Brett Favre vs. Cal Ripken: Whose Consecutive Game Streak Is Superlative?
After 19 seasons, it's all over.
With Brett Favre battling a sprained joint in his throwing shoulder, the Vikings declared him inactive for last Monday night's game against the New York Giants. Favre had started 297 consecutive regular-season games, 321 counting playoff games.
Only one other player is one the same planet in this category. Peyton Manning has started 205 straight regular-season games, 223 including the playoffs. After that, one would have to go all the way back to Ron Jaworski's 116 straight regular-season starts.
Now, I am certainly not a Brett Favre fan. I will profess that openly. All of his recent off-the-field media issues have turned me against him.
Despite this, his achievements on the field can be respected. Starting nearly 300 straight games is clearly the greatest streak in football history, and one of the most incredible in sports history. Making it through one season without missing a start is not very common. Nineteen is preposterous.
But how impressive is this streak compared to other sports? The most obvious comparison is to Cal Ripken's consecutive games played streak in Major League Baseball. His incredible 2,632 games spanned over 17 seasons, all played with the Baltimore Orioles.
The time frame is similar, so which career is more impressive?
The reaction of many would be to favor Favre. After all, he won a Super Bowl during his streak. Plus, football is a much more physically demanding game than baseball, right?
Whose streak is greater?
That second claim is debatable. Yes, a football player is subjected to more physical abuse than a baseball player. However, the grueling 162-game baseball season will bring any player down. In fact, only two MLB players were on the field for all 162 games last season: Ichiro and Matt Kemp. Ripken was able to accomplish that for nearly all of his baseball career.
Three NFL players currently have active streaks of consecutive starts. As mentioned earlier, Manning is one. His younger brother Eli has started 100 straight games, while Philip Rivers has started 78 straight. Those numbers aren't close to Favre, but it shows that starting six or seven straight seasons has happened before.
However, some may argue that five other players behind Cal Ripken Jr. and Lou Gehrig have played 1,000 games or more. While this is certainly a valid point, remember that there are hundreds of players in Major League Baseball that can achieve a lengthy consecutive games streak. In the NFL, the quarterback is essentially the only position in which this can occur.
But there is still the issue of championships. Favre has one more than Ripken. However, the quarterback position is once again a major factor. On a football team, the man under center is typically the team leader. It is the most important and influential position on the field. The quarterback can call plays, change plays at the line, motivate his team and be a playmaker when his team needs a boost. The signal-caller is the position of greatest control in the NFL.
In contrast, baseball does not have a specific position of leadership. Some would say catcher, but in this instance, Cal Ripken Jr. was not a backstop. Therefore, although Ripken was certainly a great player, he was not necessarily expected to lead his team to a championship. One great baseball player has less impact than one great football player.
It is clear that the quality of these two streaks are very close. Although I find the gruel of the Major League Baseball season to be more physically demanding, some may find the National Football League to be more worthy. That is a matter of opinion.
However, let's remove statistics from the equation and focus on the individual. Favre's streak ended due to injury after possibly playing for a few more seasons than he should have. Ripken's streak concluded after he removed himself from the Orioles' lineup for the final game of the 1998 season. This allowed rookie third baseman Ryan Minor to start in his place.
Plus, Ripken continued to play for three more seasons before retiring in 2001, showing that he didn't overstay his welcome. In contrast, Favre is now sitting out the week following the end of his streak. Doesn't that make you doubt the "love of the game" speech we would always hear from Favre as he broke down into tears before "retiring?" If Favre could battle through so many injuries, then why has he sat out two weeks in a row when he has not done so in 18 seasons?
I'm not saying Favre doesn't love football. The way he plays the game exemplifies that. However, was love of the game the reason he continued to return? Or love of the streak?
Because of Favre's off-the-field media issues and attention, I find his streak not less impressive, but less honorable. I have more respect for Ripken's accomplishments and streak. However, I feel sure this will be open for much debate.
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