A few weeks ago, I sat at my laptop with watery eyes. March 4th was the day football died.
My favourite pro football player, and arguably the greatest of all time, Brett Favre, called it a career after 17 illustrious seasons in the NFL. Favre was hated by none, disliked by few, and respected by all. Although his time has come and gone in the pros, he will go down as thee greatest football player of all time for 2 main reasons – his records, and his legacy.
Drafted in the 2nd round, 33rd overall in 1991 by the Atlanta Falcons, Favre played only 2 games under head coach Jerry Glanville, who said, “It’ll take a plane crash before I play Brett Favre.” His tenure in Atlanta was short lived, and was traded the same year to the Green Bay Packers, where his career would instantly turn around.
In his 17 seasons, 16 of them were with the Packers. With them, he broke numerous major records, such as: most touchdown passes (442), most passing yards (61,655), most pass completions (5,377), most wins (160), and most consecutive starts without missing a single game (275), all of which he broke last season.
Oh, and by the way, he did all of that at 38 years of age.
Some of you may be asking, if Favre has the most passes and touchdowns in history, won’t he have the most interceptions and pass attempts? Well, yeah, but who’s counting? I’m not.
In 2003, the future Hall of Famer’s streak of 275 straight games came into jeopardy when his father died due to a heart attack. Favre was forced to make a decision of whether or not to play only 24 hours after the passing of his dad. He chose to play, and his performance that day is known as one of the greatest professional performances in the history of sports. Favre threw 4 touchdowns for 399 yards in a 41-7 win over the Oakland Raiders. Favre later said, “I knew that my dad would have wanted me to play. I love him so much and I love this game. I know he was watching tonight.”
Oh yeah, this was the day before Christmas Eve.
Favre also produces stories one would tell to their grandkids. According to Rick Reilly, formerly of Sports Illustrated, one Packers fan won a contest to hang out with Brett Favre for a day. Accepting the fans’ offer to play catch, the two toss the pigskin around. Somewhat angered by Favre throwing lightly, the fan asked Favre to throw a “real” pass. Brett, not wanting to do so, eventually gave in and unleashed a rocket at the poor individual. Shortly thereafter, Favre called the paramedics to tend to the fan, as he was diagnosed with 3 broken ribs.
It has even been rumoured that before a game on Sunday, Favre went on his knees in a praying position, and at midfield, threw a touchdown pass to a teammate 50 yards down the field, just to see if his arm was strong enough to do it. Also rumored, he later sat on his rear end from the same spot and threw the football downfield. It didn’t reach the end zone, but was almost a half field in distance.
A few weeks ago, Favre gave an emotional farewell to the public, saying that he gave the franchise his all, and that he wanted to spend more time with his wife and two daughters. Football fans will never see him wearing his #4 jersey again, but the legacy he left behind almost seems to overshadow his playing career.
Favre was all about the team – he played for the team on the front of the jersey, never for the name on the back. In fact, during his retirement press conference, he said “People always congratulate me on my records. They’re not my records, their our records.” Favre wanted to win, but more importantly, he wanted to have fun, and that was evident after he threw a touchdown – he ran around the field, celebrating, with his hands in the air like a child on Christmas morning.
Nowadays, when Favre threw an interception, the colour commentators often blamed the receivers for not running the right route, or for the receiver not knowing where the defense was – it was never Favre’s fault anymore. Favre will likely keep his records intact, for a number of years before, or if, they are broken.
More importantly, however, aside from his hectic charity schedule during the off season, Favre will also walk away from the game with an untainted name, in a day and age where steroids and cheating have become commonplace.
And so, with Favre’s career in the books, the John Madden suicide watch begins. For those of you not in on the joke, Madden, the former NFL head coach and colour commentator (he’s also the guy the video games are named after), has a bit of a man-crush on chicken wings, Sauerkraut bread, and Brett Favre. If you do watch Monday Night Football, Madden often times manages to work Favre into the situation, regardless of whether he’s playing or not.
On March 4th, the game of football died a little bit. It happens every so often when a unique legend of the game ends their career, and the fans can no longer watch the greats play. It happened when John Elway retired. It happened when Emmitt Smith retired. And it happened again when Brett Favre retired. 17 seasons, 9 records, 3 MVP awards, 1 Superbowl ring, and a lifetime of respect are all it took for Favre to become etched into greatness.