In light of LeBron James making his decision on his NBA future with a made-for-TV event – a subject we will discuss in more detail at a later date – it would seem to be the forum du jour for athletes to make big announcement. Not only was it confirmation of a signing, it's a quasi-news event that even earned a documentary sort of title from the good people at ESPN – "LeBron James: The Decision."
Somewhere, Don King was jealous. Perhaps he wasn't alone.
At 10:06 p.m. Central Time on Friday, Brett Favre's official website released an announcement that Favre and his wife Deanna will be attending the ESPY Awards on Wednesday. According to his website, Brett is "very honored to be nominated for various awards and to be in the same category as such other great athletes." Favre added he was even more honored to present the prestigious Arthur Ashe Award. The equivalent to a lifetime achievement award at the Oscars, the Ashe Award "reflects the spirit of Arthur Ashe – showing strength in the face of adversity, courage in the face of peril and the willingness to stand up for their beliefs no matter what the cost." A far cry from the Best Dunk Award, this is the centerpiece event of the ESPYs and Favre has been asked to present.
Favre will be presenting the highlight award of the evening, but he may well walk away with hardware of his own, which may give him the forum to shed official light on his 2010 plans.
He is nominated in three categories. His only competition for the "Best Record-Breaking Performance" is the Isner-Mahut match at Wimbledon that took three days to finish, playing an insane 138 points in the fifth and final set to determine a winner. Sprinter Usain Bolt set a record in the 100 and 200 meters, but those records can be broken. Roger Federer's Grand Slam titles streak was new, but tennis players come along every five years to replenish the history shelves. UConn's women's basketball victory streak complies with the Disney Corp. Title IX requirements. Favre is nominated for the NFL record for consecutive games – a record Jim Marshall held for more than 30 years. This is in the Cal Ripken realm, and, as someone much more fond of football than baseball, I feel obligated to point out that if Ripken took a pitch under his chin and it missed, on the next pitch the catcher didn't cut his knees out from behind. This streak is the king of streaks – much less for a quarterback. If Favre comes back, he will maintain his six-year head start on the streak over Peyton Manning and Manning will price his way out of the game before that happens.
He is also nominated in the curiously sponsored (oh, wait…Disney…scratch that) Castrol Edge Performance Under Pressure Award. Shockingly, there are no auto racers that actually use Castrol (the Cadillac of oil, which earns my sliver of the sponsor pie) among the finalists. Favre is nominated for his performance in his return to Green Bay. Having been in the tunnel when he and Ryan Longwell went to the locker room, it was the kind of moment that would be rejected as a Hollywood script. When a fan pays a couple hundred bucks to get a huge laminated placard that said "Judas betrayed one; Brett betrayed us all" most mortal humans can't comprehend the kind of pressure he was under. Playing the Biblical card? That's pressure. A flop performance in that game would have been a lasting memory for vengeful Packers fans. He left a lasting memory Green Bay fans will never forget. He should win.
Unfortunately, we live in the era of political correctness. ESPN may be angling for a return to NHL coverage, so Sidney Crosby in the Olympics in his home country gets nominated. But, let's face it, he's Canadian, NBC carried the Olympics and Versus carries the NHL. Thank you for playing. But the other two nominees unfortunately have a legitimate shot to pull off an orchestrated upset.
One is Stephen Stasburg's MLB debut. Back when the backbone of ESPN coverage was anonymous boxing, rodeos, strongman competitions and quasi-sports of the highest ilk (if it doesn't have a ball, technically it's not a sport – it's a skill), the marriage with Major League Baseball was ESPN's first dance with the prom queen. The relationship has solidified now as MLB continues to atrophy in the consciousness of sports fans. It used to be that ESPN needed baseball. Now baseball needs ESPN. Strasburg is an hours-eating subject of conversation that the network is in its best interest to coddle. Favre's out the door in a year or two. Strasburg has the potential of being a storyline for the next two decades. Kiss a butt early and you don't have to kiss a butt late. He's a legitimate favorite for the category.
The other nominee is Landon Donovan, who, according to published reports, did something impressive in the World Cup against the always-pesky Algerians. When I think of pressure performances that would be sponsored by a non-BP oil company with the immaculate reputation of Castrol (cha-ching!), I wouldn't put a goal in a World Cup game that wasn't even a quadruple-final on par with the Miracle on Ice. The only similarity was the economy of the time. The country embraced the college kids playing the Russians. Not so much with guys 99 percent of the country couldn't identify in a lineup.
Was it a critical goal in the Round of 32? I can only assume it was the only goal of the game – can't speak to it myself, because I didn't see it nor was I interested enough to watch the highlights. Big-time soccer is important everywhere but here. Be honest. Have any of you watched a single curling match on the Internet since the Winter Olympics? The closest the United States has come to making soccer a legitimate spectator sport was in the 1970s when Pele left Brazil to come here and whenever a woman named Brandi took her top off. Classic! Not the first time, nor will it be the last, but classic nonetheless. However, ESPN invested hundreds of hours in a sport in which three points between two teams is a wild and wooly slugfest and broadcasts were consistently ruined by the sound of annoying blow-horns. As if soccer wasn't dismissed by enough Americans, game viewers actually had to turn off the sound so as not to be driven slowly insane by the incessant squeal of those ridiculous horns. ESPN may have to justify so much coverage for broadcasts enjoyed by ones of people (not the millions they hoped). The "throwing a bone" option is alive.
Finally, Favre is nominated in the Best NFL Player category. If I was to have the vote, I would give Favre the nod. What he achieved in 2009 has set the bar so high for aged quarterbacks – setting a career-best for fewest interceptions and his highest passer rating at age 40 should make him a shoo-in. It borders on the same rationale that would give that marathon tennis match consideration. Unfortunately, he has no chance. Drew Brees is nominated and he beat Favre and brought a title to the NOLA. Chris Johnson ran for 2,000 yards. Peyton Manning is the golden calf. Darrelle Revis is a young Charles Woodson and both are nominated to placate defenders. Brees or Johnson wins.
Favre has a chance (so you're telling me there's a chance?) of winning three ESPYs. Will he use the forum to announce he is coming back to the NFL? LeBron did and got skewered for it. But, it set a precedent. If Favre opts to make the ESPYs his "Oh, hell yeah!" return announcement, it will become a trend that will raise the bar.
Considering that Sharpie sponsored the "official" signing of LeBron's contract Friday night, what is a Favre "Will He or Won't He?" announcement worth? Whatever ESPN sold out for LeBron, multiply it by ten.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Favre will have his own stage
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