Anyone who watched the Brett Favre post-game press conference after the Vikings MNF loss to the Jets may have noticed something incredible. Facing the media within days of allegations of unwanted advances towards a coworker, Favre put on a crisis management clinic.
Important to note that I don’t condone or condemn Favre….yet. Innocent until proven guilty in my book, and of course if the allegations are true than Favre is yet another athlete-god to tumble off of the mountaintop. We’re living in the age of transparency, and public figures will always be exposed for who they really are. But regardless of one’s feelings about Favre’s actions, the way he handled the New York media was textbook.
Unlike Tiger, who waited weeks to face a hand picked group of friendly media in a staged event that was more like a student body president’s speech than it was a press conference, Favre stepped up to the podium and let the media fire away. As I was watching, my jaw dropped. The infamous NY media waited until at last 5 questions in before they asked anything about the scandal. And when they finally did bring up the awkward subject, Favre deflected them brilliantly. He stuck to the script and redirected the questions. “I’m here to talk about the game” was his mantra. The best exchange:
Media: “Brett, were you embarrassed by everything that happened this week?” Favre: “I was embarrassed that we lost the football game.”
Gene Simmons once gave me his sole purpose whenever being interviewed: control the topic. He asked me to pretend I was a reporter, and ask him how many girls he had (slept with). I did. His reply: “Bill, I’m so glad you asked that question. But what’s more important is how many kids go to bed hungry each year. That’s why we are here today. Don’t you agree that is what we should be concerned about?”
Far too few athletes fully understand the bully pulpit that they sit on. Writers need to fill pages and air time. They go to athletes with an agenda to try to fill it. Athletes too often fall into the traps that are set for them. Even if Soledad O’Brian asks if race played a role, why answer the question?
I will be on Favre’s case if all of this proves to be true. But regardless, he put on an absolute crisis management clinic when he faced the NY reporters. The issue won’t go away, but he took an awful lot of steam out if its sails.