When I heard that Brett Favre was retiring for real, I had to choke back the tears until I could no longer. For an hour, in a horridly cold dorm room I cried face down into a pillow.
Like many other Green Bay faithful, I grew up watching Brett Favre dominate the National Football League for so many years. I was convinced he would be back to redeem himself after possibly the worst way to end a career—an interception to a young and upcoming cornerback Corey Webster. What if Corey Webster becomes one of the great cornerbacks of all time? People will always remember his name for picking off Favre though, and he's already famous.
I never hated or disliked Green Bay, but in the last few years I fell in love with the green and gold. I remember watching the Super Bowl in which Favre won, and then seeing them lose to the Broncos when I was merely eight and nine. I remember Favre being on top of the world, and then it was Elway's turn, and I didn't quite understand because I had thought Favre was on top of the world for eternity. But years later I would realize that there are only days of glory.
I believe the game in which I gained the utmost respect for an absolute legend was that Monday Night game in the 2004 season against the Oakland Raiders. Favre's dad had just died days earlier, and he was back out on the field throwing FIVE touchdown passes, absolutely decimating the Oakland Raiders like he had a point to prove.
I don't even want to dare to suggest this, but maybe Favre just didn't have the total motivation to win the Super Bowl yet again for Green Bay this past season. Maybe the dedication wasn't there anymore, and he was beginning to feel his age, and losing his passion. He didn't get as excited as he ever used to. That's a legitimate enough reason to retire. You can bet Favre tried so hard in that championship game, though—I'm not even suggesting that he didn't want it—because every professional athlete HATES to lose. But maybe he wasn't prepared enough, that's all.
A magical season that was for Favre, and boy, I just can't believe he won't be back next season. It's a real shock to my world.
How do you accept the end of your career and continue to live with yourself?
I think I'd commit suicide because I’d miss my life on the stage. I'm a performer, and if I can't perform on a given day, I'm dying to get out there in front of the crowds and waiting for the laughs and the applause. Being a showman is the best feeling in the world, and to not be able to do it after so long would absolutely kill me.
There are other retirements that have also deeply saddened legions and legions of fans. These are examples of players that perhaps had enough in them or the skill to continue forward, but instead, went into retirement...
1) Kirby Puckett
Kirby was probably the most admired player in baseball, especially in Minnesota, playing for the Twins. He was the biggest star of the city, bringing home baseball's most coveted trophy, the World Series, in 1991 home to the Metrodome. In one of the most classic game sevens of all time, Jack Morris held off the Braves in 10 shutout innings. But you know the rest.
Puckett was just admired by so many in the Northeastern Prairies, and brought baseball to a place that’s really known for Old Man Winter.
The saddest thing of all: a problem with his eye forced him to retire from baseball when he was only 34, and had many years ahead of him. He was one of the most elite players in his day.
His death ten years later, at the age of 44, shocked the Baseball world. It reminded us of how short life is, and how quickly it can be taken from you.
Kirby Puckett has been the saddest sports story of the last twenty years.
2) Tony Gwynn
Tony Gwynn was a lifetime San Diego Padre. Not once did he hit under .300. Even more amazing is that most of his seasons were above .330. Even in his final season he still hit over .330, despite reduced playing time.
It was hard for Padre fans to swallow that the aging Gwynn had to retire despite the fact his numbers had not wavered. He was maybe the greatest hitting outfielder of his age.
3) Michael Jordan
Who can forget how many times MJ retired? He was the greatest basketball player the NBA ever saw. He gave up his incredible career in basketball to pursue baseball, where he was beaten hard by opposing pitchers. It just proves he was no Deion Sanders.
His return propelled the Bulls to three more Finals wins though, and he would retire yet again, heartbreaking more Chicago fans. The greatest player wasn't done though, and returned to the Washington Wizards for a couple of seasons in which he put up average numbers, really, as age became his casualty.
4) Wayne Gretzky
He was dubbed as "The Great One" and you could see it by the look in his eye. You can still see it in the mastermind of a coach that he isn't yet, because the Coyotes still haven't reached the playoffs under, without argument, the greatest hockey player of all time.
When he retired with the New York Rangers, the importance of his retirement was such that even CBC in Canada interrupted the telecast of the Blue Jays' game to show Gretzky's final game as an NHL player. Now that was a legend.
It was sad to see him retire, because he'd done so much for the game, but you could tell his skills were kind of dwindling.
So, there are great ones. Age always gets the better of them, eventually. David Beckham, however, will never be featured among these players because he does not have the prowess or respect of the world that these great players once did and still do.
Beckham showcased himself too much, and has yet to prove anything in the MLS. If he transforms the MLS, just maybe he can be included on this list when he retires.
I loved Brett Favre and I still can't hold back the tears.
But thanks, Brett, for all the memories.