By Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 13, 2010; 12:53 AM
It's fair now to wonder if Monday night was the postscript on Brett Favre's career. The thrill of the rainbow touchdown pass to Randy Moss, the crushing disappointment of the pick-six to essentially end the game, the personal life drama that obsesses the tabloids these days - all of it playing out just outside New York. The Minnesota Vikings aren't particularly good right now and maybe won't be this fall and winter, so the loss to the Jets felt like the beginning of a slow exit, if not a formal goodbye.
It has always been that combination with Favre: bursts of athletic brilliance and triumph, doses of disappointment and big public drama.
This drama, of course, is different from all the other stuff, from his youthful episode with pain killers to his dad's sudden death the night before a big game, to his wife's battle with cancer. There's a difference between drama and scandal, and this episode threatens to become full-blown, the stuff that leads to huge embarrassment at the very least, perhaps a suspension from football, maybe the tarnishing of an image, however temporary these things are nowadays.
In case you haven't been paying attention, the NFL is investigating accusations that Favre sent lewd photographs and solicitous voice mails to a woman who was then a Jets employee, and some spicy revelations by a couple of female massage therapists, one of whom kept voice mail messages.
This isn't Tiger Woods-level stuff just yet, the kind of scandal that eclipses other news, but who knows? Favre is famous enough, recognizable enough to matter on the national level. He has celebrity and endorsements and the beautiful doting wife, just like Woods.
We'll see if the hypercritical morality police officers who sentenced Woods to damnation for his philandering ways are as heavy-handed with a fair-haired quarterback and the face of mainstream America's favorite sport . . . or if Tiger's transgressions are deemed to be somehow "different." We'll see.
Maybe, if Favre is really fortunate, it won't come to that. Maybe he didn't send any photos of himself, or even take any. Maybe it's a damn good impersonation on those voice mail messages. Maybe Jenn Sterger, the former Jets employee who now has her own "manager" issuing statements, is an opportunist, and this whole thing is a another case of sports and sex intersecting as they do, oh, every day.
Again, if it boils down to the dalliances of a famous man, it's none of my business. But if it's more than that, if there's sexual harassment in the workplace, then the matter takes on an entirely different tone.
That's what the NFL is investigating. And Commissioner Roger Goodell has set the precedent of suspending a player who hasn't been convicted of breaking any laws. So even if there's no workplace harassment, Goodell could decide Favre's has run afoul of the league's personal conduct code and suspend him.
It's difficult to imagine the commissioner doing to Favre what raging defenses have never been able to do: end his streak of consecutive starts. Do I see Goodell doing that based on what's alleged now? No. Not a chance. But surely, the commish and Favre are approaching the time for their own sitdown.
So far, Favre hasn't tipped his hand about anything, not even after Monday night's game. After virtually every game of his career, and especially the big ones, Favre faces the media in what feels like a session on a psychiatrist's couch. He tells you everything. It's how we've come to know him, relatively speaking, so much better than most players. He talks sometimes in postgame settings for a half-hour and spills his innermost thoughts on who knows how many things.
But not this time, not Monday night. He wanted to talk about football only, about the Vikings and the Jets. He already had apologized to his teammates, we're told. It was characterized as "tearful." He apologized for being a distraction to his teammates, not for anything he has been accused of doing.
It'll be fascinating to see how big an appetite the public has for the details of this episode, being less than a year removed from Woods's scandal. And it'll be fascinating to see whether Favre will have the stomach for something public and potentially ugly that drags in his family as well.
There was something else toward the end of the game that was curious. Favre, on a couple of occasions, held his right arm. It's already well known that he has tendinitis, but seeing him hold his elbow like that was a little alarming.
Last year, you got the feeling Favre was dying to play; this year, it seemed like he did it for the guys more than himself. And now Favre finds himself the quarterback of a 1-3 team, hurting and embattled. When he threw those two touchdown passes, especially the rainbow to Moss and ran down the field to jump in the wide receiver's arms, and pumped his fists wildly, Favre seemed more demonstrative than ever, which is saying something.
Maybe he knew he was in a battle, not just against the Jets or the NFL but for something a whole lot more personal, one in which even Hall-of-Fame skills don't guarantee a win.