Sunday, July 20, 2008

Mats Sundin vs. Brett Favre: One is worse

As the Mats Sundin watch appears to near an end (update: or maybe not) after four agonizing months, the (apparently former) Leafs captain finds himself with some company. After perfecting the art of playing the extended game of will-he-won't-he spotlight grabbing, Sundin is suddenly being upstaged by the NFL's Brett Favre.

The similiarities between Sundin and Favre are numerous:

  • Both guys are icons in their cities, arguably the best player their team has ever had, and heroes to thousands. Both are respected by fellow players, the media, and even by fans of other teams.

  • Both guys have spent the summer playing a game of "should I stay or should I go" that's essentially handcuffed their current teams attempt's to build for the future.

  • Both guys have at least hinted that at least part of the problem is that their teams didn't make them feel wanted enough -- Favre because the Packers didn't try harder to talk him out of retiring, and Sundin because the Leafs considered trading him at the deadline.

  • Both guys have previously claimed that they would never want to play anywhere else, claims that have turned out not to be true. In fact, both guys have even been eyeing spots with their current team's biggest rival, moves that could only be described as betrayal.

But despite the similarities, the cases are not identical. And on the blame scale, they're not equal. In fact, one guy's act is far worse than the other's.

Brett Favre is behaving worse than Mats Sundin.

Here's why:
  • Sundin never committed to anything, at least on paper. You could argue that Sundin owed the Leafs and their fans much better treatment than he's given him (and I've argued that several times). His refusal to waive his no-trade clause, followed by his (apparent) willingness to sign with the highest bidder, have been frustrating and have tarnished his legacy.

    But Sundin hasn't done anything he didn't have the right to do, and he never made a firm commitment to the Leafs that he'd do otherwise. Favre, on the other hand, did make a written commitment to the Packers when he filed his retirement papers. He wants to go back on that now, and that makes his situation a different ballgame from Sundin.

  • Sundin isn't playing the PR game. While Sundin's silence over the months has been maddening, its certainly been preferably to Favre's recent PR blitz that saw him doing whiny interviews with Greta Van Susteren of all people. Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt, right Brett?

  • Favre's act is impacting a Packers team that came within an overtime loss of the Super Bowl last year, and who are following a long-planned rebuilding blueprint around young QB Aaron Rodgers. In short, the Packers have a good thing going and Favre seems to want to make as big a mess as he can until he gets his way. Sundin is leaving behind a situation in Toronto that could best be described as depressing, and could be called a complete disaster.

    True, the Leafs would be in better shape if Sundin had just waived in the first place, and it could also be argued that the Canucks aren't much better. But Packer fans may end up pointing to the Favre fiasco as one that derailed a championship contender. Leafs fans, um, won't.
A final observation: while the hockey media loves to praise Sundin and has taken every opportunity to point out how unfair Leaf fans like me have been treating him, we can't hold a candle to how many NFL fans are carving up Favre right now. He certainly has his supporters, but the majority of fans and media are lining up to take their shots right now. Sundin gets the occasional wrist slaps from blogs like mine; Favre gets treatment like this and this and this.

If any good comes out of this mess, maybe we'll finally see the death of the myth of Tornto being such a tough place to play. Brett Favre wishes he had it so bad.


  1. I find it fascinating that Sundin is drawing all this ink when Sakic is in the exact same boat.

    Any thoughts on Burnaby Joe's indecision?

  2. Sakic's situation isn't the same, for three reasons:

    - Most important, from what I've heard he's deciding between retiring and playing in Colorado. I haven't heard much about him playing somewhere else. If he suddenly signs with Detroit, then you have a story.

    - He didn't refuse to waive a NTC just a few months ago.

    - He never made any bizarre statements about having to be with a team from October in order for a championship to mean anything, so he can delay into the season ala Neidermayer if he wants to. Sundin can't do that without sounding like a hypocrite.

    Still, it's definitely kind of strange that a guy who may be one of the top ten centers of all-time isn't getting any ink at all.

  3. I despise the manipulative Brett Favre. He should get a sponsorship deal with Eggo waffles.

    He shouldn't be throwing a hissy fit after he told the team he was going to retire and then cried buckets at his press conference.

    I wish that Green Bay had a really bad hockey team, so I could point at them and laugh at their pathetic ten-win record.

    I wonder if the silence about Sakic is because he's so quiet himself, and there hasn't been a lot of retirement speculation about him previously, so the team is willing to give him as much time as he needs to reach a decision. I think that whatever Colorado does might also not depend on what he decides, so it isn't as though they have to wait for him to put the rest of some grand plan in motion.

  4. i'm pretty sick of the whole favre situation, and you've outlined the reasons why. he said he was retiring. that's it.

    but you make a good point, toronto isn't as bad as it's made out to be.

    and i sure am glad you're declaraing favre as the one who is worse. i got worried there for a second.

  5. "brett favre won a superbowl."

    He also won a few MVPs, which Sundin never got close to.

    On the other hand, Sundin never wound up in drug rehab. You win some, you lose some.