An Ode to Brett Favre, As He Returns for a 20th NFL Season

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An Ode to Brett Favre, As He Returns for a 20th NFL Season
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Back in June of 2005, the final month of my eighth grade year, the final assignment my English teacher gave us was to write a letter to ourselves. Not just an ordinary self-inspiring letter, this letter would be delivered to us four years from now, when my class was set to graduate high school. Possible therapeutic issues aside, we all obeyed and wrote letters to our future selves. 

A little over a year ago I received that letter, and one line stood out to me. "Guess what? Brett Favre is still playing! That's right, your childhood hero is still playing football!" I had no idea what was in store for me. Three retirements, two new teams, and a pair of faith-smashing playoff interceptions later, the legend of Brett Favre is still going strong.

Six months ago, I was a regular on Bleacher Report, an active member of her NFL and Green Bay Packers community. During that time I was universally known as Brett Favre's Biggest fan, or as I liked to call myself: The Favre Police—ready to defend and refute most arguments made against Brett Favre's legacy, style of play, or personality.

It will be difficult, and in many ways, impossible, to encapsulate what I think of Brett Favre and why I love him so much. But I am hoping that after reading my Ode to No. 4, the Favre-bashers will understand, if only for a moment, what it is like for me to watch Brett play. And, for the other Favre-lovers out there, to join me in cementing life-long memories this man delivered to us.

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Where do I possibly begin?

How about the latest memory you gave us: the NFC Championship in the Superdome.

How you walked off the field, bruised, defeated, and humiliated. Yet, in my eyes, it was like a fifty-year-old Rocky Balboa leaving the boxing ring after going fifteen rounds with the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.

For the entire game, you fought your heart out. With the mega-star running back and offensive rookie of the year fumbling the game away, and your dominant offensive line being tossed around like rag dolls, you stood your ground and did your job. 

Even when the Saints defense took cheap shots on your forty-year-old body, you did not whine to the referees, no, you were too busy picking yourself up from the ground before somebody saw you grimace. 

You amused them into thinking they had beaten you when you were helped off the field. But, we all knew you were coming back into the game.

How could you not?

It's what you have done for 19 years, with that unmatched desire to get back into the fight and play like a champion. It's what got you three consecutive MVP awards, every-single significant NFL passing record, and the only thing that ever really mattered to you: a Super Bowl ring.

So there you are, trotting back into the huddle on the very next series. While your focus was solely on running your top-shelf offense, I'm sure you had a second to take a look at the Saints defenders, hoping that maybe the old man's toughness had struck some fear into their hearts. But, no, you didn't look, because you know that, at this level of football, the only thing those guys are thinking is, "didn't have enough the first time? That's alright, there is plenty more where that came from."

There is about a minute left in the game, and the Vikings are driving. The entire Superdome feels what is happening. Even after the unbelievable twelve men in the huddle, a classic-Vikings playoff choke, penalty, there was no doubt this game was going to be yours.

The dream match-up of Brett Favre vs. Peyton Manning was at hand. ESPN was salivating, ready to suck in all of your glory, and bloggers everywhere, ready to eat you alive should you do the unthinkable.

It was third and 15, with 0:19 left in the game. The play was not designed to get anything near the first down marker, it was a no-mistake call. You snap the ball, and immediately your first target is covered, by now you have realized the Saints defense was ready for this play. As you are rolling right on your sprained ankle, you catch a glimpse of your star wide receiver open in the middle of the field.

This is where you make the decision only Brett Favre is capable of. "Forget about the score, forget about the stage, it's the backyard all over again, and dammit, I can make that throw," and you have made that throw before.

You sling that ball across your body thinking the defense doesn't expect it, but of course they did, they heard all week about the No. 1 rule when playing against Brett Favre: never stop on the play.

It's done, the ball is going the other way and before you realize the mistake you had made, you think to yourself, "aww, that close!"

Heart-breaking officiating in overtime sealed your fate. The game is cruel, and while the world was talking about your mistake, I was inconsolable. For 55 minutes and 40 seconds, you showed me everything that is right about football. Everything a football player should be

And in the final 20 seconds, you showed me what being human is: the chilling fact that, sometimes, we make mistakes and we just let people down. We cannot always win, even when we push our limits.

For the next four months, I was reminded of the heartless fact that winning and statistics mean more to us than the fight itself. That so many didn't understand, and may never understand the courage it takes to get up when you're getting your ass kicked. The courage it takes to always get up and never give up.

While there are countless games and plays that Brett Favre has etched into my mind, it is the 2010 NFC Championship that will forever live in my memory. Just when I thought I could not admire you more than I did, you turned in another awe-inspiring performance. And it was not through touchdown passes or passer ratings, but through the most core trait of defining a football player: responsiveness to adversity.

Are you in my head yet? If so, great, if not, you will be.

So, what about Brett Favre's legacy? Other than his fancy passing records, what will he really be remembered for? I can think of only one thing. He will be remembered for dazzling us. Brett Favre simply dazzled me for the eight years I watched him play.

To some of you, this means very little, because the ever so used argument of ,"it's all about rings," seems to have poisoned your love for football.

So let's ask ourselves, how many quarterbacks have truly left us speechless with their play on the football field?

Peyton Manning? Hardly. While I am baffled by his consistency and the sheer size of his numbers, Peyton Manning has rarely delivers a play where I sit back and ask myself, "did he just do that?" 

Tom Brady? He's just too cool. He sits back in the pocket and creates a legend brick by brick, beautiful pass by beautiful pass. His comebacks and drives have left me saying, "that's Tom Brady." But, still, would anybody like to describe him as dazzling? No, his looks don't count.

I never saw Joe Montana, John Elway, Johnny UnitasRoger StaubachSammy BaughOtto Graham, or Dan Marino play, so commenting on their play style is downright foolish. But, I am willing to bet anybody who has seen any number of these guys AND Brett Favre play, will tell you, "that Favre boy was fun to watch."

See, you never knew what you were going to get with Brett Favre. Either an ill-advised throw across his body, or a jaw dropping 40-yard completion for a crucial first down.

With Brett Favre, it all starts and ends with his toughness. Unlike Peyton Manning, whose consecutive starts streak isn't spotless, Favre has suffered considerable injuries to his knees, shoulders, throwing arm, throwing thumb, and most recently, his left ankle.

Between all these injuries lie inspiring performances and inexplicable plays which define his legacy. Games like his Monday Night performance the day after his father passed away, plays like his game winning touchdown pass to Greg Lewis last season: These are things that recent stat-machine quarterbacks simply cannot replicate.

He is the kind of player who will suffer a mild concussion on first down. Dodge the medical staff on second and third down, and return to the game on fourth down to toss a touchdown.

He is the player who will go for it all on the first play of overtime. And yes, he is the only player who will throw across his body in the dying seconds of the NFC Championship.

Whatever you think of him as a person is inconsequential, because none of us actually know him, and those who do all say he is a great guy. 

All we know is that he is a football player who plays the game the way it was played 90 years ago, with reckless abandon, and a swagger that he has earned from a career of success.

So only a few hours removed from Brett Favre's press conference announcing his intent to return for another season, and the predictions/criticism are flying.
"His ankle isn't ready."
"His 40-year-old body won't hold up."
"He cannot replicate what he did last season."
Everything pretty much coming to one opinion: He just can't do it.
We will all find out. Thanks for staying, Brett. I believe I speak for Favre fans across the nation when I say: Give 'em hell, Brett!
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