Brett Favre played quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, and finally for the New York Jets and Minnesota Vikings. In his playing days he was without question one of the most exciting players to watch. His “gunslinger” approach created plays time and again where there were none moments before and brought his team success and his fans enjoyment. Then it came time for him to retire.
If you’ve paid much attention to football you know his story. Fuss with the Green Bay Packers organization, act like a spoiled kid instead of a nearly 40 year old professional, retire, not retire, retire, come out of retirement. Cry at retirement, come back a few months later: what is this? Whatever was going on in Favre’s life this non-disappearing act made the man look like he didn’t know what he was doing. After a couple of years of this he finally retired January 17, 2011. Or maybe he did—word this week is that he may get a call from the Houston Texans.
Worse than Favre’s retirement fiasco were some alleged off the field shenanigans, investigation by the NFL, a finding he’d violated the league’s personal conduct policy, a $50,000 fine for not co-operating with the investigation, and Favre’s typical reticence on something he should have been man enough to handle. Favre supposedly texted or “sexted” the Jets “Gameday” host Jenn Sterger several times during the 2008 season, sending her salacious messages. She and others claimed he did, he denied it, and now no one really knows. But there was a lot of smoke to believe there was no fire.
Worse still is how Favre not only left the Green Bay Packers but how he spoke publicly about a management and a team that had been his home for most of his illustrious professional career. He slammed them in public and argued his weak case in media.
And worse than this is how he then and now has continued to treat—which is to say not treat at all—Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. In a recent television interview Rodgers carefully admitted he “had not heard from” Favre after the Packers won the February 2011 Super Bowl and that he thought he’d had a relationship with Favre earlier but not now. Rivalries in sports and otherwise are understandable, even healthy at times, but this kind of silence speaks volumes. This is what we now have come to realize is the real Brett Favre, a small man in a big profession.
One of the signs of a great leader is that he or she knows when to leave. Great leaders are great not only for what they do during their run at the top but for how they handle themselves and what they do when it’s time to move on—and every leader eventually moves on via opportunity, retirement, illness, or death. The end comes to us all. Favre walked out whining and has never stopped. He clearly is bothered by his successor’s success, and he’s made it clear that he is a selfish person. It could have been different.
When Joe Montana, winner of four Super Bowls in the 1980s with the San Francisco 49ers, came to the end of his run in San Francisco he quietly went to Kansas City and played out his career with the Chiefs. He remains today one of the most respected quarterbacks to play the game, and he lives near San Francisco his adopted town. He won big, he left quietly and respectfully. This is what could have been for Brett Favre.
Whether Brett Favre ever regains his stature in Packer land is largely up to him. For now he’s a sad case. Someday, hopefully for his sake, he’ll make amends. But the damage to his legacy has been severe and it will remain so until Favre demonstrates a depth of character that has so far been absent.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011
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