Editor's note: This contribution by the late journalist I.F. Stone first appeared in our January 1975 magazine.
Brett Favre’s stats are legendary. He holds practically every NFL quarterback record in the book. In my mind, his most impressive mark is the nearly 300 games he has played without sitting out an opening drive with an injury. After a two-decade career where he assiduously fed the beast and made many a top sportswriter swoon, Favre is playing out perhaps his last season amidst a scandal with too much juice for the beast to ignore.
The story is by now well known. First breaking on the outlaw sports website deadspin.com several months before the start of the season, the word was that Favre had been sending inappropriate voice mails and lewd photographs to a female Jets team employee. The mainstream sports media dutifully ignored the story. Then came the actual phone messages, which were kind of pathetic, and, allegedly, the pictures.
This scandal now dominates the persona that is Brett Favre.
The sad truth for Favre is that redemption is a young person’s game.
If you are quarterback/dog fighter Michael Vick or substance abuser/Texas Rangers star Josh Hamilton, and can emerge from disgrace to excel on the field, much is forgotten. You are a SportsCenter highlight away from forgiveness. If you are suspected steroid users Roger Clemens or Barry Bonds or admitted steroid user Mark McGwire, the last memory becomes indelible. It doesn’t matter if your crimes are misdemeanors or felonies or just an inability to control your libido. Favre is forty-one, missing throws he used to make in his sleep and, for the first time in his long career, hearing from columnists that he should be benched.
To be clear, I’m not defending Favre’s conduct, and there are many others in this world of ours far more deserving of even a modicum of our pity. But what does it say about a media where a flash of scandal can undo twenty years of play?
This is but an excerpt from Dave Zirin's column in The Progressive's Dec/Jan issue. To read the whole article, simply subscribe to The Progressive for $14.97 -- that 75% off -- by clicking here.