Brett Favre epitomizes the American athlete lionized in our culture for his athletic ability and accomplishments, then used to obscure the facts about his unflattering character traits.
Whereas Barry Bonds’, John Rocker’s and Michael Vick’s degeneracy is transparent and self-evident, Favre's All-American look and persona, his homey Wrangler commercials and his no-nonsense, competitive demeanor have duped the sports world into becoming complicit in the aggrandizement of cultural heroes who, deep-down, are conceited degenerates.
My aim is not at equating Favre with the aforementioned athletes who have long-existing public reputations that are both warranted and less than desirable; it is at highlighting the illusion that Favre is a man of character—a man whose chimerical reputation does not meet any standard of reality.
Most unsettling—and perhaps the inspiration for writing this—is that when individuals in our sports culture speak about Favre, the player, it often leads to egregious presumptions about Favre, the man.
Seasoned journalists and fans alike speak about Favre with a nauseating nostalgia that a critical mind finds difficult to let slide. In talking about Favre's on-the-field triumphs, they often carelessly use generic buzz-phrases that make judgments about Favre, the man: “All-American boy from Mississippi”; “tough guy”; “family man”; “great teammate”; “fearless”; "gunslinger"; and “has heart(?)”—none of these are substantive remarks, nor are they particularly accurate.
The scrutiny and competitiveness of the NFL, like most high-intensity professional sports in an age of 24-hour media, has not just exposed Favre’s greatest attributes—his competitiveness, intensity and will power—but also his weakest and most degenerative—megalomania, deep-seeded insecurity, deceit, gluttony and overt narcissism.
All were unveiled for the world to see as he attempted a return in 2008 to the Green Bay Packers.
It was the third straight year that Favre had played the waiting game with his team.
Fully entrenched in his self-entitled narcissism, Favre—who had already exposed himself as a petulant child many times before but was largely ignored by the sporting world—could not understand how the Packers could have the audacity to tell him he would have to compete with Aaron Rodgers for the starting QB job if he chose to come back.
Narcissists are often left dumbstruck when they are confronted with actualized authority, rejection, criticism, and ultimatums. It is in conflict with the world where they, alone, are in charge.
Favre's narcissistic sense of entitlement was evident prior to his false-retirement madness.
Jim Trotter of SI.com reported that Favre was unwelcoming towards Aaron Rodgers, repeatedly gave him the cold shoulder and publicly criticized the team for drafting Rodgers with their first-round pick in 2005, saying they needed to draft for the team's other needs (as if there aren't seven rounds). In his mind, the franchise owed him a draft pick that would help him win. If winning, in principle, held value for Favre, he would have been able to acknowledge and accept the franchise's effort in drafting Rodgers, which was aimed at winning into the future when Favre is gone.
Extreme narcissists often become so egocentric that they develop a sense of solipsism—where only the "self" exists, an overindulgence in one's own needs and desires—which, in this case, exposed Favre's neglect for the very real fact that the franchise has priorities that supersede Favre's.
Favre’s insecurity regarding the idea of Rodgers being groomed to replace him could not have been more apparent in 2006.
Favre was muddling over possible retirement, and the Packers had given him until the coming Saturday as a deadline for a decision. The deadline had already been pushed back to accommodate him. When asked by the Sun Herald in Gulfport, Miss., about not having a decision ready, Favre said,"If I don't tell them by Saturday, what will they do, cut me?"
Well, it took them a couple of years, but essentially that's what they did.
The comment was more than a blatant disregard for the interest and well-being of his teammates, coaches and the entire franchise—it was another glimpse into the conceited and entitled sense-of-self Favre possessed.
The unalterable awe that the sports world has for Favre, the player, has been mistakenly used to inflate Favre's personal attributes.
Though his consecutive game streak is historically significant, for example, it doesn't explain a whole lot about Favre, the man, especially when one acknowledges that he played the most overly-protected position in all of sports.
The record is an impressive athletic accomplishment, but such a record does not necessarily imply that Favre, the man, is "tough." Correlation does not equal causation. His consecutive games streak does not, in and of itself, signify a causal relationship between playing many consecutive games and being “tough” in either a physical or mental sense.
It has more to do with his skills—pocket awareness, mobility—some luck and, of course, a raging addiction to pain-killers.
"Tough" guys do not gorge themselves with Vicodin or abuse any other narcotic-analgesic painkiller to mask pain they are both mentally and physically tough enough to handle. After his seizure from a Vicodin overdose, SI.com reported that Favre refused to admit he had a problem with painkillers or alcohol. He initially refused to comply with an NFL mandate to enter rehab and a 10-part treatment plan, which included abstaining from alcohol for two years, until being warned that not doing so would lead to a four-game suspension without pay.
Narcissists often refuse to turn their critical eye inward; only onto others. They are never the source of their own destruction; it is always somebody else that fuels their missteps. For the narcissist to admit that he is flawed, weak and vulnerable is to shatter his own deluded sense of self he has worked so hard to maintain.
Teammates at just about every step of Favre’s career—the Falcons, Packers, Jets and Vikings—have contradicted the illusion perpetuated by the sports world that Favre is a “great guy” and “great teammate.”
Lance Zierlein reported that a source close to Packers players confirmed that they found Favre to be distant. His stay with the Jets was riddled with criticism from teammates, where one player was on record as saying Favre never talked to the team and was standoffish. With the Vikings, the team's success in 2009 postponed the "cancer" that is Favre, but as the team suffered and his play tanked, so did his attitude.
He largely keeps to himself, doesn’t reach out to others, and is preoccupied with his personal situation—all common traits of an anti-social, egocentric narcissist void of any capacity to connect with the world outside of himself.
And, of course, we arrive at the delusional image of Favre as your All-American family man. While his wife was suffering from breast cancer, Favre chose to play text-tag with the now infamous Jenn Sterger when both were with the Jets organization. The cherry-on-top was Favre—allegedly—sending a text photo of his genitals to Sterger like he was auditioning for the role of the dumbstruck pedophile in NBCs “To Catch a Predator.”
Sterger has told A.J. Daulerio of Deadspin that after some flirty texts, Favre began to send her multiple photos of his junk. In an e-mail to Daulerio, Sterger added: "If there is a way to expose this dude for the creepy douche he is without me being attached to it in any way, that is fine. I just want to make it clear I never met him, saw him, etc..."
It is very damaging when a fake-breasted Playboy girl can make you look like a perverted scumbag.
However, the narcissist is unshaken by shame because they have none. A little bit of shame is part of what keeps us from doing despicable things that hurt ourselves and that, more importantly, hurt and embarrass others (e.g., his wife and kids).
This is no more than a snapshot of Favre’s false image, for nothing short of a book would succeed in conveying Favre’s hollow character.
But Favre, still, is held up as model of both athletic skill and character, admired by adults and children alike, and seen as an ambassador of the league; a role model of epic proportions. Only in a sports culture mired in perception, not reality, can such backwardness be normality.
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