An American Hero Finally Retires: Remembering Brett Favre
It is finally over.
After 16 months of agonizing indecision, one of the game's greatest competitors struggled to accept the most obvious fact of his professional football life: Brett Favre has finally called it quits on his playing career.
Whether you love him for what he once was or hate him for the way he treated the Packers, Jets, and Vikings over the past year, the fact remains that Brett Favre was one of a kind.
For 19 years fans have watched, mesmerized, a man who was the embodiment of heart of the American game of football. A blue collar man, his love for the game and his love of family outweighed anything that stood in his way of winning.
The No. 4 became as iconic as Superman's 'S' or the bat symbol on Batman's costume, and, like those seemingly immortal comic book heroes, Favre, by virtue of his Hall of Fame record on the gridiron and his indomitable perseverance, became a very human superhero.
It is understandable that Favre went through a lot of mental anguish in arriving at his final decision. He wanted to please the Favre fanatics across the country, and he wanted to please his many friends on the Minnesota Vikings team, but, in the last analysis, his body told him, ''No more, old friend."
The breathtaking roller coaster highs and lows in which fans have ridden the Favre express over the past two decades will forever offer new thrills.
We have experienced it by him, with him, of him.
His unfortunate addiction to pain medication and alcohol became so obsessive a part of his earlier life that, at one point, it threatened the very fabric of his marriage.
Then the day that his wife, Deanna, was diagnosed with breast cancer, and the day that Favre's long time personal hero, his father, passed away during the 2003 season, are forever etched into the collective memory of his biography.
Through all of such personal tragedy, Favre still found a way to trot onto the field every Sunday—269 times.
We remember the rainy Monday night against the Vikings when Favre heaved up a pass to Antonio Freeman down the left sideline. Freeman stumbled with the covering cornerback; the ball hit Freeman on the shoulder and bounced into his hand. Freeman, with the knowledge that he hadn't been touched by the corner, arose and sprinted for the end zone to give the Packers an overtime victory.
We remember the Super Bowl victory over the Patriots in 1996, the lasting image of a younger Favre running up and down the field with his helmet off after throwing the deciding touchdown in that game.
We remember his last victory as a Packer, amid the snows of Lambeau Field in January of 2008 against the Seattle Seahawks. With the Packers on Seattle's 10 yard line, Favre, stumbling on the roll out, flipped the ball underhand to Bubba Franks to move the chains to the goal line. The Packers won that game and advanced to the NFC Championship game.
We even remember his six touchdown performance as a Jet last September against the Cardinals. It made for his best statistical game of his career and even broke a personal best for touchdowns in a game.
If Jet fans can take away anything from Favre's brief stay in New York, they should look back at last November's game against the Patriots. With the Jets defense falling apart at the seams in the second half, Favre engineered three scoring drives that kept the Jets in the lead throughout the night; he then field managed a brilliant overtime drive with key passes to Jerricho Cotchery and Dustin Keller to put kicker Jay Feely in position to win the game 34-31.
That was why the Jets traded for Favre, so he could work his magic for the star-crossed franchise.
However, when I think of Brett Favre, I will remember his game against the Oakland Raiders on a Monday night in 2003, just days after his father passed away. Favre did not have to play that night; he could have easily taken a leave of absence. Any ordinary mortal would have taken such a leave, but not a man like Favre.
Instead, Favre knew in his heart that his father would want him to play, and he knew, too, that he couldn't let his teammates down. So he went out to put together the greatest game of his life. He completed 22 of 30 passes for 399 yards and four touchdowns that evening.
Even though he threw eight incompletions, it certainly didn't feel like disaster, as Favre, with a heavy heart, led Green Bay to a 41-7 victory. Favre's performance that evening was so outstanding that it was equivalent to a perfect game in baseball.
Afterwards, when the gun sounded, Deanna came down onto the field from the press box to be with him. He turned to see her, and, moving to her, wept in her arms.
Now all NFL fans can justifiably celebrate Favre for what he accomplished, and for what he will always mean to the National Football League. He filled our eyes with awe inspiring feats and our hearts with his true grit.
Au revoir, old warrior of the gridiron; we'll remember you most fondly in your earlier Hall of Fame incarnation which is precisely how is ought to be. God speed.
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