If you’ve paid any attention at all to the sports news for the past week or so, you’ll know that Brett Favre is already sick and tired of being retired, after only a few months. The NFL’s all-time leading passer wants to play again, but this Turkey has severe misgivings about the whole thing.
When I was a much younger Turkey Muhammad Ali delighted me by coming out of retirement. I could never get enough of “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee!” Of course, I was in denial about “The Greatest” and his flagging fighting abilities. After having been beaten by toothless Leon Spinks in 1979 and then coming back the same year to exact revenge in the rematch to win the heavyweight title for the third time, it was clear that his abilities had eroded significantly. I remained in denial through a yearlong series of exhibition fights with bums like the late Lyle Alzado of NFL fame. These bouts led up to Ali’s final, unsuccessful title defense in 1980, in which he was taken apart by Larry Holmes in Las Vegas. I was thoroughly embarrassed for him and, in fact, by him. By the time he fought his final fight, which he lost to Trevor Berbick in Nassau in 1981, I was completely disenchanted and disgusted with Ali hanging on for too long.
Some thirty years earlier, a prior generation of Americans watched their great hero Joe Louis face a similarly ignominious end after coming out of retirement to fight Ezzard Charles and Rocky Marciano. Louis lost on points to Charles, then was massacred by Rocky Marciano, who knocked the Brown Bomber through the ropes in the eighth round, driving him into his final retirement. Although it was income tax woes that had forced Louis to come out of retirement, the result was predictable. More embarrassment.
The same was true of Michael Jordan’s second retirement. His first was understandable, for personal reasons. It was more a sabbatical than a retirement, taking place while he was at the top of his game. He came back and won a championship for his Bulls, and that should have been that. Instead, he took a couple years off and exited retirement, signing with the Washington Wizards (formerly the Bullets until owner Abe Pollin concluded that a team named after a bullet was a politically incorrect lionization of drive-by shootings). Jordan still had game, but without a team around him, even the great MJ could not get those bums to the playoffs. More importantly, seeing Jordan in any uniform that did not say Chicago on it was off-putting. I couldn’t watch.
Repeat the same story with Joe Montana, although his wasn’t really a retirement. When it was time for Steve Young to take over in San Francisco, Montana should have retired. He couldn’t bring himself to do it at the age of 36. He still had skills, and played two good, but not memorable years for the Chiefs. At least the uniform in Kansas City was red but it was still hard for me to watch.
Back to Brett, I’m not saying the Favre can no longer throw a pass. When the forthcoming season cranks up, he’ll be on the verge of turning 39 years old. Perhaps he has a year or two left if someone gives him an offensive line and a running game. Perhaps not. No one knows. One thing is pretty much assured: athletic skills do not tend to improve after age 35, and that’s stating it the kinder way.
Alas, if he does indeed come out of retirement, he won’t be wearing the familiar green and yellow of the Green Bay Packers. Not if the Packers have their way, anyway. The Packers took Favre seriously when he retired, as well they should have. What were they supposed to do? Keep a spot for Favre just in case? They have to move on.
However, Old #4 still has a contract with them and the Packers are not about to let him out of it. If it remains up to Packers management, Favre has two options: ride the bench in Green Bay or stay home. It is understandable that as long as Favre is under contract, the Packers don’t want to take a chance on him signing on with Chicago or Minnesota to make life miserable for Green Bay. They would just prefer that Favre work on his movie cameos, maybe in a Japanese re-make of There’s Something about Mary.
Favre is currently asking Green Bay to let him out of the contract. He wants to play and he fully comprehends the need for the Packers to move on. However, he still wants to play somewhere else and therein lies the contract controversy.
Any way you slice it, Favre is putting the Packers in a no-win public relations position. You can be sure they’ll turn fans against them regardless of which way their decision goes. If they keep Favre but don’t let him play anything more than backup reps, the fans will rebel. If they let Favre go, the fans will rebel. Cheeseheads will only accept one thing: Favre plays in Green Bay. The Packers’ front office is between a rock and a hard place, and Favre is making management look like the bad guys. They’re not. They’re merely protecting their interests.
As for this Turkey, I don’t want to bear witness to yet another aging athlete performing his swan song while looking more like a wounded duck. Furthermore, and most importantly, I don’t want to have to watch another tearful retirement announcement by Favre. No way! Not after having seen the last one repeated at least 20 times on every sports news and commentary program I tuned into for an entire week after the fated press conference.
Stay retired, Brett! We all have great memories of you. Let them be! I don’t want to see you wearing blue or red or black and I don’t want to see the inevitable deterioration of your abilities. I want to remember you on top of your game.