BRISTOL, CT—In what is being called the biggest gaffe in the sports network's 30-year history, ESPN totally forgot to cover last week's Brett Favre vs. Green Bay Packers storyline.
Favre's legendary career with the Packers, which spanned 16 seasons, three MVP awards, and one Super Bowl title, was not mentioned even once during pregame coverage of the Monday night Packers-Vikings matchup or during the game itself. Records indicated that it wasn't until Wednesday—more than 48 hours after Favre led Minnesota to a dramatic 30-23 victory—that producers began to feel that they may have overlooked one of sports' most obvious storylines.
"I was looking at a newspaper, and it said, 'Favre Sacks Former Team,' and at that point I realized we really missed one," ESPN president George Bodenheimer told reporters. "I just want to apologize to our viewers. Had the Favre-Packers connection dawned on us sooner, fans could have enjoyed the same quality sports journalism they have come to expect from ESPN: driving storylines into the ground and exploiting every one of their subplots to the point of nausea."
ESPN news director Vince Doria said that if he or any of his colleagues had realized Favre would be playing against his former team, the network would have begun overhyping the week-four matchup the moment the quarterback signed with the Vikings. Instead, ESPN attempted to generate interest in the game by doing an extensive two-week profile on Vikings backup tight end Jim Kleinsasser.
"We kind of blew a golden opportunity," Doria said. "Endless explanations as to what Brett Favre meant to the city of Green Bay, restating over and over how he left the Packers on poor terms, and airing at least 50 segments featuring wild and irresponsible speculation about his motives for returning to the NFL. It would have been perfect."
"I only wish these two teams played again this year so we could have a chance to fix our mistake," Doria added.
Monday Night Football producer Jay Rothman also registered his disappointment, saying that the network could have asked, "Is Brett Favre seeking revenge on the Packers?" so many times that the words would have lost all meaning.
"Do you realize how often we could have shown a comparison graphic between [current Packers quarterback] Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre?" Rothman said. "And not just during the broadcast of the game, but on SportsCenter, NFL Primetime, Sunday NFL Countdown, NFL Live, SportsCenter Monday Kickoff, and Monday Night Countdown—not to mention during every single fucking 15-minute update on ESPNews."
"And ESPN.com," Rothman said. "My God, we could have used ESPN.com to really beat into the heads of America that Brett Favre still plays the game with childlike exuberance. And he's turning 40! We could have done so much with that, like mention it every 10 seconds."
Rothman admitted that an awareness of the Brett Favre storyline would have also given him the chance to air some of the most obvious and asinine statistics in the history of sports broadcasting, such as a graphic documenting how backup quarterbacks who replace departing Hall of Fame–bound quarterbacks have historically fared in the league.
"We messed up plain and simple," Rothman said. "Knowing what I know now, I would have started the broadcast with a highlight reel of Brett Favre's greatest moments with the Green Bay Packers just to set the tone that the night would be Brett Favre, Brett Favre, Brett Favre, Brett Favre, Brett Favre, Brett Favre. That would have made much more sense than opening with a discussion about the Vikings' new three-year naming rights agreement to call their stadium the Mall of America Field at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome."
"I'm still kicking myself because Jon Gruden didn't have a chance to share with America his very long, very uncomfortable anecdote about how he once sort of coached Favre," Rothman added.
Though employees continue to express regret over ESPN's lack of coverage, football fans across the nation generally seemed to enjoy the broadcast of Monday night's game.
"I think ESPN showed a lot of restraint," New York resident Dan Jeffery, 43, said. "I didn't need anyone to tell me Brett Favre was playing against his old team. Everyone and their mother knew that. I actually appreciated that they let the drama play out on the field."