Amidst Allegations of Sexual Misconduct, Brett Favre is Primed for a Clemens-esque Fall from Grace
Favre and Clemens’ twilight seasons are eerily parallel. Clemens retired in 2007 as arguably the greatest pitcher in Major League Baseball history – with a three-decade-spanning career that included 2 World Series titles and a record seven Cy Young awards. However, prior to his final retirement, Clemens teased the New York Yankees and Houston Astros much like Favre – holder of nearly every NFL passing record – has done to the Packers, Jets and Vikings.
Clemens “retired” from the Yankees in 2003 after a season-long farewell tour, only to sign with the Houston Astros a few months later. He helped lead the Astros to their first World Series appearance in 2005 and hinted at subsequent retirement before heroically returning to the team halfway through the 2006 season for a record $22 million contract (prorated to a mere $12.25 million). Clemens helped lead the 2006 Astros to a second place finish and an early vacation.
After sitting out the first half of the 2007 season, The Rocket strode to microphone at Yankee Stadium and announced he would grace the world with yet another half-season of his brilliance. He rewarded their prorated $28 million contract with a 6-6 record and a first-round playoff exit.
In 2008, after Clemens had thrown his last pitch, Brett Favre cried his eyes out at a press conference announcing his retirement. He then reneged on his sobbing step-aside and tried reclaiming the Packers quarterback job from heir Aaron Rodgers, but was met with a trade to the New York Jets. After a disappointing season in New York, the old gunslinger “retired” again, only to engage in months of teasing the Minnesota Vikings before unretiring to join them for a season that ended with him throwing a playoff-losing interception. He then allowed for months of speculation before swooping into Vikings training camp to be their 2010-2011 savior. They are currently 2-4, third place in the NFC North.
Both Favre and Clemens have been criticized for the arrogance and selfishness displayed in their multiple retirements and returns. They put their own glory and messiah complexes ahead of the interests of their respective teams. They were drama queens who milked their situations for spectacle – with Clemens emerging like the Pope to speak to Yankee Stadium and Favre engineering the second and third most popular news clips of vehicles traveling down the highway carrying a football star (he’ll never top O.J. in the white Bronco). Incessant news coverage speculating about the status of each superstar coupled with subsequent disappointing results changed many fans’ opinions of the once beloved legends.
If Favre’s similarities with Clemens stopped at diva-like behavior, he’d have no reason to worry. However, Favre has allegedly followed in Clemens’ sexually deviant footsteps. Clemens has been accused of adultery several times – most notably with country music star Mindy McCready and the wife of professional golfer John Daly. As Tiger Woods has also shown, sexual scandals can do irreparable damage to an athlete’s reputation (and endorsement contracts) and while Clemens eventually encountered additional character defamations, Favre’s sexting scandal, regardless of the eventual outcome, has already damaged his increasingly tattered legacy.
Still, the question remains: If Favre has paralleled Clemens’ downfall up to this point, will he eventually join in The Rocket’s biggest disgrace and be implemented in a performance-enhancing drug scandal? While no credible allegations of Favre drugging have ever emerged, his late-career, age defying renaissance is again eerily similar to Clemens’ chemically enhanced reversal of nature. Favre arguably had his best statistical season last year as a 40-year-old. Major League Baseball has made the public suspicious of abilities that increase with age thanks to the countless stars linked with steroids, and even though the NFL had a stricter drug policy during the majority of Favre’s career, if baseball’s greatest age defyer was found to be a fraud, is it wrong to think likewise of football’s?
According to an ESPN report, Favre already dodged meeting with NFL officials regarding the sexting scandal, much like Clemens was defiant and uncooperative during his steroid accusations (and he now faces trial for lying to Congress). Favre and Clemens are the best to ever play at their respective positions and each possesses the sense of invincibility that accompanies their level of achievement; but the last decade has proven that even the biggest on-field heroes aren’t bulletproof.
The Rocket was too good to be true; and if Favre continues following Clemens’ downward path, he too will have his character and accomplishments discredited. How the old gunslinger responds to this latest scandal will prove if he’s learned from his deviant diva predecessor’s mistakes and can break the cycle or if he’ll end up just another fallen hero.
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