Ok, so maybe the image of Shane riding off into the sunset may be a bit dramatic, but it's pretty darn close to how Favre exited stage left last week from his career in the National Football League. I'll miss him. The interesting thing is... I'm not a Green Bay Packers fan. I'm just a Brett Favre fan. Since my loyalties lie with the Tennessee Titans, I haven't had to suffer any of the crushing blows delivered by Favre to his NFC opponents. This mantra belongs firmly around the neck of Kurt Warner and the St. Louis Rams for me (yes, think Super Bowl and two yards short). Still, I guess the Packers have gotten so much airtime over the past twelve years or so (coupled by the fact that they're staunch rivals of the Dallas Cowboys and I'm unfortunate enough to be flooded with TV coverage of 'da boys) that I've paid attention more to Brett Favre than many other quarterbacks outside the AFC.
He was simply thrilling to watch, even when the team was falling apart at the seams during that 2005-2006 season and he looked his age on the playing field. As the saying goes, you live by Favre and you die by Favre. Being the interception leader is not a flattering record to hold, but you take the great with the not-so-great in an athlete like Favre. I imagine there are alot of teams out there who'd take the not-so-great in a quarterback that resembles the finesse and results Favre has acquired. And then there were those truly great moments... so many over the years... but especially the play early this year when he escaped the sack rush, stumbled on his feet for 3-4 yards and shovel passed a completion to his wide receiver in blizzard like conditions. The play between Eli Manning and David Tyree will be remembered longer, but there was so much magic involved in this 38 year old QB pulling off such an acrobatic and aware play at that certain moment. This is why I like Favre the player.
And then we have Favre the man. While many may shudder at his "good 'ol boy" rhetoric, I always found something genuine about his personality. I didn't (and still don't) believe any of it was an act. It came across in interviews and it came through in his avoidance of casting a spotlight on mistakes and personal demons. We all know he had them, but they were handled with dignity. One has to admire that because, nowadays, when it seems 2/3rds of the players in most sports are continually the subject of breaking news, whether it be DUI, assault or the insane antics of PacMan Jones, Favre remained private. That's certainly an attribute we all can respect.
While there's little room for crying in any professional sport, Favre earned his poignant goodbye last week. Not only did I appreciate his sadness at walking away from the game he so dearly loved, but I suddenly felt like we had just turned a generational page in the NFL. Who's left? I doubt we'll ever see such a durable presence at that position again. Maybe in hindsight the image of Shane riding out on horseback isn't so far-fetched after all.