Amid the obvious questions about the Packers/Favre/Vikings imbroglio -- Where will Favre end up, and was Greta Van Susteren's facelift worth the money? -- stands the most obvious question of all:
Will anybody involved in this mess come out looking good?
It wasn't that long ago that Brett Favre was an admirable retired football star, the Packers were the most admired young team in football, and the Vikings were hoping to benefit from Favre's absence.
NFL fans, not to mention uncharacteristically optimistic Viking fans, were anticipating a night of choreographed and spontaneous drama on Sept. 8. The Vikings will open the season at Lambeau Field, and the Packers had planned to retire Favre's jersey before the nationally televised game.
The only way that night could have become more dramatic would be if, oh, Favre announced he wanted to come back to the Packers, they balked, Favre demanded his release, the Pack refused and then accused the Vikings' offensive coordinator, a former Wisconsin star and Green Bay assistant, of tampering.
So now what's going to happen on Sept. 8? Will Favre play for the Pack? Will he start, or just stab Aaron Rodgers in the back during timeouts? Will the Pack retire his number while Favre leads a protest outside Lambeau? Will Favre grant his only interview to Stephen Colbert? Will the Pack retire Favre's old Packers jersey or his prospective Vikings jersey?
Of all the people who look shaky or shady in this deal, nobody comes out looking worse than Favre, even if you believe, as I do, that the Packers are foolish not to take him back.
Favre could win another Super Bowl, for Green Bay or Tampa Bay, and burnish his reputation as a quarterback without erasing his new image as a 38-year-old brat.
What we know about Favre now is that his childlike enthusiasm on the field translates into childish behavior off the field. This shouldn't surprise us -- many stars live lives of suspended adolescence -- but it will make us all cringe the next time John Madden gushes about Favre's character.
In terms of talent, the Packers are better off with Favre at quarterback. In terms of personalities, the Packers are better off with Dennis Rodman.
So Favre's Q rating is headed south. How about Ted Thompson's? He's an excellent general manager, and yet I believe Favre, to some extent, when he says Thompson has twisted the truth into unrecognizable shapes in his talks with Favre and the public.
Now Thompson is doing something few top GMs would do -- refusing to embrace a healthy Hall of Fame-caliber quarterback coming off a remarkable season.
Then we have the Vikings. It's hard to accuse them of tampering if "tampering'' means that Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, long a friend of Favre's, mentioned to him that, hey, in a perfect world, we'd love to have you.
But this is the NFL, where Cheatin' Bill Belichick is king, and this is modern sports, where the current home run king (Barry Bonds), hit king (Pete Rose), dominant power pitcher of his generation (Roger Clemens), half of the world's best track stars, swimmers and cyclists, and your odd NBA ref have all been labeled cheaters.
The Vikings might be innocent until proven guilty in the eyes of the law, but critical thinkers have learned to be skeptical of anyone with motive and opportunity.
Unless the Vikings get penalized for tampering, though, this mess is the best thing to happen to the Purple since they traded for Jared Allen.
Packerdom is fighting over whether Rodgers or Favre should be the quarterback, and the front office is chafing under the pressure of handling a petulant superstar.
Last year, everything that could possibly go right for the Packers went right -- Favre improved at an advanced age, Ryan Grant emerged as a dynamic feature back, key players stayed healthy, and the schedule was as soft as a Favre news conference tear down the stretch.
This year, with or without Favre, promises to be as messy as the Lambeau bleachers after a night game.
Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon on AM-1500 KSTP.