Thursday, January 8, 2004
Favre is a deserving favorite
By Jason Whitlock Page 2 columnist
Our lust to be the media expert to best kiss Brett Favre's butt has turned the Green Bay Packer quarterback's performance following the death of his father into quite possibly the most overhyped event in sports.
According to Favre's bootlickers -- which include just about everyone who covers the NFL -- Brett's 399-yard, four-TD effort against the sleepwalking, Bill Callahan-coached Oakland Raiders is the single-most heroic individual performance ever documented. It far outshines Michael Jordan's flu-stricken virtuoso outing against the Utah Jazz.
Brett Favre has been an inspiration to all.
Not surprisingly, we, the media, missed the real story. The chance to kiss the legend's rear end was too tempting for us, and we failed to delve into the real story.
So what's the story we missed? That Favre's pass-grabbing teammates were the true heroes.
Javon Walker (four receptions, 124 yards and two TDs), Robert Ferguson (three receptions, 85 yards), Donald Driver (three for 78) and Wesley Walls (a 22-yard TD grab) -- four of the 12 Packers who caught passes from Favre that night -- led an unprecedented, circus-like pass-catching display.
Seriously, take another look at the highlights from that night. Favre was no sharper than in any other game. In fact, he was probably a little less precise than he's been on other occasions. His receivers bailed him out time and time again with spectacular grabs.
None of this diminishes Favre's legend. On the contrary, in my mind, what Favre's teammates did for him on that Monday night only enhances Favre's stature. That's why I'm so upset that we, the media, missed the true story. The performance of Favre's teammates -- both his offensive and defensive teammates -- spoke directly to the widespread respect, admiration and love they have for their superstar quarterback.
I'm not sure there's another superstar athlete whose teammates would so collectively and passionately rally around him in such an hour of pain. It was obvious that every man on the Packers' roster and coaching staff was committed to elevating their performance in honor of Favre. I don't want to play amateur psychologist and read too much into this, but the Packers exhibited more than empathy for Favre. You can't attribute their effort simply to a bunch of guys feeling sorry for a teammate who was going through a difficult time.
I've been on teams and experienced that. In college, my teammate's mother passed the morning of a game. We were going to win the game for Dave Malinski, a popular, solid player. Instead, we lost to a very bad Ohio University squad. Sympathy wears off shortly after kickoff.
Brett Favre doesn't mind sharing the spotlight -- and some love -- with his teammates.
It was love, respect and admiration for Favre that carried the Packers that night.
This is not a knock, but do you think the San Francisco Giants would do the same for Barry Bonds? How 'bout the Chicago Bulls for Michael Jordan?
In today's era, superstars don't inspire universal love. A superstar isn't just one of the guys. He is appreciated for what he brings to the team, but he oftentimes -- through no real fault of his own -- doesn't connect with his mid-level and lower-level teammates.
Favre is the guy with whom everybody would like to have a beer. He's the biggest star in the NFL, but he carries himself like a special-teamer. When the Packers beat the Seattle Seahawks last Sunday in overtime and advanced in the playoffs, Favre rolled around on the field, bear-hugging Jamal Reynolds, a 23-year-old, little-used defensive end. Favre celebrated like he'd never won a playoff game. He ran onto the field and threw himself into the arms of the first teammate who would hold him.
It's not hard to understand why his teammates love him. He plays hurt. He's never demanded to be the highest-paid player in the league. He doesn't take himself too seriously. Favre handles superstardom the way every superstar ought to but few rarely do. That's what makes Favre unique. That's what inspires his teammates to sell out for him.
That's why the Packers might upset the Eagles this weekend. Favre is one of the few NFL players who can legitimately elevate the play of his teammates, even his defensive players.
All right, I'm done. I've now kissed Favre's butt as well as anyone.
Jason Whitlock is a columnist for the Kansas City Star (kcstar.com) and a regular contributor on ESPN The Magazine's Sunday morning edition of "The Sports Reporters." He also hosts an afternoon radio show, "The Doghouse," on Kansas City's 61 Sports KCSP. He can be reached at email@example.com.