Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Favre’s act has overshadowed what may be the most remarkable iron man streak in sports history; Comments on the comments

Here’s what is really a shame about the way Brett Favre’s extraordinary streak of 297 consecutive starts ended on Monday: It was greeted by a lot of yawns. Part of that is because of the way this season has gone for Favre: Bad team, all the questions about his text messages to the former Jets hostess; the firing of his coach; the interceptions.

But it goes beyond that. I said on a TV show on Monday about an hour before it was announced that Favre was going to be inactive that I thought he’d play. Why? Because how many times has he cried wolf before? How many times has ESPN ‘learned,’ that Favre doesn’t think he’ll play on Sunday. Or that he’s going to retire? Or that he’s REALLY going to retire?

All the drama queen stuff just got old for everyone and people almost stopped paying attention. Did you hear Favre may not play on Sunday? Oh wait, here’s another scoop, the sun is going to rise in the east tomorrow.

By sheer coincidence I was at Camden Yards the night Cal Ripken Jr. finally ended his streak. After playing 2,632 games in a row and breaking—by a wide margin—what many people considered the most unbreakable record there was in sports—Ripken just decided it was time. On the last Sunday night of the 1998 season with the Orioles playing their last home game, Ripken walked into manager Ray Miller’s office and just said, “it’s time.” Miller wrote Ryan Minor’s name into the lineup at third base and The Streak came to an end.

Ripken didn’t whisper to anyone in the media that he was thinking about ending the streak or that he was hurt or that he might or might not play on a given night. In fact, Ripken was just the opposite. He preferred to NEVER talk about the streak. I still remember in 1992 when I was working on my first baseball book, I had breakfast with Ripken one morning in Milwaukee. Ripken was, I thought, very open and honest with me that season. But when I started a sentence by saying, “you know, if you stay healthy you would get to 2,130 in 1995…” he literally clapped his hands over his ears.

“Please,” he said. “I’m really superstitious. If you talk about it too much it may never happen.”

Of course it did and the night Ripken broke the record, September 6, 1995 is still one of the most memorable evenings I’ve ever had in a ballpark. The night he ended the streak wasn’t as dramatic—no presidents in attendance; no 22 minute pause in the game for Ripken to take a victory lap; no speeches afterwards. But I will always remember the sight of the entire ballpark coming to its feet after the first out of the game when it became official that Ripken wasn’t in the lineup to applaud for him. And I’ll never forget the sight of the Yankees all coming out of their dugout to join the ovation and pay tribute to Ripken.

Ripken always wanted the streak to end quietly. Favre wanted to MAKE SURE EVERYONE WAS PAYING ATTENTION. Of course it will be interesting to see now how the NFL handles the whole texting issue now that the streak is over. You can bet no one was more relieved than Commissioner Roger Goodell that he now doesn’t have to worry about being the one to end Favre’s streak with a suspension or be concerned that if he doesn’t see fit to suspend Favre that people will say he’s ruling that way to keep the streak intact.

The saddest part of Favre’s whole act is that it has overshadowed what may be the most remarkable iron man streak in sports history. I know you can make arguments for Ripken’s because it was over so many years and he had to go out there day after day. He never continued the streak by playing one inning or coming up once and then coming out of the game. In fact, throughout most of the streak he never missed an INNING.

That said, to play almost 19 years as an NFL quarterback without missing a game—and most of the time Favre played the entire game—is amazing. There’s some luck involved certainly, but the number of times Favre hobbled out there on days when standing up to walk out of the locker room was probably a challenge, is almost uncountable. I know from my experience spending a season with an NFL team that EVERYONE on an NFL team is hurting the last half of the season. The way Favre put himself out there and took the pounding he did time after time, year after year is a stunning feat of toughness and grit.

And yet, he will end his career more as a punch-line than as an icon. That’s not the way it should be. But it is of his own doing. He’s all but replaced ‘Hamlet,’ as the all-time ‘to be or not to be,’ character. Good night tough quarterback.

I only wish you’d given yourself a better ending.


A couple of notes to a few of my big fans…First, Caps fans: Look, I understand about hockey fans (soccer fans too). On the one hand, you get upset because your team and your sport doesn’t get enough attention. On the other hand you get apoplectic when someone who doesn’t go to 82 games every season, writes or says something about your beloved team and sport. Many of you think I’m a moron for saying the Caps could use an experienced goalie. Many of you said the EXACT same thing a year ago when I wondered if Jose Theodore was good enough to win a Stanley Cup. How’d that work out? I did NOT say that Michal Neuvirth and Semyon Varlamov will never be good, very good or even great goalies in the NHL. The question I raised was this: Are they good enough to win a Cup THIS YEAR? That’s what George McPhee must decide.

This notion that other teams have ‘figured out,’ the Caps based on last year’s Montreal series is ridiculous—with all due respect to my colleagues at The Washington Post. Check the shots-on-goal in that series. Check the serious scoring chances the Caps had vs. the serious scoring chances the Canadiens had. Those of you who said, “Hey did (Jaroslav) Halak take the Canadiens to the Cup?” the answer is no, he didn’t, just through the Caps to the conference finals as a No. 8 seed. Those who pointed out that the goalies for the Blackhawks and Flyers weren’t exactly immortals are right too. But folks, you don’t need a great goalie to win the Cup, you need a goalie playing great.

I’m old enough to remember Ken Dryden against the Bruins in 1970. A great goalie doesn’t mean you win, but it sure as hell enhances your chances. Sure, another defensemen or center would help the Caps. But to be dismissive of the notion that maybe they don’t have the goalie in place to win THIS YEAR is short-sighted—no matter how defensive Bruce Boudreau gets on the subject.

And finally, my friends who love their Hoyas: Look, I’m really not going to engage in a debate with you about why Georgetown is where it is (or isn’t) week-to-week in my poll. I will say this: Obviously, as with other voters, my view of Temple changed after it lost both California and Texas A+M in Orlando. (BTW, I wasn’t the only one who liked them pre-season; one entire POLL had them No. 8—CBS Sportsline). If anything, Temple fans might have a case I’m biased against THEM since I still had them behind Georgetown this week after they beat the Hoyas. Maybe San Diego State fans think I hate them too since I ranked them three spots beneath where they are in this week’s poll.

Here’s the larger point Hoya fans: Rather than spending time obsessing about where I (or anyone else) voted your team in a meaningless poll—Thank God, unlike in football the polls mean nothing—you should spend all that time writing to the people running Georgetown asking them how it is possible their school has categorically refused to participate in a local charity basketball tournament that in 16 years has raised more than $9 million for kids at risk in the DC area. Ask them why they have not only refused to play Maryland (yes, Gary Williams said he would play on Georgetown’s home floor as long as the building wasn’t set up ticket-wise as if it was a Georgetown home game) but at least a half-dozen other opponents including HOLY CROSS for crying out loud, that they have been offered.

Rather than spending your time ranting at me about my vote in a stupid poll (for the record, I’ve always like JT III and get along fine these days with JT Jr. we just all disagree on the charity tournament issue) you should spend your time demanding that your beloved school stop embarrassing YOU with its refusal to step up to the plate for charity in its hometown the way Maryland, George Washington, Navy, American, George Mason and Howard all have done in the past—16 straight years for Maryland and GW. You might also point out that Maryland has gone 2-8 in its last BB+T games and Gary still has his job and Maryland, last I looked, was still playing college hoops.

That is an issue that matters, not the AP basketball poll.


Anonymous said...

Its quite amazing how no athletes go out the way most of us want them to. As much as Favre's methods have angered me, part of me things its a sign of the times...there are so many talk shows, bloggers and writers looking for daily and hourly stories that the beast feeds itself sometimes. And ESPN...they have 12 different 'live' shows that have to report something, and Favre sold, so it was endless.

Tim said...

This top of list of agreements today? That we are all lucky that basketball polls don't have any direct effect on matchups for titles....

Anonymous said...

I have no rooting interest in the local basketball scene, but since it is a "meaningless" and "stupid" poll, how about you spare us the space-filling blog entry containing your votes next week?

Or, at least clarify which type of feedback are indeed "welcomed and considered" when you post it.

Blake H said...

1. The only way Georgetown could embarrass its fans and alums would be to associate itself, in any way, with anything connected to John Feinstein. Still angry about getting snubbed by Georgetown/JT Jr. all those years ago John? Seems like Season on the Brink did ok even without access to the Hilltop.

2. You're argument regarding the BB&T classic falls flat. You make it sound as though the Junior Classic is the only charity in the city and by not participating, Georgetown has absolutely no involvement with any charities. By that logic, I could set up my own tournament with proceeds to go to the Humane Society, invite Maryland, and when Gary turns me down, claim that Maryland hates homeless puppies. Your vendetta against Georgetown has nothing to do with helping a charity and everything to do with your wounded ego.

Peter said...

This is not true. Either you are lying or JTIII is. I trust JTIII's word because he has nothing to gain from lying. You are clearly trying to pressure Georgetown into playing in the BB&T.

This issue comes up almost every open practice. JTIII has repeatedly stated in this forum that he has no problem with playing in the BB&T classic. After all he played in the classic when he was coaching Princeton.

He does not categorically refuse to play in the BB&T. He has stated he will play in the BB&T if the match up makes sense for the team. He has said that he asked to play Maryland in the event and Gary refused to do that until Georgetown played Maryland at home.

I don't know why you throw out Holy Cross as a team that Georgetown apparently would be crazy to turn down. Why would that be an appealing match up for anyone? Holy Cross is terrible. If you give JTIII a match up that he feels would fit in Georgetown's schedule and would make the team better he would agree to play.

JTIII has his own charity that he and his wife set up and he does a lot of good work. Georgetown fans categorically do not like you for all the venom you have spewed at our program. We're fine with the Hoyas not playing in your tournament.

Bobby B said...

Junior - All of us Georgetown fans really appreciate your concerns about the Hoyas non-conference by not playing in the Bank Classic.

I know that they dodged Maryland and Holy Cross in an obvious effort to snub a charity but I just checked and they seem to have the projected #1 SOS in the country with non-conference games vs Utah State, at ODU, vs Missouri in KC, at Temple, and at Memphis.

Nobody is asking you to be a Hoyas fan but at least find something other than their schedule to complain about under the current head coach.

As far as looking at your ballot, I do so every week just to see which gallant teams find themselves on the bottom of your rankings.

Erik said...

Feinstein's refusal to move on is evidence of one thing and one thing only. The BB&T (and Feinstein himself) needs Georgetown a whole lot more than Georgetown needs them. He plays his petty games by shortchanging them in his rankings and making insinuations that the program hates children, but it's only because he knows that he has nothing to offer Georgetown to entice them to play.
Please, John, respond to this comment to prove me right.

Anonymous said...


It doesn't help your cause as an expert hockey guy when you talk about what Ken Dryden did to Boston in 1970. The Bruins didn't face Dryden in 1970.


Barry said...

For the guy posting the comment above...Dryden beat the first place Bruins, led by Esposito and Orr, in the first round of the playoffs in the '70-'71 season. Although he only played in six games during the regular season, he won the Conn Smythe that year for MVP of the playoffs.

Anonymous said...


No one would refer to Dryden's elimination of the Bruins in 1971 as having taken place in 1970. Give me a break.