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Inspirational Reads

Good-Bye, Brett

January 2, 2007

You can imagine my delight when NBC announced that they would use their flex scheduling to pick up the Bears-Packers game to conclude the NFL's regular season. I love the Packers, hate the Bears, and would love nothing more than to ring in the New Year with a Packers victory over their hated rivals. Earlier in the week (before Tiki Barber went apeshit against Washington's run defense ), the Packers stood an outside chance of getting into the playoffs as the 6 seed. After Saturday, when the Giants won, it was next to impossible for the Packers to get and by the time the game kicked off, the Giants had secured that 6-seed as their own.

That didn't matter. I don't get to watch my favorite team that often. I don't get to watch my favorite player that often. And, no, it's not former Notre Dame quarterback-turned-NFL wide receiver Carlyle Holiday (though, it is nice to see an ND alum on my favorite NFL team). No, that title is reserved for No. 4, Brett Favre.

So, I sat down last night in my comfy chair and watched the game as it kicked off. I rejoiced in the Packers grabbing a quick lead. I sunk into the usual depression after Favre tossed yet another interception. I was quickly elated once more as Rex Grossman turned into himself. This was a fun game. It didn't matter, really, since the Bears were secured in their homefield-throughout and the Packers were shut out of the playoff picture for the second year in a row. Still, it was nice to see the game being played, as I've only seen two Packers games this year, both of them Monday-Night-Debacles.

You can imagine how thrilled I was when the Packers continued driving down toward the end of the game. Up by 19, it became more and more evident that this was in the bag, an 8-8 season was clinched, and Favre's misery from last year was almost wiped clean and erased from the memory banks. And then, the two-minute warning came.

I thought it a bit odd that Favre started shaking hands with everyone in the huddle as they gathered awaiting the imminent stoppage of time. And then he went off the field when the game really was in the bag, and Donald Driver picked him up and carried him off. And then he started hugging everyone on the sidelines.

Oh, fuck, I thought.

My worries were confirmed when Andrea Kremer, vile bitch that she is, shoved a microphone in his face and asked him the question, the questions that every sports reporter asks at the end of every NFL season.

"Is this it?"

And then he started to cry. Well...ah to hell with it, he cried. A manly cry, because nothing Brett Favre does in unmanly. Including wearing a pink tutu (not that he would do that, or has done that, or probably will ever do that...but if he does, it'll be manly). But, when his tears started flowing, I knew it was it. He's retiring. And I just watched his last game.

And, yes, I went out to the garage, closed the door, and turned on my power tools.

I realize there is a waiting period, but Canton should throw it's doors open the moment he makes it official. I mean, even if this was all a clever ruse, and he does come back (he is only seven TDs from breaking Dan Marino's records for passing TDs and only a few wins from the all-time leader, and, let's face it, he can still play), they should induct him now. Granted, I'm viewing the situation through green and gold-tinted glasses, but he's the greatest quarterback not named Unitas to ever play. Okay, so he's probably around the fifth- or sixth-best to ever play. He's definitely a top ten. He's certainly the best quarterback I've watched play in the NFL, until Peyton Manning wins a super bowl and/or plays half a season with a broken thumb.

Sure, Favre's throwing motion isn't what you'd teach your son (or daughter) and his methods of scrambling out of the pocket and heaving the ball downfield is a little unorthodox (I'm having visions of Charlie Weis' head exploding at that), but he's just like a kid in the backyard out playing a game, which is exactly what the NFL is. It's a game, filled with big, fast, incredibly athletic men who entertain the hell out of us week-in and week-out. And Favre was king of those men. In his prime, no one was more entertaining than Brett Favre. Whether he was breaking his receiver's fingers with passes thrown at light speed or squeezing the ball in between three defensive backs and between a linebacker's upraised arms to hit the guy in stride and move on down the field, Brett Favre was entertainment. Whenever he stepped on the field, Packers fans had the feeling that, you what, we can win this. If it's even close at the end of the game, he'll lead us down the field to win this thing! In the later years, it seemed he tried too hard to do too much, tossing inopportune interceptions during key drives late in the game (or overtime...Brian Dawkins is the kryptonite to Brett Favre's superman, I swear!). But, he was the best, a legend, and everyone, even the hated enemy, respected Favre (in case you missed it last night when Brian Urlacher came up and gave him a hug...again, manly...and it wasn't just a 'good game' hug; it was a 'you're the best' hug).

I grew up a basketball fan (in the great state of Indiana...of course I was!), but as I was leaving middle school and moving on toward high school, my love of basketball didn't fade, but I did discover football. I had always known the rules of football, played it, and was familiar with it. I never had the passion and love of it like some folks did. When the Bears won the Super Bowl in 85, I hesitantly embraced the Packers as they were the Bears' greatest rival and, frankly, the Super Bowl Shuffle made me want to vomit. Couple the Packers' colors being rather fetching (my favorite color is green), it seemed like a decent fit. And then, when I was in high school, this young quaterback emerged from the shadows and he was young, good and exciting to watch. Suddenly, football became more interesting as I would catch a few games every season (we would still get pre-empted for Bears and Colts games back then) and I began to really enjoy football. Finally, in college, I started loving it. It helped that the Packers were a mainstay in the playoffs and went to two Super Bowls, winning one. I was done. I was hooked. Basketball would always be my first love, but close after came football. Baseball faded into nothing. And it was all because of this guy named Brett Favre.

I've only ever bought one sports jersey in all my life, and it is a replica Favre jersey that still hangs in my closet, waiting to be worn again. I should have had it on last night.

Sure, he only won one Super Bowl (and lost a pretty tight one) and then never made it back there after those two (despite Lambeau's frozen curse on visiting teams), but he was the MVP three years in a row. Sure, his approach to the position was unorthodox and sometimes he seemed headstrong, but no one (except for a few idiots at ESPN, the dickhead who wrote the Daily Quickie being one of the loudest) ever demanded that he sit down, that he give up his streak and his love of the game for someone younger and more polished. Sure, he went off to rehab because he addicted to painkillers, but he handled that situation with as much aplomb as possible, dedicating the very first chapter in his first biography to that. He had his faults, but he was the best player in the league for many years and many reasons. His recent spate of tragedies became our tragedies, and we felt the emotions that he wore on his sleeve right alongside him. He trilled us time and again; he broke our hearts time and time again. And now, sadly, it seems it's his time to head off into the sunset, like the gun-slinging cowboy quarterback that he is. He's not on the white horse that John Elway rode out on, but he's also not a diminished shadow of himself hovering on embarassment like Marino was when he left.

He was a lot of things to a lot of people. To me, he was my favorite player, the reason to watch, to love and to hang on every play when the ball was snapped into his hands. Now, he's walking away from the game, and an era in the NFL is coming to an end.

Good-bye, Brett. We love you.