Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Mercifully Over, But Still Deserves The Upward Thumb

Brett Favre has retired. Again. Hopefully for good this time.

And now let's prepare ourselves for the loads of tributes that ESPN has in the can for every year Favre retires. Followed by the dozens of curmudgeon sports writers who, desperate to pla
y the contradictory role, will bring up Favre's interceptions and lone Super Bowl win and ask "was he really THAT good?"

Yes, he was. Maybe not in the pure stats department (all though he has plenty of those), but in the spirit of the sport department. Whenever you think of Favre you think of the guy running up and down the field after touchdowns, picking up receivers over his shoulder, getting in a defensive lineman's face after a big hit, and just screwing around on the field.

Sure he had had his
pouty moments, but imagine being the biggest superstar in a town devoid of anything else. Farve was THE face of Green Bay and people wanted to know everything he did. John Elway had the same issue in Denver and he complained constantly about it. And that was Denver which is like Hong Kong population-wise compared to Green Bay.

Just sit back and think about that for a minute: Here is a guy from Mississippi who gets drafted by a team that's considered the back water Siberia where NFL players are traded for punishment, has to play in the freezing weather, becomes the single biggest celebrity of the town, and has the tool of free-agency at his disposal.

How many top-flight players stay in Buffalo these days? Willis McGahee
couldn't wait to jump ship. Lee Evans remains, but he also played at Wisconsin, so the cold probably doesn't bother him as much. The point is that players, especially from the South, don't like playing in tiny northern NFL cities. Minnesota and Detroit got domed stadiums to keep the cold out which leaves Green Bay, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland as the only smaller cities in the north with open fields.

But Favre not only stuck it out, he loved it. His record just exploded when the snow came. He embraced cold weather and let his opponents flee from it.

He put Green Bay back on the map as an NFL city and didn't get high and mighty about it. He didn't constantly bicker that he was under appreciated and he didn't hold out every other year. He didn't miss games and he didn't constantly hint that he needed a bigger stage so that his skill could be appreciated. All the crap that we've come to expect from the modern athlete didn't have a chapter in the great tome of Favre.

He transcended hatred. Opposing fans rooted against him, but gave him respect. And it all would
have ended perfectly had Favre just walked away.

But he broke the cardinal sin of entertainment: always leave them wanting more. He made a mess out the whole situation by retiring and then changing his mind. It's perfectly within is rights to do so, but the Packers had moved on and didn't want to keep opening that door.

So Favre goes to the Jets despite overwhelming evidence that points to the failures of aging stars on new teams. And after a fast start, he fails down the stretch. Were Jets fans honestly surprised? Maybe. Fans have a way of being talked into delusions. You want to drink the Kool-Aid even if all logic points in the other direction.

Last season was a mistake for Favre. Everyone knew it. We wanted him to succeed, but knew the chances were that he'd fail. Now he's retiring for good this time. He's not crying at press conferences, he's not being drug away kicking and screaming. He's just done. Hey, at least he learns from his retirements.

Don't believe the people who say Favre tarnished his legacy with the Jets. Does anyone remember Emmitt Smith as a Cardinal? Johnny Unitas? Joe Namath? O.J. Simps...actually forget that one. Favre will go down in history the way he should, a crazy-ass gunslinger who just liked to play football.