Thursday, March 6, 2008

Brett Favre: My apologies

Earlier this week upon hearing the sudden news of Brett Favre's retirement from pro football I suggested that he "wimped out" but listening to his news conference today certainly convinced me that he has been and is continuing to weigh this seriously and with a lot of class.

I don't apologize for suggesting that he could have made the call earlier so that the Packers would have a better edge in the free agent market and I'm a bit disappointed that he appears to be scaling back his charitable work (after all, a retired guy who isn't even 40 should have plenty of time for that). Apart from that, I believe Favre truly struggled with his decision and that he is, as my generation would say, "burned out."

If you listened to Favre's news conference -- the entire broadcast -- you were privy to a special occasion in which Favre spoke eloquently, from the heart and with a great deal of humility and deliberation. Excerpts on news broadcasts throughout the day really couldn't adequately capture the depth of the event or the character of Brett Favre.

Yes, he said all of the right things -- thanking the Packers, his teammates, his wife and family, the fans -- but there was more. For example, when speaking of heir apparent Aaron Rodgers, Favre not only praised him but cautioned Rogers not to try to fill Favre's shoes but his own -- to do things his way. That said, I cannot recreate the sincerity in which those words were actually spoken.

I was also moved when Favre spoke about his experiences with children and challenged persons, such as with the Make-A-Wish, and more specifically about how he received much more from them than he ever gave.

Favre made perfect sense when he explained that while he could have played another season, he just wasn't up to it. Any of us who seriously grapple (or have grappled with) the issue of retirement can identify with that sifting and winnowing process. He correctly said that he's accomplished more than he ever dreamed possible in his professional life. It was clear that for him moving on was the right call.

That said, there was one thing I believe Favre was wrong about. Dead wrong.

When he said that he didn't have anything more to give, that was more an expression or burnout than reality. Now that there are no more awards to win or Super Bowl rings to earn, Favre is free to examine the rest of his still young life to determine where he can make a difference. Maybe there's a high school program in need of guidance. Or a community service organization that needs leadership. Or young athletes who need advice on navigating the potentially troubled waters of a professional career.

There are many professional athletes whose lives take a decisive downward turn when they hang it up. I have a feeling Favre won't be one of them. If, however, there is one suggestion I would make to Favre it would be that he spend the next year in which he plans to contemplate his future soliciting the advice of those who have successfully been-there-and-done-that, such as Bart Starr and John Elway.

My sense is that publicity shy Favre won't likely be as high profile as Elway but Elway has keen business sense and Starr, in addition to his philanthropic works, is a positive example of, "Once a Packer, always a Packer." While Favre will undoubledly chart his own course, there are some examples of how it can be done and Starr and Elway are two of the best.

Finally, all of this leaves the Packers and fans throughout the nation in a difficult predicament. If he who fails to heed the lessons of history is condemned to repeat them, the post-Lombardi era should be a warning for the Packers and the team's fans.

When the legendary Lombardi left the Packers, thoughts shifted to "Who will be the next Lombardi?"

The Packers went through a succession of coaches -- Phil Bengtson, Dan Devine, Bart Starr, Forest Gregg -- and when the team and the fans finally gave up the futile search for the next Lombardi -- which placed an incredible and unreaslistic burden on those coaches -- they got Mike Holmgren and, shortly thereafter, Brett Favre.

Happy trails, citizen Favre.

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