Thursday, July 17, 2008

Smashed Idol

On March 4th of this year, the football player and prodigious record-holder Brett Favre announced his retirement. This was particularly grievous for me because there was not a year in my life in which I watched professional football without Mr. Favre playing quarterback as he famously set the record for most consecutive games played at his position.

Compounding my grief, and the grief of Packer Backers across the country, was the knowledge of Brett Favre's personality, youthfulness, and enthusiasm for the game. It was comforting to know that in an age of spoiled millionaire athletes riddled with scandals, that there was at least one participant who matched tremendous accomplishments on the field of play with grace and character off of it. Laurels were heaped on Mr. Favre by sportscasters, writers, coaches, and even opposing players. His presence and personality have been called legendary. By doing so, he achieved a rarity: mythical status for someone who has not been martyred. Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King were pretty loathsome characters when placed under the microscope. A racist dictator, an illegitimately elected philanderer, and a Communist philanderer respectively. But all were consigned to the pantheon of American heroes once assassin bullets slew them.

Brett Favre holds a similar place of reverence without meeting such a fate. It is also so much of a shame that Mr. Favre is throwing so much of a sterling reputation away -- blinded by his own fame.

A media circus has ensued now that Brett Favre says he might want to return to the Packers, but the team has been uninterested because they have moved on, taking the star at his word that he was indeed retired. Now the two parties are locked in an epic "He said, She said" battle. And in this battle, the facts are more consistent with the team's side of the story. This ultimately led the star to do a 3-part interview with Greta Van Susteren of the Fox News Channel, as if this dispute was about a child custody case, not about someone playing another year on his $12 Million contract.

So what does this ordeal about a pseudo-retired football player even matter to anyone who's not interested in football? It is a case study that nobody is perfect, no matter how many accolades and testimonies, and that no one is immune from vanity.

Mr. Favre is now making unsubstantiated claims about what he said, when he said it, and yet continues to waffle on his true intentions about playing football again. He acts like he is entitled to this media show and sob story about how the team abruptly turned its back on him. The man has attracted so much fame and received so much good publicity that he has probably become estranged from reality and may very well believe that he is beyond question regarding this dispute.

Brett Favre's career was stupendous and unforgettable. He always put his team first and did everything possible to win. But now he seems to be the show himself. He retired, the team accepted, and got ready for their future without him. After all, the team is the Green Bay Packers, not the Green Bay Favres. Mr. Favre hasn't said he wants to return on behalf of the team or to help the team but because he feels the "itch" to play and wonders if he will scratch it. This whole ordeal is about one man, not the team.

No matter how much we might like someone personally or how much we admire their achievements, they are still human beings subject to original sin and human pride. The recent demonstration of Mr. Favre's humanness has demonstrated that he isn't as perfect as so many football fans claimed he was. His pride and sense of entitlement present him as just another spoiled athlete who is entitled to what he wants. Gone right now are the self-sacrificial aspects that made him such a beloved athlete. What have replaced them are opportunism and vanity. It's been a chance to get on TV and play the victim.

We should maybe not be surprised this has happened. People heaped praise on Mr. Favre as though he was a god walking among men. It figured that someday he would probably start acting like it.

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