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Archive for Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Favre could tarnish personal legacy

May 13, 2009

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Brett Favre launching yet another comeback stirs emotions not only in the icy axis of Green Bay and Minnesota but across the NFL and beyond. It should resonate wherever sports fans have experienced the sad sight of a great, beloved athlete struggling with when and how to gracefully end a monumental career.

This might be cause for a parade, at least to those Vikings fans excited by the idea of their longtime nemesis switching sides. Or this might be pathetic, just another aging, hobbled star who doesn’t know when to quit. Or, somewhere in between the parade and the pathetic, maybe there is room for pathos, for compassion.

See, at the end of it all, Favre is just the latest star player who can’t bring himself to say goodbye. Another athlete whose lifeblood has been the sound of cheering for so long that he cannot bear the prospect of the silence that follows.

It can be awfully quiet alone on that tractor in Kiln, Miss., even if part of you believes that’s what you want.

Awfully quiet.

I question why the Vikings, a team that runs on strong defense and Adrian Peterson’s legs, would want to put their immediate future in the hands of a graying gunslinger prone to interceptions and risk.

Mostly I think Favre, diminished physically and nearing 40, should retire once and for all after watching first his ugly, unfortunate parting with Green Bay and then the way last season with the Jets spiraled into a mess for him.

Then again, I’m not the guy who would have to listen to all that silence in the void of livelihood and passion, or worry that the only sounds in that silence might be permanent whispers of wondering. “Should I have given it just one more year?”

Whether you are of a mind to cheer Favre’s likely latest comeback or ridicule it as a mistake, understand this isn’t about him damaging his legacy as a quarterback.

Sports careers this big survive endings this bad, every time.

For every athlete who goes out on top with plenty of prime unspent, such as Jim Brown or Barry Sanders, there are a dozen who make us wince toward the end.

Willie Mays ended up bumbling routine fly balls for the Mets.

Johnny Unitas ended up a reserve in a Chargers uniform.

Michael Jordan ended up mortal, a Wizard bereft of magic.

I even think of our own Dan Marino and the way it ended for him after the 1999 season: limping on fragile knees off a football field for the final time, wrapped in a humiliating 62-7 playoff defeat in Jacksonville.

The beyond-great athletes survive endings like that. Painful as they are to watch at the time, they certainly aren’t what define monumental careers in a broad, fair context.

Likewise history will remember Favre as the great, durable, iconic record-setting Green Bay Packer. Last year’s chaotic ending with the Jets — the 1-4 finish during which Favre threw two touchdown passes and nine interceptions with a damaged biceps tendon — won’t change that. Neither would Favre ending up in the once-hated purple of the rival Vikings, even if things don’t work out.

It isn’t only Favre’s football legacy in play there, though. The regard of him more personally, as a man and as a hero among Packers fans, teeters in jeopardy.

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