Thursday, February 4, 2010

Ground Hog Day

With Punxsutawney Phil looking for his shadow this week, it seemed like appropriate timing for a Favre post.  It’s now 10 days after the Vikings lost the NFC Championship game, and, shockingly, no word from Favre yet about whether or not he will retire.  It’s amazing how much passion and opinion #4 still provokes among Packer fans.  Many despise him – feel he has ruined his legacy and will never forgive him for going to the Vikings.  Many still love him – feel Thompson and McCarthy made the greatest mistake ever letting him go.

I mostly was the former.  After the first un-retirement, I was not sorry to see Brett leave.  I thought Packers management, though they created a PR mess, made the right decision to transition him out of the organization.  I was appalled when Favre un-retired a second time and signed with the Vikings.  I wanted him and the team to fail there, and was frustrated that he had one of his best seasons ever – beating the Packers twice.  If he was still capable of playing like that, why didn’t he do it his last 5 seasons in Green Bay?

But Sunday’s game really gave me a new adjective to describe Brett’s career: tragic.  I firmly believe that all the drama, the flip-flopping, the back-stabbing, the waffling, the un-retirements, the angst-laden press conferences, the incredible will to win this season, etc. was driven by one thing: Brett couldn’t stand that the last play of his NFL career was an interception that cost his team a trip to the Super Bowl.

This play, which is etched on the brain of every Packer fan, is chiseled from granite, outlined in spray paint, burned by blow torch, and filled in with blood in Brett Favre’s brain.

It was his chance to go out on top.  His chance to do what John Elway did to him – win a Super Bowl and ride off into the sunset.  And it was gone in one play; one under-thrown pass.  It was a play that set off a series of events that ended his career in Green Bay.

Two years later, in the face of all the prognosticators and haters who never thought he could do it again, he managed to reach that same precipice of opportunity.  He burned every bridge.  He betrayed the city that made him who he is – all for that last shot.  And in the end, the final result was the same: his last play was an interception that cost his team a trip to the Super Bowl.

Tragic.  As desperately as I wanted the Vikings to lose that game, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Favre.  In the same game, he reminded us why he was so great – his toughness, his competitiveness, his will to win – and why he was so flawed.  Whether he finally calls it quits or not this year, his legacy is increasingly written as the guy who cost his team the big game.

Of course, Favre has done innumerable great things in his career.  And he could follow the lead of Kurt Warner and retire gracefully.  I’m not sure he can – not sure if his own compulsive drive and the ghosts of those two games will let him.  But I hope he does.

All I know is our quarterback started the Pro Bowl this year, and the Vikings quarterback next year could be starting Sage Rosenfels.  Good luck with your off-season Vikings fans.