There are some legitimate issues to consider in the sexting case involving Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre. It is pretty creepy to send via cell phone, as a gossip Web site has alleged without definitive proof, pictures of one’s genitalia, as Favre is accused of doing. Most of us don’t want to see that. Then again, I also really didn’t need to see the gag-inducing photos of Favre’s banged-up ankle and hamstring, as Favre appeared to have sent to a blogger for Mississippi’s Clarion-Ledger last winter. Some things are just better left covered up.
If it is true, it is disgusting behavior, and the NFL, which is meeting with Favre Tuesday to discuss it, will surely exact some sort of sanction.
I just wish it weren’t Favre who was accused of this. And it’s not because I’m a Vikings fan (though as a native Buffalonian, I feel a special kinship with a team that has also lost four Super Bowls). I just expect more from a player in his 40s. I defended Favre when he came back (twice!) from retirement, annoyed with the generation of raised-on-Ritalin football fans who can’t sustain an interest in a player once he or she reaches 35 or so. Youth carries certain physical advantages often, but maturity and experience are important to winning games as well. NFL Hall-of-Famer Bruce Smith played past 40, and he was a defensive end, sacking quarterbacks instead of having an offensive line to protect him, as Favre does. Sending unsolicited obscene or graphic photos is offensive enough from a younger player; it turns Favre from a proud AARP cover boy in the making to a dirty old man.
But the behavior of the Deadspin.com gossip writers who posted the item is not much better. They ran with the story despite the fact that the woman who said she received the sexual messages asked not to be identified, and despite the fact that they can’t be sure it was really Favre who sent them. In its most recent posting, Deadspin takes us through a tortured explanation of why the information is probably true, even though they can’t prove it:
And, yes, there's a possibility that the person communicating with [the woman] was not actually Brett Favre, but rather someone trying very hard to appear to be him. But let's look at the evidence: For an individual to put forth the effort to 1.) acquire a cell phone with a Mississippi area code; 2.) take some voice lessons; and 3.) implicate Jets handlers and perhaps other people, all within a very short period of time and for no discernible reason other than to mess with [the woman], well, that's some very aggressive role-playing. [The woman] believed it to be him. Others believed it to be him. We've seen far too many supposedly family-oriented and upstanding professional athletes whose off-field behavior contradicts their well-manicured public persona. If [the woman] is right, Brett Favre really is like a kid out there.
In other words, in the no-standards world of the Web, the story’s just too delicious for us to question, so we’ll just go with it. Then we’ll beat up on the so-called “mainstream media” for missing the big story, either because they think two wars and a struggling economy are more important, or because they don’t think it’s right to defy a source’s request for anonymity and then run with a story they can’t be sure is true. Even if it does turn out to be true, that doesn’t justify Deadspin’s sleazy behavior.