Happy New Year everybody! I have a lot of wishes for 2011 – some sports-related, some not. My number one wish for 2011, however, is that I am not writing this same post a year from now.
When I was asked to come up with what I thought the number one sports story of 2010 was, I thought about a few different, more positive options: Zenyatta, the San Francisco Giants breaking a title drought, the Chicago Blackhawks breaking a title drought, etc. However, when I thought back to what story bounced around the sports echo chamber more than any other in 2010, one name came to mind: Brett freakin’ Favre.
Believe me, I hate that I’m writing this as much as you are probably sitting there thinking, “that guy is a tool for writing about Brett Favre.” You’re probably sick of hearing about him, and I’m sick of hearing about him. However, he dominated sports news in 2010. What made the 2010 Brett Favre stories a bit more interesting than in past years was the fact that there was more than just the, “will he or won’t he retire” angle. There was the new, albeit seedy story revolving around Brett Favre, his cell phone camera, and the subjects he chose for his photographic efforts. Since this is a family website, I’ll stop the description there. However, for those of us who write for a website like this, where we comment on sports and those who comment on sports, it provided an interesting angle for discussion.
In general, the coverage of Brett Favre before this year was divided between two groups. The first group, a large majority of the coverage, was filled with the journalists who all but deified Favre for his streak of starts, his risk-taking on the field, and his fun-loving appearance around his teammates. The second group, far smaller, was filled with ornery curmudgeons like me who were sick and tired of being bombarded by evangelists from the First Church of Favre. The first group, with a few exceptions, chose to overlook Favre’s acknowledged painkiller addiction and translated their admiration of his on-field exploits to nodding approval of his comportment off the field as well. If they stopped shy of that, they at least celebrated that he “put his demons behind him” and surmised that he may be as solid a guy off the field as he was perceived to be on the field.
This year, however, changed all that. Deadspin.com broke the story about Brett Favre’s alleged “cell phone seduction” of a New York Jets employee, Jenn Sterger, and the story went viral. It became a big enough story where ESPN, Fox, and CBS could not ignore it in their NFL coverage. Most importantly, it forced the sports media off its black and white, BrettFavreisagoodguy narrative.
Most importantly, I think Favre was the sports story of the year not only because of the days and days of ESPN programming he generated, but because I think the evolution of the Favre story this year is emblematic of the transformation that sports journalism, and perhaps all journalism, made this year. People get their information from many different sources now, and perhaps the narrative will be driven by the information consumers now, rather than the information providers.
The question is, what will this evolution do to people’s enjoyment of sports? As the seedy underbelly of sports, and the people involved in it, becomes more common news, will the average fan still feel like forking over hundreds or thousands of dollars for tickets, jerseys, preview magazines, and the like?