Brett Favre, the most annoying American since Vanilla Ice, denied that he recently told the Minnesota Vikings that he is retiring from football.

The elite media is offended by Favre because everyone from Chris Mortensen to Peter King to your next-door neighbor has his cell and his word that they will be the first to know once he knows.

He seduced every reporter into thinking they were his best friend, inviting scores of writers (separately, of course) to his home, dudes on a ranch in Mississippi. And if you were one of them you felt instantly injected into the romantic solitude of his inner circle.

His vocational angst was fine (if not downright funny) until he lied to them. Once they discovered that Favre’s word is about as solid as a campaign pledge from Rod Blagojevich, Favre morphed into a bad guy. They were duped, and Brett had to pay for his insolence.

In reality, Favre is foolish but harmless. The Vikings are also spellbound by the quarterback, spiking their offer to around $20 million if he returns to the team this season.

Crazy like a fox is No. 4. Favre said he’s not interested in more money, and that his annual anxiety never pivots on cash. Well, the quid can’t hurt. If the Vikings are willing to hang on every vowel in his drawl – and his teammates welcome him whenever he decides to decide – then this is how the opera will be sung every summer until the league refuses to listen to the man.

A man’s flaws are often more compelling than his gifts. Sure, Brett Favre can throw a football very well, but so can a lot of people. Despite the fact that his list of NFL records is longer than the Magna Carta, you can reasonably argue that Favre – though clearly a Hall of Famer – isn’t one of the ten greatest quarterbacks of all time. (You probably wouldn’t take him before Montana, Elway, Marino, Unitas Bradshaw or Aikman, to name a few.) He’s a compiler. He won one Super Bowl – 14 years ago. He lost the next one and has done all he can to coming tantalizingly near the Lombardi Trophy, dancing with it but never taking it home.

Few of us can relate to Favre’s football talent. But most of us can relate to his penchant for self-destruction. Twice in the last three years, Favre had his team one drive from the Super Bowl and threw an interception.

And perhaps that’s why he’s so beloved. He’s the graybeard who can still bring it, tough as the leather balls he flings with a boy’s glee in those Wranglers. Not only does he look and dress like the guy in aisle five (sans the bulging, synthetic musculature of his peers) but he also screws up at the worst moment. Chris Rock famously said that a woman knows if she will sleep with you the second she meets you. All you can do is mess it up. That’s what Favre does.

Favre’s most ardent detractors say beneath the “aw, shucks” refrain is a restless diva who uses text messages hinting at retirement to strong-arm the team into belching cash. Perhaps that’s right. His defenders say he has every right to play football as long as a club is willing to pay him, and playing nearly 300 straight games buys a guy some latitude. Perhaps that’s right.

Like most people, Favre nestles between the extremes, part devil and part deity. Astonishingly, he had his best year in 2009. He turns 41 in two months, and is two months older than I am. I can’t throw a football for an hour without it hurting for two days. He’s been throwing it for two decades. We can’t deny that he’s good for business, whether he’s a marvel or a menace.

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