On The "Living Legend" Brett Favre
For each of the past three years, I've always been pulling for Brett Favre to come back. Being a long-term Packers fan growing up at the tail end of the Lombardi years, Favre brought me back to the game that I too played in the snow in Wisconsin.
Even though I've been living in California since 1980, I remain a steadfast Packer fan, and Favre is clearly one of the reasons.
But as I contemplated how all of the surprising success of 2008 must have felt to Favre, and how now it seemed the rest of the world wanted him to come back, I -- for the first time -- began feeling like maybe it was the perfect moment to hang it all up.
Of course, ending your career with an interception on your home turf in the freezing cold, and looking old as your opponent goes to the Super Bowl, is not the ideal way to cap off an incredible career. But then again, the image of Favre with his running nose and tired eyes was a reflection of the reality that 17 years of playing at such an intense level does take it toll. Heck, Favre is peddling acid-blocker pills these days. That says something about how his body is holding up to the stress.
But if we take a step back and take a look at the bigger picture, about the unique burdens we as a society place on living legends such as Favre, it becomes clearer why Favre may have not had any other noble choice but to let go.
As he said, due to the success of last season, expectations have reached lofty heights in Green Bay, where football is religion. Chances are that Brett might get injured, and end his Ironman streak of 275 starts, an accomplishment that he admitted was his proudest accomplishment. My biggest fear was to see the streak end, which almost happened in Dallas -- where he never won a game -- in 2008. But walking away now, Favre preserves the myth of the tough guy who never said "no" when it was time to play.
Favre in 2008 broke virtually every record on the books. Being so close to those personal records was the primary reason I thought he would have been a fool to retire before 2008. But in 2009, there would have been precious few records to break, and the pressure on him to meet or surpass what he accomplished in the twilight of his career might have required something more than a few more acid blockers.
And then there is the team. How much longer can Aaron Rodgers wait for his chance?
Favre accomplished the goal of showing his young Packer team what was possible. He almost took them to the top, but then he failed to rise to the challenge when it really mattered. And perhaps that's what bothered him most. To lose such a promising bid to go again to the Super Bowl must have eaten away at him. Might have revealed to him that age does impose its penalties, and that perhaps the freezing cold did finally get to him.
Favre may not go down as the greatest quarterback of all time, but he was a fan's favorite because of the joy he expressed and his ability to raise the performance level of those around him. Though intellectually, I sense this was the perfect time for him to go, there still remains a part of me hoping he'll change his mind.
In these times of darkness, with sports heroes and other icons being exposed as frauds and jerks, it was comforting to have an "Old School" sports hero like Favre. But the times they are changing. Perhaps Favre's departure is just another sign that we are witnessing a "changing of the guard," and that it is time to make way for the inevitable. Like Bush, and probably the Clintons, the retiring of Favre is a signal to me that we are entering a new era where change is not only wanted, but absolutely necessary.