Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Brett Favre Saga

In my last post, I tended to be somewhat dismissive of Gregg Doyel of CBS Sports for his attitude toward Brett Favre.

I admit that I haven't followed Doyel closely, but my sense, from reading his article, is that he doesn't like Favre, has never liked him and feels the NFL will be better off when he is gone. I could be wrong. I certainly have been before.

Today, someone who does have my respect, Peter King of Sports Illustrated, weighs in on the matter.

King acknowledges that he was wrong last year when he wrote that Favre had hung it up for good "and I could well be wrong again."

There is plenty of speculation these days about how Favre feels about the Green Bay organization. If there is lingering bitterness, perhaps it will subside when Favre thinks about what the Packers did for him.

Think back. Favre only had one scholarship offer — from Southern Mississippi — which he took. He was taken in the second round of the 1991 draft by the Atlanta Falcons. But Atlanta coach Jerry Glanville wasn't sold on him and said it would take a plane crash for him to put Favre into a game. It didn't take anything quite that dramatic, but Favre's single year in Atlanta was hardly distinguished. His first pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. He only made four pass attempts with the Falcons and none were completed to a teammate.

The Packers picked up Favre in an offseason trade, and he went on to play 16 seasons with the Packers. Initially, he didn't impress the Packer faithful, but he came in for the injured Don Majkowski in 1992, and, like Lou Gehrig taking over for Wally Pipp, proceeded to shatter the existing record for consecutive starts.

King says he has had three conversations with Favre since he announced he was retiring from the Jets, "and he hasn't conveyed any hatred or venom toward the Packers in any of them. But it's also a topic I haven't probed him on either."

My sense, from what King writes about Favre, is that the man is uncertain about what the future holds. Well, a lot of people feel that way. King writes that he believes Favre "will always feel that for all the years he spent in Green Bay, he deserved to go where he wanted, instead of where the Packers wanted to send him." Perhaps that is true. But I don't think the Packers can be blamed for feeling that, without their intervention in 1992, Favre may never have had the kind of career that he had.

They had a mutually beneficial relationship, the Packers and Favre. But, like all such relationships in professional sports, it had to end.

I do find myself sympathizing more and more with those who feel we've passed the time when Favre should gracefully accept the fact that every professional athlete must eventually accept — that even someone who plays the game with the boyish enthusiasm that Favre has reaches the point where the years have taken their toll. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he can walk away from the game without having had any major injuries. There is no guarantee that he could still do that, at the age of 40, after playing one more season.

I admit, I feel the same sense of loss I have felt when other players I admired ended their careers. It is inevitable. And when Favre is no longer playing, when his retirement is finally official, I will be sorry to see him go.

I will always be grateful for the memories he gave me, as I'm sure other Packer fans will. But I don't blame the Packers for believing last year that their future lay elsewhere, and I feel that Aaron Rodgers showed potential last year as Favre's successor.

As for whether Favre has hung it up for good, that's something only he can answer. Is he going to come back and play for Minnesota? I don't know. I hope not.

But if last year taught us anything, it is that Brett Favre will do things his way.

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