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As the gleeful masses celebrated the end of the NFL lockout this week and executives scrambled to sign, trade and otherwise collect players for the start of training camp, a truly execrable rumor began to spread. Was Brett Favre, the man of 10,000 retirements, considering yet one more return?
Michael Vick went so far as to tweet his approval to bringing Favre to Philadelphia as a back-up quarterback with the Eagles this season.
What a public relations debacle that pairing would be. Two years ago, the question was why any team would want Vick on its roster, fresh off his 23-month prison sentence for running a dog fighting ring and torturing and killing animals. Now, it's hard not to ask the same question about Favre.
Seriously -- why?
Favre -- whose own web site still had posted on Friday an Associated Press article that was less than definitive about his retirement -- is so long past his prime that he has done more harm than good to his legacy over the last few years.
But this isn't about Favre, the quarterback. It's about Favre, the embarrassment: The guy the NFL fined $50,000 last year for not being forthright in an investigation into allegations he actually texted pictures of his genitals and sent lewd messages to a former New York Jets game hostess.
Days after a three-month NFL investigation failed to prove or disprove that shot was Favre's, uh, member, two New York Jets massage therapists sued Favre for sexual harassment. They claimed they lost their jobs after complaining about sexually suggestive text messages from him when he played for the team in 2008 during the first of his many un-retirements.
Remember what happened to New York Congressman Anthony Weiner when he was caught sending lewd pictures to Twitter followers? He resigned in shame. Seems people won't tolerate that kind of behavior of a politician.
So why should we have to put up with that in athletes?
But we do, don't we? It's not just Favre. Crude behavior rarely prevents athletes from making millions. See Ben Roethlisberger, the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback who was accused, not once but twice, of sexual assault and was suspended four games last year by the NFL.
He was welcomed back and cheered by plenty of fans when he led Pittsburgh to the Super Bowl. Not cheered by all of us, mind you.
That's not to mention the convicted criminals running around in professional uniforms, from Vick to wide receiver Plaxico Burress. The latter just got out of prison, having served nearly two years on a gun charge after he accidentally shot himself in the leg at a Manhattan nightclub. Reinstated by the NFL on Friday, Burress has a number of suitors. He'll be earning millions again soon.
Maybe it's not fair to lump creeps and criminals in the same basket, or the accused with the convicted. But they're all subject to the same court of public opinion. And that's what this is about: The public that pays good money to buy jerseys and game tickets and make an emotional investment in a team. They're not stupid. They know Favre paid a relative chump-change fine rather than come clean about what he did.
No doubt there are plenty of people who would cheer for a team with Favre on it, regardless of what he did. But some of us won't. Same with Roethlisberger, Vick, Burress and the rest.
Of course, as long as the majority doesn't make a fuss about their transgressions, then the protests of the minority won't necessarily matter. And the majority of football fans are men. All of which makes you wonder: do men find it easier to forgive people like Favre and Roethlisberger than some women do?
Seriously -- why?