By: Mark Fitzgerald
Given the flak the Los Angeles Times got over the now-withdrawn “scoop” about the murder of rapper Tupac Shakur, did Sports Editor Randy Harvey have any trepidation about going with another out-of-left field story — its report that retired Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre was quietly being shopped around the NFL by his agent?
“No, no, no,” Harvey said in a telephone interview Friday. “Obviously, these are two different cases entirely. Sam, Sam Farmer, has been covering the NFL for a number of years … and he has a lot of great contacts, so when he reports that Favre’s agent is quietly, discreetly, making inquiries, I believed him 100%.”
Favre’s agent, James “Bus” Cook, is denying the report.
“What’s been happening is his denials have become more strident through the day,” Harvey said. “He didn’t deny it — he didn’t confirm it — to Sam, who was the first person to talk to him.
Indeed, Farmer’s article quotes Cook as saying he was not aware of Favre’s interest in coming out of retirement. Favre, 38, announced his retirement March 6, saying he had no more “left to give” to football.
“That’s news to me,” Farmer quoted Cook as saying. “I don’t think that has anything to do with anything. He’s retired, period, point blank.”
Favre, too, denied he was coming out of retirement in an interview with Sports Illustrated writer Peter King.
But Farmer’s reporting is being defended by journalists outside the Los Angeles Times, too.
In Wisconsin, where Favre has at least demi-god status, two papers suggested Favre wants to send the message that he could be available to another team. Farmer’s article reported that Favre retired in part over disappointment that the Packers did not work harder to sign standout receiver Randy Moss.
The Wisconsin State Journal in Madison, in an article by Jason Wilde, quoted an unnamed “NFL source” as saying there was “at least something to the story.”
In a column in Madison’s other paper, The Capital Times, Mike Lucas wrote: “On the surface, then, you want to dismiss this latest Favre Fandango as a hoax. But you can’t because Farmer has credibility as a reporter and there’s just too much intrigue to walk away from Anything Favre, post-retirement or otherwise.
“One thing is certain. The NFL is on Favre Alert. Whether Farmer was a pawn or not, he has become the Favre Messenger in that everybody in the league now has received the message, bogus or not.”
Lucas said he is saving a transcript of Favre’s retirement press conference “the All-Good-Things-Must-Come-To-An End transcript, just in case they really haven’t.”