This faceoff between the Packers and Brett Favre is hard to figure. Usually in sports, teams get mad at players for not wanting to play (see Red Sox, Manny Ramirez). But here we have a team getting upset at a player because he does want to play.
Would you management guys make up your minds? You're giving us all a Category 5 headache.
Of course, there's little overlap between these two great athletes. For one thing, Ramirez didn't have a bit part in "There's Something About Mary." For another, Favre has never worn braids. (On the other hand, they both play their games with a childlike enthusiasm; it's just that Manny's Inner Child is about 5 years old, and Brett's is closer to 12.)
Amid scribbling pens, clicking cameras and whirring minicams, Favre returned to the Packers on Monday, five months after he retired and bequeathed the starting quarterback job to Aaron Rodgers - or so the club thought. Naturally, ESPN gave the event the kind of coverage normally associated with Paris Hilton.
Speaking of which, maybe Brett, object of fascination that he is, will get his own reality show now - "The Kiln, Mississippi, Life." Or his own channel - ESPN Favre, all Brett, all the time. It would sure beat hot dog eating contests ... or watching the Schwab model another throwback jersey.
Now that Roger Goodell has revivified Favre, the wheels should start turning a little faster. By the end of the week, Brett could very well be wearing a new uniform - and if the Packers are truly committed to Rodgers, he should be. What Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy shouldn't do is hold a make-believe quarterback competition and then trade Favre at the end of camp, making it harder for him to have an immediate impact on his new team. He deserves better than that.
I've gotta believe Ari Fleischer, the Packers' new P.R. consultant, would advise against such shoddy treatment. Fleischer, erstwhile voice of the Bush administration, was brought on board recently because of his experience in crisis management, in particular his ability to put lipstick on a pig. If nothing else, Ari will help Green Bay's heretofore clumsy management parse its words better so it won't always come across as the heavy.
The desperation of the Packers can be seen in their reported 10-year, $25 million offer to Favre to serve them in a nonplaying capacity. How wild is that? I mean, here's a quarterback who was voted to start in the Pro Bowl last season, and his team wants to turn him into a live exhibit in the Packers museum? You'd think QBs of his caliber were as plentiful as foam cheeseheads.
But enough about Favre - for now, anyway. Let's shift our gaze to Sluggin' Steve Smith, who punched Carolina Panthers teammate Ken Lucas during practice last week and broke his nose. The Panthers, to their credit, acted quickly, suspending their All-Pro wideout for the first two regular-season games. (A much harsher punishment, by the way, than the spineless Redskins handed Michael Westbrook after he cheap-shotted Stephen Davis years ago.)
I don't know about you, but I'm always amazed - given the violent nature of the game - that incidents like this don't come up more often. And truth be known, training camp fights are fairly common. Coaches view them as cathartic, no big deal, an unavoidable byproduct of two-a-days. Not that this was much of a fight. Lucas, a talkative cornerback, was said to be down on one knee, his helmet off, when Smith went Tyson on him.
(Fortunately for Smith, none of the local TV crews caught his sneak attack on tape. Westbrook's beatdown of Davis, you may recall, was aired from coast to coast - and can still be seen on YouTube.)
Anyway, we probably shouldn't ascribe too much significance - Decline of Western Civilization, Death of Civility, etc. - to this latest flare-up. After all, this kind of thing has been going on forever in football ... or at least since 1927. That was the year an NFL game was briefly interrupted so two Chicago Bears could swap punches right in the middle of the field.
The combatants, George Trafton and Link Lyman, both wound up in the Hall of Fame. But on this day, well, something set them off. Early in the fourth quarter, as the Duluth Eskimos were driving for the go-ahead touchdown, Trafton and Lyman started exchanging blows. Finally, the newspapers reported, player-coach George Halas "had to intervene."
The effect of the Trafton-Lyman tiff, from a Bears standpoint, was better than any pep talk Halas ever gave. The team came to life after that, scoring 20 straight points to pull away to a 27-14 victory. The next morning, football fans rubbed their eyes, disbelieving, as they read the following headline:
Fist Fight Aids Bears
Defeat Duluth After Mates Exchange Blows