Monday, November 29, 2010

Brett Favre, Derek Jeter, and why the whole "Face of the Franchise" concept is way overrated

It's hard to think of Brett Favre these days in a positive way, but there was a time, not all that long ago, when Favre actually used to be arguably the most admired and respected players in football. He had a humble, aw-shucks persona the media and fans loved.

Then he started believing all the hype, and started thinking he was bigger than whatever team he's on. Now Favre, once known as a team-first athlete, has become shorthand for describing the me-first type of player who puts himself above the team. My brother derisively refers to the Vikings as the Minnesota Favres, because everything is all about making Brett happy.

I can't help but look at how much Derek Jeter wants in these contract negotiations, and hear how his agent Casey Close is baffled by the Yankees' stance here, and wonder that Jeter is becoming the new Favre. I've heard some fans say that the Yanks have to give Jeter whatever he wants because he's the face of the franchise. Because it's "his team." Because Jeter will be unhappy if they don't give him $25 million a year for as long as he wants to play. Because fans will stop rooting for the team if Jeter is gone.

Excuse me? I root for the New York Yankees, not the New York Jeters. When A-Rod opted out, I didn't walk out with him, even though I was a big fan of his. Just the opposite -- I was furious that he cost the Yankees money, and said "good riddance."

What does this whole "face of the franchise" thing mean, anyway? It seems to be incongruous to what Jeter is supposed to represent. One of the few things I like about Red Sox fans is the way they refer to the 2004 Boston team as "the 25." Not just Curt Schilling, or David Ortiz, or Manny Ramirez, but the entire team as the whole.

But calling Jeter the "face of the franchise" that the media and some fans are pushing elevates Jeter as being bigger than the team. Very strange, especially since the captain has defined himself, and his supporters have defined him, as being the team-first guy. The opposite of the 24-and-1 player. The lifelong Yankee fan whose dream from childhood was to wear the pinstripes. The gutty, gritty player who will do whatever it takes to win. He never was as good a player as A-Rod, but he was supposed to be a better person. A better leader. Somebody who put the Yankees above himself. What are all those intangibles about, after all?

Now we're seeing a different side of Jeter than the media has shown us for the past 15 years. And now we're hearing about how the Yankees have to give an aging shortstop with a .710 OPS whatever he wants, or he'll pout. I keep on coming back to this, when I hear about Jeter's ridiculous contract demands -- he wanted as much as a six-year, $150 million deal after the worst year of his career. Imagine how much he'd be asking for if he had had a good season!

What do you think? Tell us about it!

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