Before I get started, let me clarify something. I have no problem with Brett Favre returning, nor do I have a problem with him retiring.
What I do wish he would do is make a decision.
Which way do I go?
It’s got to be hard to walk away from a job that makes you millions of dollars doing something you love. Let’s face it, if we—and by we I mean the average working Joes—were making millions a year to write stories, we would never want to leave it as well.
But there comes a point when an athlete has to decide if it’s the right time or not. And the constant back-and-forth is what gets old.
Every year it seems like we fans have to sit and listen to the media question Favre near the middle of the season. “Is this your last year, Brett?” they ask. “Are you finally going to hang up the cleats?”
And every year we hear the same thing from Favre: “I’m going to take a few weeks and think it over.”
Well, following the 2007 season, Favre had thought it over and announced he would retire on March 4, 2008. The Green Bay Packers moved forward and told back-up Aaron Rodgers he was the man-in-charge.
However, Favre threw a curve-ball when he came out of retirement. On July 11, he sent a letter to the Packers asking for a release and the opportunity to play for another NFL team. Green Bay intercepted his attempt and told him they had no plans to release him, but that he would not be the started in the Packers offense.
On July 29, Favre filed for reinstatement, which was granted Aug. 4.
After weeks of conversations with other teams, Favre was released to the New York Jets.
His first—and possibly last—season with the Jets started off great, including a six-touchdown game against the Arizona Cardinals. The effort was his personal best and one shy of an NFL record. By week 12, the Jets were 8-3 and appeared to be on their way to a play-off appearance.
However, the Jets then went on to lose four of their last five, including a season finale loss to the Miami Dolphins. And just like that Favre was home for the holidays. In those five games, Favre threw eight interceptions and only two touchdowns. The poor play caused an uproar on the team as various players blamed the play-off miss on Favre alone.
The demise of the team also led to the eventual firing of head Coach Eric Mangini.
Again fans were told that Favre would take some time to evaluate whether he would return in 2009 or not.
Not the only one
Here is where it gets hard to tell Favre he should walk away from the sport.
In just about every major sport’s history, there is someone who should have, or should now, walk away from the field. Here are a few of the previous athletes who left—or almost left—and then returned.
Who doesn’t remember Jordan and Scottie Pippen during the 90s leading the Chicago Bulls to all those championships?
Jordan led the way in 1991, 1992 and 1993 as the Bulls won three NBA titles in a row.
After retiring the first time to attempt a career in baseball, Jordan returned to the hardwood in 1995. He proved he could still play with the best of them and won an additional three championships (1996, 1997 and 1998).
His second retirement was exactly how every athlete wants to go out: on top.
He performed amazingly during Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals, hitting the game- and championship-winning shot to close out an amazing career.
But did he stay on the sidelines? We all remember that he didn’t.
Jordan officially suited up again September 25, 2001, donating his salary to the victims of the September 11 attack on the United States. While his return was not horrible, it was nothing like his earlier playing days.
His final game, April 16, 2003, Jordan put up 15 points and received a standing-ovation lasting more than three minutes to again cap off an amazing career, but his performance in that game was nothing like the championship-winning buzzer shot from 1998.
Lemieux spent 17 years playing in Pittsburgh between 1984 and 2005. Of course, there are 21 years during that span. Most hockey fans know that Lemieux spent several seasons away from the ice.
During his tenure he led the Penguins to two Stanley Cups. In his final game—before his first retirement—the Penguins made the playoffs but lost to the Philadelphia Flyers in five games in the first round. Lemieux scored one goal and earned an assist in his final game. After the game, he skated around the ice and received a long-lasting standing ovation from the Philadelphia crowd.
Late in 2000, rumors began swirling that Lemieux was contemplating a return to the ice.
He did so on December 27, in a Penguins uniform of course, and proved he had not lost his swagger, scoring a goal and an assist within 33 seconds of him hitting the ice. Lemieux led the Penguins into the playoffs and led the team in scoring. The team lost in the Eastern Conference Final to the top-seeded New Jersey Devils.
Plagued with injuries, Lemieux hit the ice only 24 times during the 2001-02 season. He played in only 10 games in 2003-04, but led the league in scoring in 2002-03 for most of the season before injuries sidelined him for the majority of the team's schedule.
The Penguins subsequently plummeted to the bottom of the standings and missed the playoffs.
After the NHL lockout, Lemieux returned to the ice for the 2005-06 season. On Jan. 24, 2006, he announced his permanent retirement at the age of 40. Lemieux said he simply could not play any longer, nor could he keep up with the “new speed” of the NHL’s younger talent.
OK, so there are two legends who retired and returned. Jordan may have done tremendous after his first retirement, but after his second, he looked nothing like the Jordan of previous championships.
Lemieux was about the same. Although he didn’t return to win a championship, he still proved he could play with the new talent, for a while at least.
Another example of someone who is going through the same thing right now is Mark Martin, driver for NASCAR.
Martin announced he would retire from racing following the 2005 season. Everything was printed up and the “Salute to You Tour” began at the season-opening Daytona 500. The tour was a tribute to his fans' loyal dedication over the years.
However, as the season neared the end it became obvious that Martin would return to Roush for one more season. Following the 2006 season, Martin decided he wanted to run a partial schedule. Roush had no space for a part-time driver, so Martin made the move to the now-defunct Ginn Racing.
Martin started the season’s first five races and was the championship leader heading into Martinsville. He stuck to his word and sat out the next race. After a merger with Dale Earnhardt Incorporated, Martin continued to split time with younger drivers, being the tutor for them as they developed into Cup-level competitors.
Then came the biggest twist in Martin’s career. In 2008 he appeared sitting next to Rick Hendrick for a press release. Martin announced he would return full-time in the No. 5 Hendrick Chevrolet to compete for one last shot at a championship.
It’s about the fans
My only plea to these guys would be this. Think about your fans when you go wildly from one end of the spectrum to the other. The fans who have stuck by you throughout the years, the people who help pay your salary? Their feelings need to be considered.
Sure, they want you to keep participating in your respective sports, but there has to be a time when you say, “it’s over.”
And mean it.
I don’t know when that date is. Maybe it’s now for Favre and maybe it’s following the 2010 season for Martin, but it’s not fair to ask your fans to continue supporting you when you jump from one ship to the other.
Look at Favre fans. They had to dispose of everything green and yellow for the much simpler green of the New York Jets. Now they have spent thousands of dollars purchasing new jersey’s and such for what… one season?
Martin fans have been through this several times already.
For the 2005 season, the fans went out and purchased everything with the “Salute to You Tour” emblems on it. When Martin returned, all that was useless.
After he switched to Ginn Racing, he had a new sponsor in the US Army and everyone had to change again.
Now, he makes the move to the No. 5 Hendrick Chevrolet and again fans are asked to change gear.
So here’s my plea: do us all—and yourselves—a favor and make a decision.
And when you do, stick to it.