« Previous  
 Next »

Brett Favre Return

08/14/08 5:55PM By Brian Porto
 MP3   Download MP3 

(HOST) Commentator, attorney and lifelong sports fan Brian Porto thinks there's a valuable lesson behind one of football's most recent headlines.

(P0RTO) I don't follow pro football closely anymore, but occasionally it produces a compelling story I can't ignore. That happened this summer, as legendary Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre reversed his earlier decision to retire at age 38. In late July, the National Football League granted his request for reinstatement as an active player, and he reported to training camp, creating a colossal mess for the Packers' management.

Favre was unwilling to play for the Packers unless he was the starting quarterback, but after his retirement, management committed itself to another player in that position. The Packers could trade Favre, but they didn't want to risk losing him to a rival team, especially one in their NFC North division. The result was a summer soap opera with helmets and shoulder pads instead of hangovers and extramarital affairs. It finally ended on August 7, when the Packers traded Favre to the New York Jets, who do not play in the NFC North.

For me, the most interesting question was not whether, or for which NFL team, Brett Favre would play this season. Instead, it was why Favre couldn't stay retired, despite approaching middle age and having played 16 seasons. I doubt that money drove his decision. Admittedly, by playing, he stands to earn the $25 million remaining on his contract. But Favre is media savvy and reasonably articulate, so he could presumably have a lucrative career in broadcasting if he wanted it. Besides, the Packers offered him a contract to do marketing for the team if he remained retired, but he declined.

So what brought Brett Favre back to the NFL? I suspect that his identity is wrapped up in being a football player and that no retirement activity could ever be as exciting as leading his team to a come-from-behind, fourth-quarter victory in front of 60,000 cheering fans. After all, professional athletes play on a big stage, where, says former heavyweight boxing champion George Foreman, "you've got a guy with pen and paper turning the pages of his notebook over and over again, filling them with what you have to say." And of the thrill of a crowd cheering for you, Foreman says, "You can't touch that with a billion-dollar paycheck."

Still, athletic retirement is as inevitable as death and taxes, and it usually comes long before age 38, so anyone who works with athletes, at any level, must prepare them for the day the cheering stops. Parents should encourage athletic children to develop nonathletic interests, too, and schools should advertise academic and artistic achievements as enthusiastically as they advertise athletic prowess. If the Brett Favre soap opera spurs these changes, it will have been worth the ink spilled covering it.
comments powered by Disqus
Supported By
Become an Underwriter | Find an Underwiter