 ESPN this afternoon. As callers dialed up, complaining about the now-annual media circus that is the Brett Favre revival tour, Missanelli kept coming back to one point.

Why should you care what Brett Favre does with his life? Why is it your business if he should play or not? He’d still be a better option than what the Vikings have going on now – why does it bother you that he might come back? After the end of the season, when his body was worn down, he thought he was done. The itch had gone. Time to retire.

But if the itch is back, why shouldn’t he play?

Well, Mr. Missanelli, I agree with you. I don’t care what the hell the man does. His life. But I think I understand why people are up in arms in this, beyond the fact that every time I tune into any sports media outlet now, he is a central figure in their broadcast. But it goes deeper than that.

The idea of Brett Favre is being tarnished.

Favre was never just about the man who played quarterback. That man was one hell of a football player, having reached the plateau only reached by an elite handful of quarterbacks who played the game. But what made him such a beloved figure was the manner in which he played. Rugged. Gritty. Passionate. Gunslinger. He played the game the way we all would like to think we would have played, and to boot, he was a straight-shooter. But watching him at the tail end of last year, it wasn’t working for him anymore. Those back foot, miracle tosses were landing in the wrong hands. The natural ability that had allowed him to make plays and throws that other guys wouldn’t even have dreamed of attempting had slipped. Drastically.

The wounded soldier was finally out of ammunition, or so it seemed.

And besides that, this whole “to retire or not to retire/that is the question” ordeal has left us wondering about his motives. Did he, realizing the Packers would never deal him to the Vikings last year, take the Jets gig with the intention of “retiring” after one year and then signing with the Vikings? Is he on a path of vengeance directed at a Packers organization that essentially forced him to retire? Is it just about the passion for the game, or is his motivation tinged with the desire for revenge?

Because that wouldn’t be the Favre we all know and love, now would it be? I always loved the Favre who played with a childlike excitement for the game, but I’m not so certain about this Favre positioning himself with the craft and shrewdness of a businessman. If, in fact, that is what he is doing.

It would have been like Babe Ruth going on a diet. I’m not comparing the players, but rather the idea of the players. Ruth was the king of excess, his frequent and towering home runs outpaced only by his appetites. That was his charm – he did everything big. Favre’s charm was that he had such a pure passion for the game, that he played with the recklessness and joy of a boy on the sandlot.

It is this idea of Brett Favre that is suffering in the minds of the fans. What the man wants to do is most certainly his business, and I don’t doubt that he still has a little left in the tank. But will we remember the ride, or the abandoned car on the side of the road that probably should have pulled over an exit or two sooner because it was low on fuel?

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So, “Manny being Manny” will now be “Manny sitting on a couch” for the next 50 games. I’m really disappointed by this. As we’re on the discussion of charm, wasn’t Manny’s charm that he was such a character, that his quirks and kinks affected everything around him except for that beautiful swing? He was unexpected, off-kilter, often bewildering, at least until he stepped into the batter’s box.

Then he was beautiful and lethal and inspiring.

But now what? How unique is he now? Just one more player sticking a needle in between their accomplishments and the value we place upon them. Damnit Manny, I wanted you to be different, I really did. Hell, I thought that was your bit.

Silly me.

I’m so tired of this steroid crap. I now have an entire generation of ballplayers I grew up watching that have left me shrouded in disillusionment and despair. Well, that might be a bit dramatic, but they have left me wondering how to judge their careers. Who was clean, and who was not?

I want to give the clean guys their credit. Hell, extra credit, seeing as they were being judged against their peers, many of whom were juiced. The worst part of steroids is that it lumps everybody together, innocent and guilty, in the minds of the fans. And beyond even that, it steals the character out of the game. When so many players are juicing, it skewers the playing field.

That’s not what the game is about.

The game is about the guy who can steal bases, or the guy who is patient at the plate and hits the ball the other way. It’s about crafty, aging pitchers fooling younger hitters, or batters picking up on a pitcher’s tendancies and driving the 2-2 curve they know is coming into the seats. It’s about double-switches, hit-and-runs, sacrifice bunts, shading outfielders, painting the corners, the often infuriating discrition of the umps. It’s about different guys performing different roles, even if that doesn’t get them the flashbulbs.

And if it is about mamouth home runs and high-heat strikeouts (which it most certainly is), it is only valuable when that is accomplished by a player doing it in the same manner everybody else attempts to do it – clean. It’s worth nothing if it isn’t clean. And until – or rather if – our culture changes its perception of steroids, and until Major League Baseball changes its rules in regard to Performance Enhancing Substances, it ain’t clean.

It’s cheating.

So Manny being Manny? Hah. Sounds to me like Manny being just like everybody else.

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1 Comment

Filed under Eagles, Flyers, MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, Phillies, Sixers

One response to “April showers bring May Brett Favre rumors; Manny being Manny just ain’t true

  1. Rant

    Good article. You’re writing style never ceases to interest me.

    Here’s my two cents:

    Manny didn’t just tarnish his reputation, he gave the Dodger faithful and front office the finger with this move. What a great way to show your appreciation for a huge contract that made you the face of the franchise. If there’s one positive thing, it’s that Manny isn’t denying anything or trying to point the blame at somebody else.

    Manny truly is a gifted, all-around hitter. Does he really need steroids to pick up his game? The guy may be getting older, but his swing sure isn’t.

    As for Favre, I’d like to see him come back and play for the Vikings. Add some more excitement to the NFC Basement….errh, I meant NFC North. True, the gas tank may be running low, but with an offensive line, a ground game, and a defense like Minnesota has, he’s not going to be asked to run on fumes too often. Plus he’d be stepping into Brad Childress’s (jeeze! that rolls off the tongue) west coast offense; an offense that I’m sure would suit Favre just fine. The Vikes might not have the most stellar group of receivers, but they’re good enough with a guy like Favre; and heaven knows Bernard Berrian could play long ball all day with Brett at the helm.

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