National Football League
Favre has turned retirement into a hustle
National Football League

Favre has turned retirement into a hustle

Published Aug. 23, 2010 1:00 a.m. ET

Unlike anyone else in America, Brett Favre has turned retirement into a windfall.

I’m exempting certain corporate types and white collar criminals, of course, but those guys are all about the money. Favre, as you’ve heard by now, couldn’t care less about the dollars.

Sure, he keeps retiring, and these NFL owners — a group not widely known for their largesse — keep throwing money at him. But again, that’s just a coincidence.

Kind of like the numbers. In 2007, Favre was making about $11 million in base salary. After retiring, un-retiring and reporting to the Jets in late August 2008, he went up to $12.8 million. Last summer, he came out of retirement again and got a two-year deal worth $25 million.


Now he’s become the first 40-year-old in America to get an extra $3 mil guaranteed for taking another month off from work.

In all — with deferred payments and a new assortment of bonuses — Favre stands to collect about $28 mil this season.

But it’s not about the money.

You know this because Favre's said so himself. Kind of. Sort of. Actually, it was like a lot of things Favre's said over the last few years: conveniently ambiguous, and perilously close to a lie.

And that’s a damn shame, because his place was supposed to be unique, not just in football, but in American sports.

In the not so distant past, Favre was athletic virtue personified. He risked his body only for The Love of The Game. If he weren’t in the NFL, he’d be playing touch in the park in his jeans.

In Favre’s case, image and reality were thought to be congruent. But now, in coming to your senses, you’re reminded that the jeans company was paying him a boatload of cash.

Personally, I wouldn’t have minded if he told the Vikings: “I’m on the fence; a little more scratch might help me make up my mind,” or “My ankle hurts so bad, it’s gonna cost you.”

It’s not wrong for him to get more money. I’m just sick of the guy pretending he’s so damn pure.

Just to recap: On August 3, my colleague Jay Glazer reported — quite accurately — that Favre was informing teammates of his impending retirement, with the now-infamous “this is it” text. Within an hour or so, Glazer reported that Vikings owner Zygi Wilf was willing to sweeten the pot. That new deal, widely reported and never challenged, called for $3 million in guarantees and another $4 millon in incentives.

In other words, while other stars are fined and ridiculed for staying out of camp, Favre got a huge raise.

Wilf wants a new stadium and a shot at a Super Bowl. He’s not getting any of that without his most marketable commodity. So, this was good business. But why should anybody have to pretend it’s anything but business?

“It’s not about the money,” Favre told reporters on August 4.

“If they want to reward him, nobody’s going to walk away from that,” Bus Cook, his agent, told the AP. “But it’s not a factor in his decision.”

Nah. Nothing. Still, the notion of a reward is an interesting one. Favre had a great 2009 — 33 touchdowns against only seven interceptions. But those numbers should’ve been Wilf’s reward, as Favre was coming off a league-worst 22-interception season and shoulder surgery when the owner gave him two years at $25 million.

For almost three weeks, the subject of Favre’s new deal was verboten. Then the other night, in a pretty good interview, NBC’s Al Michaels got him to confirm it. They spoke of the quarterback’s “fear of failure,” his disdain for training camp and his need for camaraderie. Then Michaels asked about the widely held notion that Favre was looking to make a score.

“I knew that that would be some people’s assumption,” he said. “It was tempting, but I’ve always made a lot of money, and I knew I didn’t need it.”

Anyone who knows anything about people who’ve made a lot of money also knows it’s not about need. It’s about want.

“Did it move you closer to coming back?” Michaels asked.

“Honestly, no,” Favre said. “It all came back to feeling obligated to the guys. That was really the strongest pull. I’m no fool, it’s a lot of money. But that in itself was not the biggest factor.”

In other words, it was a factor.

So there you have it — Brett Favre's turned retirement into one hell of a business.

But honestly? No.


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