By Justin Brisson > Freshman > Journalism > University of Missouri
On Tuesday, August 3rd, ESPN reported that according to league sources, Vikings QB Brett Favre was set to retire. Favre had reportedly sent text messages to teammates stating, “This is it.”
I watched ESPN and ESPN News sporadically throughout that day. The “Breaking News” message that was posted and reiterated all day was that Brett Favre was set to retire – even though neither Favre nor the Vikings had officially announced anything of the sort.
When Vikings’ head coach Brad Childress was asked if Favre had told him that he would retire, Childress said he had not heard anything from Brett. ESPN’s Ed Werder attempted to contact Favre all day but could not reach him for questioning. The only thing that ESPN’s Chris Mortensen could confirm was that Favre had sent Viking teammates text messages saying that his ankle was still hurting him. Even still, ESPN threw Brett’s “impending retirement” in its viewers’ faces all day.
It seemed as if every football analyst and former NFL player or coach was brought in to discuss Favre’s retirement. Three main topics were touched on: why he was retiring, how the Vikings would fare without Brett, and whether or not this really was it for the ole gunslinger. Many other things happened in the world of sports on August 3rd, 2010, but only Favre’s reported retirement got any extensive coverage; and when I say “extensive,” I mean just about all day. Many sports fans, such as Mizzou student Francis LaBelle, were surprised at how much coverage was being devoted to a retirement that had been only rumored.
“ESPN did not do any favors to help its credibility by reporting alleged text messages as truth,” LaBelle said. “First, they made a mistake with The Decision. Now, they’ve further hurt their reputation by jumping the gun on Favre’s retirement.”
Now, to be fair, there were occasional moments where ESPN broadcasters said a disclaimer of sorts, expressing that these reports were not confirmed and were just speculation. However, I don’t believe that showing a Top-10 highlight of the greatest moments of Favre’s career really leaves any room for speculation. ESPN’s coverage of such an event was mishandled entirely, and I have no doubt that people lost respect for the news organization.
ESPN jeopardized its integrity by eschewing other newsworthy stories and shoving more Brett Favre drama down our throats, especially because these reports were loosely founded and ended up having no sustainable truth to them. Timing is everything, and ESPN surely wanted to break such a story as soon as possible. However, they should have either waited until they had solid, confirmed reports or been more transparent with their reporting. A lack of transparency and honesty about the validity of their “sources’ reports” led to a big confusion. One day, Favre was supposedly retired; the next, he was never planning on retiring. Erroneous information from ESPN’s sources could have been a non-issue if the producers had just decided to wait for confirmation from Favre or the Vikings’ staff.
Also, even if we had received official confirmation from Brett himself that he would retire, why should anyone believe him? Of all people, shouldn’t ESPN executives be most aware of how Favre works in the first place? The Ole Gunslinger has already pulled that trick on everyone TWICE. ESPN should know just as well as you and I that until the regular season starts, Favre is NOT retired. He doesn’t care about training camp; he doesn’t need to play in the preseason. Even at the age of 40, last year Brett showed everyone that he can step in right away and be effective. In fact, last season was arguably the best statistical season of his career, and he didn’t suit up for the Vikings until mid-August. Favre loves the spotlight and he loves seeing other people overreact to his every move. No one could ever convince me that he’s retiring until the regular season starts and he’s sitting at home in Mississippi.
Of course, all of this is (currently) a moot point because Favre stated that he would play as long as he is healthy. However, Favre turns 41 in October, and we all know that as tough as he is, his body won’t hold up forever. His rehabilitation from offseason ankle surgery has not gone as well as planned, and Favre has said on numerous occasions that he cannot run without some pain. Walking is fine for him, but as many people have pointed out, you don’t walk in football. Some people, however, believe that Favre will continue to prove his durability this year.
“I don’t think that Favre’s ankle will keep him from playing the whole season,” Purdue student Andrew Daniels said. “Football players play through pain every game and Favre has rarely let an injury affect his play.”
Last year, the Ole Gunslinger played at a Pro Bowl-caliber level and proved to the world that he can still hang with the young guns. His health did not pose much of a problem all season, but the beating he took at the hands of the Saints’ defense in the NFC Championship game took quite a toll on him. Favre took many hits in that game and you know that defenses will continue to try to batter him, especially in the postseason.
Only time will tell if Favre will come back and play for Minnesota all season. Actually, with how old Favre is getting, time may never tell; he seems to be ageless. I hope he keeps playing and stays healthy, and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only sports fan who wishes the same thing. What I do know for sure, though, is that whenever Favre does finally retire, it will be the end of a storied career.