Brett Favre is like the scene of a car accident. You know you shouldn’t look, that you should just keep going, but you find yourself slowing down to see if it really is as bad as it appears to be.
Of course he and ESPN are the perfect team: ESPN will report ANYTHING as long as it can claim it as some kind of news—even embarrassing infomercials like, ‘The Decision,’ which will be parodied for years to come—and Favre craves that sort of attention. Poor Ed Werder and Rachel Nichols must be paying income taxes in Mississippi by now.
Favre has now retired more times than Sugar Ray Leonard, George Foreman and Evander Holyfield. What is most amazing is he has done it without ever missing a GAME. Think about that: he cries in March; waffles in July and shows up in time to play in September. Why anyone—even the poor ESPN drones—would think for one second that he’s not going to play this season is a mystery. Heck, if the Vikings throw in an extra million or two he might fly to Washington en route to Minneapolis and take Albert Haynesworth’s conditioning test for him.
What we know about Favre after all these years and retirements and comebacks is the following: he can’t stand not being the center of attention. When he does finally have to retire in 2027, it’s going to kill him. Because as anyone can tell you, doing games or studio work on TV can’t give you the buzz or the high or the adoration that playing gives you. The one and only exception to that rule might be Dick Vitale.
We also know that this is all about BRETT, not about anyone else. Whatever team he happens to play for is just a tool to add to the legend of BRETT. What he did to the Green Bay Packers, to a town that embraced him and worshipped him, was shameful. Every year he rolled out the Hamlet act, topped in 2008 by the tearful farewell in which he told the Packers it was time for them to get Aaron Rodgers ready to play. Which they did until Brett decided about 15 minutes later he was just kidding and forced a trade to the Jets.
What he did to the Jets would have been worse except he’d only been messing with their heads for one year. He retired—again—this time by conference call and the Jets were naïve enough to take him at his word (If Favre told me the earth was round I would be very careful about sailing very far to the east or west) and put him on the retirement list. That meant he didn’t even have to wait for a trade as with the Packers, he was free to sign with the Vikings and then start his Hamlet routine with THEM.
Why does the guy get away with all this? Simple: he can play. If you can play you can lie, cheat, steal, bully, do drugs—you name it. They cheered Alex Rodriguez in Yankee Stadium the other day, didn’t they? People still cheer for Tiger Woods, whose crimes against his wife and children are not only unspeakable but were repeated over and over again. Why? Because they loved watching him play at his best and they want to see it again. Have you noticed that lately Tiger has been playing the “father card,” claiming he hasn’t been able to practice as much this year because he wants time with his kids?
My God! Do people actually believe this stuff? The answer’s yes—there will be people today who will post on this blog that who am I to question Tiger’s devotion to his kids, that people change, blah-blah-blah and his personal life is none of my business, just let him play golf.
You see, that’s the point. I didn’t bring up his kids—HE did. I didn’t talk at length about how being a father changed my life after my first child was born when I’d just been in Vegas cheating on my wife and my new-born child.
And I haven’t stood tearfully in front of assembled media and retired; then done it again and again when I was just trying to manipulate the system to get to a different team for more money. Look, there is NOTHING wrong with Favre playing until he’s 50 if he can play. Last year he clearly could still play—even though the old Achilles heel, the really dumb pass at the worst possible moment jumped up and nailed him at the end of regulation in the NFC Championship game. Even so, if you didn’t know the background, you’d have watched Favre in that game and been amazed by his guts and toughness: clearly hurt, even wobbly, he limped out there and kept moving his team down the field.
The day after that game, I jokingly wrote that the over-under on the first ESPN report that Favre was going to retire again would roll in about Wednesday. I was off by 24 hours—it came on Tuesday. Favre, ESPN reported, was “leaning towards retiring.”
Yeah, sure and there’s a new Tiger Woods who has embraced Buddhism.
Personally, I look forward to watching Favre play this season. He is a freak of nature and he makes the Vikings a viable contender. To me, the NFC North is football’s most interesting division because of the traditions involved, because a late-season game at Lambeau or Soldier Field is throw-back football (I didn’t say I wanted to go, but watching on TV is always fun) and because each city has a fascinating football culture in its own way. Yes, even Detroit.
But please don’t wake me up to tell me he’s retired again or un-retired or is getting his ankle checked or is talking to Ed Werder on a tractor or is throwing to high school kids or texting teammates. He’ll be in camp in time for the third exhibition game, which is the one the starters play at least a half in. He might play a series or two in the last exhibition game and then he’ll play all 16 games unless someone knocks him into next week at some point—which hasn’t happened since he first came into the league in 1953 so why should it happen now?
And then, 15 minutes after his last snap of the season, ESPN will report he’s leaning towards retiring. ESPN is Charlie Brown. Favre is Lucy holding the football. If you aren’t old enough to get that reference, look it up. Good Grief.
John's new book: "Moment of Glory--The Year Underdogs Ruled The Majors,"--is now available online and in bookstores nationwide. Visit your favorite retailer, or click here for online purchases