It would appear the new Brett Favre biography is getting the kind of national attention that publishers and publicists dream of. Gunslinger, a biography by author Jeff Pearlman, has been causing a firestorm of people disputing the facts as portrayed in a very limited sample size for those who haven’t read the entire book.
Favre understudy Aaron Rodgers has already taken umbrage to the assertion that the first time he met Favre he called him “Grandpa.” But, more troubling has been the contention that the Minnesota Vikings had a bounty program as part of the culture of the 2008-09 teams.
On Thursday, the claim, attributed to former Vikings offensive lineman Artis Hicks, was refuted by those who were involved with the team. Players of that era, including linebacker Ben Leber and punter Chris Kluwe, denounced the assertion, claiming neither had any knowledge of bounties being paid.
Brad Childress, the head coach of the Vikings at the time, was asked to respond and shot down the claims.
"I had a great opportunity to coach a lot of great people there, including Artis Hicks, at the Minnesota Vikings,” Childress said. “I have too much respect for the Wilf family [and] professional football to have anything to do with a bounty system. I'm going to let it stand at that.''
Veteran defensive end Brian Robison was a young player with the Vikings at the time and said the news of a bounty program was news to him.
“I haven’t heard of any bounty program since I’ve been here,” Robison said. “I’m very unaware of a bounty program. I’m not going to sit here and talk about it all day. It is what it is. If Artis wants to say stuff like that, obviously he’s trying to bring attention on him. So what? At the end of the day, I’m unaware of any bounty program that’s happened here in the time I’ve been here.”
Like many others, when the excerpt from the book was released on the website Deadspin, there was a combination of surprise and shock that the Vikings were tagged as a team that had a bounty system. It was ironic in that when the NFL brought the hammer down on New Orleans for a clear-cut example of a team that paid out bounties to injure players, it was Minnesota that provided the evidence needed to convict coaches and players.
Robison said he had no idea that the book was going include the explosive charges that Minnesota was doing the same thing that New Orleans was found guilty of.
“I was very surprised,” Robison said. “I actually saw it yesterday and the first thing I said in the car with my wife is, ‘What the hell?’ It was very shocking to me.”
Asked if Hicks was the type of player that would embellish stories or make up a tall tale to grab headlines, Robison said he didn’t know Hicks all that well. The biggest issue for Robison was the stain that the allegation places on the Vikings franchise.
As it pertained to Hicks, Robison said he couldn’t make value judgements because they weren’t all the close and, playing on the opposite side of the ball, the young Robison and the veteran Hicks didn’t have that many interactions.
“I didn’t know Artis Hicks very well. I was here with him a couple years, but he wasn’t really a guy I got to know real well or anything like that,” Robison said. “I really have no clue what he’s talking about.”
It isn’t unusual for a book to have headline-grabbing claims that garner attention. Whether Favre was privy to the assertions or not, one thing would seem certain – there is a lot more attention being paid to the Favre biography now than there was earlier this week. Controversy always is a selling point – good or bad – and it would seem that a lot more eyes are going to be on the book now, which is exactly what the publishers want to get the word out. It may not be the best way to move product, but it has delivered the attention that creates a buzz around the topic. In the world of publishing, creating discussion about a book increases sales – even if the reason for attention is for all the wrong reasons.