Dear Brett Favre,
Hello. Remember me?
I was the one wearing the green and gold No. 4 jersey in October of 2006 when you played the Eagles at Lincoln Financial. I’m pretty sure I was the ONLY one wearing a Packers jersey, surrounded by intoxicated fans who lobbed more slurred insults and one-liners my way than Roger Federer sees volleys throughout a full slate of ATP matches.
The verbal barrage didn’t bother me. Neither did the ugly 31-9 final score. I was watching my NFL hero thread a pigskin through triple coverage … watching you treat every single snap as if it was yet another unwrapped present under the Christmas tree. Tearing into it. Relishing it. Playing with it as though it was the greatest toy in the world.
A decade prior, you were marching the Packers towards their first NFL championship in nearly three decades — at the same time I was graduating high school. The timing didn’t feel like a coincidence. My favorite team, my favorite player, winning a title as I prepared for a new chapter in my life.
I’ve cherished every highlight-reel throw, each gunslinger-esque attempt to rally the cheeseheads to victory and every signature Lambeau leap.
As more and more experts questioned the legend of No. 4 after a messy divorce from Green Bay, an ill-fated one-year tenure with the Jets and seemingly endless bouts of indecision over retirement, I didn’t lose faith. Every fan of comic books knows that even in the darkest hour, a true superhero finds a way to persevere.
Last summer, when the criticism was harsher than ever, I begged you to return via a column here at http://www.chinstrapninjas.com/. I suggested you zig when most of the football world thought you should zag right into retirement. I urged you to write your own final chapter on your own terms in the face of adversity.
One year, 4,202 yards, 33 touchdowns and just seven interceptions later, the critics have all but dried up. Sure, there’s a few who suggest that you’re due to hit some mythical age-induced brick wall, but they sound more and more like a pesky little brother on a family road trip who whines about being hungry, tired and needing to use the bathroom instead of simply enjoying the ride.
Last summer, I suggested your career was becoming eerily similar to Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa franchise. That like Stallone, you wanted to show everyone that passion and heart can trump age.
In the movie, in case you didn’t see it, Rocky Balboa silences his critics by stepping back into the ring against a world heavyweight champion likely half his age. Amidst chants that he would be obliterated in the bout, Balboa stands toe-to-toe with the younger, more agile Mason “The Line” Dixon to the final bell.
Balboa walks away from the ring with his head held high, able to walk off into oblivion on his own terms in an emotional and fitting end to a storied franchise.
Did I mention that Balboa ultimately, by a 2-1 judges’ decision, lost the match?
Or that emotionally at that point, it didn’t really matter if he really did win or lose.
He wasn’t there to win back the title belt. It was a matter of capping off an impressive career with his head held high.
The Aesopian moral to the story … that one can successfully go out on his own terms without attaining the highest prize. That pride, heart and ultimately a legacy doesn’t have to be defined by championships won or lost.
Like moths to a street light, many Americans are drawn to the concept of Brett Favre as more than a quarterback in a football game.
No. 4 represents the grittiness and perseverance we all hope to exhibit … a blue-collar hero trapped in a mixed-collar world. Brett Favre is equal parts Dirty Harry, John Wayne, Han Solo, Harry Stamper and John McClain. Favre is a person who sets his own terms and methodically lives by them regardless of what society expects or demands.
So, after arguably the best year of your career, what else is there to prove?
Some already consider you the best quarterback of all time. The 309 consecutive starts (including playoffs) — more than any other position player in the history of the sport — should qualify you automatically for that discussion. You proved to the world, and PackerNation, that you have enough mojo to play at an uber-high level.
Forget the Super Bowl. Forget the interception at the end of the NFC Championship game. You didn’t lose the game, the team did through numerous missed opportunities, botched plays and miscues. You were the reason they got that far, anyway.
Like Stallone’s Rocky states in the final film, “What’s so crazy about standing toe-to-toe with someone and saying, ‘I am?’”
That’s exactly what you did in 2009. You proved, as is suggested at one point in the movie, that the last thing to age on someone is their heart.
You have the power, right now, to walk away from the game on your own terms when the whole world expects you to do otherwise.
To prove, in an almost Shakespearean turn of events, that you really do bleed Packer green and gold by leaving the archrival Vikings without a legitimate signal caller heading into the 2010 campaign while riding off into the sunset on your Snapper lawn tractor.
With your head held high, never looking back.
What comments do you have for Brett Favre? We’d love to hear them in the comments section below.