Alright, if you’ve had any contact with media in the past two weeks, I think you (like most) have heard the story by this point. I’m not talking about the miners in Chile. That one is much more uplifting. I’m talking about the allegations raised against football’s Wrangler-wearing, gun-slinging, “good ole’ boy” Brett Favre.
Now please understand, I hesitated to even use this story this week so as not to add to the problem that I’m trying to warn against with this post. But, there comes a point in time when, if a story is everywhere, you’re beyond the point of bypassing it for discretion’s sake, so you use it as one of those “teachable moments.” If I was a parent, I would absolutely be talking to my kids about Brett Favre’s situation. They are undoubtedly talking about it at school and beginning to ask questions (at least to themselves) as well as forming opinions – i.e. is this normal?, is this okay?, does greater status in life mean greater entitlement? A 13 or 14-year old is probably not mature enough to process this info and come up with a thorough conclusion. They need guidance. We all do. (By the way, this week’s 5-8th grade Sunday School lesson deals with Sexual “Freedom” – probably a good thing for them not to miss).
For those who have attempted to steer clear of the story, I will spare you any of the gruesome details. The basics are this: Allegedly, during his time with the New York Jets in 2008, Favre sent graphic and inappropriate text messages (and voicemails) to a Jets commentator (female). Recently, these picture texts and copies of these voicemails were sold (by someone who got their hands on them from the Jets commentator) to a gossip website. Quickly, the world found out about it and now the NFL is investigating the authenticity of the materials. This is part of the reason why this is such a big deal, since a professional football player having an affair is not news anymore. This woman worked within a football team’s organization so this falls into the category of harassment that the league has to follow-up on.
Other similar stories have certainly come out with professional athletes. America was disgusted with Tiger’s scandal. Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the youngest quarterback to ever win a Super Bowl, was forced to miss the first part of this NFL season as a result of sexual harassment claims. Favre is a little different though. Tiger and his Swedish model wife didn’t have a very relatable life. Roethlisberger was notorious for living a more rugged lifestyle. Favre, however, is a sweetheart to America. He drove a tractor. His wife, Diana, is a breast cancer survivor whom Favre has appeared with in commercials. Favre is supposed to be the embodiment of how the game of football (and maybe life itself) is supposed to be played. Forget the $10 million/year plus in endorsements, speaking engagements, and post-career commentary work that Favre would be set to lose if these allegations would be true (and perhaps even if not). I’ve seen several articles so far that have calculated the loss for him in dollars and cents. I’ve yet to see an article that has calculated what it’d mean for him to lose his reputation, just for the sake of it being his reputation.
When I was younger, I remember learning in church that “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.” (Proverbs 22:1). In youth, that doesn’t make much sense. You haven’t seen the effects of someone losing their reputation. You haven’t perhaps yet done something you regretted that could change the way others look at you. You haven’t understood that NOT having a good name means you have the stink of shame upon you, a stink that can’t be Febreezed out by money.
I have absolutely no idea if the allegations against Brett Favre are true. Nor will I speculate. I will say, however, that in recent history, accusations like these haven’t turned out well for athletes. If you’ve read any professional athlete biographies, you probably know that sexual escapades run rampant throughout professional sports. Likewise, I will make the obvious observation that every other columnist has made on the issue – choosing not to address it, Favre hasn’t made any statement of denial, something he’s certainly within his rights to do. I hope this is some legal advice he’s received that I don’t understand.
As a Packer fan, I grew up thinking the world of Favre, like many Minnesota children now have (at least last year). A lost reputation changes everything.
I’m sure we all have stories we could tell about someone (perhaps someone from school) who was given the proverbial “Scarlet Letter.” The general rules seem to be that 1) girls reputations get ruined more easily than guys, and 2) the higher position you hold, the more damage done if rumors fly that could destroy your reputation.
I can recall vivid times when rumors about girls that I went to school with would come out, where I got nearly sick to my stomach in knowing that this could haunt the young woman for years. Fortunately, God always forgives and that same gracious God has programmed it so that time usually helps forget. The point remains though, that there is perhaps nothing in this world that compares to the value of a good reputation.
Jesus was a man with a sterling reputation. He was honest and gentle and humble and loving. Seeking to get rid of him though, the only thing people could think to do was lie to ruin his reputation. When nothing could be substantiated, his enemies switched to misinformed claims – the charge of blasphemy from the Jews and finally the charge of treason (i.e. calling himself a “king”) from the Romans. What a joke! When addressing the crowd who shouted for his execution, Pilate reasoned, “You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death.” (Luke 23:14-15) Nonetheless, with the little breath that he had left, this same Jesus, on the cross, asked his Heavenly Father to forgive these people who had sought to ruin his reputation. And at that moment, their sins and our sins were absolved.
I guess, in general, I have several things I’d like people to walk away from this whole Favre saga with:
1) If your reputation at some point in time has been ruined, breathe easier in knowing that when the life beyond time comes, no one will be able to point to any past indiscretion. As it is, all of us technically deserves to have our reputations ruined. Who of us can stand with any pride when our pasts are littered with mistakes? And yet, we ALL have had that past cleaned by Christ’s sin-bleaching blood. And eventually that mistake that you’ve never been able to forgive yourself for will exist only in the mind of a world that ceases to exist, for a new heaven and earth will be all that remains.
2) Seek to build up the reputation of others. Naturally, this leads us to not gossip or slander – passing on information (whether true or not) that could easily damage. In the explanation to the 8th Commandment in Luther’s Small Catechism, it’s stated like this: We should fear and love God that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, or give him a bad name, but defend him, speak well of him, and take his words and actions in the kindest possible way. In my humble opinion, this is the best of the “explanations” in Luther’s Catechism. It is tremendous wisdom for what comes out of our mouths as well as for how we process what comes in through our ears.
3) Seek to maintain your own reputation. No, this is not bragging about yourself :). That would be counter-intuitive. Then you will gain the reputation of being a braggadocio (top 10 favorite words by the way). The easiest (and yet not easy) way to maintain your Christian reputation is to live out your Christian calling. Your reputation will then take care of itself. Understand that you’ll have a target on your back. Satan will hunt to destroy your name because you associate yourself with Christ. That’s just the way a sinful world works. But you have your God protecting you, and the support of your church. We will not judge you for your past sins. We will love you for your Christian repentance that makes you a brother or sister. And we will help you restore and maintain your priceless reputation.
If you were to ask Brett Favre this week if he’d take all the glory of the past 20 seasons of football back to make these allegations go away, what would he say? I don’t know if he would do it or not. I would. I can’t imagine what he or his wife or his family are feeling right now. Say a prayer for him. If there was sin, may it be repented of and a family restored. If these are mere rumors, may the truth come out and reputations be cleaned. Hopefully we’ll all learn from this though – the cheering of a million fans over a thousand touchdown passes can’t drown out a whisper that can ruin a reputation.