Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Favre is guilty of waffling, but the Vikings played along


The Brett Favre Summer Circus Part II, I believe, has finally reached a conclusion.

The 39-year-old did Tuesday what he declined to do three weeks ago, signing a pretty decent contract to be the Minnesota Vikings quarterback for the next two seasons.

And needless to say, this news has aroused a lot of anger toward Favre from Bangor, ME, to La Jolla, CA. A lot.

First off, there are members of the general public who are sick and tired of hearing about Favre. At this point, they'd rather read about Michael Vick. They don't care if he can still gunsling a ball between four defenders to a wide receiver in a crevice not big enough to fit two five-year-olds.

They just want him out of the NFL, out of their consciousness, off their fantasy boards.

Then there are the millions of Green Bay Packers fans in this country, who were already fed up with their ex-legendary QB and now probably want to banish him from the state of Wisconsin for signing with a team in their division. The only thing worse, in their minds, would have been if he'd tied the knot with the hated Bears.

There will be no love for No. 4 when he leads the Vikings into Lambeau on Nov. 1.

I, for one, am no big Favre fan, either. Turning down a good offer from an excellent team with the league's best running back and then changing his mind during the middle of training camp ain't cool — regardless of how dire the Vikings' signal-caller situation would be without him.

Favre has gone about this the wrong way, waiting, just about, until the final minute to decide to play.

But here's what I will say in his defense: I don't blame him one bit for wanting to continue to play. The general public, the haters, don't understand that this is his career, his livelihood, and once he gives it up, nothing in life, sadly but true, will ever match it.

Favre still has the physical tools to compete in the NFL, especially now that his throwing arm is healed from the torn biceps tendon that hindered him down the stretch of last season as the Jets quarterback.

He also, I'm sure, remains one of the toughest, grittiest players in the league. A player who won't crumple when he sees a raging defensive end flying at him. Instead, a player who will step up and complete a pass before getting decked.

The bottom line here is that the Vikings wanted Favre at almost any cost. They were willing to wait until mid-August for him. They were happy to pay him $25 million over two years. Heck, they might have even accepted him mid-season.

The rest is, will be, history.

If there had been no offers on the table, if no team was showing serious interest in Favre over a month ago, this saga would have peacefully died. He probably wouldn't have gone to the trouble to have his arm examined by Dr. James Andrews. He would have concluded that his football career, outside of Sunday flag-football leagues, was over.

But Minnesota management was smart. It knew that Tarvaris Jackson or Sage Rosenfels wasn't going to lead the Vikings, even with Adrian Peterson, to the Super Bowl. It knew the team needed a quarterback who could strike fear in opposing defenses behind center, a QB that could keep defenses from constantly putting eight or nine defenders in the box.

So the Vikings expressed their interest in Favre, making it clear that they wanted him badly — as their starting quarterback, no ifs ands or buts.

And here we are, almost three weeks from the beginning of the regular season, with Brett Favre in purple.

He'll be booed plenty this season and every one of his miscues on the field will be dissected by those who'd rather see him stocking shelves in a grocery store this October.

But he also might have one heck of a season with a pretty darn good team, a season that far outweighs any more bridges he's burned with this latest comeback story.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Rashard Lewis' apology right on the money


Thursday was not a good day for Rashard Lewis, Orlando Magic small forward.

The man who helped the Magic to the NBA Finals was suspended by the NBA for 10 games for testing positive for an elevated level of testosterone.

But Thursday was also a good day for Lewis, in that he went about facing the suspension in the right way — and next spring, when the Magic are battling in the playoffs, no one will give a flying hoot about the suspension or even remember, for that matter, that the dude had some extra testosterone.

And if Lewis has a long, successful career, I doubt Thursday will keep him from being strongly considered for the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.

If only baseball players, the whole lot of the accused, could look at Lewis' reaction to his positive test, get a "Back to the Future" car, and unravel all the damage they've done to their careers and legacies through lies and denials.

Lewis, unlike countless famous sluggers, came out and said exactly what happened — he took an over-the-counter supplement late last season that contained a substance he didn't know was banned by the league.

I, for one, believe his explanation.

What he did, of course, was extremely stupid. Any professional athlete worth millions should know about the risks associated with making such a purpose. Heck, they should just stay away from over-the-counter supplements, period.

But Lewis bit the bullet, swallowed his pride, and admitted his fault. And that will, no doubt, help him in the court of public opinion. Once he's served his suspension, people will quickly forget about what happened.

He's helped by the NBA's reputation of being a PEDs-free league. We only hear, really, about maybe one player a year, usually a bit player, testing positive for something. Lewis is the biggest-name guy who's been named.

Because of the league's rep, it's easier to believe that Lewis didn't know exactly what he was doing. And it's easier to accept that his apology is genuine, unlike the crap we hear from most baseball players.

"I hope every athlete can learn from my mistake that supplements, no matter how innocent they seem, should only be taken after consulting an expert in the field," Lewis said in his statement.

Warning other athletes? Not hiding behind his agent?

It's a new approach that we haven't seen from baseball players.

Let's not forget that when Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa, Alex Rodriguez and others were taking supplements, the PEDs weren't banned by Major League Baseball. If they had just come out and admitted what they'd done and said it was wrong, that they made a mistake, they might not be in such hot water with hordes of baseball fans, not to mention Hall of Fame voters.

That's what lying and denying will do.

Rashard Lewis doesn't deserve a free pass on this one. That's why he's getting docked 10 games, or $1.6 million.

But his solid reputation should remain intact, as will the NBA's as a mostly PEDs-free league (for now), thanks in part to how he handled making an error in judgment.

If only baseball's steroid users had taken a similar approach, they might not be so reviled. Their mistakes might, actually, be distant memories.