A bit of a warning: I am not a book reviewer. I haven’t written a book review since roughly sixth grade when I wrote a book report on Red Badge of Courage. It was uninspired work, I’ll admit.
Last week I was contacted by Jeff Pearlman, author of Gunslinger, the new biography of Brett Favre.
Why did he contact me? A lowly Packers blogger who does this just for fun? Jeff Pearlman is a book whore. I’m not insulting him, he’s said it himself in this fantastic documentary.
Gunslinger is the first true Favre biography. It tackles who the legend was, and maybe more importanly, who he wasn’t. From his unique uprbringing in Kiln, Mississippi, to his traitorous defection to the Vikings, it truly covers every relevant aspect of Favre’s football life without sugar coating.
The first thing that jumps out at the reader is Pearlman’s exhaustive research. The reader might expect the stories we’ve all heard before, the cliches about Favre. While they’re acknowledged, Pearlman digs much deeper.
Take the story of Brett Favre and his addiction to Vicodin. It’s a story every fan of that era is somewhat familiar with. But until now, it was a story that was largely whitewashed. Sure, those in Green Bay had some idea of what really happened, but nothing this thorough.
Pearlman writes about how Favre was protected in the media in Green Bay. There were rumors about his addiction, about his abusing alcohol, and those rumors could be confirmed simply by visiting local Green Bay, Milwaukee or Madison bars on almost any given night. People knew there was a problem but simply didn’t report on it, or didn’t care. It was out of bounds.
Then there’s the redemption story. Favre and his finacee appear at a press conference in Green Bay where Brett owns up to his addiction and talks about how he is going to get help. Deanna is by his side. Favre wanted help for himself and his family. At least that’s the story we’ve known.
Pearlman discusses the real story. Favre was pushed toward rehab by the NFL who told him that if he didn’t attend and didn’t sign the NFL’s 10-part treatment plan, he would be fined almost a million dollars. Couple that with the PR nightmare that would have accompanied his refusal, and Favre was a reluctant patient. When he finally returned from rehab, he was greeted by five friends and as Pearlman writes, “Then they all went out drinking.”
Before you get the impression that Pearlman’s book is a hit piece on a legend, it is important to stress that Gunslinger captures the truly legendary moments in a way that no one has before. Favre’s recovery from a near fatal car accident to lead Southern Miss to a win against Alabama is one of those “you can’t make this stuff up” moments in the book. It also is one of the moments that is probably lost to many younger fans, and admittedly, this not-so-young fan.
One theme that may strike the reader many times throughout Gunslinger, is that there were several points in Favre’s career where the legend almost didn’t materialize. Favre played high school football for his dad, Big Irv, and was a glorified handoff machine. Big Irv believed in a tough running game and not much through the air despite having a quarterback and a son with a rocket for an arm.
At Southern Miss, Favre wasn’t highly sought after. Hell, he wasn’t sought after by anyone else. He wasn’t highly recruited. He wasn’t very disciplined. In Atlanta, he was unliked by the coaching staff. He succumbed to the temptations of alcohol and partying and he never had a chance. In Green Bay, he was finally wanted. Even then, there were several times that his lifestyle and his lack of discipline almost scuttled his career before it could take off.
Gunsliner captures every part of Favre’s career, revealing stories and anecdotes that have not been told before, at least not all in one place. It captures who Brett Favre is. It captures his personality and how, despite his obvious faults and shortcomings, his infectious leadership and humor (even if unbelievable crude and fart-based) drew men to him in the locker room.
For a very real look at the man and his amazing career, pick up Gunslinger, available October 25.