There’s one interesting thing about this annual Brett Favre saga. No, I swear. Well, at least it’s interesting to media consumers/critics/bashers/wannabe’ers like me.
It’s the chicken or the egg question. While Favre has rightly been known as an attention whore for years, is this whole “will he or won’t he” saga completely authored, acted and directed by him? I don’t think so.
Think about who has more to gain when John Madden’s favorite “warrior” waffles. What does Favre get? A training camp-free August? Headlines? A group of sycophantic reporters, ex-coaches, agents and other various hangers-on who live and die with his text messages?
Well, yeah. He’s definitely cool with each of these things, regardless of how much he annoys 99% of all American sports fans, along with his teammates and coaches. But think about how much the media members and corporations who cover him have to gain:
1. Airtime: Right now the biggest stories coming out of training camp are young receivers getting carted off the field and rookies getting their heads shaved in the shape of cock-and-balls (which, by the way, is still one of my favorite Adam Sandler audio CD bits). What other reason is there for Ed Werder to exist right now? There’s no Cowboys-related Romodrama, so the fact that Favre is giving him textual updates — which are nowhere near as NSFW as the texts he sends Jenn Sterger — is a boon for Werder’s career. And it’s not just Werder who benefits. Chris Mortensen, John Clayton, Adam Schefter and all of ESPN’s shows benefit. And it’s not just ESPN. Steve Mariucci read a total non-announcement from Favre’s agent on KNBR this morning like it was a state secret. Jay Glazer gets in on all this as well. The wheels on the media bus go ’round and ’round!
2. TV execs stick with a formula: What’s popular right now on TV? Besides cable dramas, the only thing people watch these days are reality shows. And they’re cheap. Disney owns ESPN, and the shift from journalistic integrity to TV entertainment has been perhaps the most noticeable example of selling out in the last 15 years. With audiences wanting to be titillated and so much riding on each minute of airtime, why would producers leave anything to chance? And what more evidence do you need that Brett Favre’s retirement dance is as phony and scripted as The Hills than the fact that it occurs EVERY YEAR AT THE SAME TIME?
3. The NFL loves this: Roger Goodell will think nothing of suspending a player for watching too many episodes of The Wire in a row. Favre is the biggest star the league has other than perhaps Peyton Manning, and you can be sure that the NFL doesn’t mind the extra publicity. The only way Favre can make Goodell angry is if he actually does what he originally said yesterday and sits out the season, since they’re opening the season on a Thursday night against the Saints (although if Sterger’s story that Favre sent her pics of his “Little Gunslinger” are true, the goodwill Favre still carries with the league may go away slightly).
As ESPN gets closer and closer to TMZ and reality shows about teams and athletes become more common, I doubt this “scripted drama” phenomenon is exclusively the domain of Favre. Is Darrelle Revis holding out because he really wants that much more money and the Jets refuse to give it to him? Or is it because the Jets are the stars of the upcoming (and fantastic show, let’s be honest) Hard Knocks? Did Chad Ochocinco really find love last week? Did Terrell Owens really steal his assistant’s hotel room last week because he needed more room for his “fashion shoot”? Who gives a shit?
Problem is, a lot of people do. You may say you hate Favre and don’t want to hear a word, but you’re also probably a hardcore sports fan who ESPN has taken for granted for almost 20 years now. And you probably don’t make impulse purchases based on TV commercials, either. In fact, you’re probably smart enough to not even watch commercials unless you’re at someone else’s house or a sports bar. The people ESPN and all the rest are courting are the idiots. The ones who care that Favre just got out of a helicopter with Brad Childress. The people who think Favre, Werder, Glazer and the rest aren’t in cahoots. The ones who’ll watch a commercial for light beer and believe that cans that change color will truly improve the drinking experience. All we smart people can do is understand how fake all this is and stop watching when we know we’re being duped. Otherwise, this scripted Favre saga will continue — even after he’s gone.
What, did you think Peyton was above publicity stunts?