Green Bay Packers tradition. Kinship with the NFL’s most storied fans. Going out on top of his game. Legacies.
Brett Favre left this all behind. Because in the end, these are not what Brett Favre is all about. In the end, these ideals are created by the media. In the end, none of these things are what fuels Brett Favre’s engine. In the end, football is a game, and Brett Favre is a kid who loves to play. That’s it. He loves to play. Don’t you love that about him? I do. I can relate.
I remember failing to make the cut for Dartmouth College’s varsity baseball team for the third year in a row at the beginning of my junior year and realizing, “That’s it, I’ll never make varsity now, my baseball-playing life is over.” Everyone knew the Junior Varsity program was for freshmen and sophomores, so I didn’t even consider playing baseball that spring. Other players in the baseball program would have looked at me funny. “Don’t you get it, Crawford?” they would have asked. “They’re sending you a message. You and your 80 mph fastball are not varsity material. There’s no point in playing anymore. The dream is dead. Just walk away.” And that’s what I did.
But the following winter, I realized that I had let my obsessive goal of “making varsity” mask the real reason I play baseball – because I love to play. That’s it. I love to play. So senior year, I dug my cleats out of the closet and went out for the baseball team again.
I had no illusions of making a varsity team that included future major leaguers Mike Remlinger, Mark Johnson, and Brad Ausmus. I just wanted to play baseball. The coaches looked at me funny. The other players talked about me behind my back. Yet I was the happiest player at those tryouts. I made the JV team. They gave me a uniform and a locker. And I was content. (Please don’t mock me for comparing myself to Brett Favre. I realize that the only thing we have in common is our passion for playing. And I realize that his passion dwarfs mine.)
The Packers’ offer to Favre of $20m to “stay retired” was doomed from the start. A person’s heart can’t be bought out. Favre’s motivation for playing football this year was “love for the game,” not another fat paycheck. I started writing a letter to Favre warning him that if he took the $20m, he’d wake up the next morning with the same itch to play, and he’d beg the Packers to take back their bribe. I guess he figured this out on his own.
The sports fan public said to Favre, “Don’t you get it, Brett? The Packers are sending you a message. You’re no longer the guy they want to lead their team. You’re 38, you’ve broken all the records, you have your Super Bowl ring. You have one of the greatest single-team legacies in the history of sports. There’s no point in playing anymore. Just walk away. The Packers coaches looked at him funny. The other players talked about him behind his back. But Favre’s heart could not be contained. He knows what makes him happy: playing quarterback in the NFL and striving to win games. It’s not about being a Packer. It’s about competing. That’s who he is. That’s what he does.
The new letter I’m composing to Brett says, “Never retire voluntarily. Play until you get cut. Then go to the Canadian Football League at age 45 and win a couple MVPs there. Play until no pro team on the planet wants you as their third-string QB. Relentlessly be who you are.”
Yes, Favre’s will to play is even greater than his desire to sustain his priceless identity as…. Brett Favre. But he’s cultivating a new identity that’s even more appealing. His brand is no longer, “Legendary starting quarterback for the Green Bay Packers,” it’s “No one has more passion for playing.” Don’t you love that about him? I do.