Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010
By Frankie O
I wanted to use this space writing about my holiday obsession, the fantasy football playoffs, but something happened this week that hasnt happened in about twenty years and I felt that was worthy of everyones attention. Brett Favre missed a start for his football team. That had not happened for 297 games. More than 18 seasons. Since September 27, 1992. (Not to mention 24 straight playoff starts.) I think this is the most significant consecutive games streak in pro sports, even more so than that one in baseball that you might have heard of.
Over 18 straight seasons of showing up, playing a position where the goal of the opposition is to knock you out. Well, they finally did. I found it odd that at first I really did not know how to feel about it. Thus is the dilemma of Favre and what he has come to represent. As he passed Lou Gehrigs hallowed 2131, Cal Ripken became a national treasure. Thats the magnitude of baseballs numbers, and the measure of Gehrig and Ripken. While we are more passionate as fans towards football, the numbers dont seem to stick in our consciousness the same way. The numbers 714, 61, 4189 and 2131 were revered by youngsters my age as we came to love the game.
In football however, while a stats geek like me will know a lot of them, career totals are not something we discuss a lot in the bar. (Unless you discount Walters 16,726. EVERYONE here knows that!) Favre now owns all of the most important stats for a QB: Wins, touchdowns, passing yards and consecutive starts. As a QB you must play at a high level to give your team a chance, and most importantly, you must be in the game to do so. Hes done this better than anyone, or has he? Hes done more, but I dont know if hes done it better. For he also is, the undisputed, undefeated, turnover king of all-time and its not even close! Number one in picks with 335 and for good measure, number one in fumbles with 165, for a whopping 500! How cool is that?
And that is the story of Favre, you get and you give. For all of his greatness, he still only has one ring. But what made him what he is, is how he did it. Watching all of the video this week reminded us of what he once was: youthful, exuberant, bounding with energy and possessing a cannon of an arm. Listening to John Madden calling one of his games would almost make you blush. He was a swashbuckling gunslinger who would take us on a thrill-ride with danger lurking around every corner. Whatever the outcome, the ride was awesome. He was a star we could not stop watching.
Then, the other stuff happened. I often lament that the worst part of being a fan is getting old enough to meet some of your heroes. In todays age, we get to learn too much about the men who play kids games for a living. Favres off-field life was no less mesmerizing than his one on it. His dealing with tragedy catapulted him into celebrity status. Poor Brett. Watching what he went through, how could you not like the guy?
Then the retirement sagas began. (Not to mention the untimely interceptions that torpedoed seasons.) For one who was supposed to be the ultimate warrior, he was now being cast in a different light. A selfish light. In the bar, not to mention the national media, he was becoming a punch-line. Sides were being taken and it was an easy way to start a lively conversation. I personally was on the side of having had enough. My favorite description was calling him the John Daley of football: A train-wreck waiting to happen, on and off the field. What he has done to his legacy in the last four years has been as much bad as it has been good.
But like most stories, the ending has provided with clarity. Thats who Favre is. Hes good and bad and someone cant paint a perspective of him on either side they choose. Like the rest of us, hes not perfect and the flaws are there for all to see.
So I guess the ending of his streak, while throwing ANOTHER pick, is only fitting and not a moment too soon. Its time to move on.
While the discussion will center on his all-time rank among quarterbacks upon his imminent final retirement, he will be in the neighborhood, but not at the top of my list. (I have 500 1 reasons!) But what I will recognize and never deny, is that he did everything in his power to give his team a chance to win. No matter what, he showed up to play and left it on the field, 297 straight times.