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Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2008

The Snit Hits the Fan

The Fairly Detached Observers

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There are deadlines, and then there are Shepherd Express deadlines. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell honored this precept when he told the Packers and Brett Favre to resolve their feud by Monday. The team's "welcome back" declaration and Favre's return to Green Bay took place in time for the Observers to join the punditry. But Favre and coach Mike McCarthy had less regard for the Observers, and their marathon talks Monday night left questions in the air when the Shepherd went to press.

Frank: So after all the policy statements, dueling agendas and posturing in the media, what we apparently have is the Packers saying, "Never mind." To use language from a slightly more important saga, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Favre and the team honchos went eyeball to eyeball and the Packers blinked. He's on the roster now, which they didn't want, and their only viable options are to play him or trade him.

Artie: It really does seem that he's forced their hand.

Frank: He had some help. I'm sure Mr. Goodell reminded the Packers that Favre looms large in the league's esteem—and its marketing strategy.

Artie: What loomed large Sunday night was Favre's SUV as he drove in from the airport. I turned on Channel 6 and thought, "What the hell is going on? Is O.J. on the lam again?" Just beyond comprehension.

Frank: Man, all that breathless coverage of the private jet landing and the Escalade heading out. All they needed was a buddy of Favre in the car making phone calls, the way O.J. had Al Cowlings.

Artie: Frankie Winters would have been perfect! I swear, I thought maybe Favre had just murdered Ted Thompson.

Frank: It would be very interesting to observe Favre's first conversation with Thompson—and with Aaron Rodgers. To his credit, Thompson made himself available in the TV booth before the Sunday night scrimmage and tried his best to say that everything would turn out just fine.

Artie: This is the guy Brett essentially called a liar.

Frank: The team's statement returned the favor, sort of, referring to how the Packers made their plans with "the assumption that Brett meant what he said about retiring." But then it talked about making the most of the new situation—whatever that is.

Artie: There's only one way to make the most of it. Last season was fabulous, and the only way to improve is to go to the Super Bowl.

Frank: If they do, all this will be forgotten. Of course, if they don't…

Artie: As a Packer fan since 1959, I feel good about Brett being back and the excitement it brings. But I still have visions of how he played in those cold-weather games against the Bears and Giants. And that worries me.

Frank: In the end, the Packers must have known they couldn't trade him to a team they wanted because he wouldn't go. And they don't want to trade him to Minnesota—at least before the Vikings come to town for the season opener.

Artie: The team was dealing from no strength. But you know, there was one deal they never considered. Brett's got a great arm, can rifle it 50, 60, 70 yards. What's home plate to the pitcher's mound?

Frank: A mere 20 yards and six inches.

Artie: So can you imagine the heater Favre must have? Trade him to the Brewers! They're not going to keep Fielder long term anyway, so trade Brett for Prince to help the defensive line, which is a shambles.

Frank: Prince already is nose-tackle size, built low to the ground.

Artie: Just a thought.

Frank: Speaking of the Brewers, I know you're dying to ask me how come, if the Brewers are a lock to win the World Series, they can't beat the Cubs at home.

Artie: You bet, your Numerology, Scientology, Egyptology theory from last week doesn't look so good. That series was quite the debacle.

Frank: I said they're a lock in October. I didn't say anything about July. The planets weren't right last week. There was a solar eclipse, and maybe that threw things off.

Artie: And what about the Ben Sheets eclipse? With the loss in Atlanta, ol' Ben is 1- 4 with an ERA well over 4 in his last seven starts.

Frank: He hasn't been terrible, but he has n't been matching Sabathia. But now let's talk about something that—unlike Brett Favre—a billion Chinese care about. The Beijing Olympics begin Friday, so I'm sure you have the fever!

Artie: Not yet, pal. I think I need to get juiced up, like some of the participants.

Frank: For me the best thing about the Olympics is that any time of the day or night, as long as you have cable TV, you can see all these wonderful sports that virtually no one cares about except at Olympic time. Field hockey! Water polo! Badminton! Team handball! And this year, BMX bike racing.

Artie: That's in the Olympics? What about something legitimate, like croquet?

Frank: Meanwhile, here's a sport that's saying goodbye to the Olympics: baseball.

It's officially out for 2012 but trying to get back in for 2016. And softball is out after Beijing, too.

Artie: Doesn't the IOC know how un- American that is?

Frank: I think that's the point. Now, Major League Baseball has made some noise recently that if Chicago were to win the 2016 Olympics, MLB might consider shutting down for a couple of weeks and let big-leaguers participate.

Artie: Chicago has a shot at 2016, huh? Even at my age, that seems like right around the corner.

Frank: By that time the Brewers will have several World Series championships.

Artie: Brett Favre will still be playing— hey, maybe in the bullpen for the Brewers!

Frank: The Olympics are fun, but most of the sports are novelties to the general audi ence. If you're personally involved in them you pay attention between Olympics, but otherwise most people don't care.

Artie: You know, I've seen poker and NASCAR racing on ESPN. Are those in the Olympics?

Frank: Not so far.

Artie: How about fishing? And in the Winter Olympics you could have your ice fishing!

Frank: They already have sailing and rowing. So maybe while you're out there, just throw a line over the side.

Artie: See, combine the sports. Just like they have that skiing and shooting in the winter, they could have rowing and fishing.

At the back of the sculls, have a guy trolling with a nice night crawler at the end of the pole. The scoring could be modified by who comes in with the biggest haul. Now that, I might watch.

Frank: But short of that, how do we whip up Olympic fever for you?

Artie: Two words: banned substances.

Frank Clines labored almost 20 years in the sports department at the Milwaukee Journal and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and covered the Brewers part-time for most of those years.

Art Kumbalek has offered to retire from the
Shepherd and accept a position of gasbag good will greeter at $2 million per.

Frank and Artie get serious | Photo by Kate Engbring