Commentary: Silent Favre still gets headlines

It doesn't seem to matter if Brett Favre talks or not, he still draws the headlines while everyone waits for his final answer. Oh, the excitement! Prepare for months more of waiting. And once he finally does talk about it, expect more headlines … and then many more after that.

If E.F. Hutton Inc. hadn't have been ravaged by the stock market crash of 1987 and within days swallowed up by stronger financial institutions, Brett Favre would have made a likely pitchman candidate.

During its salad days, the investment company had a series of commercials to entice potential investors. Their motto was, "When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen." In every scenario, be it at a wedding, in a park or two guys at a bar, one person would say, "My broker is E.F. Hutton, and E.F. Hutton says…" Everyone in the room stops and eavesdrops to hear what the person has to say. It's starting to look like the same is true for Favre.

When the Favre talk of returning from retirement began in the summer of 2008, Brett was doing to most of the moving and shaking on the topic. He would drop nuggets of information to get the word out that he wanted to come back. Jay Glazer got a scoop. Chris Mortensen got his. Peter King got his. Even Wendy Nix got one. He was burning up the phone and text lines to get the word out. While the story was big, it never really caught a lot of traction nationwide. Everyone knew where Favre stood and they quickly learned where the Packers stood. The only question was this: Were the two trains going to crash and would it be worth watching when it happened?

It was only in the latter stages of that process that Favre decided to clam up. A scandal of sorts broke when the Packers organization accused the Vikings of tampering with Favre. Remember that? Woodward and Bernstein wannabes "breaking" stories of team cell phone records that were supposed to prove there was a smoking gun and Darrell Bevell being identified as Deep Throat of sorts. In the end, the NFL dismissed the allegations made by the Packers – apparently sketchy phone-record evidence doesn't prove a conspiracy in the NFL – but one big byproduct came out of that imbroglio. Favre learned to clam up … at least a little bit.

As it turned out, shutting up made him a bigger star than he ever was before. Instead of letting the world know what he planned to do, he kept his mouth shut. The backlash was immediate, as former players like Mark Schlereth made it his business to trash Favre for "holding teams hostage" and Hall of Famers like Fran Tarkenton actually wished him failure. It would seem that the less Brett said, the more the sports media listened – to others.

Last summer's saga made for good daily fodder, as journalists great and small made a pilgrimage to Mississippi, and the Hattiesburg Airport suddenly buzzed with activity. So many reporters hadn't camped outside a football player's house since the O.J. Simpson. Favre was becoming a myth as well as a legend. Will he? Won't he? What are his motives? Does he want to stick it to the Packers? Did he and the Vikings plan this all along? Will he disrupt the team if he shows up?

The more Favre and his loyal agent, Bus Cook, who refused to confirm that the sun rises in the east, stayed mum, the bigger the story became. His incredible 2009 season only cemented that image that he can retire, return and dominate at an age when most players are so long since retired their meals are no longer comped at their favorite restaurants. His legend in the NFL only grew upon his arrival to Minnesota. Move over, Paul Bunyan. You've got nothing on this guy, except a big blue cow (but Brett has the tractors).

So it should come as no surprise that Favre is again in the news and people are formulating opinions on his return like they're trying to break the Watergate case again. Brad Childress visits him at his home and sleeps on the guest sheets. That must be a sign, right? Chilly doesn't seem like the pop-in-unexpectedly pajama-party type. Childress claims he and Favre have talked on a few occasions since the end of the season, but don't talk football or his potential return. What did they talk about? How "Lost" is going to wrap up? How Corey Feldman is dealing with the death of Corey Haim? Health care reform? Where to hook up good tickets for the Taylor Swift concert? Favre has said nothing publicly since his emotional good-byes to his teammates following the loss to the Saints, yet he remains front page news.

The latest episode in the soap opera took place this past week with the battle to sign LaDainian Tomlinson. Favre had played for both the Vikings and Jets over the last two years and was apparently enlisted by the Vikings to help woo L.T. to Minnesota. On face value, anyone capable of asking the question "why?" would be led to believe that, at a minimum, Favre is seriously considering coming back in 2010. If not, why would he go out of his way to get involved in a contract negotiation with a player he knows little to nothing about to vouch for the Vikings over the Jets? Did he hate his New York experience that badly that he wants to burn the organization even in retirement? The logical answer to that is no. So why would he?

Tomlinson has been asked about Favre's involvement and said he didn't give him any indication whether he was coming back in 2010 or not. If that's true, what good would his endorsement be? Would it go something like, "Even if I'm not there, they've got Sage and Tarvaris. You'll love it there. Oh, yeah. And you will be A.P.'s backup. Don't delude yourself. Come on up. You'll love Chilly. He's a card." Without knowing whether or not Favre would be back or not may have actually done more harm than good in trying to sign Tomlinson and, if the Vikings did press hard to enlist Favre's help, if he actually told L.T. that he isn't sure about his return, it all but delivered him to the Jets' doorstep.

As Favre remains silent about his future, there are a precious few who know for sure what his plans are. It's very conceivable that Favre himself isn't 100 percent sure one way or the other and announcing his leanings won't do anyone any good. If Chilly knows, he ain't saying. He's been under oath recently and pleaded No. 4. Favre danced around some lame questions from Jay Leno, but, aside from that, has remained mum. Bus Cook denies knowing if Favre is in the country or on African safari.

What has been left is what fans are getting painfully used to – one report coming out claiming a certain level involvement followed by another claiming either more or less involvement. And we all lap it up. Why? When Brett Favre talks (or doesn't), people listen.


John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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