Tiger Woods should be taking notes. Brett Favre is in the process of writing a book on how celebrity athletes should deal with a sexual crisis that accentuates a professional one.
You admit nothing, apologize even less and do whatever is necessary to showcase the God-given talent that made you a star in the first place.
Brett Favre began the day surrounded, a runaway outlaw cornered by an angry posse.
The Packers and the Bears were in position to bury him. His throwing elbow hurt. Commissioner Roger Goodell dispatched a former FBI agent to question the three-time MVP about an alleged, inappropriate sextual relationship with Jenn Sterger.
And the desperate, super-talented Cowboys were waiting for him inside the Metrodome, ready to settle the “Panic Bowl” matchup pitting Favre’s one-win Vikings against the one-win Cowboys.
By day’s end, the Vikings had re-emerged as NFC North favorites, Favre’s tendinitis-riddled elbow felt close to 100 percent and the likelihood of Sterger — or any other alleged Favre sext target — cooperating with Goodell seemed remote.
A good day for Favre? One of his all-time best.
Buried by expectations and drowning in scandal, Favre eschewed whatever pressure he was feeling Sunday and delivered a precise, mature and efficient response, leading Minnesota to a season-saving 24-21 victory with crisp passing, pocket toughness and a resolve to avoid the big mistake.
“I didn’t feel any added pressure,” Favre said. “The fact we were 1-3 was enough.”
Maybe that’s true. Or maybe Favre knows the best way to get blogs, newspapers and broadcasters to write and talk about something other than his “Myspace pimping” was to re-create the old Brett Favre narrative.
The Old Gunslinger absorbed shot after shot from the Dallas defense and still managed to throw darts when necessary. For the first time all season, Favre finished the game with a passer rating above 100, completing 14 of 19 passes for 118 yards and one touchdown.
He took a cortisone injection to make his tendinitis go away. The Seahawks and the Dolphins stopped the Bears and the Packers from getting too far away from Minnesota in the NFC North. Wade Phillips’ Cowboys committed enough dumb penalties, including another field-position-changing celebration penalty, to blow their chance at pulling an upset in the “Panic Bowl.”
And God (and maybe an accountant) only knows what happened to Sterger and why she apparently is refusing to cooperate with the NFL’s investigation.
Whatever, as you read this, it appears Favre is just 24 hours and an obligatory, plead-the-fifth interview with a Goodell flunky away from being free of the off- and on-field messes that were on the brink of ruining his 20th (and final) NFL season.
“I don’t expect anything,” Favre said when asked about his Tuesday interview with a Goodell representative. “I’m concerned about our next game, and I’ll let that take its course. I’m a little bit reluctant to say I’m excited about going back to Green Bay, but it’s a challenge we’ll hopefully be up to. And I’ll let the other stuff just take its course.”
The “other stuff” is on a collision course for nowhere.
Meanwhile, Favre and the Vikings, 2-3, are on course for first place in their division. The Packers, 3-3, are beat up and reeling. They’ve lost two straight in overtime. The Bears, 4-2, are the biggest frauds in football.
Given Green Bay’s injury situation and the level of freedom Chicago coach Lovie Smith has granted offensive coordinator Mike Martz and quarterback Jay Cutler, it’s only a matter of time before Minnesota leaps to the top of the division.
When the Vikings get there, the rest of the NFC will be put on notice, too. Favre’s squad is a total work in progress.
“We’re not as good as we will be in four weeks,” Minnesota coach Brad Childress said. “I just have to make sure they don’t get mentally ill.”
With the addition of Randy Moss, the Vikings believe they’re as talented as any team in football. Childress worried the circus atmosphere around the team, the disappointing start and the Favre scandal would make 1-3 feel like 1-10.
It hasn’t happened. The Vikings have a 5-1 swagger.
“Even after we lost to the Jets (last Monday night),” Jared Allen told me, “when we came back to work on Wednesday, the energy in the locker room was like we won. It was real positive.”
That’s the Moss effect. The Vikings are still figuring out how to make the most of Randy. The Cowboys took away the Moss long ball, rolling a safety over top of him most of the day.
“We got Randy Moss,” Favre said, “and everyone thinks I’m going to throw for 400 yards.”
No. Everyone thinks anything is a possibility. Especially now that Favre has weathered his storm right out in the open. He didn’t enroll in sext-addiction reprogramming. He didn’t apologize and ask the world to believe in him again. He didn’t promise to change the on-field behavior that enrages his critics.
Favre reminded us that we’re not Deanna. We fell in the love with the football player, not the man.