Football is rarely overshadowed by anything in the United States these days. Monday night, it will be overshadowed itself – partly the foibles of its own players, but mostly by that colossus of Internet chatter, the enigma that is the Brett Favre scandal.
The announcers will tell you – and rightly – that there is an intriguing game of football to be played between the Minnesota Vikings and New York Jets. But how much will it really matter that Randy Moss is opening up space in the flat for Visanthe Shiancoe when there are Jenn Sterger pics to consider? One of pro football's most respected journalists came up with a chart just to show how well Favre plays when under emotional duress.
What duress is this?
Deadspin.com, a website that seems to combine ESPN with TMZ, alleges that in 2008 then-Jet Favre tried to seduce Jenn Sterger, a TV personality working for the New York Jets, through phone messages and pornographic pictures sent via cellphone. Favre played for the Jets that year.
There's a heartwarming story of overcoming adversity.
If the story is correct – and reports suggest the NFL is putting its investigation on the fast track – then Mr. Goodell not only has a disciplinary mess on his hands, but he also has a tarnished megastar in line for the Tiger Woods treatment. If it's not true, the story remains a testament to how sports is becoming as much "Access Hollywood" as "NFL Films."
(Quick, who was involved in the "wardrobe malfunction"? And who won that Super Bowl?)
For Goodell, this game is a malfunction of a different sort. Or perhaps an implosion.
What should by all rights be a fascinating contest between a team seeking to reestablish itself as a Super Bowl contender (Minnesota) and a team seeking to stake its claim as the league's next big thing (New York) has instead become a Monday night mug shot of professional athletes run amok.
- Numerous media reports are adamant that new Vikings receiver Moss – the man brought in this week to resuscitate Favre's foundering season – was shipped out of New England for a pittance last week because he was a locker-room menace. Hall of Fame hands usually command more than a third round draft pick.
- The Jets, meanwhile, have established themselves as the Animal House of the NFL. Coach Rex Ryan, the mountainous man who never met a four-letter word he didn't like, shamed his mother and ex-Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy – considered one of the game's elder statesmen – with profanity-laden preseason practices caught by HBO cameras.
- Jets receiver Santonio Holmes returns Monday from a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.
- Fellow Jets receiver Braylon Edwards was arrested on Sept. 21 on charges of driving while intoxicated.
- Before the season began, the NFL investigated allegations that Jets players made inappropriate comments about a female Mexican TV reporter visiting their locker room. Though the Jets were cleared, the incident caused owner Woody Johnson to call the reporter, Ines Sainz, and apologize.
That Favre is returning to play the team he played for at the time of the alleged indiscretions is surely a wonderful bit of timing by Deadspin.
For the NFL, though, Monday's game is more of a reminder of how much work Goodell still has ahead of him.