There are few topics which truly hold equal amounts of interest and aversion. Bruno. Tryout week of American Idol. That freecreditreport.com guy.
However, the one topic that sports fans have heard about daily for the past few weeks (months?) is king of them all. Days of our Favre. As predictable as the story line for this soap opera has been, we still tune in and act surprised.
Yesterday, Brett Favre announced a day before training camp is set to open in Mankato (or "the big city" as Laura Ingalls would call it) for the Minnesota Vikings, that he would not be joining them. After his promised deadline (like those mean anything to Favre) of Friday passed, who would have guessed anything different would have happened?
When reading the news, I had conflicting emotions: I breathed a sigh of relief while still wishing he was suiting up in purple today. There was relief in the sense that maybe, just maybe, we might be able to enjoy some training camp news without hearing anything about Favre.
The other side of me, though, wished he had the chance to prove the critics wrong, which would have ended up proving the critics right.
It's like clockwork: every year Brett Favre retires, every year media outlets immediately doubt it, every year it encourages Favre to reconsider, every year he plays chicken with whatever team was written down on the one of 32 $100 bills he had in a hat.
"Hey, Minnesota, bitter rivals of my beloved Packers, I might want to play for you. Say, what's the most you've ever lost on a coin toss? I've been playing for 18 years, and now I'm here. And it's either heads or tails. And you have to say. Call it."
When this happened last year with the Jets, it was sold as the missing piece for the Jets to win the Super Bowl. "The Jets, inspired by neither Chad Pennington nor Kellen Clemens, acquired the charismatic leader they sorely needed to galvanize a revamped roster and make a run into the playoffs," says an ESPN report from the time of his signing last year.
Of course hindsight is 20/20, and we know that Favre started out strong and then flamed out in enough time for Eric Mangini to lose his job. Surprised, were you?
This year it was the Vikings, and again Favre is painted into the saivor role, less so from the media as by the Vikings themselves. If there were an approval rating for quarterbacks as there are for presidents, Favre's would drop daily. More and more bloggers and mainstream media begin asking the right questions: does Favre really change that much? Can he handle another season? Wasn't the Jets' dissappointment enough of an indicator of what is bound to happen here?
And then, just as soon as Favre announced his, ahem, retirement, you can hear the Vikings front office conversation.
"Um, do we have anymore quarterbacks on the roster? OK, Tavaris Jackson, I've heard of him, not that great from what I hear. Sage Rosenfels? Is he the guy I picked up on my fantasy team when Drew Brees was on his bye? Didn't know we had him..."
There are many casualties to Favre's decision to just stick to Wrangler Jeans commercials. Vikings fans who had already ponied up for their authentic #4 jerseys are out about $300. Jackson and Rosenfels get to battle it out in camp, sure, but whoever comes out on top will be "the guy we had to settle for since mighty Brett can't be here." It will take a lot of gumption on either player's part to summon up enough leadership to get past the doubt your own team has in your abilities.
But the greatest loss can be attributed to Favre himself. He had every chance to walk away from Green Bay with the legacy of a champion, a quarterback with arguably the best career any quarterback has ever had giving everything he had in his final playoff loss. Instead, he is remembered as the guy who couldn't make up his mind. The guy who has held up NFC North teams two years in a row. Green Bay was able to overcome it to get Aaron Rodgers on track, but it's questionable whether Minnesota will be able to.
It must be hard to know that you had more success than anyone in the league ever at your position, but don't have it anymore. I'm not even sure Favre realizes this, but if this is indeed his final answer to the retirement question, he may not think so now, but he will thank himself years down the road when he realizes all he missed out on was an opportunity to look old. To look more Jerry Rice and less Barry Sanders. To be a walking trivia question (with what team did Favre have his last unmemorable and potentially embarrassing season) instead of entering Canton as the greatest quarterback of all time.
Enjoy retirement, Brett. You are fortunate in this world to be able to enjoy it at all, much less with as much of your life ahead as you have. Rest now, Brett, and we promise that although you will not be on the Sportscenter bottom scroll every day, we will remember you the way you deserve to be remembered.