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The Return of the Redemptive Hero
Posted By ChiefsWarpath.com On February 9, 2011 @ 12:26 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled
To begin the season, I wrote an article praising the virtue of Brett Favre as the game’s redemptive hero – a guy who is prone to error both on and off the field, but finds his way to atonement for any and all offenses. This, of course, was prior to the infamous Dickturegate, wherein Favre sent pictures of his captain happy to a girl he shouldn’t have. In reality, he shouldn’t have been sending dicktures to any girl, even his wife. I have yet to meet the girl that enjoys receiving them, and I’ve met a lot of girls.
Call it a symptom of his age. Younger men who get the same idea in their head (no pun intended) figure out it has a 0% success rate sometime in their late teens/early twenties. Favre didn’t have a cell phone in his late teens/early twenties. In his youth, sending dicktures required an envelope, a stamp, and a trusting relationship with the fellow in charge of your local One Hour Photo franchise. Thus, it was later in his life when the idea for said mischief occurred. This is key only because it happened in proximity to his fall as a player. Had it happened two years ago when he was still kicking ass, we would have laughed for a week, and then we would have moved on. Instead, it was the only thing about Favre which anyone could latch onto this season. No longer could a sportscaster say the words “Favre threw two interceptions in an upset loss.” Instead, it was required that the following vernacular (or some paraphrase thereof) be used: “Favre, beleaguered by having sent dicktures to a hot chick that works for the Jets organization, threw two interceptions in a highly anticipated loss.”
Last week, The Onion Sportsdome ran a piece on Ben Roethlisberger, stating that he was only one win away from being a good person. I’ll sprinkle this next section generously with the word “allegedly”, because, in Roethlisberger’s defense, there were no charges filed in his case. Roethlisberger allegedly raped a woman during the offseason. This was not the first time he had allegedly raped a woman. This is what one might allegedly refer to as a trend. Roger Goodell allegedly doesn’t take kindly to his star players allegedly raping women, so Roethlisberger was suspended for the first four games of the season. Winning is the great magic eraser, however, and Roethlisberger did a lot of that down the stretch. He did so much, in fact, that on the eve of the big game, ESPN stopped referring to his alleged crime as rape, reducing the charge to mere sexual assault. Terry Bradshaw even forgave him and agreed to be his buddy. Allegedly. In this, Roethlisberger, universally regarded to be a bit of a bastard before this whole alleged rape thing came up, took Favre’s place. He became the redemptive hero.
In this, I am reminded of one of the greatest movies ever made: Broken Lizard’s Super Troopers, which contains the following very relevant line: “Our shenanigans are cheeky and fun. His shenanigans are cruel and tragic, which makes them not really shenanigans at all.” Surely at some point in the past three months Favre must have had that exact thought pass through his head. What Favre did was misguided, but nobody’s psychological well-being was irreversibly damaged by his actions. Ben Roethlisberger, on the other hand, allegedly raped a girl. Somehow, however, it’s Favre that is made out as villain of the year, a point only accentuated by the fact that his long time understudy, Aaron Rodgers, was named Super Bowl MVP.
In my 2009 article The Pervasiveness of Permissivism, I made the following observation:
“We continue to send the message that as long as an athlete keeps making big plays, he’s guilty of nothing. Helping your college team to a Bowl Game entitles you to a communications degree; 400+ carries and a Pro Bowl berth entitles you to a free pass on your first three domestic violence charges; 14.5 sacks entitles you to a cartoonish sentence reduction for plowing someone over while plowed; and 2,000 yards in a single season entitles you to kill your estranged wife and her boyfriend. That’s a hell of a rewards system. We might want to rethink it.”
Maybe the Super Bowl loss will put the severity of Big Ben’s offense back in perspective. It shouldn’t. The perspective never should have been lost.
What is lost in the shuffle is that there was a very worthy redemptive hero that emerged this season: Michael Vick. Vick, like Roethlisberger, committed an unspeakable offense. The not so subtle difference between the two is that Vick, when compelled to do so, owned his offense and atoned. An argument – perhaps a fair one, even – can be made that Vick’s sentence was too short given the nature, severity, and breadth of his crime. I’ll entertain that discussion, but I’ll also remind you that (1) Vick plead guilty, (2) Vick served a not insignificant prison sentence, and (3) in every aspect of his public behavior, Vick seems to be a different man.
It doesn’t hurt that he finally learned to play football either. You may see that as a double standard to my principle point, but I see them as inextricably linked. In finally learning in meticulous detail how to execute at the most difficult position in all of sports, Vick demonstrated maturity uncharacteristic of – well any of us. He has achieved a rare combination of discipline and contrition that Favre never did and Roethlisberger never will.
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