As members of the New Orleans Saints watched kicker Garrett Hartley’s field goal sail into the uprights in overtime of the NFC Championship Game, the camera panned to Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre. And in his eyes, you could see disappointment. You could see pain, disbelief, and struggle. His team had once again failed to make it to the Super Bowl.
The play that led to his pain, disbelief, and struggle was very reminiscent of a play two seasons ago, in the NFC Championship Game. Then, as an all-time NFL great and member of the Green Bay Packers, he had led the team on what many believed to be a farewell tour, one last season before finally retiring and waiting to be voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Favre led the Packers to a 13-3 record and into the league championship. His last pass in that game was an interception that led to an overtime loss to eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants. Now, it was a forced throw, across his body, into coverage, wobbly, dying duck type of throw that was picked off by Tracy Porter with seven seconds left on the play clock.
After the Saints punched their ticket to Miami and Super Bowl XLIV, Favre was visibly upset. His body language looked defeated. His eyes showed sorrow.
This isn’t the first time we have seen this Favre, but hopefully it will be the last. Many a time have we seen him dejected on the sidelines, after a heart-wrenching loss. And you can’t help but feel sorry for the guy. He has the NFL record for touchdown passes, yards, completions, attempts, consecutive starts at quarterback, and any other statistic a QB could ever want. But he has one championship, one ring to show for his 19 years of fighting through injuries, playing in brutal cold weather, training camp with the rookies, film study, and many other mundane tasks that come along with being a superstar.
But despite that, I am ready for the old man to hang it up. I am ready for the grey-haired 40 year-old to call it quits and retire back to Mississippi. Every offseason, fans are reluctantly thrust into a “Favre Watch.” Will he retire? Won’t he retire? Is he coming back? Is this really it? And I am tired of it. I grew up admiring this man, a living legend, a warrior, played through concussions, dislocated fingers and a broken heart. He fought through addictions and deaths, his wife’s battle with cancer. And somehow, he managed to lace up his spikes every Sunday, and play with a passion seldom seen in the sports world. You can genuinely believe that Favre played for the love of the game, the sheer joy of football. Not for the endorsements, not for the multi-million dollar paychecks or the records, nor for fame, or glory or groupies. He played because he loved the game. He had a smile on his face every game.
Favre was a hero to me. He was an idol, a role model. Watching him play, I couldn’t help but love the man. And when he left the Packers, it pained me. To see him struggle with the Jets the following season, throw 22 interceptions and miss the playoffs tore at my heart. And this season, playing for the Vikings, I had mixed feelings. I hated the man for playing for a division rival, for betraying Green Bay, which had been so good to him, (although I am glad it wasn’t the Chicago Bears). But he succeeded and that was nice. He had a good year. And to see him torn apart on the sidelines, having to face the questions of: will he retire? Won’t he retire? Is he coming back? Is this really it? all again is rough. It rips my heart at the seams to see a man who has poured his entire being into this game be left on the field with but one Super Bowl title to show for it. Sure, the records and accolades and all-pro selections are nice, but I can guarantee that Favre would give all that up for three or four more titles.
I don’t want him to have to handle that all again, to struggle with the defeat anymore. I want him to hang up the spikes, throw the towel in, and walk out of the game on his terms. He has earned that right. I want him to retire and sit back on his laurels and wait for the day to come when he will be a first-ballot hall-of-famer. He has done everything right. He has carried himself like a true professional, made a few mistakes, and owned up to them, he has worked hard, done his part and then some. He gave the game everything he had, gave it his mind, body and, soul. For that, I love him. He can retire and wait for his bust in Canton to be completed because he deserves it. The immaculate player, the wonderful teammate, the perfect legend.