Perception is Not Reality
I couldn’t put my finger on it for sure. But it definitely happened.
There was definitely a time it was not okay to like Brett Favre.
With his enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and, perhaps more significantly, being inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame (and his #4 retired), it seems like that time has definitely passed.
Actually that’s probably not fair. It seems like it’s been past for a while now. But with his recent inclusion in the most exclusive club available to football’s greatest, it seems that the time for hatred has officially ended.
But the weird part is I sometimes feel like the only one who remembers it existed at all. But, I mean, that can’t possibly be true, can it? I can’t be the only one who remembers when Favre was as easy to mock as Michael Jackson (back when it was okay to mock Michael Jackson) and the general internet consensus was he’d been reduced to a washed-up has-been who couldn’t play any more and probably never could if we’re being honest, and also he sent pictures of his dick to everyone. Or at least to one person.
Although actually to say that was only one time isn’t really fair, either. Well, okay, the dick pics only came up once, but much like Favre’s famous indecision regarding his retirement…s, the football-watching world could never seem to make up it’s mind about Favre.
Remember back in 2005 when Green Bay drafted Aaron Rodgers? For the next two years,
all the reports ranged between saying Favre was gruff and unwelcoming to the rookie to flat-out calling him a terrible teammate. The fact that these two years happened to coincide with two of the worst in Favre’s career to that point is probably coincidence. Then, 2007, redemption. Favre led the upstart Packers to a surprising 13-3 record, putting up some of the best numbers of his career. Sports Illustrated declared him sportsperson of the year and did an article on what a mentor he was to Rodgers and the other QBs. Suddenly, Favre had become a good teammate.
For one year. The next year Favre got traded to New York, had a strong start to the season, but faded down the stretch as his new team missed the playoffs. ESPN officially declared him “locker room cancer.” The old reports resurfaced. Favre and Rodgers never got along. Favre never made Rodgers feel comfortable. Favre ripped the head off of kittens and ate the placenta of unborn children.
The thing is, the actual facts of those reports hardly changed at all, if you pushed deep enough to actually find them. Favre didn’t go out of his way to help Rodgers take his job, what Rodgers was obviously brought in to (eventually) do, but if Rodgers came to him looking for specific help, he’d provide it. We can debate all day about whether Favre should have made the younger player seek him out or if he should do more to be a “good” teammate, but the simple fact is the reports stayed virtually the same year-to-year, while the judgments and narratives in those news stories varied widely.
And that’s a pattern that holds true not with the little things, t00. Late in the 2009 season, Favre (now with the Vikings) had a Monday night game at the Chicago Bears. Leading up to the game, the story was the freezing cold conditions, and how Favre hadn’t won such a game in almost two years.
The Vikings sleepwalked through the first half, spotting Chicago 16 points, before ultimately falling behind 23-6 midway through the third quarter. But led by Favre and Adrian Peterson, nearly pulled off a comeback for the ages, coming all the way back to tie the game at 23, falling behind again, only to put together a 68-yard drive that ended when Favre hit Sidney Rice for a touchdown on fourth and goal with 16 seconds left in the game.
Just before that score, one of the game’s announcers commented on all the claims that Favre could no longer play well in cold weather, saying “There’s nothing wrong with that guy in any weather after how he’s played tonight.”
But on the Vikes’ first drive in overtime, Peterson fumbled the ball. The Bears recovered it, and rammed a touchdown drive down the Vikings’ throats, winning the game.
The next time the Vikings came to Chicago, in 2010, to play another game in freezing weather, the story told by all national news writers was, again, “Favre can’t play in cold weather… Favre hasn’t won a game played in freezing temperatures in three years.”
You could chalk it up to what Matthew McConaughey, portraying Jack Lengyal, said in We Are Marshall: That “Winning is everything and nothing else matters.” But it’s far more likely that in the word of professional football, perception simply is not reality.
Perception trumps reality.